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Mad Dog

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I know there are some other fans out there. So what are you reading?


I recently decided to do a reread of Daredevil series that started with Kevin Smith as a writer that ran to about 2010. I've gotten through about the first 10 issues so far. The Kevin Smith issues didn't age terribly but they aren't as good as I remember. Things come together decently by the end but there are some weird spots in the story. His 8 issues are what gave me a real love of Daredevil and it was fun to revisit them. I'm really looking forward to rereading the Bendis run on the book.


I also recently read the 14th volume of One Punch Man. I thought the series had started to slow to a crawl but this had a really fun battle with some amazing art.

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I used to be a huge fan but only dabble in comics here and there these days. Currently reading 1962-1964 Dick Tracy strips, where they introduce the Space Coupe, Moon Maid and all the sci fi jazz. Also reading Mike Allred's Silver Surfer off and on. Growing up I was big into Spider Man, Hulk, FF, Thor, Captain America but also DC stuff like the Flash, New Teen Titans, Swamp Thing and the whole Multiverse in general. Haven't really been a consistent comic reader since 2001/02 other than a brief resurgence around 06/07

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I read about 70% of Marvel's current output and maybe 35% of DC's, plus a few other things like Wicked + Divine. I'm currently catching up on the current run of Flash, having just done that for Aquaman. I was also reading a ton of The Black Moon Chronicles recently, just on a whim. I've been at this since ~91 or so (not much unlike wrestling), though I spent most of the last few years not reading DC because New 52 really alienated me.


It's really hard to pin down favorites. James Robinson's Starman run comes to mind. Fabian Nicieza's Thunderbolts. Wolfman/Perez Titans. Matt Wagner's Mage work and High Society out of Cerebus. The first two years of Post-Zero Hour LSH. Gillen's Journey Into Mystery.


For the last couple of years, I liked the short Kingpin series by Rosenberg, thought Gwenpool was irreverent, imaginative, and surprisingly full of heart, and enjoyed the Avengers crossover for mainly nostalgic reasons (it felt like Operation Galactic Storm). Aaron's Thro's been consistently great. I'm not sure what I'd rank so highly over at DC. I did think the Abnett's Aquaman was overall very good. I'm constantly impressed by the sheer craft in Doomsday Clock while thinking it's both tonally misguided and completely unnecessary. I thoroughly enjoyed Orlando's JLA and am sad it's gone. I really have to catch up on Priest's Deathstroke and King's Mister Miracle too. Oh, back to Marvel, Black Bolt from last year was excellent too, and Taylor's All New Wolverine was the most entertaining comic either company was putting out for the last few years.

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I recently discovered Neal Adams Green Arrow, specifically the Brave and the Bold issue where the redesigned Green Arrow first appeared, and I thought it was amazing. I had been reading the 60's Green Arrow stories up to that point and they were all kind of lame, kind of like the 60's Batman show but not trying to be funny, and contrasted to that, Neal Adams artwork just kind of revolutionizes the character. I've got my eyes peeled now for any deals on old Neal Adams stuff.


If Imaginary Stories the podcast Kelly and Johnny did ever comes back, I would suggest maybe a Neal Adams episode. It doesn't even need to be a long comprehensive episode like the ones you guys usually did. Even if you just had a shorter episode where you reviewed a few key issues of different Neal Adams books, I think that would be amazing.


I also read some 70's Tomb of Dracula recently, and didn't realize Blade was such a minor character (at least in the first 24 issues that I read) or that 70's Dracula was so cool.

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I recently discovered Neal Adams Green Arrow, specifically the Brave and the Bold issue where the redesigned Green Arrow first appeared, and I thought it was amazing. I had been reading the 60's Green Arrow stories up to that point and they were all kind of lame, kind of like the 60's Batman show but not trying to be funny, and contrasted to that, Neal Adams artwork just kind of revolutionizes the character. I've got my eyes peeled now for any deals on old Neal Adams stuff.


If Imaginary Stories the podcast Kelly and Johnny did ever comes back, I would suggest maybe a Neal Adams episode. It doesn't even need to be a long comprehensive episode like the ones you guys usually did. Even if you just had a shorter episode where you reviewed a few key issues of different Neal Adams books, I think that would be amazing.


I also read some 70's Tomb of Dracula recently, and didn't realize Blade was such a minor character (at least in the first 24 issues that I read) or that 70's Dracula was so cool.

I always had an idea to do a late 60s/ early 70s DC ep of Imaginary Stories where we focused on Adams stuff like Deadman and Arrow/Lantern. It's a really interesting era

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I have a big comics collection in storage (mostly 80s and 90s Marvel titles with some DC and indie titles) but these days I buy and read the tremendous Astro City, and the new adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods.


If you asked me to rate some of my all-time favourite stuff it'd be Astro City and these:


Lone Wolf and Cub




and a few shorter runs of Amazing Spider-Man, Swamp Thing, and so on.

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I disliked the New 52 run of Justice League and tolerated all of the nonsense in the Flash series because I like the character of Barry Allen a lot. The Rebirth Flash is better for the story, but I am lukewarm at best to it. It took me a while to warm up to 1990s Justice League, but it is miles better than the New 52. The 2 Brad Meltzer Justice League novels and Identity Crisis rank among my favorite comics.


I loved the entire Geoff Johns run of Green Lantern. Such great storytelling throughout that the artist of the next iteration immediately took a shit on. The follow-ups to that have been okay to good, but I can't get into them as much. I will say that I enjoyed the Sinestro and Atrocitus/Red Lanterns spinoff far more than the Green Lantern stuff that came out later in the New 52 and wish that more of that kind of thing were popular.


I've read one volume of the Green Lantern/Green Arrow Hard Traveling Heroes graphic novels and look forward to the second a lot. Some of the dialogue is very dated, so get ready for Native Americans calling white people paleface, but overall it is an incredible look at how Dennis O'Neill viewed American society at the time.


I've started in on the X-O Man'O'War books by Robert Venditti and the original Hellblazer (Vertigo) series. Both show a ton of promise.


My favorite comic has to be Kingdom Come. Identity Crisis, All Star Superman and the Killing Joke have to be up there too. Justice is really, really good as a kind of precursor to Kingdom Come.

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I recently discovered Neal Adams Green Arrow, specifically the Brave and the Bold issue where the redesigned Green Arrow first appeared, and I thought it was amazing. I had been reading the 60's Green Arrow stories up to that point and they were all kind of lame, kind of like the 60's Batman show but not trying to be funny, and contrasted to that, Neal Adams artwork just kind of revolutionizes the character. I've got my eyes peeled now for any deals on old Neal Adams stuff.


If Imaginary Stories the podcast Kelly and Johnny did ever comes back, I would suggest maybe a Neal Adams episode. It doesn't even need to be a long comprehensive episode like the ones you guys usually did. Even if you just had a shorter episode where you reviewed a few key issues of different Neal Adams books, I think that would be amazing.


I also read some 70's Tomb of Dracula recently, and didn't realize Blade was such a minor character (at least in the first 24 issues that I read) or that 70's Dracula was so cool.

I always had an idea to do a late 60s/ early 70s DC ep of Imaginary Stories where we focused on Adams stuff like Deadman and Arrow/Lantern. It's a really interesting era



It was brief but his run on X-Men from this era is outstanding.

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Oishinbo is a manga about Japanese food culture. There are 6 volumes translated into English and organized by topic: Sake; Fish, Sushi, & Sashimi; Izakaya: Pub Food; Vegetables; The Joy of Rice; Ramen & Gyoza; and Japanese Cuisine. That collection is my special treasure. I have learned so much from reading Oishinbo.

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Transmetropolitan and Locke & Key are two of the best comics I've ever read. They've ruined other books for me with how incredible they are. I was rarely one for superhero comics anyway, but after those I don't think any superhero story could ever work for me on that kind of level.

