Superior Spider-Man – 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Dan Slott (Part 1)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
As a comic reader, when you hear the name Dan Slott the first thing you think about is “Spider-Man”. The longtime Spider-Man scribe has been writing Spider-Man stories for nearly a decade now, leaving plenty of distinct marks on the character and his history. But there is no mark Dan Slott is more well-known for leaving on Spider-Man than Superior Spider-Man, an alternate take wherein Doc Ock takes control of Peter Parker’s body. When the change was first announced, Dan Slott was met with plenty of negative reactions and even death threats! But after the first issue was published the world became incredibly quiet as all the naysayers quickly changed their opinion upon realizing how strong the story really was!
Superior Spider-Man Volume 1: My Own Worst Enemy
One of Spider-Man’s longtime arch enemies, Doctor Octopus, tries his hand at being a hero but in an unconventional way. After a climatic battle wherein Doctor Octopus swaps his consciousness with that of Peter Parker, the road is paved for Doc Ock to take over as the all-new, Superior Spider-Man. With Peter Parker’s body under the control of Doc Ock’s mind, this cocky, arrogant, and morally questionable new Spider-Man approaches fighting crime in a whole new light. With more vicious tactics, wiser inventions, and peculiar motives, Doc Ock has the chance to finally win in a way he was never capable of doing as a super villain. Things get even more odd for the body swapped Peter Parker when Doc Ock actually ends up being better than at managing the power and responsibility that comes with being Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was!
Dan Slott pens the ultimate love letter to Peter Parker with a series that has one of his greatest villains filling the mantle of Spider-Man for him! With Doc Ock in control of Peter Parker’s body, and more importantly Peter Parker’s consciousness trapped inside of the now deceased Doc Ock, there is a whole new Spider-Man taking New York City by storm! Dry, humourless and brutal, Dan Slott presents readers with a Spider-Man unlike any other they’ve seen before with his brilliant new direction for Superior Spider-Man. Gone are all the elements of Peter Parker you adored, instead being replaced by the seemingly polar opposite characteristics of Doctor Octopus. Time and time again throughout the series you are shown how different these two men are from each other, highlighting the contrast of the unique skill sets both men bring to being a hero.
It seems to go without saying that this is unlike any Spider-Man story ever told before. Dan Slott taps into something special, something that the comic world has seen done before but never to this perfect of a degree. Slott takes arguably the greatest comic book character ever and strips away all the elements that fans adored of him, only to then produce something that is ultimately even more enjoyable than the original product. Superior Spider-Man in a nutshell is Peter Parker (and more specifically Spider-Man) done wrong but in the right way. The bravery, aloofness, and dorky charisma of the Peter Parker we all know and love is gone, replaced by the cynicism, anger, brutality, and genius of one Doctor Octopus. Dan Slott uses Superior Spider-Man almost like a scale, showing the balance and opposing forces of nature shared between Doc Ock and Peter. For every redeemable quality Peter has, Doc Ock has a seemingly irredeemable counter quality, giving you the polar opposite of what you’d expect. It’s shocking how seamlessly Dan Slott seems to tap into the villainous nature of the Superior Spider-Man, in the process showing us how well he knows Peter Parker because of how well he portrays Doc Ock.
For the duration of the series, and this volume specifically, Dan Slott consistently explores the complex nature of having a villain acting as a hero without anyone knowing that the villain has usurped the hero. This all makes for a highly interesting plot with a plethora of different moving parts, crafting a series that is founded on mystery, intrigue, dark humour, and morality. The five issues in this collection all closely examine the differences in how Doc Ock handles crime versus how Peter Parker would deal with said problems. From the opening moments of the series you see how different Ock’s approach is, having a methodical and visceral approach to how he fights crime. The intelligence of a “genius” like Ock is on full display as well, as he showcases that he isn’t too brave nor too bold to flee from a confrontation when it calls for it. Wherein we’re used to Spider-Man fleeing only when he acknowledges defeat, Doc Ock instead takes “tactical retreats” realizing when he needs to regroup to take a different approach or simply retreat so that he can have the villains play into his favour instead of playing into theirs. The brutal nature of Doc Ock’s crime fighting ways is perhaps the most noticeable change to the character of Spider-Man in this first volume, not pulling any punches against villains like the newly-minted Sinister Six, The Vulture, and Massacre. Doc Ock tears a path through these criminals leaving many of them crippled and hospitalized, but the most shocking turn of events absolutely occurs in the midst of his battle against Massacre, presenting the reader with one of the most shocking and un-Spider-Man like moments in Spider-Man history. It’s an act that can’t be undone but leaves you full immersed with the narrative at hand, yet again showing why Dan Slott is a brilliant and mad genius with his approach to Superior Spider-Man.
