Brand New Day Rocks Part 1: Slott’s Swing Shift Ushers in a New Era for an Old Webhead

Hooray for Faustian based divorce

                                                                    Hooray for Faustian-based divorce!!!!

Welcome to Reread and Reconsidered, a series where I go through some of my favorite runs in comics that I haven’t revisited recently.

I chose to kick off this series by rereading Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Manbecause, firstly, I really like his writing. Secondly, for those who don’t know this arc, Brand New Day (BND) comes on the heels of one of the top three most reviled Spidey stories of all time, One More Day (OMD). Wherein our hero, Peter Parker, makes what is basically a deal with the Marvel Universe version of the ruler of biblical Hell (Not to be confused with norse Hel or Limbo, both of which also exist in Marvel Comics) Mephisto to end his marriage Mary Jane Watson as part of a classic Faustian Bargain to save the dying Aunt May because…comics!!!
Anyway, what BND does is provide the perfect jumping on point for new readers who get the same Devil-based fresh start as Spider-Man. One of the things I don’t see touched on very often when it comes to long-running mainstream superhero books is the fact even though characters like Spidey have been around for multiple decades—at the time this book was published Spider-Man had been around for 45 years—with every writer the themes and goals of the character and narrative change. So, despite decades of oftentimes confusing history, with each new writer the main character is essentially—and forgive my wording here, I didn’t plan this— brand new. The major theme that Dan Slott’s Spidey tenure focuses on is personal potential. At first, unrealized. Then, much later, fully realized.
The first story in the BND Vol.1 is a story out of the ’07 Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) Spidey offering entitled Swing Shift written by Dan Slott with Phil Jimenez on art duties. The story is simple and serves as a perfect reintroduction to Peter Parker’s New York. It’s Aunt May’s birthday and Pete’s trying to be the good nephew and buy his aunt her favorite lemon cake from her favorite bakery. He hasn’t seen any of of his standard rogue’s gallery (bad guys) in weeks and, in general, everything seems to be coming up Peter. However, as we all know, nothing gold can stay. Our intrepid hero catches sight of cops embroiled in a car chase with a speeding, out-of-control motorist. Being that he is Spider-Man and,”With great power also must come great responsibility,” Pete tucks away his Aunt’s birthday cake and does his hero thing. The guy in the car is a new villain named Overdrive. He has a sweet car and wears a fencing mask, you know, like you do. He’s talking to someone called Mr. Negative ( he’ll be important later and there’s going to be a test). Overdrive has stolen something from a museum for Mr. Negative and is en route to deliver it to him. Spider-Man gets on the car’s windshield and smashes it only to find that Overdrive is a huge fan of Spider-Man; he has Spider-Man memorabilia all over the interior of his vehicle. As an aside here, I like that the people who were overseeing the book at this point made the choice to use new, rather than the old standby stable of villains. tThe new guys feel fresh, new, and unpredictable.
Back where the action is, Spidey loses control of things and Overdrive almost mows through a crowd of bystanders. Thankfully, a new hero, Jackpot, who bears a striking resemblance to Peter’s former wife Mary Jane. She’s a Redhead with green eyes who calls Pete “tiger,” as in,”Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot.” These are MJ’s first words to Peter waaay back in Amazing Spider-Man issue 42. Jackpot, like Mr. Negative, will be important later. By the end of the story, of course, Spider-Man stops Overdrive and rushes back to his cake, which is only mostly ruined, and barely misses his aunt’s party on account of the super-heroics. This is where the most important exchange in Swing Shift occurs: after May sees her final party guest off she looks down at her sleeping, exhausted nephew and says to the empty room and her long-departed husband, “What am I going to do with him Ben? All these years and he still hasn’t grown up. I just wish…wish we could’ve taught him to more…responsible.” While I believe Slott meant this to be a somewhat humorous exchange from Pete’s aunt, it also brings up the fact that Peter Parker, a genius college graduate is jobless and living with his aunt, just like he was at 16. Yes, the work Peter is doing as Spider-Man is great and noble, but when you live with two identities, one always suffers while the other flourishes.
Dan Slott does a lot of table setting for Spider-Man’s next saga in this short story. That and his great Spidey quip writing make this story entertaining, but it Aunt May’s final words that really sell the heart and soul of the next nine years of Spider-Man stories penned by Dan Slott.

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