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Transmetropolitan and Locke & Key are two of the best comics I've ever read. They've ruined other books for me with how incredible they are. I was rarely one for superhero comics anyway, but after those I don't think any superhero story could ever work for me on that kind of level.


Transmet mattered a lot to me when I was ~20 or so and I think it was prescient in a lot of ways like the best cyberpunk is, but I'm not sure I'd want to revisit it now. I'm not who I was sixteen or seventeen years ago and the world isn't what it was then either. It did have a big influence on me at the time though.

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Invincible is a really good self contained superhero book that just finished up. It's a lot like old school Spider-Man. It has about 144 issues. It's written by Kirkman who also does Walking Dead.


Invincible ended???? Woah. Didn't see that coming. I jumped off a couple years ago or so, but I'm gonna have to pick up the trades and see it through.



Oishinbo is a manga about Japanese food culture. There are 6 volumes translated into English and organized by topic: Sake; Fish, Sushi, & Sashimi; Izakaya: Pub Food; Vegetables; The Joy of Rice; Ramen & Gyoza; and Japanese Cuisine. That collection is my special treasure. I have learned so much from reading Oishinbo.


Oh man, that sounds glorious. I would read the hell out of those.


I had to cancel my pull list earlier this year, but I was reading Sex Criminals, Walking Dead, Kill or Be Killed and Southern Bastards. I'll read pretty much anything Ed Brubaker writes. I absolutely adore Fatale, loved The Fade Out, and the Criminal series is so damn good. What I have of his Captain America run is really cool, too. I really dug Matt Fraction's Hawkeye run. If you've read Southern Bastards (and you should), check out Jason Aaron's previous series, Scalped.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Only on-going comics I'm currently reading are Michel Fiffe's Copra and his Bloodstrike: Brutalists from Image.  So many of the comics coming out today are pure garbage to me, but I've been a huge Copra mark for a while now and Bloodstrike: Brutalists is basically Copra 2.0, but with Rob Liefeld created characters.




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  • 5 weeks later...

I've been using Marvel Unlimited the last few weeks to read through late-80's X-Men. So far I've read every issue of Uncanny, New Mutants, and X-Factor from the Mutant Massacre to where I'm at now, which is somewhere in 1990 (currently about to read Uncanny #260).

Been using this to guide me in my journey: http://www.comicsbackissues.com/comic-book-reading-order/x-men-read-order-chronology/

I'm young enough to have grown up with the X-Men Animated Series, and have been a fan of the franchise ever since. I've read a ton of the comics over the years, but mostly from 2000-onward and Claremont's classic stuff from the 70's and early 80's. I've read scattered issues from the late-80's before, but this is my first time reading through all the issues from this era in order.

This has really reminded me how awesome big event crossovers can be when they're actually, like, well written and planned out. Because that whole span across the three titles in that 3 year stretch from Mutant Massacre to Inferno is just full of great storytelling. And each of the three bookending events feel natural and earned, with the Mutant Massacre being a catalyst for everything and directly leading to the events of Fall of the Mutants and subsequently Inferno.

Inferno especially was really satisfying, just for how much payoff it had for storylines that were set up years back, like the X-Men and X-Factor finally reunited after being apart and unaware of each other's existence for so long, Illyana Limbo storyline, and Madelyn Pryor's journey to villainy, which I think is one of the most effective and believable heel-turns I've probably ever read in a superhero comic.

I've just recently met Jubilee for the first time in Uncanny, and Cable is right around the corner in New Mutants, which means the 90's are truly upon me. Again, I've read scattered issues and a few of the big storylines of 90's X-Men, but this'll be my first time reading through everything. I'm weirdly looking forward to it. The 90's for comics get a bad rap in general, and specifically it's considered the era where the X-Men franchise really lost its way, but I'm looking forward to seeing if that opinion still holds up, and to see where the dropoff in quality really starts. Some claim it's right after Claremont left, while others defend the Lobdell and Nicieza runs and say it only really starts to get bad in the latter half of the decade with the likes of Onslaught and Zero Tolerance. I have a weird fondness for 90's superhero comic art and aesthetic too, so that will help make it more enjoyable.  

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I'm definitely a lapsed comics fan, but I grew up obsessed with them. People point to pro wrestling as the place they learned about geographical areas, cities, and just general terminology. I think comic books did that for me. It was reading material, sure. But it was a rich resource - a learning tool that taught me a lot of things on a lot of levels. I was flipping through comic book pages for as far back as I can remember.

I fell off around high school, naturally. I kept collecting for awhile, but I never really got back into following them faithfully again. I've picked up some trade paperbacks, some one-shots, and even returned for a few arcs here and there. But I never really stick with it. Part of that is life's priorities. Part of that is the overwhelming gaps in history I've missed out on. It feels like a huge hurdle or a bridge too long to cross.

But yeah. I could talk some of my old favorites forever. Claremont/Byrne's X-Men. Wolfman/Perez' Teen Titans. Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Alan Moore's Supreme. Ennis' Preacher. Ennis' Punisher. Ennis' supremely underrated Hitman. Early Savage Dragon was super fun. Morrison's JLA, which brought the team back into proper perspective. JMD's Spidey. Jenkins' Spidey. And especially Bendis' Spidey. So, so much Spider-Man. Lots of Daredevil, too. Early Nightwing. A few years of Tim Drake's solo Robin series.

I know I'm missing a truckload, but I'm basically just listing names off the top of my head. I really should look into reading more with digital comics making it so fucking accessible & readily available now, but I don't know. It's a daunting task when you've missed out on so much and want to get caught up, ya know.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just as an update on this subject, I recently decided to try and get back into some comics. I figured I would attempt to read through some story arcs I've heard about (but missed out on) over the years.

A friend of mine with a similar (insane) work schedule has been trying to sell me on Marvel Unlimited for over a year. He's a lifelong fan that has kept up, despite our crazy workload, via digital comics. I very much prefer holding the book in my hands and flipping through those pages, but it is what it is.

Anyway, I let him talk me into checking out Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four. Now, the last time I remember picking up a FF book, it was in the middle of Claremont's run. I remember fans shitting on his verbose, super wordy dialogue and his portrayal of Reed & Sue's relationship. I think there was something going on with Sue being transformed into a creature on the moon, and Reed getting stuck in Doom's armor. So yeah. It's been awhile, to say the least.

But I went into this fully energized and genuinely excited to catch up on one of my favorite teams from the past. I was not deterred. And I've got to say, I dug most of it. I am aware of Hickman's divisive rep among fans, but that sort of stuff never shakes me. Fans are always fickle. Creators never really appease everyone. It's just the way it is.

Anyway, my opinion of Hickman is that he's a talented writer. I like a lot of what he did throughout his run on the book. The characters maintained their classic traits and characteristics. The family aspect was intact.

Best of all, everything is happening on such a GRAND scale. Similar to Morrison's early JLA back in the day, everything feels gigantic and monumental in this book. Every conflict, every adversary, and every obstacle is awe-inspiring. It's big picture stuff happening left & right, and that's precisely the type of thing you want from a book about these interdimensional explorers.

There are so many incredibly interesting concepts introduced here, too. It seems like Hickman is never short on these compelling ideas. The Council of Reeds. The Mad Celestials. Braindead Dooms. The Galactus Seed. The War of Four Cities. The Future Foundation. And on & on & on. Each of these elements could open the door for separate story arcs if they'd wanted. It's such a rich landscape of creativity here.

Layer upon layer, Hickman reveals one exciting element after another. It really does create this sense of wonder & amazement - on top of this feeling that ANYTHING could happen on the next panel or page. It's such a rewarding experience for the reader to feel like they're on this thrill ride of adventure with the FF. It's truly great.

