AHHHHH!!! – OR – Reflections on Dan Slott’s Return to Writing Spider-Man

It’s like Marvel knows it’s my Birthday Week!  On July 1st it was announced Dan Slott will be returning to write a new monthly Spider-Man book – the adjective-less Spider-Man, which first debuted in my youth as a vehicle for the artist/writer Todd McFarlane in August of 1990 – this October.  Dan Slott was part of of the Webhead Braintrust of writers who launched Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day Era” in January 2008 alongside Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, and Zeb Wells and grew to include Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Fred Van Lente, Roger Stern, Brian Reed, and Tom Peyer before BND ended in November 2010.  He then took over as solo writer for The Amazing Spider-Man which he wrote from that November’s #648 through June 2018’s #801.  Dan Slott can be a bit of a divisive writer among Spider-fans so I wanted to take this chance to reflect a bit on his writing and why I’m pretty excited for the return of such an amazing (heh) Spider-Man writer.  THWIP onward for Spider-Reflections!

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“Embiggen!”: Connecting Kamala’s Powers in Disney+’s Ms. Marvel to Her Comic Origin

I try to guard myself against the “it’s newest so it’s the best EVER” reaction that often permeates fandoms.  We can tend to live and breathe a movie or a show as soon as it premieres, reworking our rank lists to show how this is the best ever…until the next new movie or show in that universe comes out.  I get the excitement.  I often share it myself!  But I’m always cautious about saying “best” when reflecting on a new movie or show.  Yet it’s impossible to deny the sheer beauty and joy of Disney+’s Ms. Marvel show.  Each episode fills my heart in a way nothing else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has.  As far as I’m concerned, it is easily the most joyful entry in the MCU.  I think it’s far and away the most important show Disney+ has done so far, too.  And it may well be the best.  We’ll see ;D.  So I want to explore these emotions through the lens of how Kamala’s powers changed for the Disney+ show…in a way that’s far closer to her comic roots than I first realized.

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What If You Woke Up to the Wrong World?: A Heroes Reborn Reflection/Discussion

Jason Aaron took over the writing duties on Avengers in May of 2018.  His Avengers roster boasted one of the most powerful lineups in the team’s history, with T’Challa/the Black Panther serving as the Avengers’ chairperson and Steve Rogers/Captain America, Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Thor Odinson, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, and Avengers newcomer Robbie Reyes/Ghost Rider filling their roster.  Soon, Blade the Vampire Hunter would join their ranks.  Their headquarters is the body of a dead Celestial, a race of cosmic space gods responsible for the creation of much of the universe, located in the unforgiving terrain of Antarctica and imbued with all sorts of universe-shaping tech.  T’Challa’s Agents of Wakanda, led by Okoye, fill the information gathering and covert action void for the Avengers in a post-S.H.I.E.L.D. world.  Together they have battled Celestials, waded into a vampire civil war, faced the Phoenix force’s return to Earth for a new host, halted Namor’s holy war against a pollution-spewing surface world, and juggled the always-mounting international tensions as all countries of the world wonder whose interests the Avengers serve.

Then one morning Blade woke up to a world where the Avengers never formed and he was the only one who remembered the way it was supposed to be.  And I can’t stop thinking about this!

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Spider-Man and Danielle: Wait…Is This A Date?

The time has come for this series using only Spider-Man comics to explore the variety of romantic archetypes we find in literature (illustrating the variety of romantic experiences we find in life) to hit LUCKY NUMBER THIRTEEN!!!  What lays ahead to consider in ol’ Peter Parker’s romantic misadventures?  Only one of the most vexing (and potentially awkward) of all romantic quandaries – how do you know if you’re actually on a date with someone or not?  Warning: Reading this piece may yield spontaneous full-body shame cringes which involuntarily rise when we remember awkward memories so proceed with caution.  If there’s one thing looking at all Peter Parker’s romantic exploits teaches us, it’s we’re never alone when it comes to awkwardly pursuing love.  When the web-head meets Danielle, the woman working at a jewelry store he returns stolen diamonds to in the all love stories-oriented Amazing Spider-Man #605, sparks fly.  Emotions run high.  She actually talks to him.  It’s a tractor beam – vzzzzzzzt – and it sucks Peter right in.  But, regardless of sparks and emotions we feel when we meet someone new, how do you know when your hanging out has become a real date?  

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BIG EXCITING NEWS – I WROTE A BOOK!!!!!

That’s right, dear reader, you read that correctly.  I wrote a book!  A year ago I announced I had signed a contract with Claremont Press to write a volume for their Religion and Comics Series.  I promised to update you all with more information when I had it and when I could and…(drum roll please)…that time has come!  Ahhhhhhhh, I wrote a book AND I get to tell you about it.  It’s a super exciting day :D.  So read on, dear reader, and I can tell you all about my upcoming book.  YAY!

