The weekly harvest of the best comic books from August 28th, 2013!
Book of the week: Scarlet Spider #21
It is easy to capture the imagination of long term Spider-Man fans across the internet with a cover such as the one displayed for this issue; the current Scarlet Spider and the original one from the 90’s locked in combat. The previous Scarlet Spider was Ben Reilly, the original “Spider-clone” created in 1975 but who rose to prominence from 1994-1995. That is also when the deformed clone Kaine was introduced, who has since gone on to reform and take up the mantle for this spin-off series to “Amazing Spider-Man”. Writers Chris Yost and Erik Burnham and artists Carlo Barberi and David Baldeon (along with two inkers and colorist Chris Sotomayor) join forces to kick off another arc which puts Kaine through the ringer as he faces all of his darkest fears at once.
Often times when sales on a series start to dwindle, issues “double ship” to help writers wrap up stories before the cancellation axe falls. To this end, this is the second issue of “Scarlet Spider” in a fortnight which comes off a brief two issue team up with “Superior Spider-Man”. After quite a few issues in New York City having adventures with Wolverine and Spider-Man against the Assassin’s Guild and his creator the Jackal, Kaine is back to his established territory in Houston, Texas. Unfortunately, the “cellular degeneration” which plagued Kaine and addled his mind throughout much of his life seems to be back, driving him into a deranged fury against his supporting cast. He then comes under attack by the original Scarlet Spider in the rain, as the rest of his cast seem to be taken down one by one. In the end the entire operation is a ruse by one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies, which builds to quite an exciting climax. The artwork by Barberi and Baldeon is at its finest with the kinetic action sequences, and Yost is wise to take what could have been an aimless team-up and utilize it as a prelude to putting his star through the ringer.
It is difficult to completely review this issue without quite a spoiler – the real Ben Reilly does not actually return. Despite many Marvel Comics brass claiming that the 90’s “Clone Saga” remains unpopular and hated (which it was at the time), they also employ many mixed signals with seeking to utilize it to promote new stories. This very series sparked attention with the name “Scarlet Spider” and this cover naturally will jazz up desperate Ben Reilly fans lurking on the internet. It is easy to have pity for a vocal minority of fans who keep getting jerked around like this. However, laying bare Kaine’s insecurities with deadly hallucinations gives a lot of order to the previous issues and amps up the drama for the next issue accordingly.
With the cancellation of “Venom” announced earlier this week, the months many be numbered for this series as well, which doesn’t sell much higher. Disregarding some hiccups of mediocrity, “Scarlet Spider” has been a terrifically entertaining and oft overlooked superhero series, and it will be a shame when the inevitable happens with it. As always, it is best to appreciate such books while they last, and this issue kicks off what could be one of the series’ best arcs yet.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #25: “City Fall” marches to its fourth installment from writers Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman, with art by Mateus Santolouco and colors by Ronda Pattison (with layouts by Eastman as well). Escalating the conflict between the Turtles and the Foot Clan as well as paying homage to the original 90’s Mirage Comics arc “City At War”, the writers have shown that none of their heroes are safe and that they are once again willing to pay homage to the past of the franchise while forging ahead with new territory. Following a vicious ambush which left Casey Jones hospitalized and Raphael furious with himself, Leonardo has been brainwashed into becoming the Shredder’s right hand ninja. This not only forms an uneasy alliance between enemies Splinter and Old Hob, but earns the ire of Karai, who has been demoted in status within the Foot due to the old world sexist philosophies of the Shredder about a male heir (her angst and plans regarding this were embellished in a micro-series issue last week). While there is a bit of action, this issue is more of a character piece covering virtually all of the major players in how they are reacting to this shattering of the status quo. Santolouco works well in tandem with Eastman’s layouts and of course gets a lot of diverse characters to draw from the mutants as well as the “Savate”, a rival crew of organized criminals from France who employ the kickboxing style of that country. The stage is set for conflicts across three fronts (the Turtles, the Foot, and the Savate) and the end result is certainly going to be thrilling. IDW Comics continues to school its “main two” contemporaries with its skill in relaunching a well known franchise in as entertaining and unique a manner. The balancing act of pleasing long term fans with new term fans is a delicate thing, but this series executes such things effortlessly.
Super Dinosaur #20: If it seems like it has been a while between issues, it is only because it is; the previous issue shipped at the start of May. Artist and co-creator Jason Howard has often struggled with a monthly schedule, and it could also be that writer and co-creator Robert Kirkman has become busy with higher priorities (such as other comics that sell better, and a TV show). This series continues to offer “all ages” action with much of the tight serialization of many more “mature” comic books. Derek Dynamo and Super Dinosaur test out some new gear on another mission against one of Dr. Dynamo’s old friends as they desperately seek to wake up Derek’s mother from a coma. Meanwhile, deadly new enemy Tyrannosaurus-X unites more of the “dino-men” under his banner. The art is great and this continues to be a fun, lighthearted action series which seems destined for an animated adaptation somewhere. Given how low sales have been, it will remain to be see how much longer this series will be profitable to its creators.
Uncanny Avengers #11: Wolverine seems to get crucified on covers so often, one would think he was trying to be a messiah. Rick Remender and artist Daniel Acuna continue along their story about the destruction of a unity team between the X-Men and Avengers before it has begun. The “Apocalypse Twins” have successfully divided the team by resurrecting several figures from their past and using them as not only a brute squad, but as psychological tormentors. Much of the issue is spent on the twins trying to convince Scarlet Witch to use their powers to separate humans and mutants with a new “rapture” while the rest of the team battle for their lives. It would be easy to sympathize with Wolverine, although the character’s so many appearances across the Marvel Universe for years which often contradict each other tend to make the words of his enemy ring truer than intended. As always, Acuna’s beautiful artwork is a draw in itself, while this story mixes between action and harsh words among characters. There is always a lot to like about Remender’s work here, even if there seems to be an element missing which keeps it from greatness.
Young Avengers #9: The plucky series which has taken Tumbler by storm continues onward with its unique and over the top style. Kieron Gillen and artists Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton (with Matthew Wilson on colors) once again join forces to produce a comic unlike no other in terms of visual style and spunky dialogue amongst its characters. The dimensional chase after a Patriot imposter comes to an end as Hulkling and Prodigy are rescued from the clutches of the dimensional parasite “Mother”. Wiccen and Hulkling come to a tragic road bump to their relationship as Loki continues to lead the team on flights of fancy. The plot itself is quite loose but in the end this is a series more focused on showcasing characters (namely Loki, Wiccan, and Hulkling) as well as winning over reads with flair and style. On the plus side, a spare “young X-Man” in Prodigy has entered the cast seamlessly, even if it is a shame that former franchise character Speed has apparently been sacrificed to do so. Books which don’t seem to “matter” in terms of crossover events struggle to find readers, but one hopes its cult status will earn it more rope, much as it seems to have done for “Fearless Defenders”.
Additional good reads: Acrane Secrets #1 (which was reviewed early) and Tomorrowland #2, which will be reviewed next!