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Scarlet Spiders # 1 review
Spider-Verse: The Widow
This issue takes place after the events of Amazing Spider-Man # 10, following, Ben Reilly, Kaine and Ultimate Jessica Drew ( Clone). When we last saw them, they jumped into the portal where Daemos' second body came from along with the twin inheritors. Realizing that the second Daemos body must have been a clone, they, being clones themselves felt the need to stop the cloning, to increase their odds of winning the fight against these inheritors.
The three however are shocked to see that the world from which the evil inheritors came from was peaceful, orderly, and beautiful. Ben, being pretty much a perfect clone of Peter is obviously the more carefree, fun loving one of the three. He immediately wants to check out this new world, but is stopped by Jess, who reminds him that they are in their Spider Suits.
While Ock's cloaking device can hide their scent, their costumes would be noticed by anyone looking for them. Kaine finds some hospital gowns for his two siblings. He doesn't need a costume since his costume can go invisible.
While Jess questions at first if Kaine's costume can cloak his stronger pheromone smell, Ben, being the Spider-Man of his world assures her that if Kaine's suit is anything like the suit he made on his world, Kaine should be fine.
The clones find themselves in some sort of cloning facility where human clones ( not inheritors) are being made. They are also being brainwashed by a repeating visual recording of Jennix, leader of the Inheritors. The clones are soon discovered however, and end up having to fight some heavily armored security force.
After a lengthy battle, with each using their individually unique skills and abilities to fight the security forces, Iron Man appears at the scene. Ben is at first delighted to see him, not at all aware that this is not a friendly Iron Man. Jess immediately realizes the danger but is unable to alert Ben before Tony attacks him, knocking him out. Kaine, being invisible later attacks Tony and knocks him out with ease.
The scene changes to Jennix, who is naturally sitting in his evil chair, just like all bad guys often do. He is delighted at the news that there there is spider activity in numbers, thinking to himself what a great feast he will have.
Ben awakens, after a few hours, to find that Jessica had removed Tony's armor (having been taught by her Iron Man how to remove his armor) and tied him up. Ben, refusing to give up on Tony tries to talk some sense into him, but soon realizes that it is pointless.
Kaine is willing to try other methods to get Tony to talk and spill the location of the Inheritor;s clone incubators. No torture is necessary however as Tony gladly reveals that the place they are looking for is the Baxter Building, convinced that they will die there.
Things take a slight turn however when Johnny Storm comes in, recognizing Peter Parker ( Kaine actually), and begins asking Iron Man ( Ben) what's going on.
This was a great team up issue for the clones. It has been years since we saw any form of proper interaction between Ben and Kaine. Unfortunately, this issue, though featuring the two, did not have the kind of interaction I was looking for. The star of this issue was obviously Jessica Drew of the Ultimate Universe.
While Kaine was often portrayed and the almost mindless bloodthirsty beast/ muscle of the team, and Ben portrayed as the easy going fun guy, Jessica seemed to be the only character representing some brains in the team.
One thing that I did not quite like about the issue was how Ben was portrayed to be a dumb ass. He somehow was unable to come up with any useful plans, was unable to sense any danger, got knocked out by Iron Man after one shot, and simply blundered around the place following his team mates. Being the perfect clone, I suppose he was supposed to represent the embodiment of everything good in Peter Parker, which he does perfectly. Unfortunately it makes him look a little silly in the process.
This may have to do with the title being Widow, implying that the main character, who's abilities would probably be most highlighted and written to be most useful would be Jessica Drew. Perhaps, and hopefully the second and third issue will focus more on the usefulness of Kaine and Ben in the story.
In the earlier issues, we saw familiar characters whom we know in the inheritors world, just being portrayed very differently. In this issue we saw Tony Stark and Johnny Storm, both who seem to be working for the bad guy as well. Up to this point, the clones think that everyone in this world are clones, brainwashed and taught to serve the inheritors without question.
It will probably come as no surprise that the rest of the Fantastic Four will also appear, seeing that it is the Baxter Building that they have broken into.
Also, seeing that everyone in this world seems to be working for the inheritors, it's quite likely that even the Peter Parker of this world is also working for Jennix, explaining why Johnny would be so surprised to see him ( actually Kaine) in captivity.
