“Into the Grave Part 1“
Writers: Chris Yost & Erik Burnham
Artists: Carlo Barberi & David Baldeon
Inks: Pallot & Olazaba
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Stegman & Howard
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: Kaine is distraught about his clone degeneration scars returning and swings out of the hotel in a rage after nearly attacking Aracely. Dizzy, he falls to the ground and finds himself confronted by the original Scarlet Spider! As the two fight and hurl insults at each other, we see Donald Meland, Annabelle Adams, Wally Layton, and Aracely each at the beginning of a threatening scene that probably indicates an attack. Once Kaine starts hallucinating Spider-Man and the Jackal telling him to kill Ben, it becomes apparent that he’s been drugged, and it’s revealed the he was hit by a poison dart in the airport last issue. It is Kraven in the Scarlet Spider costume, not Ben.
MY THOUGHTS: Everyone who had a hand in marketing this issue did it a colossal disservice. Because this is actually a very good issue. We’ve been waiting for the showdown with Kraven for something like a year and a half now and we’re finally getting it, and Kraven’s plan is very good. It evokes both the Clone Saga and Kraven’s Last Hunt in the best ways. But that’s not what people are mainly going to be saying about this issue or what a majority of people will feel after putting it down. No, instead all the hype was given to try to fool people into hoping against hope for the incredibly remote chance that Ben Reilly would actually come back. And of course that was all a hallucination. End result? A lot of people will feel let down, ripped off, or just ambivalent about it, and that’s really sad.
I will say this issue didn’t offer any surprises for me, though. After my Scarlet Spider #20 review, the fifth comment was from a poster named sthenurus who said: “I dont think the degenerescence is back. Since Kraven is advertise in the next few issues, i believe it was some sort of halucinagenic dart that stung kaine in houston, not mosquitos.” And as soon as I read that I felt like a complete moron for not realizing the same thing. And once that point had been brought up, it seemed pretty clear that this dart would likely not only be responsible for the scars, but for Ben’s appearance as well. And we now know that all turned out to be absolutely true. So this was not exactly the most twisty and surprising story possible. but still a good one, I think.
The fact that there are two artists on this one issue is less noticeable than usual. It seems the creative team keeps growing, or at least shifting in different ways. Right now we have 2 writers, 2 pencilers, and 2 inkers. But the art actually blends together pretty well. Some pages and panels look better than others to be sure, but overall there’s a consistent look and feel and the majority of the proceedings look damn good. I’m happy that, while we may not have Ben back for real, we do have some pretty cool professional art of the two Scarlet Spiders together. Chris Sotomayor’s coloring talents shouldn’t be discounted here, though, considering his colors probably helped a lot to keep the tone consistent among the 2 pencilers and 2 inkers.
I think the biggest negative for me here storywise is actually “The Other” in Kaine’s mind. That plot point has gotten really undefined and is just sort of hanging around these days. Aracely looked into Kaine’s mind and saw the huge spider-monster yelling “Prey!” and of course recoiled from it. And later I think The Other is telling Kaine to kill Ben, though that little narrative voice may actually be the hallucinated Spider-Man. Either way, this sort of undefined presence in his head is just not really fitting into things for me and frankly is only serving as a reminder of the very poor resolution of that story back in Scarlet Spider #15. Something either needs to be done with it or not.
What I really enjoy is the serious threat and palpable sense of looming doom in this issue. Even if you know it’s not really Ben, the fact that this is how Kraven chooses to screw with Kaine means you know it’s SERIOUS. Kaine is NOT going to want to let someone walk away from doing this to him. And as the fight rages on, one by one we see Kaine’s friends put in danger. I admit I’ll be upset if any of them actually dies, because the book needs to get back to more focus on Kaine with his supporting cast anyway rather than killing them off, but at least legitimately threatening them does a great job of heightening the stakes. You made Kaine think his degeneration was back, made him think Ben Reilly had come back to kill him, AND you’re threatening his friends? If you make it out of that with just a limp, you’ll be lucky. Of course, we all know Kraven isn’t going to die in the Scarlet Spider title, especially so soon after being resurrected, but I still can’t help but feel that when Kaine is his opponent as opposed to Peter Parker, Kraven shouldn’t even get the CHANCE to kill himself – Kaine should already be taking care of that for him!
And if Ben’s return was going to be just a tease, I’m happy that we at least got a full issue of it in a pretty great battle between him and Kaine. It’s not like Ben just showed up, knocked him out, and then turned out to be Kraven. We got substantial page space of a grudge match we’ve been wanting to see here. We even get to see Kaine getting smacked in the face with some impact webbing! Sure I would have liked to have actually gotten Ben back, but knowing that was never going to happen, this Clone Saga fan is pretty happy with what I got.
I would be remiss if I left without giving props to that cover, too. The colors, the textures, the whole composition – it’s safe to say that is the most beautiful cover we’ve gotten to date for Scarlet Spider. Stegman and Howard really outdid themselves on this one.
GRADE: A I understand why you might feel let down, but on the merits of the issue itself rather than how it was marketed, this is actually a very solid comic and a very strong start to a new arc. Now we’ll just have to see if Scarlet Spider can so something it hasn’t done in awhile with a multi-part story: stick the landing.