Scarlet Spider: We Hardly Knew Ye
The December solicits for Marvel Comics was recently released and it listed Scarlet Spider #25 as being the final issue joining the current Venom series in cancellation. I guess I’m not surprised; I’m sure sales wise a series about Peter Parker’s former evil clone isn’t a money maker, generally only appealing to a small niche audience. I just hadn’t expected the end to come so soon.
It started off so strong. It was the perfect blend of familiarity to Spider-Man fans but with an interesting spin. A whole new city (and part of the country for that matter), new supporting cast, a reluctant hero grappling to overcome his dark side. In fact, the first 9 issues were almost perfect. It was exactly what I was looking for, exciting old school web slinging adventures with a different twist that just worked really well. Everything soon got detoured though with the first crossover. Issue #10 and 11 were a portion of the wholly unnecessary storyline Minimum Carnage that paired Scarlet Spider with the current Flash Thompson Venom and Carnage (ugh). In my opinion this completely derailed the momentum the series had started to gain and put Kaine into an intergalactic story that just didn’t fit his character. After that fiasco, they released issue 12 which is a full blown Scarlet Spider story but serves as a coda to Minimum Carnage. Issue #12.1 is an excellent issue that serves as a bit of a palate cleanser and sets up the next storyline.
In The Midst Of The Wolves is a 3 part arc that takes place in issues #13-15. Shit gets weird and dark pretty fast. It involves a cartel of shape shifting werewolves coming to kill the girl Aarcely who’s under Kaine’s protection and fulfilling mystical Mayan prophecies. Somewhere in the middle of this Kaine is killed, then visited by the Spider-Man character, The Other who resurrects him and transforms him into a giant spider like creature as long as he gives into the hate in his heart. Yea…it was odd.
Issue #16 was a one in done stop gap between arcs where Kaine and his cast go to a rodeo and all hell breaks loose. While it may be considered slight (and it was) it’s also just what I wanted and what I think the series did best. Of course that didn’t last because the next 3 issues dealt with a Wolverine team up. On paper the premise sounds great, Kaine who in his dark days formerly worked for the Assassins Guild had left them unceremoniously. In order to settle that debt he owes them a favor. They decided to cash it in on Wolverine. It’s long been rumored that if Wolverine is showing up in a weaker selling comic book that it’s doomed and they are attempting to boost sales. To me, this story just doesn’t work. The first issue of the story arc was promising, it shows Kaine’s attempt to break into the X-Men’s Academy and “kill” Wolverine. It devolves quickly over the next 2 issues as a battle royale breaks out between Kaine, Wolverine, The Assassins Guild and Candra.
From there we get tossed into a 2 part crossover with the Superior Spider-Man that takes place in Superior Spider-Man Team Up #2 and Scarlet Spider #20. When I heard about this, I couldn’t wait. I think Superior Spider-Man is one of the most consistently fun, daring and exciting Marvel books on the stands these days. Chris Yost who is Scarlet Spider’s scribe also handles writing duties on Team Up and the pairing of the characters is natural. If anything, it’s been a long time coming. The results are unfortunately are a little lack luster. Kaine drops in on Spidey the two tussle only to be scooped up by the Jackal whose mad experiments have continued. He wants to harvest more Parker DNA. Now given how emotionally complex this is situation is (ya know with the Jackal creating Kaine and effectively ruining Peter’s life) it doesn’t come off with having the proper weight that it should have. It wasn’t terrible, but I just expected it to be better.
This leaves us 5 issues left and one has already been released, #21 where we see Ben Reilly return (kind of) to haunt Kaine. It’s more of a psychological and emotional breakdown Kaine is having, beating himself up over the job he’s doing as super hero. From the future solicits we know that Kraven the Hunter returns (something teased way back in issue #6) because Kaine is one of two people who can kill him and Sergio wants nothing more than eternal rest again. This seems like it could provide an interesting end to the series of which we already have a cover for.
Ironically, the day after I swore off this series they announced it would be ending. At this point, I’m committed to riding out another 4 issues. Like many times in the past year, I decided to solider on feeling like I owed it to the character since it was the first new series I picked up upon my return to comic books. I started off loving it, it was exactly what I was looking for. Its strength lied in setting apart from the Marvel universe giving it its own flavor as well as a new cast of supporting characters. It created something both unique and interesting but also familiar in a way. After the first crossover, the supporting cast took a back seat and it’s like they couldn’t wait to shove a ton of other Marvel characters down your throat. Kaine barely had time to catch his breath and develop as a character on his own. I don’t know whether this happened organically or if this was part of Marvel editorial. Either way the cancellation of this series is bitter sweet, I’m glad that the death nail has been hammered into the coffin, but I’m sad about its unrealized potential and what could have been. No one expected it to last this long, but I trust we haven’t seen the last of Kaine Parker yet.
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