As of this review, we’re all caught up to current on Scarlet Spider. But fear not, the fun never stops around here! The next issue is coming out already next week, so be sure to swing back this way for another review!
“The Second Master Part Two”
Writer: Chris Yost
Penciler: Khoi Pham
Inker: Tom Palmer
Colorists: Edgar Delgado w/ Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Stegman and Delgado
THE STORY: Several months ago at that Roxxon “oil” rig that went BOOOM! last issue? There’s an “it” being referred
to that was supposed to be contained by a magnetic field, but “it” wasn’t. Instead, “it” is being contained by a random worker who’s eyes and mouth are glowing blue. But don’t worry, he’s just standing there. No problems, I’m sure…
Back in the present, Kaine is still in the CEO of Roxxon’s office with Zoe and The Rangers. Remember how last issue I said The Rangers were a trio? Don’t I feel silly. First off, in that very image from #7 there is a fourth guy – it’s just that he’s made of blue energy and I kinda missed him against the blue sky…yeah, I know. Better glasses next time. But wait! They’re also not a quartet! Two more Rangers pop up behind Kaine in the office (these being the ones who don’t fly). The Rangers are made up of: The Texas Twister, Firebird, Living Lightning, Fifty-One, Shooting Star, and Red Wolf. As tends to happen when superheroes (and particularly when one’s an anti-hero) meet for the first time – there was a throw down! Kaine made it away with Zoe, but the Rangers made it clear they weren’t fighting for Roxxon, and didn’t trust the company either.
Kaine and Zoe make it to Galveston to find – a whole lotta nothing! As Kaine freaks out, The Rangers show up again and kick his scarlet behind quite soundly and then – weird stuff! Fifty-One goes nuts, things get broken, bunches of dead bodies appear, and Scarlet Spider and the Rangers find the place that guy was standing quietly with his blue eyes and blue mouth at the beginning! Remember him? Well, that “no problems” thing didn’t happen, and now that blue energy has apparently been just blowing through hosts. It can no longer be contained, and is now a big alien-looking blue monster that the “Next issue” text informs me is called Mammon! And he’s “Next!”
MY THOUGHTS: Boy was I wrong about The Rangers! First and foremost, I was downright shocked when I did my necessary research before this review to find out that ALL of them except Fifty-One are pre-existing characters. I recognized a few names, but Texas Twister? Shooting Star? Yep, they’re old hat at this superhero game. Not only that, but they (again, except for Fifty-One) were already a pre-existing team as The Rangers. The first appearance of The Rangers was way back in Incredible Hulk #265 in 1981! And despite my concerns about them turning out to be just a collection of Texas stereotypes, Yost does and excellent job of making the characters all distinct in who they are, and work together as a team quite well. He may not have created the characters, but showing that kind of differentiation of voice and solid teamwork for six characters in one single issue (of someone else’s title!) is no feat to be scoffed at. I’d actually describe it as incredibly difficult. So Chris Yost continues to get my respect in this issue, flexing even more writing muscles that demonstrate just how much of a pro he is.
Khoi Pham’s art continues to impress as well. This issue was heavy on action with a lot of characters involved, and he handled it all masterfully. Not only that, but the nearly-full-page first shot of Mammon at the end looks AWESOME!
Texas Twister has my respect! I was so gratified after the initial Scarlet Spider/Rangers brawl to NOT see the typical team who just assumes the guy they fought is a villain for no other reason than, well, they fought! Instead, Texas Twister notices that when Kaine threw Shooting Star out the window (Kaine’s opening move of the fight), he was throwing her right into Texas Twister’s arms. And he knows Roxxon isn’t a shining example of corporate ethics, so he keeps an open mind that maybe Scarlet Spider’s motives were righteous. This was a very refreshing respite from the usual hero vs. hero misunderstanding cliche. And even after their second fight, when it had really looked like Scarlet Spider was in the wrong, Texas Twister is quick to recognize that he was actually RIGHT when the bodies show up. It would have been so easy to dumb down these characters more, but Yost avoids it at every turn. Bravo.
It’s also really nice to see the character development happening with Kaine. He’s still Kaine – he’s the ‘hero’ that starts a fight with a superteam and steals a nice motorcycle that’ll help him get to Galveston without a second thought. And yet, when it looks like Zoe’s led him to an empty room and may just be crazy, he knows that his actions could turn him into a fugitive again – and he’s scared of it. We see that he really is starting to care about this life when he worries about losing it. He regrets losing his “second chance at life,” and when he plans to make his escape, the first thing he thinks about is picking up Aracely before heading to Mexico. Very recently he would have been hitting the road solo and not fretting over it one bit. Now we’re really seeing the beginnings of him caring for another person, and how much a second chance to prove himself really matters to him. This is a Kaine we could never have anticipated back in his Clone Saga days in the 90s, but it’s a great character progression that really makes you root for the guy. He might have no idea how to be a superhero, but he’s quickly becoming one of the easiest title characters to like I can think of.
Finally, we’ve got a promising tease at the end that’s looking to rocket us into a strong conclusion for “The Second Master” that should carry us into “Minimum Carnage” quite nicely. As ever, Scarlet Spider is a stronger book than most people ever expected it to be, and if it’s not on your pull list you’re missing maybe the best spider title around!
RATING: 4 Rangers out of 5. This issue had a lot going for it and was all-around entertaining. I’m taking off a half-point compared to last issue because there was a bit of stunted dialogue/narration going on in the middle, but nothing that detracted enough for me to even being it up in my thoughts.