“Jake Waffles is still grieving for Mr. Whiskers. . .”
The Scarlet Spider Society vs. the Eternals! The fight that has apparently been building for 10 issues (and you didn’t even know it!) finally breaks out! How will Peter Parker’s no-longer-degeneratin’ degenerate brother and his buddies fare? Read on!
ARTIST: Marcus To
COLOR ARTIST: Ruth Redmond
LETTERING: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER by Takeshi Miyazawa & Ruth Redmond
EDITOR: Devin Lewis
SUPERVISING EDITOR: Sana Amanat
SENIOR EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: In the beginning of another fight-issue, Eternal speedster Makkari makes short work of Justice by whipping him out of the High Evolutionary’s base in the Arctic Circle and pounding him into the side of Mt Everest. Back at base, the Scarlet Spider is getting his butt handed to him by the Eternals because the rest of the New Warriors are either frozen with fear (Silhouette, Hummingbird, and Nova), twiddling their thumbs (Speedball, Haechi, Sun Girl, and Water Snake), or debilitated by grief at the death of Mr. Whiskers (Jake Waffles and George Berryman). Scarlet Spider almost gets a second wind when he hears that Makkari has disposed of Justice (awwww), but is, again, quickly subdued by the overwhelming power and speed of the Eternals. Right before Zuras, their leader, can finish him off, the rest of the team finally gets off their hind-quarters and jumps into the fray. The Eternals systematically finish off their respective Warriors, with the exception of Nova (because fans of this book feel like he deserves a win more than any of the other characters even though he’s been absent from this book for most of its run). But Sam’s victory doesn’t last as the rest of the Eternals simultaneously eye-blast him. As Phastos mourns the death of the Evolutionaries, his creations, Zuras reprimands Wyndham for not being able to deal with the Warriors himself. When Herbert snaps back, saying “You must have known there would be resistance!” the other Eternals quizzically ask, “Resistance to what?” Uh oh! Zuras?! You’ve got some ‘splainin to do! (sorry for that). While Zuras nervously tries to explain why he has turned the other Eternals against the Warriors, Water Snake uses the distraction to form a spear out of some ambient water vapor and impales Wyndham through the chest. She rushes Zuras, but he eye-blasts her (argh! friggin’ eye-blasts!), maybe killing her? We’re not sure? Anyway, with all of the Warriors soundly defeated, the Eternals prepare to switch on Wyndham’s genocide-machine, while Speedball despairs in his inner monologue, saying that they would need a miracle to save them. Cue: Justice blasting out of the side of Mt. Everest! To be concluded. . .
THOUGHTS: In general, I feel about the same towards this issue as I did towards the last. It was a fun fight-issue, but not much more. It’s hard to grade this accurately because relatively, when weighed against the rest of this book’s run, this issue is OK, but objectively, when weighed against all the other comics out there, this issue is really nothing special. Not to mention that, since Kaine’s Scarlet Spider book, I’m always apprehensive about Burnham scripting for Yost, but it doesn’t really show here, because, again, it was mainly a fight-book.
Initially, Kaine seems to be the only Warrior with any cajones in this issue (which I’m cool with, but I understand where fans of the other characters would be agitated by their hesitancy), but the other Warriors eventually get some good shots in against the Eternals. While it does suck to a) see Kaine get absolutely man-handled while b) his teammates just look on, I think it’s understandable given the nature of their opponents. While this iteration of the team has not hesitated to go up against comparably powerful creatures before, that was a frazzled Thor (in #6), who is a known ally. The Warriors have little context for Kirby’s space gods and would, I think, therefore be a bit more hesitant to engage in “aggressive negotiations” with them (I feel dirty for making an “Attack of the Clones” reference). Plus, the argument could be made that this was a moment of very human weakness for the Warriors as they watched on in frozen horror while their teammate is getting beaten to death before their eyes. Oh well. I’m questionably putting more thought into this sequence than it either merits or was put into it by Yost and Burnham.
Also, I question if the reader is meant to think that Justice dies in the beginning of this issue. Given both Kaine’s reaction to that possibility and Speedball’s “miracle” line printed over Justice as he crawled out of the rubble at the end of the issue, I think that that is the emotional direction the story wanted us to take, but I just never really bought it. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading comics for so long (or because I saw Justice on the cover for #12 in the solicits), but I felt neither Kaine’s rage nor Robbie’s despair towards this development.
