Friday, 13 January 2012

New Beginnings - Scarlet Spider #1

Christopher Yost is well known within Marvel as a writer on comics such as X-Men, X-23 and X-Force, but he started in animated shows and his credits include Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes, Iron Man: Armoured Adventures and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

There have been other dabblings in Marvel (and to a lesser degree DC) so to see Yost appear on the cover of the new Scarlet Spider title is a very settling thing. The pedigree that he has built for himself in only ten years means that for what could be quite a hit and miss title he brings a certain credibility to it and opens the door for a few possibilities.

As with the Scarlet Spider's past there is a level of confusion that can be expected - this is not Ben Reilly.

For those unaware, there has been somewhat of a clone problem running throughout Peter Parker’s history which has left him doubting who he is, leaving and passing the mantle fleetingly to his “brother”. This was his clone Ben Reilly who became the original Scarlet Spider.

There was also a group referred to as “the Scarlet Spiders” after Civil War, but these were three individuals in armour as opposed to empowered individuals.

The new Scarlet Spider is none of the above though. Instead this is the former criminal Kaine who (as another Parker clone) fought against Spider-Man. This is his chance for personal redemption and he is going to take it, leaving his personal history behind, in so much as any man can ever escape his past. As such this makes the comic’s tagline so much more fitting - "All of the power, none of the responsibility."

Even to begin with Stegman has emulated an iconic cover to try to invigorate this new title right from the word go. Then moving into the comic itself the illustration and layout hold you. It’s almost like a film opening where you get flashes or strips of pictures with the opening credits posted within them. A grand opening for the reader to get stuck into. The continuing artwork and colouring is bright and open on the whole making it for a light “read” on the eyes. At times it can border on, and look a little similar to, work by Ramos (Yuck! BF) but thankfully this is only flashes and hints.

The story itself is tricky. For a new reader the introduction of Kaine is more than a bit confusing. In the past he’s been manipulated and controlled into acts of violence and revenge. He’s a killer (notably of Doctor Octopus for example (though like most comic characters good ol' Otto pulled through! BF)) and a sadistic hunter, but equally he’s been heroic especially in the recent events of Spider Island. When he first became an adversary of Spider-Man he was stronger, faster, tougher and almost precognitive as opposed to simply having a Spider Sense, but now he's working on a reduced powerset following Spider Island. So I have to wonder, was trying to address this all in a first issue necessary? It can’t all be explained and essentially re-inventing the character changes the dynamic completely anyway.

But - and this is important - it was needed. Kaine is not some sort of anti-hero like Eddie Brock has become. He’s also no longer a villain and his removal of his beard and long hair is symbolic of this. Without sounding too clichéd, Kaine’s revival has been exactly that - so he's taking it and using it to try to at least make some things right again.

This is a first issue that opens a new story without sticking to the normal conventions of your friendly neighbourhood spider. It even pokes a little fun at that too. But the underlying sentiment is that things can change but it’s not easy. Kaine is tormented by his past and uses it for a driving force.

I’ve liked the opening as it’s not all squeaky clean and straightforward. I’m concerned that it may not be one that can continue without finding its own path and forges ahead - though something which Yost is capable of - so I hope it happens.

Matt Puddy has been given the gift of a couple of hyphens by his editor.

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