Spider-Verse Scarlet Spiders #2

Background

In Spider-Verse, the Spider-People of various universes have teamed up to stop the Inheritors, a race of beings who feed on spider totems. The Inheritors are practically invincible because every time they die, they are replaced with a clones. To end this, three clones, Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly, and Ultimate Black Widow, have been sent to the Inheritor's home dimension. They found that Jennix, an intelligent Inheritor, runs the cloning factories, and he clones various characters from the Spider-Man mythos to inhabit the dimension. The Spider-People infiltrated the cloning facility under cover, but they have been encountered by an cloned Johnny Storm, the Human Torch!

Story 'The Other'

  Spider-Verse Scarlet Spiders #2
Summary: Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly, and Black Widow star!
Editor: Devin Lewis
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Paco Diaz
Cover Art: David Nakayama
Lettering: VC's Travis Lanham
Colorist: Israel Silva
Designer: Idette Winecoor

The story begins with Ben Reilly, in stolen Iron Man armor, walking with Kaine, disguised in regular clothes. Unexpectedly, Kaine is recognized by an Inheritor - cloned Johnny Storm, the Human Torch! Storm, who happens to be the leader of the security team, guesses based on his looks that Kaine is a Peter Parker from a “horrible post - apocalyptic universe” He pulls away Ben’s disguise to reveal his costume and asks Reilly, who he assumes is a fellow Jennix clone, why their leader would have him walk a spider through the front door of the cloning facility without informing him. Ben tries to avoid his questions and continue with the plan, but Storm gets slightly angry, guessing, “Something isn’t adding up.”

It doesn’t take much longer for Kaine to forget about the plan, drop his cover, don his mask, turn invisible, and kick Storm in his flaming face. (And only in two panels!) The security head throws fire at Kaine, and although he’s invisible, he manages to burn him. Storm is speedily defeated when Reilly punches him with his Iron Man armor fist and Kaine finishes him off. After Reilly calls Scarlet Spider’s actions “horrible,” he retorts, “Maybe if you had blasted him [in the first place] it wouldn’t have been necessary.” Reilly defends that he doesn’t even know how to use the armor. Quicky, Kaine explains Reilly might as well just take off the armor because once the guards find Storm’s unconscious body, Jennix will activate fail-safes in the suit. As he’s undressing, Reilly decides that Kaine suggested it just because he wants to be “the only one with a cool suit.”

Suddenly, a group of guards appear and order the heroes to freeze (they were led to the area after they found Storm’s vitals went dark). Because Reilly is in the middle of taking off the armor, Scarlet Spider goes invisible and takes out three guards, prompting the other two to flee. Reilly figures that they shouldn’t waste time stopping the escaping goons because their cover is already blown. As they climb an elevator shaft, Kaine says, “Black Widow was supposed to be the one drawing attention, not us.” Reilly contacts Jessica, and she explains that the guards have all stopped searching her and are looking for them instead. She is monitoring the security system using a terminal she took from a guard, and she explains that the guards are on level three of the E wing. They have no idea where they are and neither does she, so they begin climbing on the ceiling.

Since she can’t help them evade the guards, Jessica figures she might as well tell Reilly and Kaine where the clones are kept. Using the terminal, she finds that the central shaft of the complex must carry the clones because it draws most of the power. There are entryways on each floor, but she doesn’t know how they can open it. Reilly and Kaine find a cloned version of Max Modell, and Kaine threatens, “Use the code to open the door or I use your head.” He follows their instructions but claims they don’t know what they’re getting into.

They enter a large shaft with lots of tubes, which looks like it came straight out of the “Luke, I am your father” scene of Star Wars. Reilly figures that each tube contains a clone and there must be thousands. The Modell clone explains that each level of tubes contains the clones for each Inheritors. Kaine sees the simple solution to destroy the entire factory, but Reilly refuses because there are innocent clones throughout the factory that would be killed. “It’s no problem. We just have to figure out a way to bloodlessly dismantle a fortress designed by the greatest genius in the world,” Reilly reasons.

Meanwhile, a cloned version of Miles Warren speaks to Jennix, the Inheritor in charge of the factory. He explains that they have two problems: the security guards are being “beat up” and the cameras aren’t seeing it. He figures that it may be because “whoever broke in is invisible” or quick. Jennix condescends to the Warren clone, explaining that the only reason he keeps him around is because he used to be “the most brilliant mind on the planet.” The clone doesn’t remember this, so Jennix dismisses him. He figures he’ll let the intruders continue and says, “If they make it all the way to my special projects, I’ll have a talk with them personally.”

Elsewhere, Ben Reilly tells Black Widow that the Inheritors’ clones are “empty husks” until their minds are loaded into them. “There’s got to be a way to cut the power here so they just die on the vine,” Reilly explains. Jessica finds that the power cells are on the building’s east side, though they may be difficult to reach. After Jessica ignores some pop culture references Reilly makes, she explains that she has been “locked out of the system” so she can’t stop the cameras from seeing them. She’s attempting to find a “communications array.”

