Review: Scarlet Spider #3
Scarlet Spider continues to make me happy. I was worried about a third issue slump of some kind, but I’m pleased to say it did not happen. The quick introduction is over, and Scarlet Spider does not disappointed now that we’re into the meat of the series. It looks like it will stand on its own two legs now. After this issue, I have a lot more faith in writer Christopher Yost to give us a great series.
It helps that Scarlet Spider is pretty damn badass in this issue.
Comic rating: 4/5: Good!
Oddly though, he still doesn’t have his ‘name’. Nobody calls him Scarlet Spider, especially not himself. That’s not a problem, just a little weird. But then ‘Scarlet Spider’ is definitely a more marketable comic book title than ‘Kaine’. Yost has a lot of fun building up the supporting cast this issue, and giving Kaine a new sort of spin on being a superhero – he’s not hiding his identity. All the friends he’s made so far know where he lives, know his name and know that he’s the Scarlet Spider. It’s kind of neat, actually, and used to great effect.
How exciting is it that the Scarlet Spider comic book is actually really good?
We open with a flashback to three weeks ago, when Dr. Donald Melan was trying to help a mother and daughter who were in a car crash. Unfortunately, he can’t save them. When he goes to tell the father/husband, the guy freaks out and blames Melan for their deaths. Security has to pull the guy off the doctor, and the guy is dragged away screaming, “You’re a dead man!”
Remember this, it will come up later.
We cut to Kaine watching/narrating as some woman decides to walk through the streets of Houston alone at night. He watches her leave work and talk on her cell phone, as if that will keep the bad men at bay. One of those bad men finds her alone in an alley, and he jumps her from behind with a knife. Kaine figures that, normally, this encounter has the potential to go a number of different ways. But since he’s watching, it will only go one way.
This is a badass scene, and highlights the stark difference between Peter Parker and Kaine: one is far more badass and brutal. Kaine is almost like Batman in this scene, as he carries the mugger up to a very high building, then tosses him off just to strike the appropriate amount of fear in him. The mugger screams for dear life until Kaine catches him with his webs at the last possible second, hauling him all the way back up so that Kaine can get right in his face and tell him to get the hell out of Houston! And not just that. But if the mugger doesn’t leave the city, Kaine will hunt him down, flay the skin from his bones and then break every bone in his body!
There’s a slightly awkward panel where it shows the mugger with piss streaming down his leg. I realize this is a scary moment, but the cartoony art of this series doesn’t lend itself to such a realistic and gritty depiction of piss-causing terror. We understand the guy is afraid. We don’t need to see the actual yellow piss leaking out of his pant leg. Anyway, so Kaine scares the ever-lovin’ piss outta the guy – and some other guy snaps a picture of it on his camera phone. That’ll probably come up sometime down the road, maybe.
Kaine leaves the mugger and goes swinging through the city, thinking to himself that Spider-Man probably would have handled the mugger the same way. He also regrets not asking the mugger if there is a drug store nearby. The only reason he went out in the first place was to find medicine for Aracely, the illegal immigrant he’s got living in his hotel room.
Then this happens.
That’s just funny right there. Houston doesn’t have a lot of skyscrapers. The ground is somewhat unstable, so most buildings are low and squat. So Scarlet Spider literally just runs out of tall buildings to swing from. This issue is actually very funny.
Back at the Four Seasons Hotel, where Kaine is living, he starts chatting up the bartender that he met in the first issue. She’s a hot, spunky redhead, so that helps. Kaine has no problem telling her his name when she asks, and wants a favor from her. He wants her help in taking care of Aracely who is upstairs in his room. The hottie introduces herself as Annabelle Adams.
Upstairs in Kaine’s room, Aracely wakes up and doesn’t know where she is. Then Kaine and Annabelle come upstairs…and Aracely doesn’t take it well.
