Review: Scarlet Spider #2 by Christopher Yost & Ryan Stegman

Scarlet Spider #2
After Life

Written by: Christopher Yost
Pencilled by: Ryan Stegman
Inked by: Michael Babinski
Coloring by Marte Gracia
Lettering by: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Note: This review is for the digital version of the comic available on Marvel’s Comixology App.

Warning: YOU CAN NOT BUY THIS BOOK FROM COMIXOLOGY’S WEBSITE OR MAIN APP.

About two months ago, the only Marvel books I was reading were Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Ultimate Comics X-Men. The mainstream Marvel universe just seemed like a stranger to me, and I really couldn’t imagine myself following too many of their titles.

But due to friends’ recommendations, I picked up Daredevil, X-Factor, and Amazing Spider-Man, enjoying all three titles. After going back to read Spider-Island (and being a big fan of Kaine anyway), I pretty much had to pick up Scarlet Spider #1. As a digital reader, Marvel didn’t exactly make that easy, but I did end up getting and enjoying the first two issues of this great series.

Summary (contains spoilers): The issue starts with Kaine dreaming about his origins and Jackal’s attempts to kill him.

The action cuts to Kaine in a cab, looking to make his way over the border to Mexico.  In the background, the hospital where he had dropped off Aracely (the sole survivor in a group of human trafficking victims) in last issue is on fire. Kaine  races back to rescue her.  He rationalizes this by saying that he can just deal with this and finally get a fresh start in life.

Inside the hospital, Salamander is burning the place up looking for Aracely.

Kaine arrives wearing his new black and red costume, rescuing Aracely and fighting Salamander. Kaine feels determined to kill Salamander, even taking a gun away from a cop and opening fire on Salamander.

Salamander cuts loose with a massive fire dragon and believes he killed Kaine.  Turns out, Kaine had insulated himself with webbing, and manages to take down Salamander. He wraps Salamander in webbing, at first considering leaving him to die, before ripping the webbing off his face so he can breathe. The people of Houston seem to be cheering for him.

He heads back to the hospital to check on Aracely, finding out that she might be deported. A cop and nurse tell him:

Kaine considers running, but in the end rescues Aracely from the hospital. The issue ends with Scarlet Spider deciding to try living in Houston as a hero for a while…and if it doesn’t work out, he could always flee across the border. The next issue box warns us, “Next: Everything instantly goes bad!”

Review: I promise not to dwell on this too much, but Marvel really made life inconvenient on this one. Scarlet Spider is only available on the Marvel-specific Comixology App on Android (and I assume Ipad). Not on the general Comixology App. And not from Comixology’s web site.  Which meant I needed to sit with my tablet on my lab while writing this review. It also made it difficult to get screen shots for this review.

I do understand the business model here: I go to the Comixology app or website, I need to look through 50 or so new books each week to find my books. Going to the Marvel app, all I am seeing when looking for Scarlet Spider is Marvel books. No chance of something cool like Thief of Thieves catching my eye and causing me to spend my money elsewhere. Still pretty damn annoying though. Digital should be MORE convenient not less so.

Despite my annoyance at all this, Scarlet Spider is definitely worth the aggravation. I love the idea that this book and character are truly the opposite of Peter Parker in just about every way. More aggressive, more willing to hurt or even kill the bad guys when necessary (though he did step back from that in the end, which was a nice touch), and more welcome by the city of Houston than poor Peter ever has been in New York.

I also found it amusing that Kaine had no problem just demasking where ever he was. Not like he has much of a secret identity to try and protect right now.

Salamander made for a pretty awesome first villain. Fire powers have been done often in comics, but it still felt like a major danger for Kaine through the issue. Kaine’s victory felt hard fought and well deserved.

I am curious where Salamander’s powers came from. He seemed to think they came from the gods, but I suspect there is a lot more to that story. Hopefully he will start to become a reoccurring villain for Kaine. Kaine needs to start building up his own rogue’s gallery like Spider-Man has!

Kaine’s struggles in how to handle himself and fighting with his own dual nature make for some terrific comic writing. Yost manages to take advantage of every bit of Kaine’s doubts. I liked the tease at the end where Kaine said, “If things go bad, I can always run across the border.” It’s clear that Kaine has no idea where his life is or where it’s going.  Probably more than any other hero in comics, the future is wide open for Scarlet Spider.

Just so I don’t come of as overly praising, I am getting a little tired of human trafficking as a plot point. It’s come up a few times lately in comics (Huntress) and TV shows (Leverage) I’ve seen lately. Yeah, it is something that provokes a reaction, but at the same time, it feels very manipulative towards the audience.

On the positive side, I also have to give huge props to the art team. I am not really sure where Kaine got this costume from (I was expecting to see him in the stealth suit he took from Spider-Island and get the costume from the cover later on), but it is just one hell of a cool costume!

And the fire effects from Salamander were beautifully rendered.

Scarket Spider is off to a strong start. It is different from anything else I’ve seen the Big Two put out lately, and Kaine makes for a great lead character. Houston is also shaping up to be a great setting for a comic story!  Really, you just can’t go wrong reading this one.  Highly recommended!

Final Score: 8.5 – A strong two-issue debut for Scarlet Spider. Definitely worth checking out!

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