Once Reilly has ended the call, Kaine decides that he can take care of the guards and cameras. He goes invisible and attacks a platoon, swiftly subduing them all. He takes command of a tank-like guard and takes out the camera with its missile. Reilly is surprised when Kaine returns rapidly and explains that he has defeated the security and cameras. He found something down the hallways and wants his partner to see. They take Modell’s clone because he’s a technician who “identifies any possible mutations in the code.”

The heroes and the Modell clone enter a room filled with dead or dying spider-like clones. Modell’s clone describes, “Th - these are Jennix’s failures.” They are also known as his special projects. Reilly feels sick looking at these clones, while Kaine expresses his anger by smashing the glass containing a spider-clone failure. When Reilly explains he’s only making it worse, Jennix’s face is projected and Modell’s clone goes to his knees in respect. The Inheritor explains, “My insatiable, short-sighted siblings can never resist hunting and gorging on their quarry immediately. But it isn’t until sentient beings learn to farm, to raise livestock, that they are truly civilized.” He hasn’t been able to clone a spider-totem that carries the essence that the Inheritors feed on. Jennix was about to give up, but now he has Kaine and Reilly, two clones of spider-totems with “so many secrets to tease out.”

This concerns Reilly, who gets in a defense stance, and as does Kaine as he turns invisible. Jennix informs them that he can see his invisible suit; he has mastered invisibility already and made a Susan Storm clone. Kaine yells, “Coward. Hiding in your hole. We’ll tear your house down around your ears.” Little does he realize Jennix is standing nearby. The Inheritors snaps the Modell clone’s neck from behind as he enters, calling him a “disappointment.” He explains, “I’m certain you two will prove much more interesting.”

General Comments

It’s often that comic book fans hear of a comic series coming out and conceive crazy guesses at what they want to happen and genuinely expect it will occur. And, of course, they become disappointed that what actually occurred in the comic. Perhaps the comic wasn’t that bad, but the fact that they thought of a much better plot in their opinion frustrates them. This effect has occurred to practically all comic book fans at one point or another, as their expectations exceed what happens in the actual comic. I believe this may be why I hate Scarlet Spiders so much. I’m a product of the 90’s, as good or bad as they were, and I will always have a fond place in my heart for Ben Reilly and Scarlet Spider. My predictions of this comic to be reminiscent of the 90’s have ultimately poisoned the taste of this miniseries. Ultimately, Costa and Diaz’s Scarlet Spiders #2 fails in my standards because the story doesn’t meet its potential, the characters’ interactions are boring, the plotline moves slowly, and the artwork is downright horrendous.

The main reason I don’t enjoy this story is because it has so much potential that it just doesn’t meet. As I mentioned, I thought this story would reflect on the Spider-Man comics of 90’s. I wanted Scarlet Spiders to have nods to the 90’s Clone Saga and perhaps make fun of 90’s phenomenons like Liefeldism and the corny dialogue that made us all never want to reread Maximum Carnage. Instead, Costa opts for more modern storytelling, which is a missed opportunity. Costa uses contemporary storytelling with a condensed plot and stretched - out, unnecessary dialogue. Instead, he could have had some fun and used the 90’s formula of a quicker, more action oriented plot. Another case of a missed out opportunity is the cloned characters Costa uses. He chooses to use characters that weren’t significant in 90’s Spider-Man comics at all such as Johnny Storm and Max Modell.

Another problem is the character interactions between Scarlet Spider, Ben Reilly, and Ultimate Black Widow. Three clones together on a mission to stop more clones from being created is a character interaction opportunity so rich that it practically writes itself. Instead, Costa gives the character dialogue that isn’t revealing or insightful at all. He does have Kaine’s more impulsive, violent personality clash with Reilly’s optimistic morals, but it doesn’t actually lead anywhere. The characters never have any interesting discussions about clones or redemption. Costa decides to waste valuable dialogue space with a third-person explanation of Scarlet Spider’s character. Heck, Ultimate Black Widow rarely even appears!

Another reason why the absence of stimulating character interactions is unfortunate is because the plot moves at a backbreaking slow pace. This issue and the past one could have easily been combined as one, as it seems like the heroes spend way too much time walking around the lair or easily defeating a few unnecessary guards. It’s ridiculous how long it’s taken for the heroes to fight Jennix, which is pretty much the main point of the plot. I mean, in Spider-Man 2099 (Vol. 2), by the second issue, the heroes had fought Daemos, the Inheritor for that tie - in, for a whole issue and then Punisher 2099 fought him! And Scarlet Spiders readers have to simply be happy with the prospect that the heroes will fight Jennix in the third issue.

Last and least of all, Paco Diaz’s art is hard to look at. It seems like Diaz took all the bad elements of art in the 90’s and twisted them to be modern, which fails to capture the nostalgic element of bad 90’s art. Diaz’s characters are awkwardly over-muscular (and not in the 90’s style) with strange, grotesque anatomy. The characters are just unpleasant to look at. The action lacks flow, which is because the characters are so muscular and stiff. Perhaps the only good element of the artwork is the layout, which looks like the 90’s but flows poorly.

Overall Rating

Sorry, guys. Not much to enjoy here, despite the series potential.