If you were disappointed by the lateness of this review, please express your displeasure to Diamond Comics. I’m not one to pass the buck on responsibility, but there is a very clear responsible party here, and it is Diamond. My local comic shop got screwed last week when Diamond left out several books from their order, including Scarlet Spider, Wolverine & The X-Men, and East of West. Of those books, Diamond tells my LCS that they’re still going to get Scarlet Spider at some point, but they’re out of luck on the others. I could have gone to a different comic shop last week and gotten a copy of Scarlet Spider there, but I knew this LCS would be losing a lot of business in that manner (through no fault of their own) so I decided to hold out until the order came. When the order still wasn’t there this week, I felt I couldn’t wait any longer to get this review to you guys, so I broke down and went to another comic shop. That’s a sale my LCS lost because of Diamond, and surely not the only one. And this is an LCS that cares so much about customer service that when they were told they weren’t getting Wolverine & The X-Men in at all, they sent an employee to another comic shop to get copies to fulfill their pulls of the issue. They paid retail price for it just so they could get me my pulled copy, which they still gave me my usual member’s discount on – meaning they took a loss on it. And this is not an incident confined to one comic shop – this is a rampant problem I hear from retailers about Diamond Comics. So if you’re as upset about the situation as I am, I encourage you to send an email to Diamond and tell them they need to treat comic shops better. When they don’t, the shop gets screwed out of money, I get screwed out of books, and you get screwed out of reviews. Please send your emails to:
Writer: Chris Yost
Pencils: Khoi Pham w/ Edwards & Siquera
Inks: Pallot, Bit, Pham, Siqueira & Olazaba
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Stegman & Delgado
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: Just as Aracely is about to be eaten by Los Lobos, the werewolf brother/sister combo, Kaine steps in – or, should I say – The Other. The Scarlet Other is not terribly challenged by two werewolves. He’s got an army of spiders around him and because he is now all spider, no man, he shares their scent, taking away a werewolf advantage. He also has multiple spider-leg type spikes coming out of his back which help quite a bit. He tears the male wolf limb from limb, literally, and the female runs off with him. Aracely pleads with the Scarlet Other to remember her (as he’s thinking about killing her, too). Apparently it does, because it rips off all its skin to reveal Kaine – once again with long hair and a long beard. Time lapses a little and Aracely cuts his hair and beard, and Kaine gets his arm tattoo back.
Earlier in the issue we were given a brief flashback showing Aracely being given to a white-bearded man by agents of the Lobos and thrown into a truck with a lot of other people. The Lobos say Roxxon paid them for those people, but the white-bearded man orders them to leave the truck in the sun for a full day, because Aracely needs to die. Aracely may or may not have died in that truck, but she did manifest a blue energy in one eye that told her she’d make it through and she would make the world bleed.
In the end we get many epilogues. First, the comatose Julia Carpenter whispers Kaine’s name as (assumedly) the spider-god says “Spider,” and at “The End of All Things,” a dark figure on a throne amongst bones says “The Other has ascended. The culling will soon begin.” Then we get some strange flashes in Aracely’s sleep about “Mictlan rising” and “The Sixth Creation,” and Aracely levitates with red energy in her eyes, saying, “We will make the world bleed.” Finally the white-bearded man kills the convalescing male werewolf and may or may not kill the female one. He says he needs Aracely dead for “The Sixth Creation” to begin, and then introduces (to the reader, I guess) his team of super-powered people that he thinks will be able to take on Kaine.
MY THOUGHTS: Well that was…abrupt. I knew the story of Kaine as The Other in an inhuman form wasn’t going to last forever, but I certainly expected more than half an issue (especially considering it took a whole issue to get there). It felt very, very rushed and I have no idea why that is. Sadly after giving last issue a perfect score I find my problems with this issue outweigh any positives by quite a bit.
Before anything else let’s talk a little bit about the emerging origins of Aracely. To understand all the words thrown around in this comic I had to hit the web, and man – there is a lot of information you’re not getting if you’re not versed in Aztec mythology. This “Mictlan” that’s being referred to is the Aztec underworld. So when we hear “Mictlan Rises,” that’s equivalent to something like “hell’s coming.” Then there’s Aracely’s supposed “real name” – Huitzilopochtli. This was mentioned last issue, too, but frankly I’ve been avoiding typing it out, because – damn. Anyway, wikipedia reveals this to be the name of an Aztec god of war, sun, human sacrifice, and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. The name has a past translation (that is apparently actually incorrect) of “left-handed hummingbird,” explaining the hummingbird imagery and nickname around Aracely. As for “The Sixth Creation,” I’m assuming this is something Chris Yost is creating for this comic, because a google search of the term comes up with nothing relevant.