Now, there *is* a downside to this method. It's reasonably understandable that readers could feel overwhelmed or lost among all the information and revelations that are thrown their way, issue after issue. Speaking for myself, I felt out of the loop a few times. To be fair though, Hickman took time to explain things in more detail and unveil JUST the right amount of info as things advanced with the tale.

I read a few interviews with Hickman, and he has stated how he approaches these big story arcs. He said he prefers to start with the finale and work his way back to the start, so that he can introduce each piece of the puzzle bit by bit for readers. And I totally see that in hindsight. While this approach *does* make things slightly more difficult to follow or piece together as it's happening the first time, this also means the book holds a high re-read value.

Don't get me wrong. The book is absolutely readable the first time, but it's also very rewarding to go back through it all over again a second time - once you've been hit with all the revelations & fully realize the HOWs and WHYs with regards to everything fitting together and interconnecting. Things that seemingly appeared disjointed end up intertwined by tale's end. It's smart stuff.

Plus it helps to create this sense of urgency - almost like you're existing in the moment alongside the heroes, watching these events unfold around you and feeling not quite sure what it all means at first. Just tremendous storytelling in a way.

Better yet, Hickman is not just a "big picture" guy. Hickman also takes care to capture the little moments with some of my favorite characters as well. Johnny and Ben ribbing each other. The family sitting down for dinner together and giving thanks. Franklin and Valeria as loving siblings. Doom as Valeria's surrogate uncle, which leads to Valeria playing peacekeeper between Doom and Reed. Sue as the headstrong matriarch, despite all the insanity surrounding her at times. So many of these moments help to break up the great BIG adventure stuff. It really brings versatility and variety to the book.

The "death" of Johnny Storm didn't bother me much at all. It felt like a plot device right away, and I'm cool with that. I suppose I could see why fans would feel like it was a cheap trick or whatever when it originally occurred, but come on. It's comics, and death is rarely permanent here. Besides, Hickman clearly had a specific design to bring Johnny back before the end of his run. The "death" scene even occurs off-panel, so there ya go.

Anyway, I enjoyed what Hickman did with the opportunity in the interim. I thought it was worth the effort, for sure. What we got here was a chance for Hickman to explore the bonds, the family ties, and the friendships Johnny had formed during his lifetime.

Ben Grimm's reaction to Johnny's death is some heartbreaking shit to witness. We are shown his various stages of grief, and it's powerful stuff. There's a scene where Hulk and Thor take it upon themselves to comfort Thing, and they do this by letting him pick a fight - a literal, physical fist fight - simply because they are the only beings on the planet capable of taking his punches and letting him get the anger out of his system. When he's spent and exhausted, Thing stops brawling and starts bawling like a baby. It's one hell of a scene.

And then there's more. Because we get this touching scenario where Spider-Man shows up to check on young Franklin Richards. He reveals the story of losing his Uncle Ben to Franklin, who feels responsible for panicking and failing to save his own Uncle Johnny. In the end, Spidey teaches Franklin the lesson of great responsibility. And then he offers to take the kid out to grab a hot dog. In a moment of classic Parker luck (further demonstrating that Hickman gets these characters), Petey is a little short on cash & asks young Franklin for a spare dollar. Good stuff.

Later, when it's time for Johnny to return from the Negative Zone, he doesn't simply show up and reveal he's alive. No. Instead, the Human Torch writes his signature "4" logo across the sky - and, one by one, the eyes of his family turn upward and see the sign burning in the sky. And they cry tears of joy. It's fucking aces.

Best of all is the moment when Ben Grimm spots the sign and realizes Johnny is alive. Ben was taking a beating from the invading Kree armada. Depressed and still grieving, Ben had basically given up and just lied down to die - letting the Kree pummel him into the ground. But, upon noticing the "4" on fire in the sky, Ben kicks into full-blown Clobberin' Time mode. It's a pitch perfect moment that feels made for a major movie or something.

There's also this scene where Doom is betrayed by his fellow villains and LITERALLY set on fire. When Doom rises for redemption - his armor still burning - it's just this badass visual that's well worth scoping out.

There are a few issues I find fault in - like the way some resolutions are rushed to wrap up some battles or situations. Or the way things are seemingly dropped without explanation, only to be revisited and resolved MUCH later. The idea of Franklin as an all-powerful god has always been a bit iffy to me, although it's brought up time & time again in Marvel stories at this point. At least, in this instance here, Hickman makes it a point to (sort of) explain that his power is practically incomprehensible. So he sort of sidesteps the vagueness of it all in the most rational way possible.

Oh, and the new white uniforms are mostly kind of awful. They struck me as serious eyesores at first and too far a departure from the classic, streamlined costumes. I can appreciate the effort to update the design with a more realistic look, but meh. Hickman does a decent job of having Sue rationalize it with a desire to change things up after Johnny's death, but it definitely took some time to get used to that.

My friend asked for my overall thoughts on Hickman's run once I was done. And it's almost a universal, glowing praise - but with an asterisk. Because yeah. The guy's clearly skilled, smart, and intelligent in his approach to laying out this great big, fascinating story. However, he *does* kind of cash in on the 50 years of FF history to get some of these results. It's essentially the equivalent of hot-shotting in some ways. And hey. I ain't mad at it. Because it's fucking phenomenal stuff. It's a truly fun story. But yeah. He's able to capitalize on A LOT of the rich, already established history to get those results.

That shouldn't detract from what he did here though. There's this awesome, expansive adventure happening - all of it with an underlying focus on family and the importance of the father/son relationship. There's all the fantastic, far-out, sci-fi stuff you could possibly want. But there's also a real heart & soul to everything.

There are times when you almost want the book to slow down enough for you to wrap your head around the time travel or the interdimensional stuff, but then you do get hit with the quiet, intimate moments & it's totally worth the wait. Plus? Everything is eventually resolved, sufficiently explained, and properly paid off. So you can take comfort in knowing you will understand every bit of it in the end.

Is it peak Fantastic Four? I'm not sure, because I've missed out on so much over the years. But it's one hell of a fun run, and it's able to exploit so much of the rich history that came before it. I came in, hoping to enjoy the ride. And I'm blown away by just how much I dug it. I feel like it's recommended reading for a reason, and I can appreciate that my friend used this as a reintroduction point for me to get back into the thick of things.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So, after really enjoying Hickman's Fantastic Four, I decided to jump right into Dan Slott's run on Spider-Man. To color this with a little context, Spidey was my first favorite super-hero. He was my gateway into comic books. I literally can't recall a time early enough in my childhood when I wasn't flipping through the pages of a Spider-Man comic. I remember reading certain words and terminology for the first time in some of his old adventures. I feel like I grew up on Spidey books. It was him at 1A, and Batman as my 1B in terms of things to buy as a kid.

Anyway, fast forward to my high school years, and my comic fandom began to dwindle. As I got my driver's permit, my first car, and other interests obviously - comics eventually fell to the wayside in a hurry. I would go on to pick up a random issue here & there over the next few years. I specifically remember seeking out some trade paperbacks way back when those became the hot new thing.

In terms of Spidey specifically, I eventually stopped collecting once Howard Mackie took over the entire line. It seemed abundantly clear that the guy had no regard or respect for so many of the stories that came before - even some arcs he had wrote himself in Web of - and nothing he was doing held my interest.

The idea of resurrecting Aunt May for no good reason, with no real design to treat her as anything but another plot device, was a major issue with me. While Aunt May's death shook me when it originally occurred, the moment should have been allowed to last and leave its mark in continuity. DeMatteis handled her death with such care. And, as much as I fucking loathed the Clone Saga at the time, I was still a diehard reader in that moment. And that scene with two Peter Parkers at Aunt May's house - one at her bedside as she takes her final breath, and the other up on her roof in the pouring rain - was just HEARTBREAKING. It was just this wrenching scene, with the clone cradling his knees and crying - all alone, grieving and mourning the death of his Aunt May. It was a powerful moment. And, for whatever reason, Marvel allowed it to be ripped away from canon for the sake of giving Howard Mackie a cheap tool to add stress to Peter's personal life again, since Mackie was incapable of doing anything original or wholly creative with the character.

