Scarlet Spiders #1 Review

SCARSPIDERS2014001-DC11-LR-894d6“Actually, we’re clones of spiders. Clones, just like your bosses. And we want to know where they grow their clone bodies.”

Three clones of Peter Parker from across the Spider-Verse-Ben Reilly, Kaine, and Jessica Drew-team up to track down the source of the Inheritors’ clones. Can these copies hope to survive their mission to the Inheritors’ dimension?

Writer: Mike Costa

Artist: Paco Diaz

Color Artist: Israel Silva

Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham

Cover Artist: David Nakayama

Variant Cover Artists: Bagley/Hanna/Hollowell

Production Designer: Idette Winecoor

Editor: Devin Lewis

Senior Editor: Nick Lowe

SCARSPIDERS2014001-DC31-LR-243f8Story: Ben, Kaine, and Jessica pop into the Inheritors’ dimension, infiltrating a facility for Jennix, which Jessica believes is a clone hatchery for normal people. Their cover gets blown and they fight their way out until Iron Man arrives. Unfortunately, this Tony Stark works for Jennix and tries to take them out, but winds up getting subdued and interrogated. He easily gives up the location of Jennix’s headquarters-the Baxter Building! The Scarlet Spider team attempts to break in and runs into that dimension’s Johnny Storm, who also seems to be working for Jennix!

Thoughts: I cannot tell you how excited the variant cover by Bagley had made me for this series! When the Clone Saga kicked off twenty years ago I was embarking upon my senior year of high school and was a big fan of Mark Bagley’s art. I don’t know where I came up with the money, but for better or worse, I followed the story across all the Spider books. While some parts were unbearable to me, I came to like Ben Reilly quite a bit and took quite a liking to his take on Spidey’s uniform once he doffed his Scarlet Spider hoodie. Ben as Spidey was a return to form of sorts at the time. Peter had become very angst ridden and moody, even for him, and whilst Ben had problems like all of us do, once the webs came back on and he was the star, a sense of fun came back across the 4 monthlies and tie in books. I was sad to seem him meet his heroic demise at the end of Peter Parker, Spider-Man #75, where we found out with certainty that he was a clone when he deteriorated. To see him hale on hearty on the cover surrounded by his former nemesis and the Ultimate Jessica Drew, herself brought to life by Bagley’s tenure on his long run on USM, made this cover a must have for me. Bagley’s Ben Reilly Spidey is not the scrawny teenager that he drew in Ultimate for 100+ issues. There is a definite mass that his Ultimate Peter did not have and the limbs aren’t posed as askew as the gangly teenager. But is the price for the variant cover worth it based on the inside contents?

Costa’s narration threw me off at first. He uses a third person omniscient perspective which I found jarring starting off, being that it seems any narration boxes we get these days are first person perspective. It also reminded me of DeFalco’s style on Spider-Girl-“You’re May ‘May Day’ Parker and you’re packing heat!” or something to that effect. It didn’t bother me so much once I got into the, ahem, swing of things. The story mainly focuses on Jessica, apt since the issue is called “The Widow”, but that’s not to say we don’t get insight into the other clones of Peter Parker. image

Jessica seems to have grown up quite a bit in her two short years of existence. She definitely doesn’t come off as the inexperienced teenager who wanted to date teenage Ultimate Johnny Storm, much to Ultimate Peter’s chagrin. Having been trained by Ultimate Cap and Nick Fury, she definitely has a more clinical, more tactical approach. The banter is definitely absent compared to earlier appearances, but she does make a joke about a clone version of Jameson posting awkward pictures of her on the internet. Having not read All-New Ultimates, this is the first I’ve seen of her Widow costume. I’m not terribly fond of the jacket. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be evocative of the Scarlet Spider’s original grey hoodie costume, but for me it calls to mind more of Superboy from the 90s post Death of Superman. For some reason, I assumed Ben would be the team leader, maybe because of his prominence on the covers, but Jessica seems to be the one in charge, not only because the narrator focuses on her, but because she comes up with the plan at the end and also seems to be the one reining in Ben. I’m curious to see if this dynamic changes with the next issue, when presumably we’ll focus on the point of view of Ben or Kaine. image

Ben Reilly should be the closest to being Peter of the three. Having not read any of Amazing Spider-Man beyond the first issue of the current volume, I’m not sure what back story has been given to this version of Ben. If he’s anything like the 616 version, his memories are Peter’s until the time of cloning. Part of this may just be how one views the character of Peter/Spider-Man which in turn is probably influenced of when one was introduced to the character, but Ben seemed a little on the idiot side. This may speak more to how I view the character as of late. I get that when the mask is on, Spidey makes with the quips. I love that fact about him and enjoy it quite a bit. Some writers however seem to have a hard time remembering that Peter is a smart guy who makes jokes and make him a little too much the witless class clown to my tastes. It’s a really fine line and I’m not sure I’m being fair to Costa on this account. His Ben just comes off as the least competent of the group to me. I’m surprised that he didn’t wind up dead from Tony’s blast to the chest. Diaz does give him a great looking moment as he dons his mask with determination, but I doubt he’ll survive Spider-Verse given how Marvel seems bent on wiping out certain fan favorites. image

