Friday, April 20, 2012

Comic Review -- Scarlet Spider #2: After Life / Christopher Yost, Ryan Stegman, Mike Babinski, and Marte Gracia

It took me forever to get a copy of Scarlet Spider #2--I hadn't started a pull list by that point.  While I've since corrected that mistake, I still had to wait over a month for a second printing.  Once I got it, I finally allowed myself to read the issues in sequence.  Now, I can finally start reviewing them for you.

There doesn't seem to be as much detail in the second printing variant cover--and explosion seems to have been replaced with simple orange space--but it's still a decent picture.  Kaine is still obviously escaping from a crumbling pile of something, and looking pretty cool doing it.  I'd prefer the full picture for a poster or t-shirt, but this one's not bad for denoting a second printing.

Kaine has done his one good deed, saved a young immigrant girl from a horrible fate, and is ready to leave her in the hospital, washing his hands clean of any further involvement.  He's denied the need to help others, and this isn't his problem.  But when he sees an explosion coming from the direction of the building in which he left her, he flies right back into action, finally donning the Scarlet Spider costume--which looks cool as hell, I might add--and gets into a fight with someone called Salamander, who's hunting the girl down.  Kaine wins the fight, showing during the fight that he's not Spider-Man, pulling a gun and webbing up Salamander after beating him viciously.

When he goes to check on the girl, Aracely, he is asked by her doctor and a local cop to stay in Houston, where a superhero is needed.  They tell him that everyone saw what he did today, and that he'd be a welcome guardian for Houston.  Kaine initially refuses, but then decides otherwise, using some of the money he's come across to take Aracely and keep her in his luxury hotel suite, where he can keep an eye on her.  He finds himself unable to leave Houston yet, seeing a second chance at life and the opportunity to do some good and make amends for his violent past.

It was nice to see Kaine finally put on the costume and throw down with a supervillain.  We can see that, while he's not Peter Parker, he's definitely cut from the same cloth, deep down: he can't abide the suffering of innocent people, no matter what he says.  Despite a much more brutal fighting style and brusque manner, he still has a need to be the good guy, to do the right thing.  It's been his habit to do the opposite up until recently, but he's showing a gradual migration to the side of angels.  We'll have to see how far he gets.

We can also start to see the formation of a supporting cast of characters for Kaine as he starts putting down roots.  People are getting names--Aracely, for instance--and characters like her doctor are getting more exposure than they normally would if they were simply throw-away background characters.  Sure, it feels a bit formulaic, but it does make a certain amount of sense.  Kaine, for all his curtness, is not the Punisher, and will need the help of others, both for superheroing and to help him find and explore his humanity.  I'll be interested to see how this turns out.

Artistically, I very much enjoyed this issue.  The action sequences were intense and fluid, and I just loved the full-page shot of Kaine in the Scarlet Spider costume.  The black and red really works.  Salamander's flames, explosions, and super-heated air made for a visually interesting fight.  Stegman's people look realistic, distinct, and expressive, and his backgrounds nicely complement the main action.

Overall, I'm impressed.  I like the fact that my city, Houston, now has its own "superhero," even if Kaine despises the term.  I'll be interested to see how things progress, and whether the narrative will be able to maintain a compelling story in this new locale.  I like the look and feel of things so far.  Highly recommended.

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