Fast forward a bit after Mackie's run, and I heard Paul Jenkins was working on Spidey. I bought a few of his issues. And they told some genuinely awesome standalone stories. There was this one issue with Peter visiting Uncle Ben's grave, and he basically explains that he got his signature sense of humor and wit from his Uncle Ben as a coping mechanism. It's a touching little gem of a tale that just stuck with me.

I never fully returned to following or collecting though. And JMS's run on the book drove me away entirely. I've never cared for stories that involve Spidey in space or Spidey mixed up with magic, and JMS was alllll about mixing Spidey & magic throughout his run.

This is when he attempted to retcon Spidey's origin so that he didn't actually receive his powers from a radioactive spider bite. Instead, he was the avatar for some mystic spider spirit animal or some horse shit. I don't know. But it was fucking awful. They were essentially taking one of the most iconic, retold superhero origins in history and trying to muddy it up with magic and unnecessary shit. I was done at that point.

Marvel editors had let me down by allowing stupid things to happen to Spidey before - the Clone Saga, the resurrection of Aunt May, the organic web shooters, and now Spidey's origin being about magic & fate rather than chance and super science. Yeah. I was done.

During my time away from comics completely, I heard (from the same friend who has now convinced me to give things a try again, ironically enough) about other terrible, misguided things they were doing to my favorite superhero.

They had him reveal his secret identity to the entire world during Civil War. Ugh. They revealed Gwen Stacy, his first true love, to be Norman Osborn's secret side-piece of ass. And, on top of that, apparently she got knocked up and gave birth to his goblin offspring without Peter ever noticing. Fucking hell. Oh. And there was the whole issue of them erasing years of continuity and storytelling by just having Peter make a deal with the Marvel devil, Mephisto, to keep Aunt May alive (again) in exchange for his marriage to Mary Jane never happening.

And I get it. They have this undying desire to keep Peter young and appealing to new readers. But there are better, smarter ways to accomplish that. So I was convinced my Spider-Man was tarnished forever, and there was no sense in me ever reading a new Spidey book again. I could just enjoy my Silver Age Spidey in perpetuity & ignore all these failed reboots and retcons.

Enter Dan Slott. Like Hickman, I've heard how divisive the guy is for his run on Spider-Man. And, up until a couple of months ago, I never really thought twice about reading any of his run. I was aware of the Superior Spider-Man concept, but nothing specific.

When my friend approached me about different "big" story arcs to dive into and jump-start my reading of more modern books, he suggested that story - because he knew I dug Spider-Man. But the bad taste was still there, and I went with FF instead.

But, man. I seriously enjoyed Hickman's FF. Maybe part of that is me being away as a reader for so long. But it all felt new and fresh again. It was so awesome to see so many of the classic characters utilized in new, interesting ways. It was essentially like falling out of pro wrestling for a few years - then tuning in again, only to see Hulk Hogan a dastardly villain and Bret Hart behaving like a bitter crybaby.

So yeah. I ate up Hickman's run, and it left me wanting more. Something similar, yet different. So I started to consider giving my first favorite superhero another shot - which leads me back to Dan Slott.

Surely there's a reason why he's considered to be so beloved AND simultaneously so bashed by the fan base. But hey. Most creators deal with that. It comes with the territory. So, before jumping into the series (knowing it's A LONG run to read through), I did some homework. I listened to a few Slott interviews to gauge my interest and see how he seemed as a writer.

The ideas Slott discussed and emphasized echoed a lot of my own thoughts. He wanted to correct the course. He wanted to address past issues and problems. Slott is a guy that gets bothered by continuity errors, dangling plot threads, and loose ends. At the same time, he's a huge fan of Spider-Man's history, his supporting cast, and his ultra rich rogues gallery.

With that, I had my confirmation. I wanted to give Slott's Spider-Man run a shot. My friend directed me to some of his older work, back when there were multiple writers still handling the numerous series. But fuck that. I started with the Big Time arc, which is the kickoff of Slott truly taking over the line entirely.

I've been devouring these issues for a few weeks now, and I'm loving them for the most part. Naturally, there are some small things I don't care for, but all the big stuff is being done right.

True to his interviews, Slott brings a real appreciation for these characters and their personalities. While I hate the way she was brought back without purpose for years upon years, his Aunt May has renewed life and direction. Whenever Pete lands the big new job at Horizon Labs, May is the super proud parental figure. There's this sweet little scene where Peter takes May (and her date!) out for a fancy dinner and finally feels like a success, because he can pick up the tab. Later, whenever Peter gets an article published in a scientific journal, May goes out, buys up a BUNCH of copies to hand out to her friends and family, and it's just great. She's no longer just another plot device or obstacle in Peter's adventures.

Mary Jane has been a blast, too. It's like she's returned to her wild side roots, yet she's still secretly carrying this torch for Peter. There's an understanding that they just don't work as a couple anymore, but there's this underlying attraction and idea that MAYBE they really belong together. It's hard to capture or put into words properly, but you see it and experience it in the panels. It's great stuff. Slott "gets" Mary Jane more than any writer I can recall. And it works really, really well. The dynamic between her and Peter SHOULDN'T work this well in the aftermath of that whole Mephisto debacle, but man. It does. It totally works. The "will they, won't they" tension isn't irritating at all. It's charming and an added bonus in the books.

Norman Osborn is another character I grew tired of back in the day. They seemed hellbent on shoving him into EVERYTHING at one point, and it was just a case of overexposure. But he's another character Slott handles extremely well. The relationship between Osborn and Peter is fascinating. There's this one specific scene where Peter is so angry at Osborn that he completely abandons the one-liners and quick quips during their battle, and Norman calls him out on it - further getting underneath Spidey's skin. I loved that.

J. Jonah Jameson selling the Daily Bugle is one of those changes that I didn't care for when I originally found out about it, but I've totally come around to enjoying it. I mean, it feels like a necessity. The newspaper industry isn't exactly a thriving, influential thing anymore. And making him mayor makes sense to keep him in the mix as a major player with some serious sway - just without the editorial voice. Instead, he's law & order. So I get it.

Anyway, Jonah gets his own great little character moment when the Bugle (under its new management) puts him on blast on the front page. And so Jonah gets a taste of his own medicine, basically being on the receiving end of all the hit pieces he wrote about Spider-Man back in the day.

It's the quieter, key character moments like that which really grab me and stick with me after an issue, too. I mean, don't get me wrong. The fights and the action scenes are awesome. But Slott is clearly a fan of these characters in the traditional sense. He writes them as he grew up reading them, and it's great.

In an interview, Dan Slott also spoke about having this folder of ideas he kept as a kid. He would write down ideas for stories, for villains, etc. if he ever got the chance to write Spider-Man one day. And you really get the sense of that, because he comes out with guns blazing. Some of these issues & stories are just bursting with interesting new spins on classic characters. And, like any good season of television, we get standalone stories with overarching themes and bigger sagas in the making, all intertwined issue to issue. It creates a compelling, captivating reading experience. You hate to stop or put it on pause, because something is always building or leading somewhere new and exciting, just around the corner.

The idea of the Hobgoblin as this new crime master, essentially gathering up the gimmicks of low-level C and D list villains, is such a fresh and interesting idea. He's basically franchising out the gear, gadgets, and costumes of these losers. It's not a monumental story or anything, but just an example of something neat being done with otherwise forgotten figures. It's Dan Slott having access to this great big toy box, and he's going to make sure he plays with EACH AND EVERY toy while he can.

