Last month Scarlet Spider rose from the ashes of the 90’s comic book clone saga to deliver a surprisingly winning debut issue. But how would this book, whose main character was so long associated with one of Spider-Man’s worst eras, perform now that it was ladened with the expectations of a good first outing? The answer is pretty damn well! In fact, due to its unique setting, interesting hero and distinctive voice Scarlet Spider #2 surpasses its predecessor in almost every way.
When last we saw Kaine (Scarlet Spider) he was hightailing it out of town with a few bags of cash, when one of those pesky “personal entanglements” cropped up and sent him hurtling back into the face of danger. This sort of push pull is the crux of what writer Christopher Yost is doing with this current run of the Scarlet Spider. The tagline of the book is All of the Power, None of the Responsibility which paints a picture of a free-wheeling, irresponsible super powered individual who does whatever he wants. Think synthesized kryptonite effected Superman in Superman III. (Or don’t we are all probably better off forgetting that movie.)
Thankfully, Yost has made his hero into something else entirely. His Kaine doesn’t want to use his extraordinary powers for good or evil. Instead he just wants to be left alone. He has spent most of his life simply waiting to die and now he just wants to try his hand at living like a normal guy. But alas he has the unfortunate fate to be a clone of Peter Parker, a man who is defined by his immense sense of responsibility and moral rightness. There is a little voice in Scarlet Spider’s head that doesn’t just stop him from doing bad, but compels him to do good.
Mr. Yost has also outfitted Kaine with a unique voice that, while at times funny, never feels like a copy of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. His humor feels more biting and more befitting of a man who has had such a horrific life. His fighting style is also markedly different because he doesn’t attack like a superhero at all. Scarlet Spider isn’t afraid to shoot a gun, scratch your face-off or push a helpless woman to the ground to get the upper hand on his enemy and he’s more interesting for it. He also gets continuing bonus points for being Houston’s only superhero. It’s refreshing to know that, unlike New York, there aren’t 40 other heroes who can come to the aid of the needy in this city. I think this good sense of place will really come to define Kaine as a character in future issues.
What is all ready sharply defined is the striking look of Scarlet Spider himself. Ryan Stegman, Mika Babinski and Marte Garcia should all be given credit for the way the deep reds and blacks of his costume accent the world around him. I’ve always been a sucker for this color combination and its prevalence in this issue would at times make me stop reading so I could just admire the way it popped off the page. This would of course be window dressing if it wasn’t for the overall excellence of the art permeating the rest of the book. I especially love the renderings of our fire wielding villain who looks like a character straight out of a Hercules story.
Scarlet Spider #2 is a satisfying book in nearly every facet. Writer Chris Yost seems to be committed to flushing out Kaine’s character into more than just a redeemed clone. There is a personal journey occurring that could feel forced or manufactured, but instead feel organic and genuine. Scarlet Spider fights dirty, plays nasty tricks on his opponents and yet manages to retain the spirit of his progenitor Spider-man in all of the most important ways. This is a must buy.