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Review: Scarlet Spider #1

It's the debut of a new ongoing series from Marvel, featuring a familiar character in a brand new role!



Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:


STORY BY Chris Yost
ART BY Ryan Stegman
COLORS BY Marte Gracia
COVER BY Ryan Stegman
PUBLISHER Marvel Comics
COVER PRICE: $3.99
RELEASE DATE Wed, January 4th, 2012

Get ready for a new brand of web-slinging action in your first look at Scarlet Spider #1! From the red-hot creative team of Chris Yost & Ryan Stegman, Kaine – the all-new Scarlet Spider – finds himself on the run in Texas after saving New York City from becoming the world's largest spider nest during Spider-Island. But when his escape is stopped by a super-powered crime syndicate, Kaine must put an end to their corruption the only way he knows how...violently.

"Scarlet Spider is a book that can deal with a character much like Peter Parker but at darker, more difficult place in his life," said Stephen Wacker, Marvel Senior Editor. "The violent choices he's made through years of struggle—the sins of youth, so to speak—have come at a brutal cost. He may hope that the things he's done will be left to the dusty, yellowed pages of history, but someone ALWAYS remembers who you used to be."

Redefining power & responsibility, no fan can miss the brutal debut of Scarlet Spider #1 hitting comic shops everywhere, this January.



Review:


For their first new launch of 2012, Marvel has made the somewhat surprising decision to reach for a relic of "The Clone Saga," that infamous exemplar of mid-90's narrative excess.  Revisiting the bloat of that less-than-proud era of its history is still, even today, a pretty dicey proposition.  "The Clone Saga" was nothing if not polarizing, and even mentioning it in a story seemed to be verboten at Marvel for years.  However, all things come around, and the Powers That Be at The House of Ideas have apparently figured there was a way to mine that peculiar story-space for some new material without upsetting the apple cart too much.  There is, after all, a segment of Spider-Man fandom who enjoyed certain aspects of that mega-story and who would be well served by some ongoing piece of it returning in some form.

For the record, "The Clone Saga" was a story that started innocently enough, but eventually spiralled out of control in order to become the face of marketing-driven mega events that are hard to shovel oneself out of (for an excellent rundown of the hows and why of that story, check out The Life of Reilly, the famous write-up by Andrew Goletz and "Clone Saga" era Marvel editor Glenn Greenberg).  That doesn't mean there wasn't something worth salvaging and using in a new way.  Thus, we get Kaine, the murderous Peter Parker clone from "The Clone Saga," showing up in the recent "The Grim Hunt" and "Spider-Island" stories that ocurred in The Amazing Spider-Man.   Kaine has been given an new lease on life and is headed down Mexico way.  Try as he might, however, the heroic urge creeps up on him and drags him into situations that maybe he doesn't want to be in. 

Scarlet Spider #1 is the classic "reluctant hero" story, which is so common in superhero comics.  Kaine is faced with the reality that life can never be as easy as sitting on a beach sipping frozen drink without a care in the world.  There are real things that need to be dealt with and he can't just ignore them.  It's a tightly-plotted and well-observed story that really occupies Kaine's head-space and shows why he's going to have so much difficulty taking on the role of a new superhero.  Bucking his own nature is messy and causes collateral damage (he can't save an old lady from an oncoming truck without seriously injuring the driver), but ultimately, this is going to be his life and he needs to face that.  Scarlet Spider #1 hits its "first issue" grace notes by establishing a conflict, providing insight into the main character's motivations and struggles (as well as his power set), and even giving us a new villain to look out for.  It's a classic first issue, done right.  The biggest speedbumps occur when the issue has to recount Kaine's past, as it can't do so without getting caught up in the "Clone Saga" morass.  Writer Christopher Yost smartly boils it down to its most essential elements, but it's still quite a trip to travel through, but it really doesn't distract the narrative too much (it's certainly not as dizzying as the four-page "Scarlet Spider Saga" at the end of this issue that tries to recap a two and a half-year mega story).  Yost is even able to incorporate the real-life horror of human trafficking in a way that doesn't feel altogether cheap or exploitative; a real danger in a story like this.

The best part of the issue is the artwork.  Penciller Ryan Stegman has a playful, somewhat cartoony style that makes the most of a kinetic tableau and he does some really nifty things with page design that get across the storytelling in the most eye-catching and engaging way.  He's able to convey a lot of information on each page, and the story just flows so well that the reader is guided through the plot in an organically pleasing way.  Not only that, but the way he renders the Marvel Universe version of Houston (a location rarely, if ever, used in superhero comics) feels like a real city, which is of utmost importance to a story about an urban vigilante.  If all goes well, Scarlet Spider could be the book that makes Ryan Stegman a star.  Meanwhile, Marte Gracia's colors are appropriately vibrant and make the issue a real joy to look at.  They're offset by just the right amout of weight in the Mike Babinski's inks. 

As Senior Editor Stephen Wacker says in the issue's letters page, "there are no bad characters, just lost opportunities."  While some folks will feel that "The Clone Saga" is something that ought to never be revisited, the direction being taken with Kaine is a pretty smart one.  Though there's a recap of his origins in this issue, Scarlet Spider #1 is really about where Kaine goes from here.  It's establishing his future by stripping away his past (quite literally – Kaine gets new powers, a new costume, he cuts his hair, shaves his beard, and remarks that he no longer has the scars that used to mark his body) and making him a brand new hero who can stand on his own.  On that note, this issue is a good start. 






Review by: Royal Nonesuch
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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch


As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.
 

 


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