Slott also talked about cleaning up some of the messes left behind by previous writers, which is part of the reason I wanted to seek this stuff out in the first place. He was really speaking to me with that point, because I was driven away by some of the very same things he wanted to tackle. But he's not some lazy writer taking shortcuts. He's not simply undoing stories or retconning decisions. Instead, he takes the time, care, energy, and effort to do it through storytelling. He adheres to continuity and treats the material of previous writers with some due respect.

And so that brings us to the Eddie Brock character. Over the years, Marvel has been ALL over the place with the Venom symbiote. They just couldn't make up their minds on what to do with it. Apparently, at some point, they decided Brock wasn't an interesting enough piece of the puzzle anymore, so they gave him cancer. So the Scorpion became Venom. Flash Thompson became Venom. And I lost track.

But Slott corrects course a bit here, albeit with a twist. And again, I was initially resistant. But nah, fuck it. I ended up digging this, too.

Basically, he reintroduces Brock and upgrades him by having the dormant Venom symbiote cells mutate inside him. In some Marvel super science way, the cancer + the symbiote cells = the new character, Anti-Venom. (I know. I hated it at first, too. But don't over think it.)

Brock back as Anti-Venom is a fucking treat and a half. He really livens up every issue he's in. And in particular, there's this AWESOME team-up story with Anti-Venom and the Punisher that is some HIGHLY recommended reading. The banter, the chemistry, and the interplay between those guys is fucking phenomenal.

Even as they're working together throughout the story, Punisher takes every chance he can to kill Anti-Venom. They're loading up some guns to go after the cartel? Punisher tries to set Eddie on fire. They're going across the border and Eddie turns his head to grab his ID? Punisher stabs him in the chest. It's hilarious and has to be seen panel to panel for full effect.

At the end, Frank gonna Frank. And he finally gets Anti-Venom in his crosshairs. But he doesn't pull the trigger. At first, you get the sense that Brock finally convinced the Punisher that he's changed his ways. But then it turns out, nah. Frank just ran out of bullets. Tremendous.

But yeah. Enough rambling from me. I said ALLLLL of that just to illustrate how much I'm enjoying this Dan Slott run so far. There have been some minor hiccups along the way, but nothing close to what it was before. These feel like traditional Silver Age Spidey tales, only in a more contemporary setting obviously. And I'm loving it.

I'm currently smack dab in the middle of another big story arc at the moment, so I'll probably return with some more thoughts as I wrap that one up soon.

To summarize, Slott has mostly delivered on what he set out to do with Spider-Man and for the Spidey mythos. He's undone some of the damage done to the characters, returned them to their roots, and restored value in the process. At the same time, he's upgraded Peter to a proper job and given him a more adult outlook. Spidey is also inventing new tech & utilizing new strategies again. In that sense, he's finally aging Peter again and allowing him to progress, learn, and grow.

So yeah. There's sooo much to talk about in his run here. And clearly I already have. And I will again soon. But that'll do for now. This shit's eating into my reading time as it is.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Slott's Spider-Man continues to impress. I can completely understand if some fans didn't care for the new direction or some of the bold decisions made throughout this run, because I've been there. Clearly. But man, in my eyes - it's some REALLY good stuff.

Like any creator, Dan Slott has a distinctive approach. And with that comes certain tendencies, affinities, and even flaws. But fuck that. This guy GETS Spider-Man. He gets Peter Parker. He just gets it.

At the end of the day, Slott is telling the type of stories he enjoyed reading as a kid. But all's good in my book, because I guess I enjoy similar stories. Slott has referenced having a notebook of stories he wanted to tell when he got the gig, and I believe it. The guy has an assembly line of ideas. And better yet? He's actually establishing connective tissue between each arc & issue, telling one huge comprehensive saga along the way. Little things that seem like throwaway moments or even small victories later turn out to be big deals or decisive turning points in the series. It's truly a neat trick, and it really raises the re-readability of these books as a result.

I'm currently caught up in the Superior Spider-Man story arc, but I'll reserve my thoughts until after I'm done. Meantime? I just plowed through two other arcs (and some standalones), all of which were fairly great and easy to enjoy.

Spider-Island, specifically, was just an absolute blast. It's this king-sized, sweeping epic adventure with attention-grabbing, head-turning cinematic visuals popping up all over the place.

I typically prefer my Spidey stuff to be more localized and down-to-earth, but that's the thing about Slott. As a storyteller, he tends to go with these bigger, broader story arcs. Almost everything is larger than life and supersized in scope. It's something I usually appreciate on cosmic books or team-up books, but I've really learned to lean into Slott's storytelling over the last month. And a lot of that comes down to his versatility as a writer.

Yes. Spider-Island is largely this gigantic story about everyone in Manhattan suddenly developing spider-powers. It's got incredible visuals of regular folks leaping & swinging through the city. But it's also filled to the brim with these tremendous little character moments.

The chemistry and the interaction between Peter and Mary Jane is top shelf shit. She offers motivation and inspiration for Peter, even at times when he fails to realize his own inner strength. There's something uplifting about their conversations and their quiet moments together - even knowing about Marvel's strict editorial mandate forbidding them to be coupled together at this time. Slott somehow walks a fine line in having them secretly carry a torch for one another (but still accepting that it's not meant to be) without it seeming nauseating or obnoxious whatsoever.

But the best thing about Slott's style is the way he weaves the great big, epic adventures with the emphasis on Peter's personal struggles. Each arc serves up a super-powered villain or a global threat, but each arc also challenges Peter's moral code. And that's where Slott truly excels, above all else.

This is where the majority of the complaints & criticisms seem to get lodged at Slott. He makes some truly bold moves during his decade on the Spidey books, and - to be fair - I've only experienced a handful of them thus far. But I appreciate his effort and the sheer amount of creativity that goes into the process.

Slott goes over-the-top at times with his thematic storytelling, but he rarely relies on the basics. There's always some heart & soul driving the story forward. Philosophical questions and values are questioned. Peter is handed difficult, complicated choices again and again.

It's pretty much Dan Slott trying to etch his own "If This Be My Destiny..." moment with the closing chapter of every story he tells. And while that could plausibly grow old before his run is done, right now it's hitting the sweet spot with this longtime lapsed reader. It's fresh and vibrant and just such fucking FUN to read good Spider-Man stories again.

It feels like Slott's mission statement is to correct the course with a more classic Spidey in nature and characterization, but still bring him up to date with more contemporary surroundings and supporting cast members. He's also determined to challenge Spidey by placing him in dire situations, wherein the hero is in over his head and facing insurmountable odds. But that's the great thing. It's not ALL epic adventures, all the time.

Slott is sure to provide buffers with some of the best "in between" issues I've ever read. These aren't filler. They're fantastic character development pieces.

In the buildup to Spider-Island, the first few folks are slowly realizing their newly gained spider powers. One is just a kid. He's constantly harassed & bullied until one day - the day he gets his powers - he stands up & fights back. But the kid doesn't realize he has spider powers, and so he kills the bully where he stands with one single punch. Another is just a guy - a husband, a father, a family man - who already noticed his powers. But he stands by and watches his building burn to the ground in a horrific fire - his neighbors still trapped inside. After all, the man doesn't want the world to expect anything from him. And besides, he already got his family out alive. He's looking out for himself and his family. Nobody else. These two individuals are compared directly with Peter's past and make for a really neat little self-contained setup story.

Oh. And Slott is ESPECIALLY skilled with the fallout issues. Seemingly after each arc, he'll serve up a quieter issue dealing with the aftermath. And the one following Spider Island is an all-timer. Once all the heroes have returned to their human form (did I mention they eventually transform into giant spider creatures?), there's this hilarious scene with Hercules. He's back in human form (and nude of course), and he's all, "Behold my natural state in all its glory! Avert your envious eyes, mortal!" It's truly tremendous.

