First thing’s first – don’t forget this issue is part 2 of a 2-part crossover with Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2. Click here to read the review of Part 1!
“Sibling Rivalry Part 2”
Writers: Chris Yost & Erik Burnham
Art: K-Studio’s In-Hyuk Lee
Dream Sequence Art: Olliffe, BIT & Loughridge
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Stegman & Delgado
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: The Jackal, having Ock and Kaine captive, has harvested Peter Parker’s DNA again and has basically the same plan he did in 1995. Kaine breaks his chains by the power of being awesome and he and Ock team up to fight mutant spider-clones again. Ock decides to blow the place up, and does so, wiping out his DNA sample and killing the Gwen Stacy clone as collateral damage. Kaine is still too stupid to realize this isn’t Peter, so he just punches him and leaves. In the first of two epilogues, Kaine is back in Houston and when he looks in the mirror, finds his clone degeneration scars are returning. In the second epilogue, the Jackal retrieves DNA samples he’d taken of Kaine and declares, “Who’s ready for Spidercide 2.0?”
MY THOUGHTS: Wow is this one very mixed bag. On the one hand, I love me some Clone Saga, I really do. On the other hand, this feels less like reading a 2013 comic book about characters from the Clone Saga and more like reading a comic book that was actually published in 1995, and I do not mean that in a complimentary way. Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider are in the Jackal’s lair, he plans to overrun the world with clones made from Peter Parker’s DNA, they have to fight through a bunch of disposable clones, and in the end they’re at odds. I’ve read this one before. And what’s worse, it wasn’t one of the better parts of the Clone Saga.
And let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room – that second epilogue. This was about my reaction when I read that:
“Who’s ready for Spidercide 2.0?” – The Jackal
“F***ing NO ONE. NO. F***ING. ONE. That’s who!” – Me
Immediately after, I texted Zach Joiner this: “Ok, I love the Clone Saga as much as anyone who loves the Clone Saga loves the Clone Saga, but…Spidercide 2.0? Kill me now?” And it turns out that’s the one thing he didn’t like about the issue, either. Look folks, if you’ve read the old issues, I’m pretty sure you’re already there with me. If you haven’t, let me just tell you: no one who liked the Clone Saga remembers Spidercide fondly. He basically represents everything that was bad about the story, everything that went off the rails. He screams 90s so loudly he makes huge guns and shoulder pads look like solid fashion choices. Spidercide is, in a nutshell, why I totally understand people that hate the Clone Saga. And frankly I don’t care how much the concept is going to be changed for this “2.0” – it could be, and hopefully will be, a TOTALLY different thing – the problem is that this was the tease. The last page of this comic, an epilogue to get people looking in for the SSMTU crossover excited, was a tease with the name Spidercide. What an incredibly wasted opportunity that was. Minimum Carnage might have been a patently awful crossover, but at least it showed off the Scarlet Spider book in a way that made Venom readers want to keep giving it a try (we know this for sure because former Venom reviewer, CrazyChris, was one of them). But if I was an SSMTU reader trying Scarlet Spider with this crossover, I have to admit – I’d drop it like it’s hot after this. The story wasn’t that great to begin with, and if Spidercide’s what you’ve got to try to hook me, I’m out.
But it wasn’t all bad (just most of it). The first epilogue was actually quite good. Kaine’s been living a different life for awhile than he’s ever gotten to live before. Since his body was healed after Spider-Island, he’s been able to live as a normal man, and he’s made friends and gotten to see what a real life is like. This has helped immensely on his journey to redemption. So if his clone degeneration is back and his face is hideously scarred again, how will that change what he’s been building in Houston? How will that affect his journey of redemption? I can’t say for sure, but this is a solid tease because it gets me wondering and eager to find out. Had the teases at the end of the book stopped here, I would have said the issue did an EXCELLENT job of trying to hook new readers. If only.
