Scarlet Spider is back in this first issue of the long-awaited ongoing series by Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman. Being the first issue, it spends more time introducing the story and its characters than anything else. Fortunately, Yost’s writing style and Stegman’s art are enough to carry it until the story picks up. Just don’t expect a sleeveless blue hoodie.
Before you dive into a 90s nostalgia trip, let’s make sure you know what you’re getting into. In this incarnation of Scarlet Spider, the web-slinger under the mask is Kaine, not Ben Reilly, the most popular version of the character. Ben Reilly is still dead, but after the events of “Spider-Island,” Kaine is back, and his scars are gone. He’s got web-slinging abilities, and the ability to see in the dark, but no spider sense.
Kaine’s a reluctant hero, though. In this first issue, he’s trying to escape to Mexico with his newfound life. He’s not planning to “waste” his life being a hero like Peter Parker. For the entirety of the book, Kaine tries to convince himself he’s just happy not to be a villain. He keeps finding himself in situations where he can save people, though, and every time he does the “heroic” thing.
Despite Kaine saving lives, Yost makes it clear from Scarlet Spider’s first appearance that he’s no Peter Parker. His first lines are “Run away. Before I kill you all,” breaking Spidey’s number one rule. It’s all part of this being an introductory issue, and it lets you know exactly what the tone of the book is going to be from the very beginning.
If you’ve been following Spider-Man and company for the past year or so, most of this book will be a recap of what you already know. Yost spends a lot of time explaining who Kaine is, how he came to be, and how he came back from the dead. Even though Marvel tried to introduce this series in a short story in their “Point One” issue, the book may have benefitted from a full-blown intro issue, like Rick Remender’s Venom book had with Amazing Spider-Man 654.1.
To Yost’s credit, he explains everything from the 90s “Clone Saga” to last year’s “Grim Hunt” to this summer’s “Spider-Island” in a few pages. It’s all told through a Kaine monologue, but it doesn’t feel like it slows the book down much, as it all reflects back on the present. It puts a perspective on Kaine’s current situation, while he’s talking about the past.
While Yost’s story doesn’t get to start moving at it’s full pace just yet, Stegman’s art is good from the start. His style is perfect for a Spider-book in the same universe as Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man. It’s less cartoony than Humberto Ramos’ exaggerated character features, but retains the personality. Scarlet Spider is a book that’s darker than Amazing Spider-Man, and Stegman’s art style is a perfect fit for it.
His characters have clear facial expressions, and most panels are drawn from dynamic angles. It’s rare for a panel to be drawn straight on to what the focus of it is. Add this to Stegman’s already-stellar pencils, and not a single panel is boring or expendable. Instead, he makes every panel count. He doesn’t waste any space on the page, and even his negative space is important.
Aside from his general pencil style, his layouts are creative. There are a couple scenes where smaller panels are drawn onto the side of a building, with Kaine attached to the side of the building.
Scarlet Spider #1 is more exciting because of what it is than what’s actually in it: it’s the start of a new series starring a character loved by almost everyone who was a Spider-Fan in the 90s (even though it’s Kaine instead of Ben Reilly), and it’s got two incredibly talented creators attached to it in Yost and Stegman. This first issue is, for the most part, a basic introduction, but it’s one that shows a lot of promise. On top of my pre-existing love for the character, there’s enough in this issue to hook me in for a while. I’ve got faith in Yost’s writing and Stegman’s art.
I just wish there were more sleeveless blue hoodies.