But the best stuff is in the back half - with Peter and MJ just sitting & talking on a rooftop somewhere. He's rattling off this long list of angst-ridden problems, and she's trying to make him see that he just saved the city (possibly the world). Just then, the Empire State building is lit up with blue and red. It's the city showing thanks to Spidey, publically acknowledging what he'd done for them. Manhattan is Spider-Island. Mary Jane makes a remark about Spidey never being able to see what's right in front of him, before she lifts his head up and his spider-eye lenses go wide with that signature expression as he lays eyes on the building - lit up in his colors. It's a an endearing, well-earned moment between those two.

The Spider-Island story itself is a wild, crazy fun thrill ride. It's action-packed and bursting with guest stars. But I'll admit there are some flaws. Slott has such an affinity for everything & everyone in the Marvel Universe, so he almost seems to lean too much on guests and cameos. He floods the landscape with other heroes as often as he can. It's somewhat endearing, because the guy really is just a big kid with access to this awesome toy box filled with all his favorite childhood characters. And he's determined to play with them all. How can you hate on that?

On the other hand, as a writer, there needs to be more emphasis on prioritization. If I'm reading a Spidey book, I don't necessarily need to see the Avengers or the Fantastic Four to pop in for every single story arc. A little streamlining with that stuff could go a long way. I fully understand this is something that sticks around for the majority of Slott's run though, so I'm going to have to get used to it.

Jameson as mayor is something I've struggled with, because he's sp engrained as the editor in my mind. But it's a neat role for him, truth be told. And it's one I'm slowly warming up to. Jonah gets a funny moment of his own here. As mayor, he realizes he's essentially the mayor of Spider Island. And it's his nightmare come to life. He's running a city of 8 million spider-men! His reaction, ranging quickly from sour to outraged, is priceless.

Later, Jonah even gets in a good line with Mr. Fantastic, calling Reed Richards "more like Mr. CAN'Tastic" if Reed can't cook up a cure for all these rampant spider-powered people.

There's also a brief (but fun!) sidebar with Eddie Brock, as Anti-Venom, taking up shop in a rundown church and acting as a preachy savior - since his symbiotic cells effectively act like an antidote for the outbreak in some super-science comic book kind of way.

There's also this gnarly snapshot of Mary Jane scaling a wall, fully realizing for the first time that she now has spider-powers as well. It's a sweet succession of panels that looks like it could unfold in a scene on the silver screen. And the action that follows, with MJ kicking ass, is incredibly cool. Fiery, spirited Mary Jane is something Dan Slott channels very well. And this is that played up to the literal level. Just another in a long line of nicely done, memorable moments.

I shudder anytime Miles Warren shows up in a Spidey story, so I was less than thrilled when he was revealed as one of the components here. But the Queen as the ultimate big bad may have been even more of a letdown. I look at this as another attempt at housekeeping on Slott's part though. The Queen is a preexisting character from JMS's awful, atrocious run on the book during that period where he wanted to make Spider-Man less about science and more about magic or mystic arts or some horse shit.

Anyway, Slott tries to flesh her out a bit here and even provides her with a proper sendoff. But yeah. This mostly just seems like Slott being a geek for continuity. Big time bonus points to the guy for also finding a way to wrap up Anti-Venom here as well.

In listening to Slott on interviews, he has mentioned his desire to write his own ending for most of his own ideas and stories with some sense of finality. And his reasoning behind that is solid. Slott understands that comic book characters are essentially evergreen. They cannot be fundamentally changed for the most part, with very rare exception to that rule. And so, it's a creator's task & duty to act as a caretaker for these characters. Yes. They can challenge and change them through these stories, but they must ultimately leave them in the same condition they found them. Over time, some changes are gradually accepted as upgrades or better adaptations. And those are the changes that will stick, but only once they're embraced and welcomed by the fan base & future creators alike. Most of the time though? The changes are quickly undone by the next creator in line, and everything reverts back to the status quo.

Because of this, Slott wraps up almost every element and new character he introduces. If future writers want to bring something back or galvanize it in canon, then that's fine. But if it's never used again, then Slott can rest easy knowing he told a full, comprehensive story from start to finish - the way he wanted it to play out. And I seriously dig that approach. It's smart from a creator's perspective, and it's satisfying on the reader's end of the deal, because we get a conclusive beginning and end to everything throughout this run.

Ends of the Earth was the other story arc I mentioned. It reads like this broad, sweeping spy adventure. It's got this Bond-like layout. It spans several continents. It's got Doc Ock reforming his Sinister Six, and it's got Spidey recruiting Widow and Silver Sable to draw the battle lines.

Best of all? There's this war of wits and wills between Spidey and Ock. There are plenty of twists and turns, with each outsmarting the other numerous times. It's a real game of chess, and each issue ends on with a nail-biting cliffhanger or a significant revelation of some sort. And it all plays out masterfully.

Like most of Slott's stories, Ends of the Earth starts with an outrageous, larger-than-life premise. Doc Ock has effectively solved global warming, and he wants to rescue the planet from its imminent destruction. Of course, he wants something in exchange - that being expunged criminal records for his cohorts, and billions & billions of dollar dollah bills y'all.

What's wilder is that Ock is telling the truth! He really HAS come up with a legitimate solution to the problem. Perhaps even wilder is that the world is considering Ock's offer. But Spidey never trusts him, and Peter is eventually justified in that line of thinking.

But there's this badass moment where Spider-Man storms into the scene, gets in the faces of the Avengers, and orders them to assemble to fight the Sinister Six. It's this killer cool instance of Spidey growing sick & tired of everybody being indecisive and not trusting his instincts.

THIS is a prime example of why Slott's storytelling lands with me. The stakes are higher. The threats are deadlier. The consequences are greater. Everything is weighted with real ramifications. There's this promise of purpose in the way he approaches each adventure. Regardless of the outcome, it feels like something will inevitably change.

And even if things are returned to the status quo in short order (as is the general nature with comics), there's still this sense of importance surrounding these issues. Sport brings this willingness to be bold, to go big, and to challenge Peter Parker as a character on every conceivable level imaginable. And that's what this Dan Slott run is, in a nutshell. It's a fascinating deep-dive study of Peter Parker. His motivations, his values, his moral compass, his desires, and his fears are all explored throughout these stories.

Above all else in Ends of the Earth though, Slott's depiction of Doc Ock is fucking aces. For decades, fans have debated whether Norman Osborn or Dr. Octopus is Spidey's true arch-nemesis. I've always sided more with the Goblin in the past, but holy hell. This Doc Ock is such a rich character and such a compelling villain. He feels & functions like *the* PREMIER counterpart for Peter Parker here. Yes, the parental/paternal dynamic with Norman is weighty and enticing. But I'd argue that Ock, written this way, brings an adversarial teacher dynamic that is equally layered and intriguing.

Ock's Sinister Six undergo a serious upgrade, too. The idea that the Six could thrash the Avengers created additional criticism, I guess. But I dug it. I mean, look. Eventually, you have to level up your villains. Unless you're going to dispose of them and create entirely new ones to replace them, you've got to strengthen them and enhance them at some point. You can't beat these guys like drums for fifty years and still convince people they stand a chance, unless you're willing to rehab them. Now there's a lazy way to do that, and there's a creative way to accomplish it. Give Slott some credit, because he comes up with a neat trick or two to seriously sharpen the teeth of the Sinister Six and give them a meaner bite than before.

Ends of the Earth, unfortunately, falls apart for me in the last issue. There's some shaky characterization with Silver Sable suddenly admiring Spidey (and then later throwing herself at him with no substantial setup for it), and it's never fully explained. There's a death scene that should elicit some kind of reaction, but it feels flat and almost entirely ignored - because everything is rushed along with no real time for reactions. It simply isn't given the time to mean what it should.

The more egregious fault lies in Peter's decision-making though. After four or five issues of Spidey and Ock looking like strategically smart generals in this war, we suddenly get a Spider-Man who is too naive to notice a woman confronting him with the offer of casual sex who is all too cool with torturing a criminal for intel. And I won't even get into the other poor choice he makes, which feels like an all-time dirt worst for Spider-Man.

