I’ve been a big fan of Dan Slott’s writing (along with various artists, notably Humberto Ramos for this current issue) for a while. (Side-note: while it says Writer and Artist in the credits, comics are very collaborative. The writer may have done a lot of art direction, and the artist may have come up with a lot of the story. I will try not to neglect either!) And this is a very important issue, and not just because of that shiny #1 on the cover.
We’ve just finished one of the most fascinating rides in mainstream comic history, with 31 issues of The Superior Spider-Man, which I highly recommend. In that story, Doctor Octopus swapped brains with Peter Parker (hey, it’s comics!) and was Spider-Man. Eventually, though a lot later than most predicted, Peter Parker regained control, and the status quo is returned! Although, not in any way really, because Ock was quite busy during that period and there’s a lot of consequences for poor Pete.
The biggest of which is Anna Maria. She’s such a wonderful character! She’s a little person (dwarf? I don’t think it’s been specified in the book which she prefers, and I know there’s a range of opinions. I’m just going to establish this and move on.) And she was Doc-Ock-As-Spider-Man’s serious girlfriend. Peter doesn’t really know who she is. So we’ll see how that plays out, but definite marks for diversity in cast by making her a major character. I hope she sticks around!
And a strong female supporting cast is really what makes the book. We have Sajani, his second in command at Parker Industries. Ex-girlfriends Mary Jane Watson and Carlie Cooper. Aunt May, of course. We learn in this issue that Ock’s bad treatment of Felicia Hardy, aka The Black Cat, will come back to haunt Peter. And, most fascinating, we learn in the first few pages that there was someone else bitten by the spider that bit Peter 13 years back. (Comic years are weird! We’re lucky to have gotten that number.) And that someone is female, and white. The rest is unknown.
What makes this a feminist-approved comic (and I’m allowed to do that! I registered a domain and everything! Well, that was kind of everything. Anyway, I did it!) is that, despite starring a white cis straight male (like most comics), Peter Parker lives in a world populated by women. And strong, independent women, who have their own goals and drives, and are not merely props for Peter’s story. I’d love it if they got even more focus, but it does say Spider-Man on the cover, so I guess it’s fair that he does get the lead. Still, this book works because of the women, and they’re far more than love interests or characters to be damseled.