Finally, throughout the entire issue, there is a mystery narrator, observing and commenting on each of the three clones, pointing out their skills, abilities, past, and weaknesses. It may be the Master Weaver, but up to this point, we are still unsure of who this narrator is...
Then again, I might have missed an obvious clue about the identity of the person.
The Power of Positive Thinking:
The Vultures pin Ben to the rooftop. Still confused, he asks what they are. Noir Vulture replies that they are hungry while Natale prepares his acid spit. Thankfully, help arrives in the form of two more Spider-Men, one of whom plants his foot in Natale's face. That spider is the mysterious Old Man Spider of Earth-4 (clad in the Last Stand outfit from J. Michael Strazynski's run on Amazing Spider-Man), and his teammate is none other than Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham (yes, he is a cartoon pig). Old Man Spider orders Ben to get up, saying that this is not a dream, but Ben's more preoccupied with the fact that Porker is a cartoon pig. Old Toomes knocks Spider-Ham over the edge of the building, declaring that his mistress Verna will make their agonies last hours for disrupting her hunt. Old Man webs that Vulture and yanks him back while Spider-Ham saves himself by clinging to the wall. Much to Reilly's surprise, Old Man breaks Toomes' arm and tosses him aside, leaving him to be devoured by the other Vultures.
Congratulating Ben on his last-minute rescue of them all, Spider-Ham asks how he managed to move. Ben replies that this is nothing compared to when he was possessed by the Carnage symbiote, but Old Man Spider cuts him off again, saying they need to go now. Ben asks if they should call the cops on the Vultures, but Old Man responds that they should just leave them, as Verna will deal with them more harshly than the police ever would. Ben expresses reluctance in leaving his city unprotected from Verna, but Ham assures him that the Inheritors are just interested in Spiders, and as this worlds Peter Parker is powerless, there will be nothing to keep her there once they leave. The three Spiders exit Earth-4 through the portal and arrive on Earth-13 in Central Park. As Ben introduces himself to the other spider-powered heroes there, Spider-Ham quips to Old Man Spider that he's seen puppies less jaded than him, even suggesting they find a version of Reilly that has had a rougher time of it. Old Man says that he would have agreed with Ham an hour ago, but now he's not so sure as Ben Reilly was able to overcome the paralysis when neither of them could because of his optimism, which means there might be things he can do just because he doesn't see losing a possibility. Spider-Ham argues though that if Ben doesn't understand what he's going up against, he'll get "smoked. honey baked, even". Old Man replies that if the future this Ben has in store is anything like his other selves, then death at the hands of the Inheritors would be a mercy killing. "Anyway" he says, "we're all dead men walking. At least he'll die among friends", as the Cosmic Spider-Man of Earth-13 re-joins the group to welcome their newest recruit...
The Luck of the Parkers:
Sneaking into the hospital through the vents, Six-Armed Spidey enters the lab in order to find Lil' Pete's bloodwork. It doesn't take him long to find it and he sets about looking for the chemicals he needs to make his plan work. Noir meanwhile is still keeping watch, noting that he doesn't remember his aunt and uncle ever looking so young. Suddenly, "that tingling sensation" occurs within Noir's head and Lil' Pete begins to stir. Unfortunately, he's the source of the danger, as he starts convulsing, smashing the nearby medical equipment, mutating into a large Man-Spider. Noir informs Six-Arms of this over the transceiver as May & Ben back away, terrified for their nephew. Before the Man-Spider can harm them, Noir crashes through the window, webbing his hairy counterpart and dragging him outside and up to the roof.