The art in this issue is interesting, and very different from what we usually see. In-Hyuk Lee’s colors are pretty damn incredible, and the textures of things, most especially the heroes’ costumes, just look absolutely phenomenal. This looks like real material that I could actually feel on the page if I touched it. It’s almost surreal how realistic it is. His facial acting of the characters, though, leaves a lot to be desired. When the characters even have much in the way of expression, they tend to be really over the top in not very believable ways. Check out Kaine’s “I’m breaking chains and bursting blood vessels” face on the fourth preview page. So in general I feel like I’d like to see Mr. Lee as a great colorist over a stronger penciler/inker. Also on the art side, there’s oddly just one page done by Pat Olliffe. I like Pat Olliffe, and being the first Spider-Girl artist he has strong Clone Saga ties, but I just wonder why they brought him in for one page. Particularly since he’s credited with “Dream Sequence art,” and in reality the dream sequence seems to carry on halfway through the following page (Note: those two pages are actually the first two of the issue, but the preview pages Marvel released start at page 3, so you don’t see them here). Had he done the first two pages it would have made more sense to me. Actually the first page and a half would have made the most sense, but I can see where you might not want to mix the two art styles on one page, considering how DRASTICALLY different they are. Still, nice to see a bit of Olliffe.
Now about the Jackal. I get that he’s a semi-classic spider-villain. I get that he created Kaine and so he’s very important to this book’s history. I don’t love the character in general because he mostly comes off as a more annoying Joker rip-off with Bond-villain-level megalomania, but I get it. I had no problem with the idea of using him in this story when it was solicited. But honestly, if he can’t come up with a new plan, we really just need to leave him alone at this point. If anyone’s feeling the drama of “Oh no, he might really overrun the world with Parker clones and then we’re all screwed,” I’ve got some nearly 20-year-old comics you’re going to love. But good lord, if the character and his plans haven’t progressed past kidnapping Peter Parker again to harvest some more DNA, it really is past time to just kill him or forget about him. It wasn’t a strong plan or motivation the first time and it has not held up over two decades. And it makes this story feel very dated and well-worn, which is exactly what Scarlet Spider as a book and a character should not be and have not been to this point.
Less of a huge gripe for me and more of an annoyance is the guy in Jackal’s posse that is apparently a clone of Miles Warren (original recipe). This guy appeared on that last page of Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #1 standing behind the Jackal and a Miles Warren clone was one of my top guesses for who he was. Then he appeared in part 1 of this story in SSMTU #2 and had no lines and still wasn’t named. Then in this issue, he had all of a sudden shaved off his mustache and taken off his glasses, and he still had no lines and wasn’t named. The only reason I know for sure who he was now is because in the second epilogue the Jackal finds his glasses (that he hadn’t been wearing all issue) and says, “Well we’ll certainly need a new and less crispy Miles.” What exactly the heck was the point of him? He stood behind the Jackal a few times, unnamed, did nothing, and died. I would submit to the writers that this is why people don’t like clones – because a new clone of the human Miles Warren should be a character but is entirely disposable here. Those of us who like clones like them because of how great Ben and Kaine are. We don’t want a bunch of disposable versions of characters hanging around.
And then, of course, there’s Otto. He acts perfectly normal for him in this issue and that’s fine. No real issues with his characterization here. My issue is that we’ve now stretched way, way past the point where I could possibly be ok with him not being found out. Kaine is a clone of Peter Parker. He is a CLONE of him. He has all of Peter’s memories from before the cloning. He has met Peter since then several times. It’s hard to say anyone knows Peter better than his own clone. And yet Kaine can’t figure out that this is not Peter when he randomly attacks him, rants like a madman, and blows up a clone of Gwen Stacy, calling her collateral damage after ranting during the issue about clones being nothing. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, in part 1 when Kaine is being attacked by Ock, Kaine protests that he’s paid his debt to him and Ock responds, “Anything you did you did for HIM. For SPIDER-MAN.” Yes folks, he outright tells Kaine that he is not the Spider-Man he’s known. And then proceeds to act out of character for another full issue and a half. And this man, this clone of Peter Parker, doesn’t ever consider that hey, maybe this isn’t Peter. No, he just punches Otto in Peter’s face and goes back to Houston.
I think you can tell by now, this is not exactly the Scarlet Spider/Superior Spider-Man crossover I would have wanted. Frankly the Jackal and his minions could have been left out altogether and we could have had a much more interesting two-part story focusing squarely on Kaine and Otto. But to do that, they may have had to risk Kaine figuring out that something is up and actually impacting Superior Spider-Man’s ongoing story, and clearly that was not allowed. So keeping these two books in the storytelling ghetto of the spider-books really negatively impacted this whole thing and sadly left a bad taste in my mouth.
GRADE: D This story really didn’t accomplish any of what it set out to do and in the end failed to be a very entertaining story at all. Some cool art and a few good moments buoy an otherwise useless meeting between these two characters that should have amounted to so much more.