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

Superior Spider-Man Vol 1 coverOne 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.

Superior Spider-Man Vol 1 interior 1It 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.

Superior Spider-Man Vol 1 interior 2The 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.

Superior Spider-Man Vol 1 interior 3

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.

Silver Surfer Volume 1: New Dawn

Silver Surfer Vol 1 coverA fun fact that some readers don’t know about Dan Slott is that he’s a diehard Doctor Who fan. Growing up in London during his teen years, Dan Slott was exposed to the cultural phenomenon that is Doctor Who, a story about an alien man who travels throughout time and space with a young female companion. The series has had such an everlasting impression on Slott that it not only inspired his take on the Silver Surfer (which is what we’re talking about today) but it actually resulted in Slott dedicating the third issue of the series to Russell T. Davies, the man responsible for relaunching the series for a more modern audience way back in 2005. Slott’s love (and ties) for Doctor Who is something that is incredibly prevalent and seemingly always on display during his run with the Silver Surfer, showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Dawn Greenwood is an incredible average young woman from Anchor Bay, Massachusetts who leads a rather normal life.  Helping her father manage their family hotel right on the shore of a beautiful beach, Dawn loves her home and the world she lives in.  Her sister Eve on the other hand has a desire to strike out into the world and explore, constantly sending her sister reminders of the life she is missing out on through letters and postcards.  Dawn gets whisked away on the ultimate adventure when she suddenly crosses paths with the Silver Surfer.  The Silver Surfer is a former herald of Galactus, being used to scout out worlds for Galactus to devour.  Possessing the “Power Cosmic”, the Silver Surfer is capable of almost anything he sets his mind to, choosing to use his power for good nowadays instead of aiding his past master.  Silver Surfer and Dawn Greenwood are thrust together when the Surfer gets unwillingly drawn into helping the planet Impericon defeat the menacing Never Queen.  The aliens charged with running the Impericon recruit “Champions” to battle the Never Queen, abducting people important to said Champion as leverage to ensure they try to help instead of flee.  Things get a little awkward for the Surfer when he finds out Dawn is being used against him to fight the Never Queen, even though he’s never met Dawn before!

A whole new chapter is entered into the Marvel Cosmic Universe by Dan Slott with his work on the updated Silver Surfer series.  One of the most fascinating and powerful members of the Marvel Universe, Silver Surfer gets a fresh new take for this series, shying away from telling grand cosmic epics that the character is typically used for and instead focusing on the fun side of space.  Dan Slott essentially crafts a love letter for all things “Doctor Who” with this new style of Silver Surfer, going as far as pairing him up with a “companion” in Dawn Greenwood and throwing them all over the galaxy to see what kind of hi-jinx he can get them mixed up into…but more on that in a bit.  This Silver Surfer is safe for new and old fans alike, even though it reads as a drastically different take on the character than past readers might be comfortable with.  As I said a few sentences ago, Dan Slott embraces the fun side to cosmic stories, making the series more about adventure or the joys of life than crushing planets into dust (although if that type of thing interests you then you should probably pick up volume two!).

Silver Surfer Vol 1 interior 1I’d readily define this new Surfer series as “Doctor Who collides with Superheroes”, taking in several elements that fans of the show will find appealing but making them function within the constraints of the Marvel Universe.  Introducing Dawn Greenwood is just the first step Dan Slott takes to not only having this series feel like it belongs with Doctor Who, but also setting this series off in the perfect direction.  The reader is given an immediate humanizing element to the story, learning and discovering through the eyes of Dawn.  Outer space is such a vast area to cover, always presenting new and exciting prospects to the characters, making every experience for Dawn completely different.  We get to live vicariously through Dawn Greenwood as she learns what zapperapples are at the same time we do, or discover the truths of the Impericon.  Everything in this story and on the page is just as new for Dawn Greenwood as is it for the reader, giving it this instantaneous sense of wonder.  In having the Surfer travel from world to world, finding a new and completely different adventure on each different planet, you can’t help but draw the comparison to Doctor Who, who travels across time and space with his companion doing the same sort of thing.  If you’re a Doctor Who fan looking for a new comic series to start reading, Silver Surfer is definitely where you should start.

