Hidden Gems – Scarlet Spider Vol. 1: Life After Death

Written by Chris Yost
Art by Ryan Stegman

A book called Scarlet Spider really has the deck stacked against it. Sure, Ben Reily has his fans, but it’s hard not to think of the ill-fated “Clone Saga” when words like “Scarlet Spider” and “Kaine” are tossed about. Kaine has made some appearances since Reily’s death, most recently in the pages of the too-fun-to-be-real “Spider Island.” The new Scarlet Spider series spins directly out of that story with Kaine now wearing the stealth suit Peter developed last year in Amazing Spider-Man. It still does the stealth thing, but it’s stuck in red when its visible, thanks to a little modification from Julia Carpenter. The tag line on the cover says “All of the power, none of the responsibility,” and that’s a pretty perfect summation of what Kaine’s life has become.

Cured of his mental and physical defects, Kaine had every intention of slipping away to a quiet life in Mexico. Unfortunately, the old Parker luck can also be cloned, so instead he finds himself wrapped up playing the role of reluctant superhero to the good people of Houston. Houston’s never had a superhero, so they’re pretty excited. Kaine, on the other hand, spends plenty of time shouting at people that he’s not Spider-Man before finding out the media has labeled him “The Scarlet Spider.” This is equally terrible, as far as he’s concerned.

If this book was just “Spider-Man in Houston,” it wouldn’t be interesting. It’s Kaine that makes this book special. Not only is he more willing to go violent (like when he saved a cop and then unloaded his gun into the villain setting them on fire), but he’s really not a nice person (like when he saved an old lady from getting hit by a truck just before shouting at her in a crowded street to “watch where the #$%@ you’re going!”). He remembers everything he’s done in his life, and he’s damaged because of it. He doesn’t want to be a killer. He has no interest in going back to that life. But at the same time, the hero thing goes against his nature. He’s conflicted, but in a way that feels new. He’s actively trying to be better, even though he thinks he deserves whatever he gets as a result of his shadowy past.

Of course, the series would have significantly less impact were it not for the amazing art team, led by Ryan Stegman. The forms are crisp and the faces are expressive. Plus, with so many comics set in New York or LA (just like TV, really), it’s nice to see somewhere new in comics, and these environments are definitely different than the ones we’re used to. I’m going to assume it looks like Houston, and that’s really nice. The colors are big and the action is fluid. Scarlet Spider is a joy to look at in every way. Everything from the quiet dialogue to the intense action (and there is some intense action) is rendered beautifully.

I’d have never dreamed I’d not only be excited to read a book starring Kaine, but that it would be one of the comics I most look forward to every month. It’s still early, so there’s plenty of time to jump on (and pick up the first trade). The upcoming “Minimum Carnage” crossover with Venom is sure to be a winner. Scarlet Spider is sometimes funny, sometimes tragic and always spectacular, if not amazing.

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Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Robert Eddleman says:

    It does indeed resemble Houston. I’ve noticed a couple places in the comic that I’ve been to before.

  2. Junkle says:

    So. Damn. Good.

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