The true genius to Superior Spider-Man isn’t just in part to how well Slott characterizes Peter Parker and Doc Ock. One of the best aspect of Spider-Man and his stories is how rich of a supporting cast he has, something of which Slott doesn’t shy from here, even going as far as potentially enhancing an already strong collection of characters. In two issues Slott solves the Mary Jane “equation” with Doc Ock showing a level of restraint Peter Parker never thought possible. With these issues Slott shows the love he has for the character of Peter Parker through his portrayal of MJ, showing that he understand the dynamic relationship these two characters share and giving the reader some of the best MJ related content they will have seen in years. From there, other mainstays like Carlie Cooper and Aunt May even get a few moments, with Cooper serving to be the clear obstacle that stands in Doc Ock’s way, gaining a growing suspicion from this “new” Peter Parker. Slott taps into the cop instincts of the character and makes her a pivotal part of the story going forward. Slott uses Aunt May as a way to help the reader see that maybe this new Spider-Man is all for the better, with Aunt May realizing how much more adult Peter has been acting and having her sense of pride towards him only heighten.
All of the recurring characters are done well by Dan Slott but it’s his addition of the new cast member, Anna Marconi, that stands out amongst the rest. Anna is a little person who immediately adds a sense of diversity to the cast, being loveable and dynamic but also grounded at the same time. Her physical difference from the rest of the cast is something that Dan Slott addresses but never lets hinder the character, showing the reader that there’s more to characters than just their appearance. It’s an important life lesson that’s hidden within the narrative and comes across as Anna quickly becomes a favourite character. She’s whip-smart, funny, charming and an all around solid addition to the cast as well as becoming an interesting love interest to Peter Parker/Doc Ock. Anna and MJ allow Slott to examine the complexity that comes with a character who isn’t control of their body, playing with the idea that you can’t necessarily control who you fall in love with. Although the Peter Parker instinct is to fall for a woman like MJ, Doc Ock’s compulsion for a strong character like Anna sets him out on a radically different path from anything Peter has ever ventured towards.
Collects: Superior Spider-Man #1-5
Best Character: Doc Ock as Peter Parker
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “A giant beacon in the sky, announcing to all my enemies where they can find me. Only an idiot would put that into effect. And Mayor J. Jonah Jameson is no idiot.” – Superior Spider-Man
Best Scene/Moment: Spider-Man answers the call of the “Spider Signal” – Issue 3.
Best Issue: Issue 3 – Everything You Know Is Wrong. Issue 3 proves to stand out amongst this pack of strong stories because of how well it displays exactly what Dan Slott is trying to get across with this series. There’s just this brilliant balance struck between action, dark humour, sadness, and drama that’s never been done before with Spider-Man quite like this before. From the hilarious opening moment to the somber conclusion, this is hands down an issue you can’t stop reading for a second. If you try to count everything that Dan Slott does genuinely right in this issue, you might need two sets of hands because this is a near perfect issue of a comic. It puts everything in perspective when you realize how any other issue from this collection could easily be considered the “best”, but really you should just appreciate the entire trade as a whole because it is quite frankly
amazing superior in comparison to any Spider-Man story told in the last five years.
Why You Should Read It: This isn’t your daddy’s Spider-Man. Superior Spider-Man is a Peter Parker love letter, even if this first volume doesn’t feel like it at first. It makes you love all the things Peter did as Spidey even more whilst you come to truly enjoy seeing a different side to our favourite wall-crawler. In my mind, these are some of the best Spider-Man stories from the last decade. It inverts all the elements you love from Spidey/Peter and is STILL rewarding. It’d be easy for me to write a whole long drawn out paragraph about why you should read Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man but as most die-hard Spidey fans who have read these stories will tell you, this stuff is simply amazing and should just be enjoyed instead of spoiled for you. Just trust me and go pick up the first volume.