What’s the POINT? Any comic book fan is by now familiar with the phenomenon of Marvel’s “Point One” issues. This very series even debuted in a one-shot called “Marvel Point One.” Lately the entire Spider-Man family of titles have received Point One issues with Ultimate Spider-Man #16.1, Venom #27.1, Amazing Spider-Man #699.1, Scarlet Spider #12.1, and this week’s Avenging Spider-Man #15.1, to varying degrees of success. Last week I reviewed ASM #699.1 which really would have been better titled Morbius #0.1 (hey, it was done for Ghost Rider and is going to be done again for Guardians of the Galaxy), and in the end only served to oddly break up the penultimate and final chapters of a major Spider-Man storyline. USM and Venom, though, both did a pretty good job of introducing new stories for their books (though USM’s was also oddly placed, with 2 more issues left in the current storyline before the Venom arc that the Point One issue was meant to introduce). So how does Scarlet Spider’s foray into the world of Point One issues fare? I’ll go ahead and tell you upfront – this is what a Point One issue should be. Read below the fold to find out why!
Writer: Chris Yost
Pencils: Paulo Siqueira with Neil Edwards
Inks: Victor Olazaba with Tom Palmer
Colors: Fabio D’Auria
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Epilogue Sequence: Khoi Pham & Fabio D’Auria
Cover Artists: Stegman & Delgado
Editor: Tom Brennan
THE STORY: Officer Layton calls Scarlet Spider to a crime scene where a young girl who was a victim of human trafficking is dead, bearing what appears to be the Mark of Kaine. Kaine is PISSED. He knows it’s almost impossible to shut down an operation like this, but he goes in anyway, and he goes VIOLENTLY. He works his way up to a man called The Mark, and it should be obvious from his name what he did to who. The Mark, it turns out, works for The Hand (which, now that I’m typing it, sounds punny, but I assure you it’s not). A few representatives of the Kingpin (who is in charge of the Hand these days, if you haven’t been reading your other Marvel Universe comics) come in and kill The Mark, telling Scarlet Spider that Kingpin is going to take direct control of the Hand’s operations in Houston.
In an epilogue, some werewolves in the desert tell some dudes with a limo to take them to Houston.
MY THOUGHTS: One of the great things about the way Chris Yost writes Scarlet Spider is that it is pretty consistently new reader friendly. I think a new reader could pick up any issue and have absolutely no problems getting into it. So if I had to point to one book that I would have said didn’t need a Point One issue – well, to be honest, it would be Hawkeye. But if I had to point to TWO, it would be Hawkeye and Scarlet Spider. And yet, what Yost does here is craft a Point One issue of Scarlet Spider that puts pretty much all other Point Ones to shame. And not just for one reason. No, off the top of my head I’d say there are five reasons why this is a great Point One issue that exemplifies what the initiative is supposed to be about.
REASON #1: By creating The Mark as the villain of this issue, Yost gives himself a perfect device to explore who Kaine is, who he was, and who he’s going to be. When Kaine faces an indiscriminate killer with a scarred face who leaves a handprint burned into his victims faces, he can’t help but be faced with the person he himself used to be. He sees from the other side what all his victims saw before they died. And it throws him into a rage like we haven’t seen from Kaine in awhile. Coming face-to-face with an avatar of his old self also propels Kaine forward into a greater determination to be the Scarlet Spider and fight evil – something he never intended to do at the beginning of this series just one year ago. It also leads to the greatest line in a series that’s been chock-full of great lines from the start:
“With great power…with great power, he said. Some old guy I never knew, he said this. All she wanted was a second chance at life. With great power must come great responsibility. That’s one way to go. With great power also comes the ability to rain down HELL on those who prey on the weak, people who couldn’t fight the monsters. To stop people like ME. I think that’s the way I’LL go.“
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is this character and this series summed up in 8 narration boxes. Put simply: THAT is how you write a great Scarlet Spider comic.
REASON #2: Kaine’s supporting cast is touched on without being forced into the story. We already had a great supporting cast-heavy issue last time in Scarlet Spider #12, and that just wasn’t what this story was. But Yost is able to use Officer Wally Layton organically through his job, and mention/show Aracely and Annabelle in a way that makes sense without even needing to give them dialogue. Shoehorning the whole supporting cast into the story would have slowed down this packed one-shot issue, but Yost found the perfect balancing act to show the new reader that there is more to the world of this series.
REASON #3: There were several things seeded in these pages to be developed in future issues, hooking current and new readers alike on seeing what’s going to happen next in Scarlet Spider. First we get a mention of a guy named Clutch from Officer Layton and his partner. They talk about something horrible that Clutch did two years ago, and when Scarlet Spider pops in on them unexpectedly (he was invisible), he asks “Who’s Clutch?” and the two immediately drop it and change the subject. Yost would not have put that in there, given the guy a name, and made sure Kaine heard the name if something wasn’t going to come of it. Next, we find out that the Kingpin is about to take direct control of the Hand in Houston. The possibility of Kaine mixing it up with the Kingpin? I’m excited already! And finally, we have the epilogue that introduces two new werewolf characters that will lead directly into the next arc. That’s a lot of building and teasing for one issue that was already heavy on content!
REASON #4: As I just said, this book was HEAVY on content. No breezy, 2-minute, decompressed read here. You plunk down your $2.99 and you get your money’s worth. A complete and self-contained Scarlet Spider adventure that introduces a new villain and takes that villain all the way to his death, full to the brim with character examination and character development for our hero. Yost didn’t just tease the new reader with the kinds of things this series is – he showed that new reader what makes it great in grand detail!
REASON #5: As always with Scarlet Spider, the art was excellent. This issue was done primarily by guest penciler Paulo Siqueira, who will be recognized by regular Spider-Man readers. Siqueira’s pencils are a little darker and less cartoony than the usual art on this book and that works perfectly for the tone of an angry Kaine going after a human trafficker who kills underage girls. The whole book was a joy to look at and gave Kaine’s Scarlet Spider plenty of the outright COOL that will help bring back those new readers.
So, did I think Scarlet Spider needed a Point One issue? Not particularly, no. But I will never complain about getting two great issues of a great comic in one month, and if this crew was going to do a Point One issue, they damn sure did it RIGHT.
GRADE: 5 angry clones out of 5. Yes, that’s two perfect scores in a row for this series, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!