Open Mike Night: Scarlet Spider #16 & Ten Grand #1


Scarlet Spider #16

Written by: Chris Yost
Penciled by: Khoi Pham
Inked by: Pallot & Olazaba
Colored by: Antonio Fabela
Lettered by: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Maillaro: You know, my biggest complaint about Superior Spider-Man is that Marvel already has a perfectly good comic starring a morally-challenged Spider-Man in Scarlet Spider. The biggest difference is that Scarlet Spider (who was known as Kaine during the Clone Saga) is about someone who really doesn’t want to be a hero or villain, he just wants to be left alone for the part part and keeps getting dragged into crazy situations where he needs to prove himself.

In this issue, some friends drag Kaine to a rodeo, which comes under attack by a very drunk hero named Armadillo who is looking to win back his ex-girlfriend. Booze and rodeo….always a good combination…

I actually wish Marvel has made this issue a .1 issue, because it was a pretty decent jumping on point for this series. It was pretty stand alone, and did an excellent job showing off the strengths of this title. I am real curious what you thought about it. I’ve been following it from the beginning, and was a fan of Kaine long before this title even came out…

Weaver: Sometimes I wonder what kind of long term comic fan I am, because every week it seems I’m left saying, “I’ve never read a comic with this character before.” And that’s true of Kaine here. Although, sadly, I have read many comics with the Armadillo.

I liked this comic a lot. I immediately got into the supporting cast, I immediately knew everything I needed to about Kaine, and the silly situation at the center of it was fun. I like a comic that can give me some drama, some humor, some ongoing plot, and then some punching in the middle of it. This comic delivered in all cases, and also got me up to speed fast. I do feel that I don’t quite get Aracely yet, but she’s the only one, and I feel like longtime readers might also have that issue. She seems intended to be not completely understood, almost a Layla Miller.

Maillaro: Yeah, I have read every issue and Aracely is still a “what the hell” to me most of the time too. A few issues she was being hunted by werewolves, and there has been some kind of Incan mythology tied into her story too. It’s all a little much, but for the most part it works well in the context of the rest of the comic.

I really liked that this story creeps up on cliche a few times without ever quite getting there. It constantly feels like it manages to bring something new to the table. Armadillo’s actions seem kind of nuts…I get “doing it for love” but there were moments where it felt like just a little bit more would have pushed this issue over into lame or corny. But Chris Yost keeps the tone and balance just right. I actually said “Awwww…” out loud at the end of this comic, and there wasn’t any sarcasm when I said it.

You know…I have read comics for a long, long time…but I don’t think I have ever read a story that involved a rodeo. One thing I was really hoping would come from the post-Civil War “Fifty State Initiative” was more things like this, but that seems to only happen a handful of times.

Weaver: To be fair, Armadillo was also drunk (I love the tiny beer bottle in his hand), depressed from losing his job, plus his women issues. People do some strange things in those situations.

Ha, I’ve actually read a comic with a rodeo in it! Way back when, I used to read Hulk a lot, and he went around the Southwest doing his thing. One time, and this was one of my favorite issues, he ran into some trouble and so Rick Jones got out his old ham radio and tried to call the Avengers for help. Instead, he got a bunch of people who were used in one or two issues of random other Marvel titles (including Avengers) to establish “the characters are in Texas.” Basically, the Texas equivalent of Bat-Hombre or what have you. Two of them, Texas Twister and Shooting Star, worked at a rodeo. So it was featured for a page or so.

I agree with you on the 50 state initiative, wasted potential. Especially considering that titles like Hulk and Ghost Rider used to come up with local flavor all over the place as part of their main characters’ journeys (Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, at least…never read the Ketch one). The other problem with it was things like sending Hellcat up to Alaska where basically she was just going to sit in limbo until someone forgot she was in Alaska. I love each individual state, I’ve been to most of them with eight exceptions, but I know that not all of them can pull off needing superhumans. It’s like the Interstate Highway in Hawaii. Yes, it needs to be there because each state has to be allocated x amount of interstate funds. But there’s no way that you could say it fulfills the purpose of an interstate, much like a superhero in Alaska can’t fulfill the purpose of being a superhero. Wait, that could be a story in itself…the Alaska superheroes desperately trying to justify their existence.

