So how was your Thanksgiving? Spend time with friends? Did your ex drop by? And maybe one of those annoying party crashers who really just knows your brother? And were all these people trying to kill you? If you said no, then Kaine definitely had a crazier week than you. If you said yes, well…probably time to start making some better life choices.
“Hands Covered in Blood Part 1“
Writers: Chris Yost & Erik Burnham
Artist: David Baldeon
Color Art: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Stegman & Delgado
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: Kaine’s feeling guilty about Donald being in critical condition, so first he goes to a priest, then to the hospital with Annabelle. Then he tries to burn his Scarlet Spider costume in a trashcan, but the unstable molecules won’t burn and Aracely pulls it out. When they get back up to their suite, Aracely has another vision of Aztec hell, while Kaine has a much more pleasant vision of Annabelle naked in his bed – only that one’s real! So after Kaine and Annabelle do the horizontal mambo, Annabelle says something random and creepy about her children loving him, but before they can follow that up, Wally busts through the door with tactical gear and a big honkin’ gun! Meanwhile, downstairs, Annabelle walks through the lobby – wait, what?! She gets on the elevator up to Kaine’s room with a dark-haired woman who is also going to Kaine’s room and says she’s his lover. WAIT, WHAT?! Then upstairs Kaine confesses to being a murderer and surrenders to Wally, but when other Annabelle walks in, the one already in the room turns out to be Shathra! EW! And the dark haired woman who said she was Kaine’s lover? It’s totally Zoe from like 15 issues ago and she shoots a rocket launcher at Kaine because her dad’s still in a coma because of him! KRKACHOOOM!
MY THOUGHTS: Well, this issue certainly wasn’t boring, I’ll give it that!
It’s kind of hard to judge the quality of this issue. If this was just a regular issue, I would be going absolutely nuts about way too much happening in one issue and how much of a clusterfrak it feels like. And all that is absolutely true. This is a confluence of 3-4 subplots slamming together all at once that don’t belong together and pretty much undercut each other completely. But the thing is, this is not a normal issue. This is the second to last issue of the series, and it’s a series that had teased a LOT of subplots that it was/is going to leave hanging when it ends. Now, it’s possible to think that the original plan was always to have these subplots converge and dovetail into one big crazy mess. It is possible to think that – unless you read the issue. This doesn’t read like a story that was always planned this way at all. It reads like the writers were told the book was being cancelled and they had two issues to wrap it up, and this is their attempt to wrap up as much as possible before it’s time to leave the stage. And I get that impulse. I absolutely do. It’s even kind of commendable. It’s just that it would be more commendable if it worked.
The problem is, a lot of these are subplots teased a long time ago that, frankly, we could have lived without seeing a rushed ending to since the book was cancelled. Shathra in particular was just the hidden message in the note to Kaine from Madame Web which was teased an inordinate number of times before we finally saw it. And that’s all she was ever mentioned – a hidden message. And that was many issues ago. Had we never seen Shathra, I wouldn’t have really felt robbed. That’s just what happens when books get cancelled. So she got rushed into this story, and after her reveal at the end, she gets one more issue that she’s going to have to share with every other subplot and the wrap up for this series as a whole. To me, this does not seem worth it.
And I would say exactly the same about the return of Zoe. If you don’t remember Zoe, she is from Scarlet Spider #7-9 (the first issues I reviewed!), where she tried to blow up Roxxon (that girl loves her rocket launchers!), Kaine mistook her for a victem and slept with her, then she turned out to be the daughter of the CEO of Roxxon, and when Kaine had to go all MARK OF KAINE! on that guy and put him in a coma, she swore revenge. So yes, her swearing revenge meant she was definitely going to be back, but again I have to say that is not a subplot I would have felt cheated out of if we didn’t get back to it before the final issue. That was issue 9 and we haven’t heard another thing about her since (unless I’m forgetting some random panel somewhere of her following Kaine in the shadows like she did at the beginning of this issue, which is possible but also pretty irrelevant). It’s safe to say she was out of sight out of mind by now. Especially considering this is a totally different artist, I didn’t even know who she was until they got up to the suite. And like Shathra, she now only has one more issue, and she has to share it with everyone. Worth bringing her back just to say we tied up that plot thread? We’ll see next issue, but right now I’m not feeling like it.
Poor Wally Layton is the one really getting undercut here. He’s the one who actually has an organic build to his story stemming directly from the previous arc. His husband is dying in the hospital and he blames his friend who he just found out is a murderer (and of course he blames himself for not looking into Kaine earlier). That’s some heavy stuff, and could have been very compelling if given an issue to breathe. But here he just gets to bust in with a gun on page 13 of a 20 page issue and yell a bit before every other subplot this book has ever had drowns him out. Cancelled or not, this is the story we needed to see played out right now, and it’s a shame it got kneecapped by too many villains breaking down the door.
We also get a double-page spread reminding us that Aracely has this Aztec hell prophecy she’s been dealing with for the entire series. What is the point of this? Are Yost and Burnham really going to try to wrap up that huge, sprawling story next issue along with Wally, Shathra, Zoe, AND trying to give this book an ending? I can’t even fathom trying to cram all that into 20 pages. This seems more likely to be something that Yost carries with Aracely into the upcoming New Warriors book, but if that’s the case, one has to wonder – why take 2 pages away from this already crowded issue for it? This, more than any other story bit in this issue, just really makes no sense to me.
The art by David Baldeon, I have to say, is quite solid here. It’s evocative of a mixture of Stegman and Dodson’s style (not saying it’s on the level of those folks, but the influence is clear). It looks good and it tells the story, and thank God since there’s so much story to be told! This isn’t art that’s going to wow you, but it serves the story and does its job and I appreciate that.
GRADE: C Most of the ideas in this issue aren’t bad, but throwing too many of them together dampens the possibilities of any of them. It’s too bad the writers couldn’t pick a story and let it shine.