I took up Scarlet Spider as my first foray back into collecting single issue comics for several reasons. First and foremost, it was a Spider-title, and while I had only the slightest idea who Kaine was at the time, I'd certainly heard of him, and Scarlet Spider, and was well aware of his connection to Spider-Man. Second, it was slated to take place in Houston, Texas, which is where I reside. So many of these superhero titles take place in New York City (or state) that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see what locales and from Houston were used, as well as how they were used. It was for these reasons I took the plunge and purchased a comic book for the insane price of $3.99.
Overall, I'm pretty glad I did.
Kaine has proven an interesting foil to Peter, and it's pretty intriguing to see how this guy, apparently identical to Peter all the way down to their DNA (with some "cosmetic" differences), has demonstrated how very different he is with his background, and yet on some basic levels they're still very much the same person. You pull him out of NYC and his clone, give him a chance to build a life in a new town, and despite some of his less than heroic methods, he still fights crime and looks out for innocent people. Despite not consciously wanting to, he's developed a network of people he cares about, and who care for him, flaws and all. It makes for entertaining reading, and the current issue affirms that things are indeed going in a direction that Kaine finds agreeable.
The cover depicts Kaine and his four friends, Annabelle, Aracely, Wally, and Donald, against a larger image of the Scarlet Spider in costume. It's apparently raining out, and some kind of spotlight appears to be shining on him, playing across everyone else's features. It looks intense, and a little bit uncertain, which is a fitting theme for the story inside. Everyone looks well drawn, and though I think Kaine's brow sticks out a little much on the right-hand side, it's nevertheless a good representation of who features in the comic.
Kaine essentially has a crisis of identity in this issue, having had to deal with the events of Minimum Carnage, his encounter with the current Venom, and coming to terms with his origins as a clone, made to kill. He drinks himself unconscious somehow, and while he sleeps it off, the hotel in which he resides is taken hostage by a bunch of robbers in Santa Claus costumes. While Wally and Aracely investigate, Annabelle, who has been taken hostage by the attackers (and who isn't aware of Kaine's inebriated state), lures one of them up to Kaine's suite by telling him that someone with a lot of cash is reside in the Presidential Suite. The man takes the bate, and a recovering and quickly infuriated Kaine sobers up, takes him out, and proceeds to help his friends take the hotel back by throwing down on the rest of the armed Santas. Realizing that he does make a difference, Kaine decides to remain in Houston for the time being, where he's finally starting to feel at home.
While the identity crisis plot is overused in hero comics, and the Christmas-time robbery of a hotel by a group of evil men in Santa costumes is pretty thin, this was nevertheless a pretty entertaining story. The strength was mainly in the character moments, where we see some telling and often hilarious moments in the story.
Kaine, apparently drunk off of only three beers, swears and faints as he tries to leave the hotel and Houston for good. Aracely, whose telepathic abilities take a turn for the powerful and possibly sinister in this issue, is still a weird amalgamation of stubborn kid and boundaries setter, demanding Kaine contribute to a swear jar for every curse word he utters. Donald alternates between hilariously stunned by the things Kaine mutters and an insightful buffer for the hate Kaine directs at himself.
The action here was also good. The Santas are a bunch of Grinches, who take the Four Seasons while looking for a bunch of jewels being held. When Kaine finally gets into the action, you know from the get-go that the Santas are in trouble. He sees one of them manhandling Annabelle, and not only sobers up in an instant, but goes to cold fury at the same time.
Aristically, this was a pleasing issue. Brown and Pallot do a good job of capturing the action, and make the beginnings of a heist story look believable and logical. While I might personally prefer little more texture to the artwork, everyone looks expressive and distinct, and still very well rendered. My favorite scene, of course, is Kaine standing over the fake Santas after kicking their butts, asking who else would like some "Christmas spirit." It was hilarious, bad-ass, and reminded me of the kind of thing you'd expect to see in a Die-Hard film. Very well done.
Overall, I really enjoyed this issue. The premise is flimsy, but there's no denying its entertainment value. The character moments are strong, and the action keeps you turning the pages. Highly recommended.