Maillaro: I remember DC once made a joke about the Justice League of Antarctica, which I always loved the idea of. Ship the crappy heroes off to Antarctica…sure they are technically on the Justice League, but FAR, FAR away from anyplace they can cause trouble. Hmm…I wonder if I can get a job for a Teachers Union in Antarctica…

4/5 for writing on this issue.

I also thought that Khoi Pham did a great job with the art here. Marvel really should consider putting him on Superior Spider-Man for maximum exposure. I especially loved the expression on Kaine’s face when he dons the cowboy hat and gets dragged to the rodeo, and I fell in love with Annabelle in the cowgirl outfit. HOLY CRAP!

There were a few panels that kind of looked off, like the news reporters without faces (I think they were refugees from Captain Marvel…), but thankfully they were the less important stuff. The main characters and main action were drawn really well.

By the way, am I the only one who loves that an interracial couple (well, ex-couple in this case) can show up in a comic and it’s just no big deal. Yey for progress!

Weaver: I think that was the basic idea of the Great Lakes Avengers in some ways too. Because in Detroit, the weak are killed and eaten.

I’d agree with 4/5 on the writing. It was very solid. As for the art…I was going to bring up the faceless characters too. What I’ve been told is that typically, the main artist won’t both to detail the faces of anyone but the main character(s) in a panel, and some artists won’t detail anyone. It then falls to the inker to cover up all of those by adding in faces to it. In some cases, the inker will intentionally not do all the faces, for one of a variety of reasons, but he clearly doesn’t just “forget.” Is there trouble brewing on this creative team? I don’t know. I’m going to give it a 3.5 because of little issues like that, but yeah, Annabelle in the cowgirl outfit earns above a passing grade alone.

Maillaro: 3.5 seems fair to me too. I actually am glad you enjoyed this book this much. I had no idea how you were going to react to it. Like Morbius, I think it is one of Marvel’s books that people just barely even know exist.

Weaver: I didn’t know it existed. Heh. But it was really good, and I may look into the rest of it.


Ten Grand #1

Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Art by: Ben Templesmith
Lettered by: Troy Peteri
Published by: Image
Cover Price: $2.99

Weaver: Okay, Ten Grand. I’m generally a fan of JMS, Midnight Nation is a comic I often lend to people who are skeptical about comics being “art” outside of the holy triumvirate of Watchmen, Sandman, and V For Vendetta. I was looking forward to this a great deal. It’s the tale of a former hitman forced into life as a righteous avenger after being killed by demons. Dying a righteous death is the only way he can see the love of his life again, and then only for five minutes before being resurrected to go out and do more righteous stuff. It sounded pretty promising.

But this story just kind of falls apart at the seams. Everything feels off throughout it, to me, almost like JMS is going through the motions and not really putting a lot of effort into it. The characters barely get any kind of distinctive feel, in my mind, the sole exception being a scene at a strip club, and even that falls apart for me when he’s offered a sexual favor at waaaaaaay too cheap a price to be something even a low rent stripper would believably say. Kind of took the moment of that scene and torpedoed it.

Maillaro: I always love when we disagree about a book, and it looks like this will be one of those instances.

I actually think JMS managed some heroic feats in this book. There was a ton of ground to cover, and he basically managed to get it all laid out quickly and clearly. I was expecting a lot more “mystery” to what was going on, but everything was spelled out extremely well. I don’t think this was a perfect book, but I definitely felt it achieved everything it needed to.

