Welcome back to the book that was doing a darker, edgier, more vicious Spider-Man when Doc Ock was still in diapers (adult diapers, but you see the point). Remember that time Kaine killed Otto? Yeah, good times.
“In the Midst of Wolves Part 1”
Writer: Chris Yost
Pencils: Khoi Pham
Inks: Palmer, Pallot & Bit
Colors: D’Auria, Mossa & Fabela
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Stegman & Delgado
Editor: Tom Brennan
THE STORY: One week after the events of Scarlet Spider #12.1, Kaine is still taking down human traffickers anywhere he can. He knows it’s a losing fight, but he can’t bring himself to stop fighting it. Meanwhile, Aracely has a truly surreal dream that she fears is more, especially when her seeming psychic powers lead to Annabelle waking up in tears. As Aracely and Kaine take a walk to talk about it, they are attacked by the Lobos (teased at the end of last issue). When they get away for a second so Kaine can suit up, Aracely howls like a wolf, just like the Kingpin’s Bruiser randomly did last issue, and Kaine realizes the drug dealers at the pier mentioned wolves, and Roxxon had a file on the computer with that name. No more time to think when the werewolves attack. Aracely gets away (though not far, she’s still not safe), but Kaine goes down after a moment’s hesitation when he’s about to kill one of them. Victorious, the werewolves begin to eat Kaine…
MY THOUGHTS: Well crap! Our hero is being EATEN, guys!
This is definitely an issue that, while maintaining the fun of superhero comics like it always does, would definitely be defined as pretty hardcore in many aspects. We start again with the heavy subject matter of the sex trade of young girls. And Chris Yost plays Kaine’s attitudes here just right, I think. This is one of those real world issues that for many of us just makes our blood boil to think about, and leaves you feeling defeated when you realize there’s just nothing you can do about it. Kaine is portrayed with plenty of anger at the people doing this, and he recognizes the reality that whenever he shuts someone down, someone else is just going to take that person’s place – but that doesn’t stop him. How can he stop when he knows what’s happening to these girls? No human being in his situation could. He can’t take in any more of them like he did Aracely, so he sends the girl he saves at the beginning to a church. He knows she’ll probably end up getting deported, but it’s better than where she was. You can feel the frustration coming off the page with this subject matter because he knows how much of a losing battle this is. Still, as a reader, it’s nice to see this human scum getting their asses kicked by the Scarlet Spider. That’s some escapism I can get behind.
Yost is also doing a great job here of bringing together things from his entire first year of the book. If you saw the cover and thought this was going to be just some silly werewolf arc, you were all kinds of mistaken. It looks like it may finally be time for Aracely’s story to be told, which has been a mystery since issue 1. Not only that, we’re tying in one of the mysterious files on Roxxon’s computer from the “Second Master” arc in #7-9, AND we may find out why that Bruiser howled last issue (which admittedly had me a bit puzzled). We get superhero vs. werewolf action, sure, but this is no silly one-off arc that’s just going to rely on that gimmick.
And then we have those werewolves, which are used pretty well here. We get a (again I use the word) hardcore fight with them and Scarlet Spider which ends in them EATING OUR HERO. Can’t say that enough times – who else would end an issue that way? Sure, there are plenty of instances all the time of an issue ending in a false defeat, even looking like the hero’s already dead. But most books just don’t go to a place of the hero beginning to get eaten by the bad guys. For that, you’ve got to turn to Scarlet Spider.
I have to mention the work of returning artist Khoi Pham, of course, who puts out his usual fine work on this book. I especially like his full page angry Scarlet Spider threatening a bad guy from him web. Really awesome stuff. I have to say, though, some particularly strong coloring in a few spots really stuck out to me this time. There are three colorists listed so there’s no way to know who did what, but there are just some pages in here that are beautifully colored in what looks like almost a painted style. This book is, as usual, a joy to look at.
If I had one criticism of this issue it would be the Lobos themselves. As characters they’re not really well developed yet, and for a first issue that’s fine, but they come a bit close to seeming two-dimensional here. I’m sure we’ll get a lot more about them in the coming issues, but for this one they feel just a bit lacking. And oddly the art, especially of the female of the two, really makes them look like anime/manga characters, which is particularly odd since they’re Mexican. I can’t really account for that.
All in all, though, one minor complaint is nothing compared to the rest of another stellar issue from the Scarlet Spider team. This continues to be the gem of the Spider-Man family books, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
GRADE: 4 masticated heroes out of 5. Another great issue, with just a bit of room for improvement on the villains.