So yeah. These stories are not without some flaws. But I applaud the overall direction and technique of Slott's Spider-Man. There's way more good than bad here. This is the one time I've been disappointed in his treatment of Peter as a character. For the most part, he nails it. I'm not sure if this could be chalked up to rushed job one month or a cheap cheat to get them where they were going next, but it definitely felt like such an outlier among everything else I've read so far.

Overall, this is great stuff. It's well worth the read, and I don't regret my decision to dive into this run at all. Dan Slott has rejuvenated my love for Spider-Man, and I'm sincerely appreciative of that. I don't know that very many (or any) other writers could have rehabilitated the Spider books as well as he did this past decade.

I'm knee-deep in the Superior Spider-Man saga at the moment, and it's the bee's fleas. Still feels like the best is yet to come too, so I'm stoked for that. And yes. The concept is way out there. At face value, the premise of Superior Spider-Man is absurd. It's outrageous. It's wacky nutty banana bonkers. On the surface, it sounds like something I should (and would normally) HATE.

But nah. Fuck that noise. This is top shelf shit. Slott gets super creative, ultra innovative, and downright inventive in his approach to the body-swap angle, and it yields some amazing results for this reader. But more on all that later, folks.

Because hey. To be honest, it just feels awesome to enjoy reading comics again. It's not something I expected. But here we are. Never say never, peoples.

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Superior Spider-Man was probably my favorite book of the past decade. It felt so fresh and different. I feel like Slott's Spider-Man ran out of steam after that book though. 

You should also check out Superior Foes of Spider-Man if you want a quirky book with a bunch of C list villains as the characters. 

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On ‎9‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 6:13 AM, Mad Dog said:

Superior Spider-Man was probably my favorite book of the past decade. It felt so fresh and different. I feel like Slott's Spider-Man ran out of steam after that book though. 

You should also check out Superior Foes of Spider-Man if you want a quirky book with a bunch of C list villains as the characters. 

Yeah. Slott's Superior Spider-Man is absolutely refreshing and different. I think that's why it got so much backlash at the time. Comic fans, like wrestling fans or any diehard fandom really, are so resistant to change.

But this was never designed to be a permanent change. This was a specific story - with a definitive beginning, middle, and end in mind - carried out to its proper climax.

This was the Death of Superman or Knightfall. This wasn't Ben Reilly or teenage Tony Stark. This wasn't an attempt to replace Peter Parker moving forward. It was a temporary plot device, designed to explore new ideas and give a fresh take on old Spider-Man themes. And I seriously dug it for what it was.

It *is* a divisive story, but that's because it's bold and not your typical Spidey story beat by beat. But the heart & soul of Spider-Man is intact throughout. I mean, that's got to be the best part. Beneath the wildly imaginative premise, this is Peter Parker at his finest.

And really, the whole story is a tale of two journeys - Peter Parker finding his way back & being reminded what he's all about, and Doc Ock's gradual path to the good side.

Without ever hammering you over the head with it or outright saying it, Slott presents Ock and Peter as opposite sides of the same coin. Both are intelligent scientists, but they are extremely different in methods. The part where they're allowed to experience each others' memories is tremendous, because it plainly points out how both are essentially born out of grief & guilt. Slott is a thematic storyteller if nothing else, and he does really well in drawing parallels with Ock and Peter from that grief & guilt bit.

There's just so much to sink your teeth into with this story arc. It really feels representative of everything Slott set out to do during his time on Spider-Man's books. Villains are completely rejuvenated for a new generation of readers. Interesting supporting casts members are added, established, and fully fleshed out. It's just such a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience overall.

This depiction of Doc Ock is the new standard, plain & simple. He's a brilliant strategist. He really is a master planner here. The guy's got contingency plans for his backup contingency plans. His exchanges with Spidey are some of the best I've ever seen in any comic book ever.

Some of the monologues sprinkled throughout Superior Spider-Man are fucking AMAZING. Like iconic lines from a movie, the words stick with you and leave a lasting imprint in your memory. There are several of those standout moments that I'll probably pimp here.

The story even starts off strong, with Slott doing his usual "quiet" character moment. Peter catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and is reminded about old battle scars & how he got them. He listens to his voicemail messages while he gets dressed that morning - MJ wants to meet up at her nightclub, he has an upcoming performance evaluation at work, etc. Usual, routine stuff. But it's these quiet character moments that are key. It sets the stage perfectly for all the life-altering chaos that's about to unfold.

Slott has mastered the practice of pausing and allowing big moments to breathe, too. He's absolutely awesome with that. When Cap approaches Spider-Man about Doc Ock requesting to meet with him? Spidey's like, "Okay then." But nah. Cap's all, "No. You don't understand. He's asking to see YOU. Peter Parker." Pause. Spidey's response? "Take me to him."

Fuck. It's one of those epic, gut-punch moments that just sticks the landing. But wait. It gets better! Because when Spidey shows up to Ock's bedside? Octavius announces the big "body swap" reveal, and it's fucking glorious. The way it's executed is just magnificent. And once their minds are swapped, Ock just casually strolls away in Spidey's body and leaves Peter to die in this old, decaying vessel.

Even with me knowing the basic concept of the story, I was shocked at how well it came off. I mean, it's a wacky idea - but it never approaches the sense of feeling hokey or lame. There's such a sense of dread and doom surrounding Ock, even as he lies (seemingly) helpless & dying in his own deathbed.

And I've got to take a minute to talk about Ock's appearance here. Dude's fucking grotesque. There's really no other way to say it. His skin looks like shit. He has this incision on his throat that's stapled shut. There are open IV ports along his arms. He's got breathing tubes & feeding tubes protruding from his nose & mouth. Guy's eyes are super dilated. It's spooky and creepy and disgusting AS FUCK. But it adds to the sense of desperation and dire stakes we're dealing with here, and I'm absolutely unafraid to admit that I love it. ESPECIALLY later on when we see Peter in control of the body, looking like a lifeless puppet that's being held up & carried along by the robotic arms. Such a chilling visual that I can't get enough of.

The setup for Ock first realizing that he needed to do good felt a little rushed, but it wasn't heavy-handed or forced. I found it fitting that Ock finally defeated Peter decisively by outsmarting him, and yet Peter still proved to one-up Ock morally by delivering that FANTASTIC speech. It's Peter preaching to Ock that "with great power comes great responsibility." And so - if he's going to assume the identity of Spider-Man - then he has to live up to it. That's Peter's dying wish, and it's what Ock takes as motivation to set out and prove himself to be the Superior Spider-Man.

The premise isn't as far-fetched as you'd think. It works, especially in that moment. It's true that it's still a little flimsy to get things going, but once you start factoring in Ock's inner monologues and his massive ego? Yeah. It absolutely works.

And this is where the real fun comes into play. Ock's early days as Spider-Man offer some all-time great stuff. When he realizes Peter never had enough free time to take care of his personal life, he modifies his Octobots and invents Spiderbots to roam & monitor the city. This frees him up to for dates, time at work, and oh yeah - finishing his college degree. If anything, Ock goes to work streamlining Peter's personal life and finding ways to succeed at both superheroics and ordinary everyday life.

There's also this neat period where Ock tries to score with MJ. Slott sort of trolls fans here, I guess. But I don't know. I remember Joe Q making it known that there was an editorial mandate that meant MJ and Peter couldn't get back together way back in the day, so I don't know why anyone would think it would actually happen with Ock in Peter's body.

Anyway... Ock tries to plan all these elaborate dates with MJ, and they're all fucking disastrous. It's wonderful to watch. He screws up everything and is genuinely terrible at romance. But then! He shuts up and just takes her web-slinging one night, and it looks like he'll seal the deal. But nah. She shuts that shit down real fast, and Ock goes home alone. He may possess Peter's body, but he's still ol' Otto underneath.