I also disagree about the “blow job” being too cheap. The stripper was under angelic possession just a moment prior, and the money had sacred markings on it. So we don’t know what she thought she was agreeing to when she said “twenty bucks more.” She wasn’t necessarily agreeing to $25 bucks.

Weaver: To me, it read like coming out of the possession to deliver one of your typical stock lines, an attempt to recover your usual stance, including apparently twenty dollar blowjobs. I didn’t like the conversation with the girl he was doing business with either, it felt like she had too little emotion throughout it and he kept obsessing about the way younger people sometimes speak. She might as well have been reading about her sister’s disappearance from a newspaper.

With the whole thing about judging the money by weight and then returning it, I actually liked that touch. Obviously, ten thousand dollars can weigh several different amounts, especially if it’s scrapped together from various sources. This was a valid way to say he wasn’t ever planning on taking the money while still making sure it showed up in some form to keep up people who weren’t serious.

Maillaro: See, that is actually exactly what I loved about this book and Joe. He just didn’t seem to care too much about “doing the work.” He was more obsessed with the trivial, and going through the motions. And I think the end of the comic sort of spelled out why. Only way he can redeem himself is by making up for his sins. Most of the work he’s going to get, even from those serious enough to bring the ten grand, isn’t going to be enough to help his situation all that much.

When he realized that he had a connection to this case, suddenly he tuned in entirely. It was real subtle, but I loved how much we learned about Joe from this whole conversation. I really think you aren’t giving this book nearly enough credit!

Weaver: He tuned in because he essentially just shit a brick. I don’t think it really had anything to do with how he can be redeemed, it had to do with the fact that he was scared as hell. Yeah, that does tie into his overall story, but anyone is going to have a reaction to seeing the demon spawning dude he thought he’d killed back around. And in this case, more than seeing it as a path to redemption I saw it as abject fear.

I do have to say that I like that the heavenly forces are pretty jerky too. Each time he dies he gets FIVE MINUTES. FIVE. MINUTES. Before he gets Leisure Suit Larry’ed back into the world. I don’t know if I’d take that deal in his place, though. They’ve already told him there’s a glass ceiling and where it is, and they seem content to torment him, which in turn enables him to torment them too.

Maillaro: Yeah, I thought it was kind of messed up she kept talking about righteousness when she was a total evil manipulative bitch.

I would definitely give the writing on this book a solid 4/5, mostly for the degree of difficulty, and that I think JMS built himself a real strong platform to build this series from. I also think this book’s format will work well in his behalf. The whole premise of Ten Grand (and the other series in the Joe’s Comics umbrella) is that they are justing tell the story that needs to be told and then end or (at least hiatus for a while). It’s not intended to be long sweeping series where the author is forced to drag things on just to keep the series alive. Image really has been a fertile place for idea experimentation the last few years, and Ten Grand feels right in that proud tradition.

Weaver: I like a story with a beginning, middle, and end as much as the next guy, but I’m not totally sold on this beginning. That said, I find that it’s at bare minimum average, so I’ll toss it a 2.5.

The art…what to say about the art. There’s a lot of different styles that go through this book, and they set up the different parts of the narrative well. The color palette changes a lot to tell us where we are. But the penciling and inking gets a little sloppy at times, and that sometimes harms the overall look. I’m going to give it a 3/5 because they’re at least swinging for the fences.

Maillaro: I was real undecided how I felt about the art about this book. I definitely didn’t love it, but like you said, I did thing it did a great job of setting the scene and helped the reader follow the many time jumps and scene changes. It was a little too stylized for my taste, but I did think that it was trying to do a lot at once, and succeeded much more than it failed. A 3/5 is a very fair score, so I think I will match you on that. Nice to see we came to some accord on this one.


Postscript:

There wasn’t a lot jumping out on the ship list for next week that felt like “must review.” So we will probably do a few retro reviews next week…we’ll get back to you then.


Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
Scarlet Spider #16 4 4 3.5 3.5
Ten Grand #1 4 2.5 3 3

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