Scarlet Spider #6
If you had told me ten years ago that a comic book titled "Scarlet Spider" that starred Spider-Man's clone would be my favorite Spider-Man comic book, I would have laughed in your face and told you to get out of my house. And yet here we are.
Since he has virtually no history worth worrying about ruining, Scarlet Spider really is the best Spider-Man on the market today (sorry Ultimate Spidey, get your story moving and we'll talk). The comic follows Spider-man's resurrected clone as he travels to Houston, Texas trying to escape the specter of the original Spider-Man and his legacy (if only Marvel would just give up and do the same...). Of course, the clone, Kaine is his name, does have some history and that past seems to be intent on tracking him down and taking him out. Never mind all of the new trouble the Scarlet Spider is getting into in his new city.
The great thing about this comic is that it captures the charm of the single issue story, but also seems interested in telling a bigger broader story. Kaine is surrounded by potential supporting characters that are diverse and interesting. Perhaps the most compelling is also the key to the overarching story, a young lady named Aracely who he saved from almost certain death at the hands of a firebug called Salamander. Aracely cannot remember anything about her past, but she seems to have some empathic abilities and can, at the very least, mimic other talents like language. She is tied to Kaine as her rescuer and her only hope of solving the riddle of her identity. She may be a plot point, but she also has a lot of charisma and provides an interesting counterpart to Kaine's reluctant hero.
Most of all, though, the comic is simple and fun. You want to like Kaine because he is haunted by a past isn't his and he is trying to find his own identity while coming to grips with the rest of the world around him.
This latest issue sees the Scarlet Spider hunted by Kraven's daughter, Ana, who appears to be setting him up for bigger problems in the near future from her, sadly, resurrected father. The battle with Ana is the action part of the issue, but the character work between Kaine and Aracely is what makes this issue great. The fight is prelude to what is coming, but what makes the book worth reading is the character development that goes on around it. I have always maintained that character and plot are what make comics, and stories of all stripes, great. Intense art and big battles are great, but if they lack smart writing they are useless fluff. Scarlet Spider does a great job of balancing the strong foundation with the glitzy spectacle. Not only that, but for six issues it has featured some of the best covers in comics today thank to the talented art of Ryan Stegman.
If you want to read a good Spider-Man comic set in the regular Marvel Universe, Scarlet Spider is pretty much your only option.
Raised Eyebrow of the Week
I only first saw an ad for this last week. I'm not sure why, but Marvel seems to feel the need to ALWAYS crossover popular Ultimate Universe characters with their regular universe. I think they are hoping that the freshness of the Ultimate characters will revive their stale, inept attempts at storytelling with the older character set. It never works. If you don't believe me, see what happened when they crossed over the two Fantastic Fours. (damn shame too UFF was great...)
So when I saw the ad for this crossover, I was instantly skeptical and I would have passed on it entirely, but my trusty comic shop owner decided that I needed to read it anyway and put it in my holds. ("holds" refers to the subscription service most good comic shops offer to their regular customers to ensure that they get the comics they want each week. Some even come with a discount, do you hear me Daniel Thompson, owner of the Zone Comic Shop in Louisville, KY...ahem...)
This issue dealt almost entirely with the Marvel Universe Spider-Man and as such was pretty ho-hum. (I skimmed the first 8 pages without reading a word, I missed nothing) What was cool was that Ultimate Mysterio seems to have popped up in the regular MU and is planning something. Spider-Man unwittingly stumbles upon him and mistakes him for his Mysterio and they tussle. During the battle, Spidey is sucked into a vortex that leads to the Ultimate Universe. I like that they are giving a legitimate and relevant excuse for the crossover and not just a throw away. Sadly, that is where the coolness ends because...
Once in the Ultimate Universe Spider-Man apparently forgets that he has ever been in an alternate universe before, despite having been to hundreds of them, some as recently as a year ago during an annual crossover with Hulk and Deadpool. But, I suppose Marvel feels the story needs Spider-Man to be an idiot for the story to work, so as soon as he arrives he acts like he is totally lost and confused. This is why and where Marvel has lost their way. Why not bring Ultimate Spider-man into the regular MU and have him be totally lost and confused? That would work. This does not. I guess Marvel feels that all of their long time fans that have made them so great are just too stupid to notice that the character they love so much is acting like a complete moron. Either that or they are so worried that new readers are too stupid to pick up a story, even an issue one, with a character that isn't as clean as a blank slate. Whichever it is, Marvel insults the intelligence of anyone who reads this comic.
And you can save all of your arguments about new readers, because they spend a whole page introducing things to new readers and welcoming them. Furthermore, Marvel knows who its audience is, there is a Father's Day ad in this comic aimed at fathers, NOT their kids. Let's face it, Might Marvel is growing weak and old, and even though they were the comics publisher of my childhood, they are showing that they no longer understand the things that made them great in the first place. Spider-Men #1 demonstrates this fact all too well. Will I get issue #2? Maybe. Why? I still like the Ultimate Spider-man and I am curious as to what this encounter will do to his character. Sadly, I will have to tolerate my childhood hero to do that...