Review: Scarlet Spider #7
I declare this to be an absolutely perfect issue of Scarlet Spider – though the new artist leaves a bit to be desired. This is a wonderful little comic, full of comedy, action and spontaneity. I was worried that Kaine was going to be stuck in a rut after the past few issues, at least as far as his cast is concerned, but writer Christopher Yost threw me a curveball that I never would have seen coming. And I like what it might mean for the series in the future. We also get a new villainous enterprise to deal with, one with a definite Houston-esque feel to it. And that last page cliffhanger practically screams ‘Texas!’
And this issue is funny! Like, laugh-out-loud funny. Kaine isn’t cracking wise and making quips like his Manhattan ‘cousin’, but the writing in this issue is top notch.
Comic rating: 5/5: Great.
The only problem, and it’s not much of a problem, is new artist Khoi Pham. Previous artist, Ryan Stegman, has been promoted to the Fantastic Four series, so I imagine that’s a big step up from something like Scarlet Spider. More power to him. But Pham does not do as good a job with the Scarlet Spider character, his costume, and definitely not the action. Stegman drew fantastic, inventive action scenes that were full of energy. Pham, not so much. But it’s not that big of a deal. The rest of the issue is drawn quite well, and I’ve no doubt that Pham, if he’s sticking around, will get the hang of it.
Best of all, this issue really shines with Kaine and his unique personality. The tagline ‘All of the power, none of the responsibility’ lives up to its bold claim this issue. Kaine is a little wild, he’s a little cruel, and he’s definitely struggling with this whole ‘superhero’ thing. He’s not just a goody-two-shoes like Peter Parker, and it definitely shines through in this issue. I hope Yost really pushes this personality in Kaine, because I think he has the potential to be a really cool protagonist.
Join me after the jump for a full synopsis and more review!
We open several months ago on an oil platform off the coast of Galveston, Texas, where something appears to be clearly wrong. The crews scramble around the rig, cursing the heavens and hoping for a miracle as lighting strikes the platform. One of them mentions that he tried to warn people that it wasn’t oil down below the Earth, that the pressure was too much for it to be an oil pocket. We then slowly pan back to reveal that the Roxxon Corporation owns the oil rig.
Roxxon, for those who don’t know, is a massive energy conglomerate in Marvel Comics. They’ve been around in various comics since the 70s. Roxxon basically stands in whenever Marvel needs a corporation that’s more concerned with profits than with people. Case in point, this oil platform problem.
Cut back to the present day, and the Scarlet Spider is swinging through the streets of Houston, and he won’t stop complaining about it! Kaine is whining about how damn hot and humid it is in Houston. It’s like swinging through steam, he tells the reader. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been to Texas. But I can imagine it sucks to be wearing a full body, skintight, technologically advanced spider-suit in that kind of heat. Kaine lands on the side of a random building and wonders what the hell he’s supposed to do now.
I love his reluctance to be a superhero.
But no sooner does the Scarlet Spider land on the side of that building than a missile suddenly launches from one of the windows on the upper floors. Kaine has a moment to wonder if he really just saw a missile before the whole top of the building explodes! Debris starts raining down to the streets below, which are crawling with innocent people. What’s a superhero supposed to do?
Scarlet Spider pulls the classic Spidey save of creating a webbing net, saving all of the people on the street. He’s about to swing back up to the top of the building when he suddenly sees a woman among the falling debris. He wishes he still had a spider sense as he swings up and grabs her, plucking the woman safely from her fall and bringing her to safety. The woman is grateful to Kaine for saving her life, and she immediately shows this by raising his mask and kissing him passionately on the lips. Kaine doesn’t stop her…all the way back to her bedroom! Bow chicka bow wow!
This is what I said about spontaneous. Scarlet Spider saves a woman from falling to her death – a classic superhero act – but he’s got the freedom and the loose ethics to go home with her and knock some boots. Peter Parker would never do that. He’d get all flustered and embarrassed, and then swing home to Mary Jane or Carlie Cooper or whoever. But Kaine is cooler than that. Even if he kind of regrets it.
This is also the curveball that I mentioned in the opening. Ever since issue #1, there has only really been one love interest in this series, Annabelle the bartender. Aracely started out as a possibility, but she’s quickly become a ‘younger sister’ type character to Kaine. So especially after last issue, I was kind of annoyed that Kaine was automatically going to fall in love with Annabelle, and there wouldn’t be any romantic tension or even a story. Kaine simply falls for the first pretty girl he met in the first issue. As if there were no other women in all of Houston.
Thankfully, this hottie may change that dynamic. Hopefully for the better.
Her name is Zoe. She also reveals that she was the one who fired the missile, much to Kaine’s shock. Of course, he only finds this out after they have made sweet love. Kaine has his priorities in order. By the way, the building that blew up was a Roxxon building. That’s important to know. Zoe also reveals that she willingly slept with him because she thought he was there for the same reason as she was, because of what happened in Galveston. Kaine has no idea what she’s talking about, and he immediately climbs out of bed and starts getting dressed. Meanwhile, there’s a knock at the door, and Zoe rises to go answer it while Kaine jumps out the window.
Two big henchmen-type guys are at the door when Zoe answers…
And we immediately cut back to Kaine at his hotel room. He goes about the rest of the day trying – and failing – to put this whole weirdness out of his mind. Unfortunately, he’s living with a psychic roommate.
