Sunday, April 22, 2012

Comic Review -- Scarlet Spider #4: Whoever Finds Me... Will Kill Me! / Christopher Yost, Ryan Stegman, Mike Babinski, Cam Smith, and Edgar Delgado

Heheh.  Backed up against a wall, costume ripped in places, barely dodging a barrage of bullets, arrows, Chinese stars, and so on.  Kaine's dealing with a lot of action here, and that's exactly the situation inside the story, at least metaphorically.  Another fine cover.

Things start off with a flashback in Kaine's life, when he's in Detroit.  He's contacted by Belladonna and the Assassins Guild, informing him that he's been taking kills in their jurisdiction.  Belladonna gives him one chance to join the Guild and work off the tithe she says he owes her.  Kaine, in typical vulgar fashion, tells her and the Guild to screw off.

Jump back to the present, and Kaine is fighting hard against four assassins from the Guild.  They've sent killers after him less than 24 hours after his encounter with the first assassin.  While he manages to get the drop on them, he knows this won't end with them, even if he kills them.  So he calls Belladonna on one of the thugs' phone, with a counter-offer: she calls off her assassins on both him and Dr. Meland, and he will do one assassination job for her.  She picks the time, the place, and the target.  After that, she forgets who he is and leaves him alone.  Otherwise, he'll kill every member of the Assassins Guild, starting with her.  Belladonna accepts, and every assassin in Houston seems to disappear as soon as she says it.  Kaine, however, has issues with his most recent choice, and begins to see the faces of everyone he's killed in the past, and when he arrives home, heads straight for the bathroom to throw up.

Meland, in the meantime, has gone with Wally to Terrence Mitchell's house.  Mitchell is the one who put the hit out on Meland's life last issue, blaming the doctor for his wife and daughter's death in a car accident several weeks previous.  When they get to his house, they are ambushed by more assassins and Mitchell, who is still bitter and resentful at Meland over his loss.  Meland seems to convince Mitchell to drop the hit, as the assassin with him disappears--more likely due to the timing and agreement between Belladonna and Kaine.  Annabelle and Aracely go to the Galleria, looking for clothes and supplies for Aracely, who starts to exhibit several strange abilities.  She is apparently able to speak several languages now, and seems to have a kind of psychic link to Kaine.  When she mentions in front of Annabelle that Kaine is the Scarlet Spider, Annabelle is shocked.

I think what impresses me most about this issue is how much action and development is packed into it.  We see Kaine take on four--four!--assassins from the Guild and come out on top, Meland and Wally meeting Mitchell to get the hit on his life dropped, Aracely exhibiting strange abilities, and Kaine negotiating a gruesome deal with Belladonna and having to deal with the implications of it, all in one issue.  And poor Annabelle, who just seems to be along for the ride and clueless up to this point, gets hit with the knowledge that Kaine is the Scarlet Spider.

Even more impressively, it all feels fluid and fast-paced.  With this much going on, it would be easy for the pacing to get bogged down, or for things to feel glossed over and barely touched upon.  Neither is the case here, and the entire story keeps you turning the page.  I really am impressed with Yost's writing here, and not just because this title is set in Houston.  He really has a good handle on pacing and narrative flow.

I'm also glad that we see Kaine make a bad decision in this issue, and have to deal with what it means to him, particularly with the new direction his life is taking.  He actually feels remorse and guilt for making a deal with Belladonna to kill one mark for her, which means he won't be taking this lightly.  In terms of making you care for the character, this is a big issue, and leaves me wonder what of so many possible things could happen because of this accord.  Needless to say, I'm interested to find out.

Artistically, Stegman continues to impress on this issue.  I particularly liked the zombie Hand ninja, Kaine's cloaking device--it's finally explicitly named--and the way Aracely looks, particularly in the last couple panels of the issue.  She looks cute, quirky, and wide-eyed at everything going on, even if she doesn't seem particularly scared of it yet.  Ah, the innocence of youth...  In any case, by all means, keep it coming.

Overall, I'm really enjoying this series.  The artwork is good, the pacing and characterization is great, and the action is just what you'd expect from a title like this.  If you haven't given this series a go yet, I'd suggest reading this issue.  The pacing and action alone make it worth a look, and everything else is worth reading up on.  Highly recommended.

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