Scarlet Spider #1
Written by Christopher Yost
Art by Ryan Stegman, Michael Babinksi, and Marte Gracia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
'Rama Rating: 9/10
Well, color me shocked. It only took, what, 15 or 20 years? Something good has finally come out of "The Clone Saga." No, not something good. Something awesome. I've gotta be honest, my skepticism at the potential for a Scarlet Spider ongoing series could not have been higher, even with the lead character's strong showing in Dan Slott's "Spider Island." But man, I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this inaugural issue. This is a prime example of how to spin a series out of an event. While it's not directly connected to the events of "Spider Island," those who read the crossover will get plenty out of Kaine's journey, and for those who didn't, there's as succinct a history of such a convoluted character as can possibly be told in only a small handful of pages. I'm sure there are still naysayers out there for this book, but it's important to note that all of the obvious criticisms for this kind of title just don't really apply in the case of Scarlet Spider.
The book follows Kaine, the formerly disfigured and occasionally villainous clone of Peter Parker created by Miles Warren, a.k.a. the Jackal. After getting a new lease on life at the end of "Spider Island," Kaine took one of Spider-Man's experimental tech-suits, and set out on his own, to finally live a normal life. But, as often happens, Kaine finds out just how powerful the "Parker luck" can be, and is soon embroiled in a mystery that watchers of The Wire may find familiar. The main thing about this book that really succeeds is that it delivers 22 pages of set up and introduction that just don't feel like set up and introduction. Aside from the admittedly necessary but thankfully brief rundown of Kaine's history, everything we know about him, or at least who he is now, is conveyed less through exposition, and more through scenes of Kaine discovering, and experimenting with his newfound powers, and his ability to forge relationships in the world around him.
I was a little worried that having a clone of Peter Parker running around with his powers, one of his costumes, and his face might dilute the Spider-Man brand, and there's definitely still a danger of that. But seeing the way that a Peter Parker who had none of the real deal's upbringing still has to learn and feel the sense of responsibility that is so inherent to Peter Parker actually makes both characters all the stronger. Kaine's power set is different enough that he's not just doing everything Spidey does, and his struggle with his urge to kill — and his inherent reluctance to do so — makes him a much more effective example of the "Spider-Man as an anti-hero" experiment than Venom ever was as a "lethal protector." Christopher Yost uses Kaine's gruff (but somehow still sarcastic) voice to perfectly position the character as the opposite side to a coin we've been familiar with for a long time.
If I have one complaint, it's that Ryan Stegman's characters can be a little cartoony at times. Now, I'm not saying that I'd rather have this book grim 'n' gritty, as could easily have been the case. I'm just saying that Kaine, who is clearly meant to be haggard and rough looking, comes off as a little too clean at the outset. Aside from that, Stegman's art is absolutely perfect for this title. His balance of light, airy physicality and dark, threatening shadows strikes the perfect balance between the scenes of Kaine busting up a crime ring, and later swinging through the city of Houston, fully enjoying life for the first time. Michael Babinski's inks capture enough detail that the nuance of Stegman's linework comes through, without getting so bogged down that the pages feel heavy, and colorist Marte Gracia's dynamism in mood and palette is the perfect compliment to the line work.
Honestly, if you told me that I would be this excited about anything to do with "The Clone Saga," or Kaine, or the Scarlet Spider, or any of that nonsense even yesterday, I probably would have punched you in the face for impugning my character. But now, I can't imagine it any other way. Don't be afraid of the connotations inherent in this type of spinoff, or the history of this character. This is a rare feat truly deserving of a first issue with as much hype as this one's had: a fresh start, both for Kaine, and for readers who are weary and wary of clones, hoodies, anti-heroes, and the rest of the things you'd expect in this title. Scarlet Spider was poetry in motion, and I'm not afraid to say I loved it.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!