If the purpose of the last issue of Scarlet Spider was to wrap up the first year of Kaine’s solo adventures, then this “point 1” issue sets up the storylines for the coming year. With his supporting cast of orphans, bartenders and gay cops firmly in place, the book looks like it is finally starting to let out the sails. This issue sees the talents of Neil Edwards and Paulo Siqueira stepping in to take care of the artwork before we see the return of the notorious Khoi Pham on issue #13.
|Pencils:||Neil Edwards, Paulo Siqueira|
|Inker:||Tom Palmer, Victor Olazaba|
|Cover Art:||Edgar Delgado, Ryan Stegman|
Kaine is still having a hard time dealing with his new status of being the marquee super hero in the city of Houston. “I don’t cringe as much as I used to,” he says as someone shouts out the name Scarlet Spider as he swings past a high rise. Meanwhile, Kaine’s friend on the police force Wally Layton is arguing with a fellow officer about whether they should include the Scarlet Spider in on a recent murder investigation. Wally mentions that after the mayhem that Clutch caused recently they could use the help of a super powered vigilante. Unbeknownst to the two cops, Scarlet Spider has been listening to their conversation while his suit rendered him invisible. “Who’s Clutch?” asks SS. But before receiving an answer, officer Layton directs his attention to the young, recently murdered girl. Her face is maimed with a symbol all too familiar to the Scarlet Spider, the mark of Kaine.
Apparently the murdered girl was part of a human trafficking ring, much like Kaine’s new “side-kick,” the psychic, orphaned Aracely. The mark, a burnt hand print on the face of a murdered victim, was once Kaine’s calling card; before he died and came back to life and then decided to be good. Disgusted, not only by the death of the young girl but also by the eerily familiar way she was killed, Kaine sets out into the rainy night to get to the bottom of this tragedy.
First Kaine breaks into a massage parlor that doubles as a prostitution ring. Breaking through a window, he trashes the ill equipped guards and tells the underage girls to leave. He knows this all runs much deeper than a simple storefront though. Over the course of the next five days Kaine attacks gang after gang until he finally lands a name. That name is Mark Tomanaga or, if you will, The Mark.
As the headstrong Scarlet Spider demolishes the Mark’s guards at a trendy downtown restaurant, he finally comes face to face with his new adversary. The Mark is an unruffled Asian-American with one eye and no remorse for his numerous cold-blooded killings. As soon as Kaine makes a move to attack the Mark though, he is instantly surrounded by a legion of ninjas belonging to The Hand.
The ensuing battle is a testament to the sheer strength and power of Kaine. Battling a group of the dangerous ninjas (that have given Spider-Man, Wolverine and other super heroes all that they can handle in the past), in tight quarters, Kaine is still able to best them with little more than a shuriken through the shoulder to complain about. The Mark, with flaming hands ablaze, then comes forward to take on the Scarlet Spider himself. It’s at this point that Kaine realizes something. He realizes that Mark Tomanaga is him, or was him. That the flaming hands that are directed as this face was the same sight that so many of his victims saw before their death. As a flying kick sends Kaine to the ground, he comprehends that he’s been given “a second chance. A chance to try to be something other than a monster.”
As this point, two more villains appear at this fashionable little downtown restaurant. One of which is the Bruiser, a super-buff mercenary who first appeared in Daredevil (vol 3.) #5. A swift punch from the Bruiser lets Kaine know that he may be a bit in over his head. The Bruiser’s partner, the new Arranger, steps in to tell everyone listening that the Kingpin is now in charge of all of the Hand’s operation in Houston. With that statement, the Bruiser then snaps the neck of The Mark. With a flippant and cryptic warning, the Arranger and the Bruiser leave the tattered Scarlet Spider behind.
Meanwhile on the Texas/Mexican border, two wolves walk side by side through the desert. As they approach a black car guarded by two men with assault rifles, they morph into a man and a woman and tell the guards to “take us to Houston.” The Lobo siblings are back.
The wit and goofiness of Scarlet Spider (vol 2.) #12 are replaced with a grim and sobering tale on this issue. It’s a great contrast, and the darkness really works well on a character like Kaine. Chris Yost continues to push the internal struggle of the once murderous clone on us, but the final coda of this issue (where Kaine visits the gravesite of the girl murdered earlier in the issue), might be the watershed moment that the protagonist needs to finally get over his demons. If you haven’t been wooed into rooting for Kaine by now (flaws and all), then this line might do it for you: “With great power also comes the ability to rain down hell on those who prey on the weak.” Who needs a Superior Spider-Man when you have a badass clone that beats up on rapists and murderers?
If the last two issues of this book don’t get you excited for the coming year of Scarlet Spider, you might as well drop it. #12 and #12.1 have been the two best stories that Yost has put together as writer of Scarlet Spider. With promises of revealing the secrets behind Kaine’s mysterious post-Spider Island powers and the imminent return of Gerry Conway’s classic Lobo gang as villains, SS may very well be the best book in all the Spiderverse in 2013.