Comics : Scarlet Spider (Vol. 2) #2

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This review was first published on: Feb 2012.

Background...

Way back in the ‘90s, Marvel produced a Spider-Man story so controversial, it is still cited as one of the biggest mishaps in comics. This story involved Spider-Man, a bunch of clones, and some pretty serious retconning. One of the characters that was introduced at this time was Kaine, a failed clone of Peter Parker. During the “Clone Saga”, Kaine was a villain who hunted Peter and Ben Reilly. During the “Brand New Day” era of Spider-Man, Kaine re-appeared and was killed during the “Grim Hunt”. Kaine was “re-born” for the events of “Spider Island”. At the end of that arc, Kaine was “cured” of his transformation, as well as his cellular degeneration apparently. While he was making his way to Mexico, Kaine made a “temporary” stop in Houston to enjoy a few moments of quiet. Instead, he ends up stopping a human trafficking ring. He brings the sole survivor, a girl named Aracely, to a nearby hospital. While Kaine struggles with his darker impulses, his inexperience with heroic deeds, and his desire to leave everything behind, the hospital is attacked by a stranger wielding power over fire. His target: Aracely.

In Detail...

"After Life"
Scarlet Spider (Vol. 2) #2
Apr 2012 : SM Title
Summary: Scarlet Spider (Kaine) appears
Writer:  Christopher Yost
Artist:  Ryan Stegman
Inker:  Michael Babinski
Lettering:  Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Associate Editor:  Tom Brennan
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Review

The issue starts with Kaine providing another quick summary of his origin: He’s a failed clone that his creator, Mile Warren a.k.a. the Jackal, was only too ready to dispose of. Even though he was a failure, something in him fought for survival.

Kaine is taking a taxi out of Houston, his bag of cash and costume beside him. All he cares about is living and now that he has a chance, he doesn’t plan on sticking around and wasting it. Of course, it’s at this moment that an explosion occurs at the hospital. Kaine immediately realizes that this is an attack to get to Aracely. Remembering her plea for help, he makes his decision to return and save her. However, being Kaine, he handles this in a less than graceful manner: He throws the cab driver out of the car after he refuses to get out. Kaine hijacks the vehicle, while he questions his reasons for going back. He promises himself that he’ll only take 5 minutes to handle this and then continue on with his plan.

At the hospital, the mysterious villain from the end of last issue (according to the summary page, I will assume we can call him Salamander?) is gloating about “the kiss of Xiucoatl” (the fire serpent, according to him) and the fiery destruction around him. He questions a doctor (the one from last issue talking to Officer Layton) as to where Aracely is. The doc tries to lie and claim he does not know where she is, but Salamander sees through this and is about to cook him alive when the girl runs past. While he knows who she is, Aracely has no idea who Salamander is or why he’s after her. He takes a moment to muse on this, but is quickly interrupted when Kaine arrives, clad in his new Scarlet Spider costume.

Kaine feels a certain level of sympathy for Aracely: He recognizes the similarity in their situation in that they are both being given a second chance at life, and how Salamander is trying to take that from her. He notices the doc and how he is only trying to save the patients (for a clone with a good deal of Spider-Man’s memories, you would think he would be a bit more familiar with heroics). Kaine begins with a vicious swipe to Salamander’s face, drawing blood. He returns with a blast of fire, momentarily putting Kaine in a panic. Aracely takes this chance to run, but by now Kaine has already recovered, and brusquely pushes her aside. Instead of making quips and trying to find out why the fiery villain is after Aracely, Kaine is only interested in killing him. He knocks Salamander out the window and jumps on his back, attempting to use his webbing to strangle him. Salamander incorrectly assumes he his fighting Spidey and knocks Scarlet Spider aside.

At this time, a cop arrives and S.S. quickly knocks him aside, again demonstrating a lack of super hero graces. He quickly grabs the cop’s gun and fires off three rounds qt Salamander, who is able to melt two of the bullets in mid air. More enraged than ever (and dropping some names for Spider-Man, Blood Spider, and Scarlet Spider in Spanish, which is a moment I particularly enjoyed), he unleashes an enormous blast of fire. He takes a moment to congratulate himself on his victory over Spider-Man when he notices a web cocoon. Kaine bursts out, savagely attacking and claiming that he is not Spider-Man (a comment to both himself and Salamander). While he was attacking, Kaine managed to trap Salamander in another web cocoon and ends with a vicious kick to the face.

Kaine is about to kill him when he is stopped by a “whisper”, which I can only assume is supposed to be his conscious, the part of him that is still Peter Parker. He opens the cocoon, to allow Salamander to breathe. Behind him a crowd has gathered and applauds his work, giving him a taste of being a hero.