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Considering Dr. Christine Palmer and the Ever-Expanding Size of the MCU

This weekend, in anticipation of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I returned to a favorite tradition of mine – marathoning old movies before I see the new one!  The size of the Marvel Cinematic Universe means the last time I watched every movie was my marathon for Avengers: Endgame.  Now, saner (and healthier!) parts have prevailed.  Instead of ruining my life by trying to watch the twenty-eight different films and nineteen different TV series with thirty-six seasons between them that make up the MCU (at the time of this writing), I’ve just chosen to watch Doctor Strange (2015), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), WandaVision (2021), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).  Rewatching Doctor Strange a question struck me: whatever happened to Dr. Christine Palmer?

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My Brand New Perspective on Spider-Man’s Brand New Day

My first Spider-Man comic was Web of Spider-Man #12.  It came out in March of 1986 when I was just three-years-old.  I got it from the spinny rack at the grocery store and I read it so many times the pages eventually ripped away from its tattered cover.  Always one to encourage reading, Mom regularly let me get comic books when we were at the grocery store, drug store, or gas station.  When I was seven-years-old, my parents got me a membership to our local comic shop (perks included a 20% discount off the cover price and a pull list).  Weekly trips to Books Galore were a part of my life until I turned sixteen.  All of a sudden things like gas money and the outings driving fostered began to make demands of my budget so, with conflicting emotions, I decided to stop collecting comics.  My last was Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98.  Released in November of 1998, it was the “end” of Peter and Mary Jane’s story (until the next month’s reboot) so it felt like a fitting end.

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Ben Reilly’s Back!!! – The Spider-Man Story I’ve Waited 25 Years For

Which comics go in my file/pull list is a decision I ponder regularly.  What must be read monthly in single issues?  Which stories/characters/creators can’t wait?  I ask myself this whenever I consider juggling the comics in my file because, well, money’s a thing and I only have so much for comics before they turn off my electricity and water and I use those all the time.  Despite Spider-Man being the fictional character I’ve had the longest running relationship with, The Amazing Spider-Man is rarely on my pull list simply because I favor newer characters (or characters new to me).  Miles Morales/Spider-Man or Cindy Moon/Silk or America Chavez or Jane Foster/Valkyrie don’t yet have as bedrock a status quo to reset to so their characters feel more dynamic and thus, with more potential for lasting change, there’s a greater sense of urgency to read those stories each month instead of waiting for them to pop up on Marvel Unlimited or be collected in a trade paperback.  However, last night I learned Ben Reilly was donning the webs once more so today I went to my local comic shop to add The Amazing Spider-Man to my file for the first time in years!

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The Fantastic Four and the Science of Soul Mates

Perhaps the most oft repeated observation about the Fantastic Four is they are a family first, superheroes second.  This piece of their identity has been their cornerstone since Stan Lee ushered in the “Marvel Age of Comics” with their creation in 1961.  With the FF poised to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dan Slott was given the reins of  “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” in 2018.  Understanding the nature of the FF – a family of explorers and travelers who save the day when needed – he uses it to examine a captivating concept which seems uniquely suited to the Fantastic Four.  When their explorations take them to the planet Spyre, Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Sue Storm/the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm/the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm/the Thing meet the Overseer, the leader of the Spyricans, a people who have technology they claim will show you your Soul Mate with absolute certainty.  Families are born in the bonds of love and there’s no love like a Soul Mate…should such a thing exist.  What better place to drop explorers defined by their family than the questions raised at the intersection of loving communion and a technology that can predict the mystical movements of the heart?!!?

As readers we can’t help but take this journey with the Fantastic Four and wonder are Soul Mates real?  And if they are, would we want to know?

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Alias’ Jessica Jones is Marvel’s Most Authentically Human Character

Jessica Jones was one of the genre-redefining characters born during my hiatus from regular comic reading.  Created by Brian Michael Bendis (writer) and Michael Gaydos (artist), she first appeared in Alias #1, released in November 2001.  Coincidentally enough, I spent that fall falling for another Alias – J.J. Abrams’ cliffhanger and slow-mo running loving spy show starring Jennifer Garner.  At the time, I had no idea another Alias existed.  Once I saw (and enjoyed!) Jessica Jones on Netflix, I kept my eyes peeled for her comics.  Alias isn’t on Marvel Unlimited and I’d never seen the collected trades below $25.99 apiece (which I’ll spend but it’s a risky move without reading a single issue).  But then magic struck!  I found Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1, 3, and 4 (of four!!!) as I strolled Ollie’s Bargain Outlet last week!  I tracked down Vol. 2 as well, and then…well, you know how some books are overhyped?  It turns out, even after the endless praise I’ve heard about Jessica Jones as a character and Alias as a comic, it ended up being better than I imagined.

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