As I pointed out in the previous paragraph, Dawn Greenwood is the reader’s eyes to the story.  A whole new character just for this Silver Surfer series, Dawn is an amazing, beautiful, and quirky young woman who is immediately likeable.  All credit goes to Dan Slott for creating a character like Dawn, who doesn’t feel like your typical “damsel in distress” you find ever so frequently in comics.  In fact, Slott goes to great lengths in this first volume to show you that Dawn couldn’t be farther from being just another female pushover, asserting her into pivotal parts of the plot every chance he gets.  More often than not it’s actually Dawn saving the day in this series than it is the Surfer which is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.  The end of the second issue is a perfect example of how funny but strong of a character Dawn is, declaring to the Surfer when he shows up to save her that she is actually going to be the one to save him as she is already in the midst of saving dozens of other captives on the Impericon.  At every turn in this story there is always Dawn Greenwood, proving that you can have a great female lead in comics but you don’t necessarily need to call her something ridiculous like “a strong independent woman”.  She’s a woman, it’s as simple as that, and that’s why she works so well for this story.  She’s an average character who does exceptional things when given the chance to, proving to easily be one of the most fun brand new characters to have debuted in comics over the last few years.  It’s funny because this series, at least initially, could easily be called “Dawn Greenwood” instead of Silver Surfer since she is the star of the show here.  As this series progresses (and oh boy, does it get even better with volume 2) the role of the Surfer in Dawn’s life and vice versa becomes more defined.  It’s a beautiful relationship shared between these two characters that readers new or old can’t help but enjoy.

Don’t worry though readers, this isn’t just a story all about Dawn Greenwood as the Surfer still factors heavily into the constant ongoing nature of this comic.  To put it simply, he basically becomes Dawn’s travel guide, showing her the mystical wonders of the entire Universe in the ways only he can do.  Dan Slott is afforded a brilliant opportunity to play with the serious and largely unemotional nature of Norrin Radd (a.k.a. The Silver Surfer) through his interactions with Dawn.  For the most part, the Surfer has always been about as emotional as he is colourful, lacking a real sense of humour and being almost emotional suppressed.  In being a herald for Galactus there was little room for emotions when it came to being Norrin Radd, but almost immediately after meeting Dawn you see the nature of his character start to truly flourish.  These two characters bring out the best in each other and the end result is actually a more playful Surfer who we watch evolve, going from a focused and uptight character as he transitions into a laid back man.  The moments that truly solidify just how much the Surfer is changing as a result of Dawn is when he “silvers down”, an act in which he essentially drops the silver coating around his body to expose his “human” form.  With every turn of the page you watch Surfer grow more as a character which is a true joy to experience.

Silver Surfer Vol 1 interior 2

Collects:  Silver Surfer #1-5.

Best Character: Dawn Greenwood.

Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption:  You named my board “Toomie”? – Silver Surfer.

Best Scene/Moment:  Dawn learns the true name of the Surfer’s board – Issue 3.

Best Issue:  Issue 3.  The third issue in this collection culminates the opening arc of Slott and Allred’s story, putting Dawn and the Surfer truly together for the first time, giving readers just a taste of the great things to come.  This issue is compelling, heartfelt and hilarious in all the best ways, giving you more than one moment that will keep you talking about the series for days.  A beautiful arc closer with tons of great character moments, drama, and solid jokes, Silver Surfer only gets better from this point on.

Why You Should Read It:  If you’re looking for a series with crazy action sequences like your typical superheroes series nowadays then this series isn’t for you.  But if you want a series that’s fun, inventive and bursting with emotion then I highly recommend you get into this new take on the Silver Surfer with haste.  This is hands down one of the most funny, intelligent, witty and all around consistent comics in the industry right now.  Dan Slott is in perfect form for this series, backed by a strong showing on the art from Mike and Laura Allred.  There are as many moments that will have you laughing and smiling as there are moments that will tug on your heart strings.  Above all else, you get to see an amazing relationship develop between a man who didn’t seem to have much of a heart and one of Marvel’s best new characters.  You’ll laugh, you may cry, but you will absolutely smile.  What more can you ask for from a comic book series?