So, I hope that helped if you’ve been reading and felt a little lost. Here’s my problem, though – you shouldn’t need to read this review (or go google/wikipedia terms like I did) to understand what’s being teased in this comic. Editor’s notes? Translations? Hell, a little bit of well-written exposition? I feel like when there’s such important information that is so foreign to the average comic reader, some explanation should be given of what we’re talking about. There’s nothing more important to the reading experience than basic understanding of the important things the characters are talking about.
So, then, there’s this abrupt ending to the story. Now, as far as I know, “In the Midst of Wolves” has always been a 3-part story. That was my understanding from the beginning. So it doesn’t seem like a case of a story getting knee-capped by editorial or something. Is it possible the ending was changed last-minute? I suppose that might account for the 3 pencilers and 5 inkers. I just don’t know what’s going on with this book. It’s been firing on all cylinders, getting great-to-perfect scores from me every issue for the last 4 issues straight, and then it’s like “We’re done, chucking this story out the window now.” After half an issue he rips off his skin and is human again? I don’t even see how that makes sense. Aracely, with her psychic abilities, confirmed that there was nothing human left to him, nothing for her to connect to. But he rips off his skin and he’s human again. Wouldn’t she have been trying to connect to his brain? Wouldn’t that be the same brain that’s still inside his head since he just ripped his skin off? Plus, he died and came back with a new body (proven by the fact that his tattoo is gone – this is not the same body). Ok, I can go along with that. But he’s been back alive with this new body for what must be no more than like 2 hours tops. And that’s a liberal estimate. How the holy hell did he grow the full ZZ Top hair and beard inside this spider skin? That’s just…incomprehensible. I don’t know what else to say except that this quick and out-of-nowhere ending to the just-begun story of Kaine as The Other did not work on any logical levels or entertainment value levels. I can’t imagine this was the original plan and I just find it baffling.
So if that wasn’t awkward enough, this issue then gets almost as many endings as Return of the King. After Kaine rips his skin off we get the very sudden aforementioned time-lapse, and we see him getting his tattoo back (from the same artist who is not NEARLY incredulous enough that he LOST a full-arm tattoo), laughing with Wally and Donald (who don’t know what happened) and staring in the mirror, brooding, as a monster stares back. This, folks, is an ending. But wait – there’re like 3 more!
Then we get those three flashes showing things to do with Kaine. First, a panel marked “New York City” in which Julia Carpenter whispers Kaine’s name in her hospital bed. Ok, I can go along with that. Then we get a panel marked “Between Worlds” where all we see is a pair of red eyes saying “Spider.” I’m assuming that’s the spider-god. Seems like a safe bet. I can go along with that, too. Then we get a panel marked “The End of All Things” where a shadow on a throne says “The Other has ascended. The Culling will soon begin.” Ok – what? The first two panels are labeled with places, so if this one follows that pattern then “The End of All Things” is a place, not a time. But it sounds kind of like a time. So when is this? Is this now? Was Kaine’s return from the dead the ascension of The Other? Or is this in the future, and The Other ascending is something we haven’t seen yet – meaning the panel labeling broke pattern in a very confusing way? And who is this? And what the hell is the Culling? Lots of new/unknown information in this one panel, and frankly not enough to get me excited about something – because I have no clue what’s being teased.
Next we have Aracely’s page. I guess that’s an Aztec woman, or maybe another Aztec god, saying “Mictlan Rises.” So I guess Aztec hell is coming to call. Then a quick image of a hummingbird in case you did your googling and know about that nickname. Then an image of some woman (Aracely? maybe?) rubbing a heart on her cheek and saying “The Sixth Creation comes.” Then Aracely wakes up with red energy eyes saying “It requires blood” and levitates saying “We will make the world bleed.” Ok…so that happened. Any reason why the energy in Aracely’s eye in the flashback was blue and now it’s red? Coloring mistake or significant detail? Like the other tease, there is way too much here that I don’t know for me to even guess at the answer to that. And once again it’s hard to get excited for such an incredibly vague tease. What the crap is with that panel with the heart? I think the biggest problem is that the multiple artists in this issue draw Aracely differently (she looked older in the flashback than she did in most of the current story) so it’s impossible to tell if that’s supposed to be her or not.
And finally, white-bearded man. With his posse of Aztec(?) superguys. Who I’m assuming will all come with more impossible to spell/pronounce names. Awesome.
So all in all, as you can tell, this was not Scarlet Spider’s finest issue. I’m actually quite disappointed, since out of the entire Spider-Man family of books, this is the one I can always count on for quality. But this is easily the lowest point the series has hit outside of Minimum Carnage. Here’s hoping the creative team returns to form next issue (with less artists, preferably) and we can get back to the business of hailing this as the best Spider-book on the stands.
GRADE: 2 out of 5. A rare drop in quality for a great book that hopefully doesn’t start a trend.