Aracely jumps onto Annabelle’s back, attacking violently. Kaine tries to pull her off. Then Dr. Melan shows up looking for Kaine. He manages to break up the fight. A few minutes later, the Doctor is looking after Aracely while Kaine explains the situation to Annabelle. He’s keeping Aracely in his hotel room because if he’d turned her over to the authorities, she’d be deported back to Mexico. Melan backs up the story and Annabelle finally believes them. She agrees to take care of Aracely while the doctor and Kaine head to the hospital to get some medical supplies.
The doctor steals some supplies off the shelves then heads to his office, with Kaine coming in the window. Kaine uses the stealth option that Peter Parker built into his Scarlet Spider costume. If you read Spider-Island, you’ll know that when Kaine fled New York City, he took with him this experimental Spider-Man costume that Peter had built. That’s why he tells Melan that the costume doesn’t belong to him. It also wasn’t red and black when he stole it…but we can overlook that for a moment.
Quick revelation: Dr. Melan is actually married to Police Officer Layton! Neat. Up until now, I just thought they were buddies, or something. Though I’m pretty sure that gay marriages are neither allowed or recognized in Texas…
But no time to worry about that, because a sniper just took a shot at Dr. Melan!
Holy crap! Why is Dr. Melan getting shot at?
Kaine tells him to stay away from the windows while he goes outside to face off against the sniper, who is up on a nearby rooftop. Kaine uses his stealth suit again.
The two men then launch into an epic rooftop battle. The Scarlet Spider has got all of his powers and webs, but the sniper is no slouch. He’s got skills and weaponry, and actually puts up a pretty good fight. I would have expected the super-powered Scarlet Spider to just straight up kick the guy’s ass, but that’s not to be. Still, exciting fight! And it’s drawn spectacularly!
The fight ends when the sniper mentions working for a Guild, which Kaine seems to recognize. Then the sniper uses some gas on our hero, forcing Kaine to pull off his mask to get some air. The sniper sees his face and recognizes Kaine, prompting him to disappear before Kaine can recover from the gas. Kaine seems to think this is bad news.
The book ends with parallel panels. On one side, Officer Layton shows up to check in on Dr. Melan. Kaine returns and explains that someone put a hit out on the doctor, and that they’ll be back. But next time, the Assassin’s Guild won’t just be coming for Melan. They’ll also be coming for Kaine.
The parallel has the sniper returning to his headquarters in New Orleans, reporting to a boss. The target – Dr. Melan – is still alive, but the sniper has not returned empty-handed. He found Kaine, and reports to his boss that Kaine is still alive.
The boss is pleased.
I’m torn about this cliffhanger. On the one hand, it’s important that Yost start expanding Kaine’s Rogue’s Gallery. The Assassin’s Guild is a good choice, considering they are canon characters headquartered in the south. One can only hope they are the same Assassin’s Guild that troubles Gambit of the X-Men from time to time. So they’re an odd, but welcome, choice.
My gripe is that they somehow recognize Kaine, and have some kind of untold history with him. This is not a good idea. Kaine is a blank slate of a character for this series. He may have been around since the 1990s, but very little about Kaine remains the same in this series. He’s practically brand new. Yost should use that to greater effect before trying to weave in untold tales of Kaine’s life. Because next issue, no doubt, is going to have to feature some kind of extensive flashback as to how Kaine knows the Assassin’s Guild. Instead of wasting time on such a flashback, Yost should have given us a new villain or at least a bad guy without any kind of baggage.
This series is still too new to get overwhelmed with backstory and exposition.
Also, way to blow the whole somebody recognizing Kaine with his mask off angle. Kaine is a clone of Peter Parker. That’s his whole gimmick! If somebody is going to recognize him with his mask off, they should recognize him as Peter Parker. That’s the whole point of being a clone!
Anyway, gripes aside, this issue was still a lot of fun. It’s actually a bit funnier than the previous two issues. The writing is solid, Kaine’s character is wicked and the art is fantastic. I really hope this series gets a strong following and can stick around for awhile. It’s a awesome.