"Lil' Pete" continues to mutate, becoming strong enough to rip through the webbing. Noir tries to get through to his alternate self, urging him to stay calm, but is forced to dodge the Man-Spider's attacks. Six-Armed Spidey enters the fray at this point, expressing his surprise at how "Lil' Pete" isn't so little anymore. Using his speed to confuse his opponent, Six-Arms manages to get behind the still-mutating Man-Spider and inject him with a syringe containing a formula he had been whipping up in the lab. The Man-Spider grabs Six-Arms and hurls him at Noir, who remarks in his thoughts that it's like trying to catch an octopus. As the pair land on the floor, Noir draws his pistol and points it at the Man-Spider, saying he's doing what he'd want someone to do for him. Six-Armed Spidey stops him however and tells him to look, as the Man-Spider starts moulting, his hairy, spider-like skin peeling off to reveal good-old, regular Peter Parker underneath. He falls off the roof as he returns to normal, but is quickly saved by Six-Arms."Lil' Pete briefly regains consciousness, but quickly passes out again. A quick scan from Six-Arms shows that he is actually better than okay, as he now has no traces of "Spider-Essence" in him. Six-Arms webs Lil' Pete a cot, muttering that "the crazy serum actually worked", which confuses Noir as he thought that was Six-Arms' plan.
The pair are then forced to hide when Aunt May and Uncle Ben arrive, along with a security guard and a doctor, who confirms that their Peter is going to be okay. As they watch from the shadows, Noir asks Six-Arms what he meant by "sure, but" when he was talking about the serum. Six-Arms reveals that, while he had hoped the serum would work, it was a gamble as it was similar to the one he made to wipe out his own powers, but had instead given him his extra arms. Since Lil' Pete is younger and the spider-DNA hadn't completely altered his cells, Six-Arms had figured that the odds were in his favour, and thankfully, he was right. Since there's now nothing there to draw the Inheritors apart from themselves, the two Spider-Men leave the dimension, with Noir musing that, while he doesn't know what their "superior" will think, he's considering this one a win, because now, at least in one reality, the Parker family has a happy ending...
The Luck of the Parkers meanwhile is a more sombre tale. Here, by having Uncle Ben survive because Peter reacted badly to the spider-bite, Roger Stern makes the slightly depressing point that, if Peter Parker had never become Spider-Man, then his life would be a happier one. There's definitely a reflective tone as well at the beginning, when Noir & Six-Armed Spider-Man watch "Lil' Pete" from his hospital bed. Stern does a great job with this pairing of Spider-Men. Noir is a more hardened superhero, having skirted closer to the darker side of vigilantism as well as living in a tougher time period, and therefore views things more in black and white. Six-Armed Spider-Man meanwhile understands that, like his own physiology, things are more complicated. Despite the smaller scale of this story, it feels like there's a lot at stake. There's a real motivation here for these Spider-Men as they have a chance to ensure that, at least in one reality, Uncle Ben lives and Peter Parker has a "happy ending" and the fact that they succeed makes this story a heartwarming one. The cousins joke then is quite fitting as you get the sense that they feel an almost brotherly sense of responsibility to their younger alternaverse self. Despite the downbeat tone, this story isn't without a sense of humour. I love the running gag of Six-Armed Spidey calling Noir "Bogart", as well as Noir's reactions to present-day technology (he'd probably faint if he lived in 2099 for a day).
As for the artwork, Dave Williams covers the first story and he does a really good job with it, giving the story a real '90's' look in the panels, though some of them are a bit lacking in detail. I do like how he draws the Spider-Men though Bob McLeod's work meanwhile, while very polished and modern looking, also feels evocative of the period of Spidey which Stern worked on, which gives this story a vague sense of nostalgia that goes along well with the core premise. All the Spider-Men (and pigs) here look great. Ham looks perfectly zany and, as a small touch, I like the almost sinister shape of Old Man Spiders eyepieces as it suits his serious demeanour.
Though it's pretty minimal in it's contributions to the overall plot of Spider-Verse, this issue is still essential reading for Spidey fans and a whole lot of fun...
Here in Amazing Spider-Man # 10, we also see more of Lady Spider, whom I did not notice before. Lady Spider was among the characters featured in Spider-Verse # 1, whose back story was among the more interesting ones.
I also have to note that this is the Superior Spider-Man from the past, a time when he had not yet lost to the Goblin, or admitted defeat, naming Peter as the more Superior Spider-Man. As such, this Superior Spider-Man is going to be a real pain in the ass and will probably end up going back to the 616 earth with no memories of how he had finally humbled himself. The Spider-Men are dealing with the Superior Spider-Man at the peak of his ego.
Finally... who or what is the Scion?!