Later that night, Kaine returns in his Scarlet Spider garb to visit Aracely and check on her. He seems moved when she tells him (in Spanish) that her saved her. At this point, the doctor and Officer Layton show up. Unlike a typical run in with the public for Spidey, these two want Kaine to stick around. They claim they could use the help and Mayor Parker would probably love it as well (even Kaine chuckles at the surname Parker). While Kaine tries to convince the two that he’s only there to check on Aracely, they remind him that she’ll just be deported and only someone outside the law would be able to help. Kaine exits before they can continue to question him.

As the issue draws to a close, Kaine stares at a fence separating Texas from Mexico. Again, he realizes that while he was dying, he did “terrible” things, but now’s his chance to set things right. When the doctor goes to check on Aracely, she’s gone, with Kaine having moved to her, to what I can only assume is the Four Season’s Hotel (and another nod to famous Spidey artist Jon Romita on a water bottle). Kaine decides that he’s not a hero, but he doesn’t have to be a “monster” either. He ends with saying that this could be his chance to turn things around and have a life. And if that fails, he can still head off to Mexico.

In General...

Ok, so two issues in and so far, I like it. Someone in the comic store I shop from commented on how the ‘90s were back in full force, with Cable, Carnage, and Spidey clones all in the spotlight, but in this case, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing.

So far, Scarlet Spider feels like a different enough character that he is neither too close to Spider-Man or Venom. These first two issues were about finding his place now that he has been given a fair chance at life, and it seems like he’s found it. He’s going not going to be the typical anti-hero we’ve seen before with Punisher or Venom, but he’s not going to be a full blown hero either.

This issue had a number of small touches that I enjoyed. As a Spider-Man fan, I did feel like Yost was still trying pretty hard to make Kaine seem so rough and edgy, but at the same time, I liked it. The way he tosses Aracely aside and yells at the people he protects to me really shows how closely he walks the line of hero. I also feel it adds a bit of realism to the character- as much as we’d all like to imagine we’d be the noble hero, I think most people would probably lack the grace and poise that the popular heroes posses. I also sort of enjoyed the scene where Kaine quickly grabbed the gun and fired at his opponent. He’s not out and out evil, but he’s not going to pull any punches when trouble arises. He also is much more willing to be seen without his mask, swinging around town last issue without his face obscured and unmasking this issue with Aracely, Layton, and the doctor all seeing his face.

Another scene I enjoyed was at the beginning where Kaine makes a reluctant and desperate promise that he’ll only take five minutes to handle this problem before getting back to his life. It was a nice twist on a classic Spidey moment: Peter needs to be somewhere in his civilian life, but something draws him away and his sense of responsibility forces him to be Spider-Man. He may be saying he just needs five minutes as Spidey and ends up missing whatever it was he needed to do or he may already be in costume and is desperate for five minutes as Peter Parker, but it comes down to him being too responsible to stop being Spider-Man for his own needs. Kaine, on the other hand, only wants to take those five minutes so he can run away guilt free. He’s not trying to meet some other duty or anything, he just wants to keep running.

It seems my prediction from last issue has come true thus far, but whether it is a conscious decision or not, I cannot say: Kaine, for all his violent tendencies and poor super hero bedside manners, is welcome in Houston. The public so far seems to appreciate his efforts, and the cops are willing to look the other way.

I think my greatest difficulty in writing this was what to call Kaine: He has no civilian name yet to refer to him by and in the entire time he’s been present he’s really only been known as Kaine. Calling him Scarlet Spider doesn’t flow as easy as Spider-Man or Spidey. Maybe once his identity as Scarlet Spider is better established and he moves away from Kaine, his new name will seem like the more natural of the two. I still want to see how he’s going to create a new identity for himself now that he’s going to be sticking around Houston as hero. The civilian part of his life should still factor into things, or this book could get very boring, very quick.

I forgot to touch on this last issue, but I also have enjoyed the art so far in this book. Stegman’s art is clear and the action scenes are easy to follow. Perhaps because I enjoy the book itself, I forgot to mention the art as well. Together, both elements come together to make something I did quite enjoy. I wouldn’t mind seeing Stegman pencil a few issues of Amazing if the opportunity ever came up!

Overall Rating...

I would say it’s a 4, but I think that needs to be reserved for something truly awesome. But from what I have seen, I am definitely willing to stick around and keep reading. This issue was a nice balance to the first: In issue 1, we got some back story and reasoning behind Kaine’s actions. In this issue, we got to see him in action against a real threat. As long as the book continues to entertain and show this different side to the hero community, I will be happy to continue reading this series.