While we did get to see some cool fight moments (Water Snake’s vapor-lance and Kaine smashing an Eternal into the wall) and I did like Speedball’s inner monologue at the end of the issue (“I’m going to be responsible for another tragedy” – it’s nice to see that Stanford still haunts him despite his evident exterior reversion), this issue also left me with a lot of questions. Again, why does Nova get the only win (however fleeting it was)? I guess it could make sense given his potential power level, but in the context of this story it’s a bit frustrating because he’s the team member we’ve spent the least amount of time with. Why are the Eternals helping the High Evolutionary? I guess it’s because Zuras might have manipulated them into thinking that the Warriors are a threat to humanity, but, if that’s the case, what are his motives for doing that? And speaking of Zuras, is he the shadowy antagonist from #4 who put the fear-of-Celestials into Herbert and the Evolutionaries? Are the Celestials even coming? One of Aracely’s lines after she tries to mind-trip Zuras indicated that their coming is a lie. That’s legitimately disappointing as, like I referenced in this review’s tag, the fight that’s been brewing for the past 10 issues was seemingly not going to be against the Eternals but against the Celestials, which I would have liked to see. And are we meant to think that Faira dies after Zuras eye-blasts her? She was groaning after, but I found the dialogue (“She’s beyond help”) and the art (almost an entire page is dedicated to her blasting) to be ambiguous. And I just had to laugh at Sun Girl when she hypocritically screamed “Somebody help her!” as she’s sitting on the floor four feet away with no Eternals around her while her teammates are all unconscious and hooked into Wyndham’s machine.
I also have a prevailing complaint that I didn’t bring up last issue: the death of the chief of the Evolutionaries. Character deaths should always have an impact, but when that impact is only for the sake of showing how powerful or badass another character is, I never care for it, even if the beneficiary is a character I love like Kaine. The character in question is essentially an X-Men villain, and I think he should have met his ultimate end in one of the X-Mens’ books. This was disappointing as I am sure there are fans out there who thought that this character deserved a better death. And it is always disappointing to me when a villain meets his end or is otherwise dealt a character-defining defeat outside of his/her hero’s book (I’m looking at you Pulse #5 and New Avengers vol.1 #2).
My final couple of nitpicks have to do with Justice’s position going into the final issue. What “miracle” is his survival going to accomplish? He’s already proven to be totally ineffective against the Eternals on his own, so is he going to get help? I don’t think that would be very good for this book as having other heroes come in and clean up their mess would undermine this team’s already flailing sense of identity, purpose, and efficacy. But, that’s just a speculation. I’m going to go ahead and hold out for a big, creative hero moment from Vance next month. Also (and I’m only aware of this because I just finished reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, a devastating non-fictional account of a tragic attempt at Everest’s summit), Justice was abandoned within view of Everest’s summit, meaning that he would be at about 26,000-28,000 feet, well within what mountaineers call the “Death Zone,” an altitude where there is neither the oxygen nor the pressure to support human life for long. Climbers are only able to ascend to this height after weeks of acclimating their bodies to high altitudes, but Justice was whipped right from sea level in the Artic Circle to this height in a matter of seconds. A normal human would be unconscious in seconds and dead within minutes from the bends, a decompression sickness that causes swelling of the brain within the skull that you can also get by ascending from under deep water too quickly. I know that Justice is a mutant superhuman, but only in regards to his telekinetic powers. Otherwise, he’s pretty much a normal guy. All things considered, the fact that he’s able to focus his TK-powers enough to blast through that rubble at the end of the issue really is, as Speedball said, “a miracle.” Comics.
KAINIAC KORNER: My Kaine-highlight for the issue is the only Kaine-moment we really get. But it’s still a good one and, I think, quite illuminatingly juxtaposes him against Peter Parker. It’s between the panels when he is the lone Warrior who jumps into the fight against the clearly superior power of the Eternals. This is totally something that Peter Parker would do. After a little reflection on this, it reminded me of Stern and JR Jr.’s “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut” (I can’t believe I just compared an issue of this book to Stern’s legendary run on ASM). Comparing these two moments shows us how Kaine and Peter are both similar but different. Peter does this kind of thing purely out of altruism, when someone else might get hurt by these overwhelmingly powerful beings. Usually this results in some very satisfying stories, like the aforementioned Juggernaut two-parter, or DeFalco and Frenz’s Firelord fight in ASM269-270. Kaine however cares about other people despite himself, and usually jumps into these kinds of fights either out of blind rage or because he desperately does not want to die and is trying to take them out before they take him out. But, this issue doesn’t really develop that point at all as it is required to rush past most character moments to bring the book to its conclusion next issue (I find myself again surprised by the fact that I would advocate some decompression here for the sake of this character beat). Oh well, it was still a good moment and totally in character for Kaine.
I have a prevailing worry: The solicit for Scarlet Spiders #3 mentions one of the three protagonists of that book making “the ultimate sacrifice” or something to that effect. Man I hope it isn’t Kaine! Will we never get the resolution to the Aztec-Aracely plot from the beginning of his series?!
GRADE: C (average – a fun slugfest, but not much more than that)