Slott amplifies the action and serves up some gritty, nasty violence as well. Whenever Ock throws hands in Spidey's body for the first time, he knocks Scorpion's jaw clean off! The fuck?! Turns out Spider-Man was always way stronger than you'd think, but he took care to pull his punches - even against super-powered foes.

There's also the grisly sight of Ock's eye hanging out of its socket as he lies dying in Spider-Man's arms. Gross. But cool. And left a lasting impression.

Then there's the issue of Doc Ock murdering someone while he's Spider-Man. This is done to clearly illustrate the dividing line between Ock and Peter. Ock finds it futile to simply imprison these criminals and allow them to become repeat offenders. It's a vicious cycle, and it's irrational in his eyes. So he picks up a gun and shoots this Massacre guy straight in the face. Brutal.

And I can totally understand why it would have traditional Spider-Man fans up in arms and irate. Hell, I'm as old-school a Spidey fan as it gets. Silver Age Spidey is my bread & buttah. It's the bee's fleas in my book. But this wasn't Peter Parker. Yes. It was his body. But I can appreciate the overall effort to drive the story forward and continue to create this tension between Ock's extreme measures and Peter's desire to resume control of his body.

And, to be fair, it's not all murder & mayhem from there. That's actually an early development, designed more to set the table with shock & awe than anything. Ock proves his point, then moves on to death threats, fully knowing that people are now convinced he WILL kill - and so he simply doesn't have to again.

Ock is a much more ruthless Spider-Man though. For awhile, he's presented as a smarter, edgier, more aggressive Peter Parker also. Step by step, the story approaches the point where you ask yourself if Ock really is a superior version of Spider-Man. It's laid out incredibly well, to be honest.

Oh. And I can't forget about Anna Maria. She's such a rich addition to the supporting cast. Her diminutive size (she's a little person, folks) only adds to her cuteness, of course. But it's her personality that makes her pop and truly shine. She's very much a caregiver at heart, but she's also stern and tough in situations that call for it. She's the sort of fully-formed character that leaves you wanting to see her in various circumstances, just for the sake of seeing how she deals with shit.

Oh. And she totally brings out the best in Ock. He falls for her. HARD. And I love every bit of this element in the story, because it's true to Ock's nature. Anyone that's followed the Spider-Man mythos for any length of time can tell you that Ock is a hopeless romantic. Dude literally invented a way to make Stunner beautiful on the outside, because her looks mattered to her - though never to him. It doesn't get any crazier in love than that.

So OF COURSE it makes sense for Slott to use little Anna Maria as a catalyst to kick-start the next phase of Ock's "baby face turn" here. Truth be told, she plays a crucial role in the grand finale. And it's another defining, tremendous moment in its own right. But we'll get there.

Norman Osborn returns as the Goblin King or whatever. I don't know. The Osborn legacy stuff just feels kind of overexposed to me, even now. The setup for the Goblin Nation portion of the story was solid enough, but its real appeal lied in the face off between Ock and Osborn. It's Spidey's two archenemies at each others' throats.

Truth be told, that part is a little anti-climatic, mainly in the sense that it's more of a game of tactical chess than anything. But that's fine. Because the final battle belongs to Peter, so I don't mind. Plus, Ock's journey is more about redemption & realizing he can do good - furthermore, realizing he WANTS to do good. And we get that here.

Osborn leans that it's Ock in Spidey's body, so he targets everything Ock holds dear. And so Ock is stuck in this race across the city, desperately trying to save the people, places, and things he cares for. Ultimately, it comes down to a decision - does he save this innocent little girl (Ock hates when children are hurt - a result of his father being abusive when he was a child), or does he save Anna Maria, the woman he loves?

So Ock is frozen in place, trapped in thought. He's analyzing the possible outcomes, the problem itself, all viable solutions, etc. He's over thinking. More importantly, he's NOT moving. Peter's subconscious urges him to move. To make a choice. Any choice. Do something, or both will die.

THIS is it. This is the split-second where Ock surrenders control of the body and allows Peter Parker to retake the wheel. Peter's rescue is rapid & swift, so much that he saves both. And then he shares this AMAZING, SPECTACULAR, SENSATIONAL exchange with Ock.

The core of it centers on Ock admitting that he was arrogant and unforgiving as Spider-Man, but it was all to hide his flaws. It was him overcompensating, because he wasn't as smart or as skilled as Peter. That's why he had to be so controlling and so methodical about everything. But Peter had already learned the painful lesson that Ock is now learning on this day - that arrogance and indecision can cost you everything. So Peter is self-sacrificing when it comes to saving lives. Peter is smarter and braver in tough times - in the situations that matter the most. Peter is the superior Spider-Man.

Boom. Such a well-earned, fulfilling snapshot of the story. It's all really built & built to that apex.

But it gets better, because there's a loose end to tie up. Enter the Green Goblin, who confronts what he believes to be Doc Ock in Spidey's body. Norman rants about stripping away everything Ock loves, until he has nothing left.

Spidey's response slays. "Right. Nothing. Except the dignity that I never walked around carrying a man-purse."


Blank stare on Goblin's face. Mouth agape.

Then, irate, he shouts, "It's YOU."

Spider-Man: "The one and only."

FUCK YEAH! Fist pump! High five! Very nice!

If "The Touch" by Stan Bush could start playing out of thin air at any time, this - THIS - would be that moment in the story.

Yup. In that moment, Osborn realizes it's not Doc Ock anymore. This is the tried & true genuine article. This is Peter Parker.

The rest of the fight is pretty much Peter pummeling Norman. There's this clever deal where it turns out that Osborn went all DiBiase and spent a fortune to have his face surgically changed so that he could acquire a new company under a new identity. But Spidey promptly proceeds to pulverize him until he's practically unrecognizable to anybody anyway. So there's that.

I've gone ahead and kept reading beyond this a bit, but yeah. I believe you may be right. This strikes me as absolute peak Dan Slott. Superior Spider-Man was a blast. Aside from a couple of minor speed bumps, this was a total winner in my view. Unquestionably worth the read, for sure.

It's nitpicking, but I could've left out the Spider-Man 2099 stuff. I don't know if it was a necessity for the sake of the Spider-Verse event or just something shoehorned in for the idea of establishing Alcemax as Osborn's new agenda, but it was fairly weak sauce - especially compared to the strengths of the other stories surrounding it.

Miguel O'Hara is an interesting enough guy, and I've always thought his costume was one of the cooler alternate Spider designs. I've got no issue with Marvel reviving him as a viable character in their mainstream continuity either. But his involvement here just felt very tacked on. I'd be curious to know if Miguel's got his own ongoing series now though. And how does it compare to the wildly imaginative Peter David stuff from the 90's? Because that was good shit.

Just to wrap things up though, I'm going to take a break away from reading strictly Spider-Man for awhile. I'm still enjoying Slott's run, but it feels somehow less purposeful now that I've devoured the Superior saga (which is what I set out to do in the first place).

I'll stick with it to the end, I'm sure. But I'm looking for that next big, definitive project to tackle - ideally something finite that allows me to pick up and step out, like these last two afforded me.

I've tried to get into Matt Fraction's Iron Man, but meh. It didn't exactly rock my socks. I've toyed with the idea of leaping ahead to Bendis' Iron Man, but I'm still undecided at the moment.

In closing, I'd say that Superior Spider-Man hit that sweet spot for me. Highly satisfying, really rewarding reading. It was a clearly defined arc that accomplished everything it wanted to - serving as this deep-dive, long form exploration of two primary characters. This was a story of Doctor Octopus and Peter Parker, and it effectively redefined both with a clearer focus than they had going into it. Superior Spider-Man is a successful Spider-Man. On every meaningful level, this one hits the mark for me. I loved it.

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