I’m also not up to speed on Kaine in this post OMD world. He was bitter enemies with Ben Reilly and there doesn’t seem to be any tension with them in this issue, beyond Ben being clueless and Kaine trying to be his grimmest, most serious self. This is Peter Parker Dark and his body language throughout emphasizes this. Diaz places him in a menacing pose when crouched over Iron Man, he also stalks, has his arms crossed a lot, and his face seems to be always bitter. He stands apart when it comes to his powers set thanks to spikes that emanate from his forearms and his suit that has a stealth mode. Diaz depicts it as pixelated blur. I’m not sure if this is consistent with how it was done in his former title, but I enjoyed its use here. image

Costa sets up Diaz with a great two page spread showing the Spiders in action. Not only is it a great layout where we see their differences in action, but in narration as well. Costa emphasizes Jessica’s training, Ben’s wordiness and grace, and Kaine’s wrath in battle. It was a definite highlight of the issue for me.

Before I sat down to read the issue, I flipped through the pages, doing a cursory glance of the art. It seemed a little off to me at this point, however, once I hunkered down to read it, I enjoyed it a lot more. It definitely is cartoony in parts, which isn’t a bad thing, but the main thing I found off-putting was how elongated some necks seemed. Diaz did a fine job making all the Spiders when unmasked look similar to Peter, but their own distinct entities as well. There are shots of Kaine at the end that made me think of when Gil Kane drew Peter and I found myself wanting to go back to some old Bagley or Wieringo  issues to revisit Ben. We also get some effective splash pages as well. image

So, were my lofty, nostalgic expectations met? Yes and no. The fan in me has to settle down and accept this mini for what it is. This isn’t Ben at the Daily Grind and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of conflict between Ben and Kaine. Ben’s characterization seemed off to me at times, but like I mentioned above, I’m not sure how much of my perception is colored by how I view Slott’s take on the character, one where Mary Jane calls him an idiot these days. I feel current Peter lacks the intelligence that Stan Lee and others gave him and I see that carried over with Ben. He should be the most seasoned member on this team of Scarlet Spiders and calling the shots, not following everyone’s lead clueless. I think Kaine and Jessica fared much better under Costa’s pen. Despite some quibbles over art and how Ben was depicted, I did enjoy the issue and look forward to where it goes next, even with the solicits implying not all will survive the series.

My Grade: B

Javi’s Huh?: Iron Man shows up and immediately lifts up his faceplate in front of his master’s enemies. In Sam Raimi style, Ben and Jessica do the same! Why? Why? Why? Keep your masks on in public! Especially when you’re being chased in an unfamiliar dimension where you don’t have the full lay of the land! Kaine at least capitalizes on the mistake and socks Tony unconscious and even comments on Iron Man’s folly. image

I realize Ben was seeing Iron Man as a friend at first, but that shouldn’t negate his Spider-Sense when Tony sees fit to blast him!

Ben asks Jessica how many times she got electrocuted attempting to take off Tony’s armor to which she replies twice, and also mentions how she got gassed as well. Does no one’s Spider-Sense work on this world? Similar to defusing a bomb, her warning senses should have told her what not to touch and alert her where the danger was in dismantling the suit.

Kaine states in regards to Tony giving up the goods, “I don’t smell a lie on him. And I would.” Is Kaine’s Spider-Sense so sensitive it serves as a lie detector as well, or was there a little Wolverine mixed in with his cloning process? I’m assuming it’s tied in with his resurrection and arm spikes, but I couldn’t help but think of the dearly departed Canadian X-Man!

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(5) Comments

  1. JMH

    I did not like this issue very much. It just seems that they cannot wait to kill Ben again. Which is sad, but not entirely unforeseen. I'd give it a D+, maybe a C- on account of Ben being back in any form.

  2. Justin Parris

    Spider-sense didn't work because they trying to to use it on Iron Man. Iron Man is a very popular character right now, so he'll be magically more effective than logic would allow for the sake of making him look good. Aren't Marvel comics fun?

  3. Mike

    At least the dialogue balloons cane from the right characters this issue. They clearly phoned in spidey 2099 #6. Have fun with THAT mess

  4. Donovan Grant

    I enjoyed this myself well enough, but the narration was totally overwrought. I agree with Javi's score.

  5. Scarlet Spider

    Sad to say, I didn't like this. The dialogue and the narration in particular came of as being really awkward, and the art was at best passable. Ben's return deserved more than this.

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