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What You Should be Reading : Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man hits the Big Time!

15 Oct

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I’m usually not one for clichés, but Spider-Man and Wolverine are right up there in my list of all-time favourite comic book characters. The story goes that I came back to reading comic books three and a half years ago, a time when both characters were beginning with their respective iconic runs, with the rotating team of Web-Heads (Joe Kelly, Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente, Mark Waid etc.) on the Amazing Spider-Man and Jason Aaron (of Scalped fame) on Wolverine : Weapon X and later the new volume of Wolverine (and now Schism and Wolverine and the X-Men). For today though, let’s just save the talk on Aaron’s Wolverine for another day and concentrate on what Spidey’s been up to of late.
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The Run-Up
See, the story leading up to Slott’s solo run really starts with the Spider-Man crossover event One More Day , co-penned by the then ASM writer Joe Michael Straczynski, a.k.a. JMS (grudgingly) and the then Marvel Editor-in-Chief (and now Chief Creative officer) (Seriously, someone cast this guy as Perry White already, he loves being called chief) Joe Quesada. It involved Peter Parker making a deal with Mephisto (essentially The Devil) to save his (once again!) dying aunt in exchange for his marriage with Mary Jane Watson being erased from history. It was basically Marvel’s attempt to de-age Spidey and bring him back to his “more relatable roots”. Fans were obviously angry and plenty threatened to boycott the series. The initial year or so of Brand New Day, which was essentially what followed One More Day, was a critical disaster, as the writers were too concerned with establishing the new status quo and new villains, who felt a lot like rip-offs of classic members of Spidey’s Rouges gallery. However, once the dirty work was done,

a point which can be marked by the Character Assassination arc, the writers delivered one magnificent arc after another, making this title one of the biggest bestsellers in the market. The Brand New Day phase lasted a whopping 101 issues, thanks to the thrice-monthly schedule, and set the stage perfectly for Dan Slott’s solo run on the book, under the Big Time banner.

Dan the Man
Dan Slott’s strengths as a writer for ASM include his uncanny ability to combine the charm last seen in the 60’s on the title, under Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, with a very modern relatable feel. What this basically means is that he knows the universal time-transcending appeal of the character while adding relevance and contemporary concepts to his stories. The basic status quo of Big Time involves Pete getting a new job at Horizon Labs, getting a new girlfriend in the form of NYPD detective Carlie Cooper and juggling al this with his responsibilities to the streets of New York, Two Avengers teams as well as the Future Foundation. With a star studded revolving team of artist consisting of Humberto Ramos, Stefanno Castelli and Marcos Martin, he certainly has plenty of choice in regards to finding the right tone for each arc.
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Arc one
The first arc seeks to generally set the new status quo for ol’ webhead, while introducing a not-really-new goblin. It opens with Spidey leading the Avengers (yes, you heard that right) against Doc Ock’s ‘War of the Worlds’ inspired octobots, while we see Phil Urich take up the mantle of Hobgoblin. Fantastically written and illustrated, the arc serves the purpose of laying the foundation of what is set to happen later on while clearly distinguishing its tone from BND. It’s got all the trademarks and decompression and does take a while to read. 
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The Bad Guys
23 issues in the run so far, we’ve seen Slott go through plenty of villains from Spidey’s rouges gallery without falling into cliché or camp territory. The one’s we have seen so far are the Hobgoblin, Doc Ock and the sinister six, Spider-Slayers, the De-venomized and Re-scorpionised Mac Gargan, a new villain who goes by Massacre, Anti-Venom, Venom, Mister Negative and easily the villain most dreaded by Spidey Fans : <Drumroll> The Jackal. All very well (and awesomely) handled. 
What’s with Ock?
It’s apparent that Doc Ock and the Sinister Six are planning something big. There have been plenty of appearances in the Marvel Universe here and there to suggest that. First, he shows up in Amazing Spider-man #648, unleashing giant octobots on Manhattan as a diversion to infiltrate a military base with tiny octobots. Next, we see him dueling with the three smartest men in the Marvel Universe (Reed Richards,Tony Stark and Hank Pym) at different moments, basically trying to prove he’s smarter than them. We know Slott is going with the same approach as his team did in BND, with multiple arcs leading up to the big tent-pole event. My bet would be on the summer of 2012, with The Amazing Spider-man movie coming up.
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Spider-Island
Speaking of tentpoles, here’s the one currently stopping the presses. See, it takes a very different kind of writer to write a good Jackal, leave alone making sense of something as crazy (and awesome) as every inhabitant of Manhattan morphing Spider-powers. By using bedbugs, no less, the Jackal his given the people of Manhattan great power, without the lesson of great responsibility. With tie-ins that are actually good (Hello, Flashpoint), its being called the best event of 2011. Recommendation : Go catch all he back issues and catch up while this event is still on!
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The Shipping Schedule
One of the most revolutionary things Marvel did with Brand New Day was the three times a month schedule. This allowed one single path of storytelling in one single title, rather than multiple series confusing readers with their timelines. When Slott started his solo run, the series became bi-weekly, which coupled with Slott’s decompression abilities pretty much means you get half an arc in the same time Bendis’ Avengers talk around on their A-marked Dining Table.
Sister Books
When the run started, we were given two sister books in the form of Paul Tobin’s sadly cancelled Spider-Girl and Kelly Sue Deconick’s excellent mini series Osborn. We currently have Rick Remender’s amazing (adjective, not part of the title) Venom series, starring “Flash” Thompson as the symbiote’s new host. A must read even if you’re not much of a Flash or Venom fan. Also we now have Zeb Wells and Joe Mad’s Avenging Spider-Man, which will look at Peter’s role as an Avenger. There certainly does seem to be an effort to build up on Spidey’s corner of the Marvel Universe.
Predictions for The Future
  • Mary Jane retains her Spider-powers post Spider-Island
  • Marvel has hinted at the return of the Scarlet Spider via teasers. Not only that, it appears Bleeding Cool is aware of his identity and has released a list of contenders (http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/09/30/who-is-the-new-scarlet-spider-we-have-the-answer-somewhere/) My guess? Mary Jane, Kaine or the returning Ben Reilly.
  • Venom goes on the run
  • The Osborns returns to Spidey Books. (Has been a while)
  • Ben Reilly is in the lab next to Pete’s at Horizon Labs.
  • Hobgoblin and Spidey discover each other’s identities.
  • The series continues its streak of awesomeness.