Spiderman is one of the most popular and widely known superheroes, thanks in part to an awesome 90s cartoon and an epic movie series (well…for the first two, anyway). With Marvel’s acclaimed Spider Island event in recent memory and The Amazing Spiderman movie’s impending release, I felt it’d be good to take a look at what Spidey’s up to. When I went to the comic store, however, I saw Issue #1 of a new series called “Scarlet Spider.” I remember this character briefly appearing in the aforementioned cartoon, but I didn’t know much about him. The awesome cover (shown above) and the great tagline “All of the power. None of the responsibility” drew me to this title. With almost no knowledge going in, this series was sure to surprise me; could this version of Spiderman amaze me?
Scarlet Spider #1 stars Kaine, a failed clone of Peter Parker. A wanted man with a dark past, Kaine sets out to escape to Mexico where he hopes to live a solitary life away from the conflicts of heroes and villains. Kaine arrives in Houston, Texas where he quickly discovers a mafia human trafficking plot; despite his lack of interest in and desire to be a hero, the spider-powered individual defeats this crime ring and liberates the only survivor of this grisly scheme. Kaine then takes some time for soul searching in his hotel room, before leaving to explore Houston with his spider powers, with big plans to leave. As it happens, however, a fire-powered foe attacks the hospital where the girl Kaine rescued is recuperating. Will Kaine don the mantel of the Scarlet Spider and attempt to save her life? Or will he walk off to a life of leisure? I’m fairly sure it’ll be the former…but we’ll just have to see what the Scarlet Spider has in store!
Writer Christopher Yost does a great job introducing us to Kaine. I immediately got the feel of the character through his inner monologue over the first few pages: though he hates crime and villainy, this super-powered guy is ultimately out for himself. For instance, he beats up a bunch of gangsters, but then steals their money to fund his own escapades. The dialogue and pacing is great, and there’s definitely an excellent baseline for the series established here. As a guy with familial ties to the Lone Star State, I was happy to finally read a mainstream comic set in Texas. I feel that the South in general is often ignored in major comics, and so it’s nice to see such a setting for Scarlet Spider. One thing I liked about this issue is it had a timeline in back detailing the previous Scarlet Spider (another Parker clone who named himself Ben Reilly) and Kaine, giving newcomers like me some context for the story. Overall, the first issue is an exceptional introduction to an interesting character, and certainly there’s a lot more that can be done with Kaine.
Scarlet Spider #1‘s art is the product of penciller Ryan Stegman, colorist Marte Gracia, inker Michael Babinski, and letterer Joe Caramagna. The art looks fairly clean. Some of the faces are a bit dull in the early pages, but later even the background characters develop nicely. The bartender that Kaine meets has an elaborate enough design to make me believe this red-head will pop up in later issues, possibly as a romantic interest for the new Scarlet Spider. The action scenes looked good as well. I also really like Kaine’s costume, though sadly he doesn’t don it in the first issue. Thus, the art is high quality.
Though a spin-off (no pun intended) of our friendly neighborhood Spiderman, Scarlet Spider is clearly a series with a very different direction. The main character, Kaine, brings a darkness not found in Peter Parker which will clearly lead to different sets of circumstances: will he kill villains? Will he commit crimes of his own to stay alive? Almost anything seems possible. I hope that Yost is able to utilize this potential, but given what I’ve seen in issue #1 I’m fairly confident he can. The series shows promise, but personally I’ll reserve more judgment until I read later issues as even a good set-up is meaningless if what follows is a let down. Even so, I think Scarlet Spider #1 is worth the buy for some good art and fun storytelling.
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He wonders if Scarlet Spider will end up visiting Dallas to save it from the plight of reckless drivers.
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