MATTHEW 6:24 (King James version): “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
The word “mammon” in other translations appears as “money” or “wealth.” I admit to not having known what the title of this Scarlet Spider arc referred to until now. Turns out, to understand your Scarlet Spider comics, you must first know your Bible.
“The Second Master Part Three”
Writer: Chris Yost
Penciler: Khoi Pham
Inkers: Palmer, Soto, & Ketcham
Colorists: Delgado, Soto, & Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Stegman & Garcia
THE STORY: Picking up where we left off last time, Scarlet Spider and The Rangers are faced with taking down a giant blue energy creature called Mammon. He’s powerful as hell and nothing seems to hurt him, so, ya know – good luck. There’s a lot of big superheroics, but Kaine slips away to question a Roxxon scientist about just what the hell is going on here. The scientist recounts mostly what the reader already knows or has been able to piece together by this time – Roxxon drilled deeper than ever before and found a self-sustaining energy source that had been self-sustaining for millions of years. They wanted to patent it, of course. Not surprisingly they couldn’t control this energy, and it took over a human worker. But that worker quickly burned out, so Mr. Walsh – CEO of Roxxon and all-around evil SOB – started sending them more hosts for it that this scientist assumes were from the Mexican cartels. Mammon started burning through these things faster and faster, and then – well, and then Scarlet Spider and The Rangers came in last issue.
Are we finished adding on problems for our heroes? Of course not – this is comics! Mr. Walsh – CEO and SOB – busts in with a private army and tells them to kill the heroes for trespassing. Scarlet Spider realizes at this point that the host inside the giant form of Mammon is going to die, so he tackles the creamy human center out of the donut that is Mammon. This plan doesn’t really take into account Mammon’s continued need for another host, though, and now the big monster targets Zoe (girl who Kaine saved from a rocket, then slept with, then found out SHE fired the rocket, then found out she’s Walsh’s daughter – refreshed?). Walsh has a brief flash of not-that-evil and pushes Zoe out of the way, becoming Mammon’s host himself. Scarlet Spider puts a MARK OF KAINE! on Walsh’s chest to piss him off, then leads him to an oil tank which he traps Mammon in (apparently Mammon’s been trapped under oil in the Earth all this time) and somehow manages to save Walsh – except that Walsh is non-responsive and they think he might still have a little Mammon inside him.
Now it’s epilogue time. We find out that Roxxon has swept this all under the rug and blamed Walsh for anything they couldn’t cover up, all while installing an acting CEO who “stinks of money and greed.” Texas Twister then gets a Kaine-fist to the face for offering Kaine membership in The Rangers (“MORONS.”), and Zoe vows revenge for her father, who she now likes since he saved her life and is in a Mammon-coma, as she sketches Kaine’s face – she just needs to find him.
THE THOUGHTS: Well. After writing up that summary I kind of feel like a lot was packed into this issue (still $2.99, folks!). We had a superhero team, an evil corporation, an eons old energy monster with a biblical name, and a crazy girl vowing a blood feud against our hero. All that and great characterization, and you know you’re reading the new issue of Scarlet Spider!
Seriously, this comic is definitely making a name for itself among the folks reading it as an incredibly solid read month in and month out. With action, character, consistently great writing and consistently great art, I couldn’t recommend any changes for this book to become better, and I can’t recommend it to those that aren’t reading it highly enough.
“I’m going to KILL Peter Parker. I’m going to find EVERYONE who pushed me into being a better person. Who urged me to do the RIGHT thing, to be a HERO. Then I’m going to KILL them.”
This is Kaine’s opening narration as he watches the craziness of The Rangers beginning to fight Mammon, and speaks to why he’s shaping up to be such a great protagonist, who’s at once a darker sort of character and also wicked fun to read. You don’t get speeches about responsibility and guilt – you get a hero who’s compelled to do the right thing, but freaking hates it. It’s good for drama and it’s good for comedy, and it somehow makes you root for the guy even more when you see him pulling off the big heroic saves at the end.
And let’s once again talk about this art – holy hell. It’s amazing to me that as I went through this issue I kept noticing how great the art was, and specifically how pretty the coloring was, only to read Editor Tom Brennan’s note at the top of the letters page thanking several guys for pitching in and helping out with the art at the last minute on this issue due to some scheduling snafus. If this is what a Scarlet Spider thrown-together-by-fill-ins issue looks like, then I am left with nothing to say other than HUZZAH, GENTLEMEN! I tip my Texas cowboy hat to your unwillingness to let an issue look anything but AWESOME!
Speaking of AWESOME, you might have noticed in the recap that this issue saw our hero pulling out an old favorite power from a bygone era – THE MARK OF KAINE! For those not intimately familiar with the Clone Saga of the 90s Spider-Man titles where Kaine originally got his start, several of Kaine’s powers are actually amped-up versions of the original Peter Parker’s powers. His strength is greater, his spider-sense sometimes actually gives him flashes of the future, and his ability to stick to walls can not only let him rip out whole sections of wall, but if he applies that same power to a person’s flesh it burns them, leaving what came to be called THE MARK OF KAINE! (Sorry, I can’t physically type that phrase without caps lock and an exclamation point – if you’ve read many comics from the 90s, you should understand.) I, for one, nearly snoopy-danced with joy at that moment in this comic, because it just makes you feel so wonderfully connected to the whole saga of Kaine and all that goes with him stretching back to the days of terrible stories like THE MARK OF KAINE! and gut-wrenchingly excellent stories like The Lost Years. It’s a detail that is just another power use for people new to the character, but for people that have been around this stuff for awhile, it reminds us that we’re reading a story that is bold and new but respectful of what came before by a writer that knows. His. Business.
It’s impossible not to mention, as well, how deep and rich Yost is already making Kaine’s world in Houston after only nine issues. We already had the mysterious Aracely, the enticing Annabelle, the support-system doctor/cop/friend duo of Wally Layton and Donald Meland, and a burgeoning arch-enemy in Ana Kraven. This 3-part arc has now added evil corporation Roxxon, Southwest super team The Rangers, and a crazy rocket-firing girl who’s seen Kaine’s face looking for revenge. As far as characters, settings, and threats, this book is absolutely stacked.
After these very strong opening 9 issues, next month we’re heading into a crossover with the Venom title with the villainy of Carnage. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some trepidation over the prospect. Multi-book crossovers can often take even two solid books and somehow come out with a pairing that just doesn’t have the usual quality of either. But, there certainly have been crossovers that have broken that mold, and I’ve come to trust Chris Yost quite a bit with this character and this book, so I’ll hold out hope that maybe the exciting idea of Scarlet Spider and Venom vs. Carnage might live up to the hype. We have less than a month before we find out for ourselves.
And with that, I’ll remind you that the next review to look for to keep following the Scarlet Spider story is the one-shot Minimum Carnage: Alpha, which kicks off the event that will continue into the Scarlet Spider and Venom books throughout October and November. And we’ve got something special cooked up for that review. Don’t forget, also, to be reading CrazyChris’ Venom reviews for the other half of the crossover. I read them every month and they’re always informative and entertaining!
RATING: 5 MARKS OF KAINE! out of 5. Sometimes you’ve got to keep the grade down just a tad to give a book something to grow on. Other times you just can’t imagine it getting any better. This issue is the latter.