Writer: Chris Yost
Art: Ryan Stegman
Following the events of Spider-Island; Kaine, a Clone of the real Peter Parker is cured from the disease that caused his sanity to rot and is now on the run from his dark past with a new life and new powers. But can he really outrun his past, or will he use his new powers to atone for his sins and become a real hero like Spider-Man?
If I’m honest I wasn’t planning on picking this book up, and if I’m even more honest I actually read a friends copy due to my level of apprehension surrounding it.
At first glance you might see a brand (semi) new character being introduced to a Marvel that is very much closing it’s doors to anything outside of the staple X-Men, Avengers and Spider-Books, which is undoubtedly a good thing. But what I detected was a cunning marketing tactic spinning out of Spider-Island to Launch a Spider-Stable character, albeit with an edge, while never straying too far away from safe territory.
The same is true of Venom, but in this case I was even more dubious, as while Rick Remender is the most underrated writer in the industry, Chris Yost is the opposite. For a very standard writer he gets a lot of books (inside and outside of Marvel) and he’s yet to do anything that really set’s him apart from mainstream middle of the road fare.
Well that all changed with Scarlet Spider #1. Like I say, I had no intention of reading this, but curiosity inevitably got the better of me. And I’m glad that it did. Because while there’s nothing overtly striking about Scarlet Spider #1, it follows standard fallen hero on the quest for redemption tropes, and is riddled with clichés (the return of the internal monologue flashbacks etc) it succeeds in giving us a bold, flawed and interesting protagonist in a story that is a hell of a lot darker and more real world than something that I’d associate with the levity of the more core spider-titles.
Yost makes this feel like an episode of The Wire that’s been hacked to pieces and injected with superheroics. Kaine is every bit the bad bastard he always was, but with new powers (?) a new life and a new start he’s weighed with a conscience that comes from how he got these and from the man (Peter Parker) who’s genes her shares. It’s his fresh take, a reluctance and often complete unwilling to do the right thing with the powers that he has that makes Kaine compelling.
Yost convinces us that his (anti?) hero would genuinely rather be living a life he has thus far been denied, than helping out others in need. And in many ways the catalyst for Peter Parker’s ‘Great power/Great responsibility’ moment that happened when his Uncle Ben was killed, has been forced upon Kaine late in life. A life he’s spent most of as an insane killer. Yet now he feels obliged to do something to atone for this new life he’s been gifted because he thinks he doesn’t deserve it.
Suffice it to say, he’s no less the killer and I was genuinely surprised by his newbie screw ups when he tries to play the hero. He’s bad at it, and he hurts people. He’s used to rough-housing and not worrying about the consequences, but here he has to consider the fall-out, and he hates it. This is all great character building, and the world Kaine inhabits (relocated to Texas in part of the Marvel expansion into new territories beyond New York) is dark and unfriendly. It’s real world with a touch of the super, and for this particular character it’s works brilliantly.
Credit to artist Ryan Stegman who serves up some clean, well laid panels if not a bit overly cartoony, especially considering the darkness of the story (Leonardo Manco would have been perfect), but overall Yost has taken what could have been a very standard superhero redemption title and made it gritty as Hell, with no fan pandering, and so far no sign of a costume. This could be to it’s detriment with fans looking a quick superhero fix, but I’m all for the slow burn approach, which takes guts in the modern market. And in a Marvel under threat of sanitisation under Disney this book has big balls.
I don’t know if I like it yet, I don’t know if I’m warming to Yost and I’m not sure Stegman’s the right choice for the art. But there’s a charm here that’s working on me and has me hankering for more. So I’ll definitely be back for issue #2