Scarlet Spider #15

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 02 April 2013

Okay, so thus far, we've had a story in which a young girl with psychic powers, who may or may not be the reincarnation of an Atzec sun god, is being chased by a pair of mutant werewolves siblings.  Meanwhile, the clone of Spider-Man, having just been killed by said werewolves, gets brought back to life with a mystical full-body makeover courtesy of a totemic spider deity.  Um...yeah, comics can tend to get a little weird.  Even so, "In the Midst of Wolves" has been surprisingly enjoyable thus far, so let's see whether the conclusion lives up to the expectations that have already been set in place.     

THE STORY
We open with Aracely hiding in a dumpster from the Lobo siblings, hoping in vain that the stench from the garbage bags will hide her scent.  She thinks about how Esmeralda Lobo called her by her full name--Maria Aracely Joesphina Penalba de la Heras--and the Coyote they work for.
 
As she does, we get a flashback of events prior to Scarlet Spider #1 in a Mexican desert, where Aracely gets brought before an old man in a suit accompanied by a wolf or coyote.  The old man is called “Mr. Moctezuma,” and Aracely demands to know where her parents are, and Mr. Moctezuma claims that her parents only want the best for her, that they asked him to do this, and that they will join her soon.  Aracely is then loaded into the cargo bay of a semi-truck--the same one Kaine had found her in back in issue  #1--and Mr. Moctezuma orders his men to leave the truck out in the desert for a day before delivering it to Roxxon.  When one of the men states that Roxxon needs live test subjects, Mr. Moctezuma says that “the Lobos have much more the gain from him, and much more to fear” and that Aracely has to die before “it” can begin.  As the immigrants in the truck scream for help, Aracely calls out for her parents, but instead hears a voice that says “You will survive this.  And then you will make the world bleed.”
 
We then resume events in the present, where Aracely is calling out for Kaine, even though he knows he’s dead, when she then sees a lone spider looking right back at her.  Without warning, the dumpster’s lid rips off and Carlos Lobo, in werewolf form, pulls her out, enraged over Aracely making the street gang attack them.  Esmerelda Lobo states that Carlos should kill her after all when suddenly, thousands of spiders pour out of the dumpster and the Lobo siblings look up to see Kaine in his “Other” form perched on a large web saying one word: “Prey.”

Soon, spider webs are all around them, and the Lobo siblings can’t get a scent on Kaine because he and the spiders share the same scent.  Kaine appears again and rips Carlos' eye out.  Then, shooting webbing from his finger tips, he pulls and wraps up Esmeralda.  Esmeralda transforms into a werewolf and tears herself free, saying she and her brother have fought monsters before, that they have seen Mictlan, and that he’s nothing compared to what is coming.  As Kaine seemingly vanishes again, Aracely thinks that while she wants to run, she cannot leave Kaine, as she knows that he’s still in the Other somewhere.  But as Kaine reappears again and attacks the Lobo siblings, Aracely starts to feel the Lobo siblings fear and the savagery from Kaine, and she realizes that there’s nothing human left in whatever Kaine has become.
 
As Kaine proceeds to web up Esmeralda again, Carlos leaps on Kaine, pinning him to the ground.  Suddenly, four spider legs emerge from Kaine’s back and one of them impales Carlos in the chest.  As Esmeralda screams, Kaine says to Carlos “Killed me” and then…tears Carlos’ right arm clean off!  Esmeralda leaps in, pushes Kaine out of the way, and escapes with her mortally wounded brother in her arms.
 
Aracely, frightened and hesitant, approaches Kaine, who is feasting himself on Carlos' arm, asks him what is he.  Kaine turns around and says “Prey” and attacks her.  Soon Aracely is trapped in a web and as Kaine approaches, Aracely tries reach out to him with her powers, telling him he doesn’t have to be afraid.  It doesn’t work, and when he grabs her by the throat, Aracely reminds him that he came back for her, that he’ll always be there for her, and for him to come back now.  Kaine lets her go, then rips off his own skin and becomes human again, naked and looking just like he did when Aracely first met him, with long hair and a shaggy beard.  Kaine tells her his human form isn’t him, that the thing that he’d became and tried to kill her is the real him now.  Aracely assures Kaine that she can never be afraid of him, that he could never kill her.  When Kaine says Aracely doesn’t really know him, she says he’s wrong, that she’s always known what he is…her champion.
 