So the Scarlet Spider goes back out at 1 a.m. to search Zoe’s apartment, but when he gets there, the place has been totally cleaned out. Even the furniture is gone. So Kaine tries the Roxxon building that blew up, only to discover that reconstruction has already begun at a rapid pace. Soon nobody will even know that the building blew up. He finds this kind of weird and decides to investigate Roxxon some more.
To do so, he visits the only other people he knows in Houston: Dr. Donald Meland and Police Officer Wally Layton. Wally can’t sleep because of Donny’s snoring, so Kaine proceeds to scare the crap out of Wally by appearing mysteriously in the shadows of his bedroom and making vague death threats. But Wally still gets up to help him out.
Wally, being a police officer, already knows that the “official” cause of that morning’s explosion was a gas leak. He even looks at the Houston PD database to show Kaine that ‘gas leak’ is the official answer. There’s no mention of a missile. Wally asks Kaine why he’s looking into Roxxon, which is one of the largest employers in the Houston area. Roxxon has been the backbone of Houston for decades, according to Wally. This part really spoke to me. I don’t live in a city the size of Houston, but there are some local employers in central New York that are pretty big, and I know the impact they have on the local economy and way of life. You don’t see that kind of thing in Manhattan, where most superhero stories take place.
So this moment really added to the culture of Houston, I think. Obviously it’s not real, since Roxxon isn’t real, but I understand the idea that there are some companies that are important to certain areas simply because they give everybody jobs. Without Roxxon and it’s jobs, hundreds, if not thousands, of Houston residents would be out of work. So if they’re involved in some shady dealings, then it’s going to be hell for everybody.
Kaine also asks what a “galveston” is?
Cut to Roxxon, where employee Jacob Johnston takes the elevator up to his office – only he gets a rather rude surprise.
For a moment I thought those little colored boxes were part of some kind of floating computer screen. But then I realized that Khoi Pham simply sucks at drawing the invisibility power of Scarlet’s costume.
Scarlet Spider puts one of his sharp stabby things to Johnston’s neck and threatens him to get information about Galveston – though he also asks to make sure that Johnston has heard of Galveston. Kaine has Johnston start searching his computer, but Johnston warns that he doesn’t have security clearance to open the Galveston files – Kaine doesn’t care. Johnston explains that only the CEO, David Walsh, can access those files – and just then a security team storms the office, having detected the unauthorized computer usage.
The security guards immediately start shouting. Johnston should take this up with human resources.
You can see what I mean about lackluster action. Stegman was much better with the fight scenes.
Kaine narrates about how he likes a good fight, where it’s simply him vs. them. None of this detective stuff, that’s not for him. He asks a secretary where he can find David Walsh. The top floor, of course!
In his office, Walsh’s big, burly security guy suggests they leave. Walsh insists on staying to finish his last bit of business, but then Scarlet Spider just kicks down the door all menacingly. Walsh doesn’t even get up out of his seat, informing out hero that the police have been called, among others. Kaine accuses Walsh of covering up the explosion from the other day, and making a woman disappear. Walsh calmly explains that the “gas leak” story was to avoid embarrassing his daughter – Zoe!
She’s sitting right there in Walsh’s office! He explains that Zoe has been a little emotional since her mother passed away. Walsh then explains to the Scarlet Spider that Roxxon is the largest corporation in the world, with 100,000 employees and more than $500 billion in revenue every year. Walsh tells our hero that none of this is the Scarlet Spider’s concern, and that he should leave.
Kaine asks Walsh how he expects that to happen.
And then we get a cliffhanger that has me very excited for the next issue!
Hells and yes! The Rangers! How awesome is this going to be?
What’s that? You’re asking who are the Rangers? That’s simple! The Rangers are the superhero team of the American southwest. Just because most of the Marvel superhero action takes place in New York City does not mean that there are no other superheroes anywhere else in the country, or even the world. The Rangers are all heroes from the Southwest who gather together to fight large scale crime. They debuted in a Hulk story back in the early 80s, and were dusted off a few years ago for the 50-State Initiative after Marvel’s Civil War. And now they’re back, and are going to tangle with the Scarlet Spider!
Let’s see…we have Texas Twister, Firebird, Living Lightning…and some robot dude. No clue who that is. But the Rangers, you guys!
Granted, I may be a little overly excited, but mostly I want to see Scarlet Spider interacting with someone else from the Marvel Universe. He’s been up to his own shenanigans in Houston, so it’s good to see that he’s still part of this larger world. Plus this reinforces the location, instead of doing something like having the Avengers fly down from NYC just to tussle with him.
This was a great issue. It’s fun and it’s funny. The jokes are great, the character interactions are a hoot and there’s plenty of action and mystery. What is Roxxon hiding? What was wrong with that oil rig? What does the mysterious Zoe Walsh have to do with it?
What’s more important is that Kaine really feels like somebody special, somebody unique. He’s a total noob when it comes to this superhero thing, but he’s trying to give it a shot. He’s kind of blundering through this investigation, and literally just smashes his way into Walsh’s office with no real idea what’s going on. It’s fun! He’s morally questionable, has no problem killing guys if necessary, and sleeps with the woman whose life he saved, but not in a sleazy way. She wanted to do it more than he did, he just didn’t nervously excuse himself like Peter Parker might do.
I like this Kaine. Let’s hope we see more of him in the future.