We then see a montage of the next few days after.  Aracely gives Kaine a haircut and shaves off his beard.  Kaine returns to the tattoo parlor to get the same tattoo, as it had disappeared along with all his scars when he transformed.  Then we see Kaine, Aracely, along with Donald, Wally, and Annabelle out to dinner; the narration tells us that only Aracely knows about Kaine’s transformation and acts like nothing has changed.  Finally, we see Kaine in the bathroom of the restaurant, looking into the mirror.  He says he no longer struggles with whether he is a monster or not, because he now knows he is one.  And in the mirror, we see the humanoid made of spiders from last issue.

Then there's three more panels.  First in New York at Lennox Hill Hospital, where Julia Carpenter/the new Madame Web, is still in a coma with her daughter, Rachel, watching over her.  Julia then whispers “Kaine.”  We then see a pair of glowing red eyes “Between worlds” and a voice that says “Spider.”  Then we go to “The End of All Things” in which a man on a throne overlooking a floor covered in bones who says “The Other has ascended.  The Culling will soon begin.”

Then we head back to the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston, where a sleeping Aracely dreams.  Someone whispers her name and we see the same Aztec masked man from issue #13 say “Mictlan Rises.”  Then a hummingbird.  Then Aracely holding a human heart against her face saying “The Sixth Creation comes.”  Then, she wakes up, eyes glowing red and says “It requires blood.”  Then she floats in the room and says “We will make the world bleed.”

In Mexico, we see Esmeralda tending to Carlos’ wounds, when Mr. Montezuma and his pet wolf arrive.  Carlos pleads with Mr. Montezuma, saying that he promised him and his sister they would see their brother again.  Mr. Montezuma says he did and that Carlos can now join him and literally sucks Carlos’ soul out of his body.  As Esmeralda tries to attack, Mr. Montezuma has her in a choke hold, telling her that the hummingbird is alive and that Aracely needs to be dead for the sixth creation to begin.  Esmeralda begs for another chance, but Mr. Montezuma tosses her aside, telling her that Aracely already knows, that he can feel that Huitzilopochtli is awake, that he will come to kill him for what he did to him.  As a group of group of six seemingly super-powered characters (no idea who they are) enter the room, Mr. Montezuma declared he will be ready for Huitzilopochti, the girl, and Scarlet Spider.

THOUGHTS
To borrow a phrase from one episode of the NBC comedy, Community, which the Superior Spider-Man recently made reference to, this issue was “crazy-town banana pants.”  Granted, I’ve read crazier comics than this one, but not many of them result in repeated open and visceral exclamations of disbelief like this one did.  Which is in this instance, was a very good thing.

Much of the issue, of course, consists of Kaine in his Other form battling the Lobo siblings, and the result is the most intense fight scene of the series to date.  With the aid of Khoi Pham very much illustrations, Chris Yost makes us see just how primal and ferocious this “Man Spider” Kaine truly is, and the effect is both frightening, exciting and just sheer unadulterated badass.  It’s a temporary look for the sake of the story, but given that this is a significant develop for Kaine, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing him in this form in future issues, as the concluding pages of this issue seems to suggest.
 
Likewise, Aracely has also under gone a figurative--and perhaps also a literal--metamorphosis as well, as many of the puzzle pieces that make up her mysterious origins have now been fitted into place  Although, given how much she’s tied into Aztec mythology and what Yost appears to be hinting at, I have feeling her demise is only a matter of time, and that the supposed big bad in Mr. Moctezuma may actually believe he has to kill Aracely to save the world.  Which, while understandable, would be a bit of a shame as I think this issue and storyline has further cemented Aracely as one of the most fascinating, mulch-faceted supporting character of the series.             
   
Using a much derided story like “The Other” as the backdrop is, without doubt, controversial fans Spider-Man fans, much like the series itself being rooted in the much more contentious Clone Saga.  Yet once again, Chris Yost is able to turn what amounted to the rock-bottom moments of Spider-Man history into something which feels right at home for Kaine and his world.  Overall, I think Yost took a big risk with “In the Midst of Wolves” and it’s paid off enormously.

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