Scarlet Spider has always been one of my favourite Spier-Man sub characters, and even more so when his former enemy (and clone) Kaine took up the mantle. However unwillingly. I recently reread the series, and so, as you can see, wanted to revisit an old column.
The series more than holds up.
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: The 2012 Scarlet Spider run.
I have always enjoyed stories about villains becoming heroes, struggling to atone for or come to terms with their actions; I’m a sucker for a good redemption story, I’ll admit. There’s something about somebody striving to earn forgiveness when surrounded by people who don’t believe in them I’ve always enjoyed.
With 2012’s Scarlet Spider we get almost the exact opposite of that. A man who just wants to disappear surrounded by those who inexplicably believe in him.
I originally added this to my pull list with its first issue way back in 2012, I had assumed that the Scarlet Spider in question was Ben Reilly in a new costume, and not Kaine. I’m sure had I been reading the Spider-Man comics at the time I’d have known better, but I figured this was a good place to jump on board – and I wasn’t wrong in that sense, but I was wrong about who was wearing the costume. So I settled in to enjoy a story about Spider-Man’s clone, and as I hoped I ended up loving the series.
But not for the reasons I expected. Instead of a heroic story featuring Ben Reilly, Scarlet Spider delivered something I wasn’t expecting – and ended up loving more than I thought I would given my initial expectations of who I was going to be reading about.
The story starts with Kaine trying to get to Mexico, having recently been cured of the cellular degeneration he was suffering as a clone (it’s a whole thing that’s explained in multiple stories and other resources), he’s seeking a chance to finally live his life free of the constant agony he used to suffer. But, as with any good story featuring a Spider, things inevitably get in the way of that and Kaine gets stuck in Houston, quickly becoming the city’s own resident super hero. The series was written by Chistopher Yost, who was joined by a variety of hugely talented pencillers, inkers and colourists throughout the series 25 issue run (there were also couple of specials and tie-in issues that bulk up the issue count if you want the whole story).
The full run remains one of my favourite Spider stories, in part because of the redemptive nature, but also because it’s just really good. But like all series that features a lesser known character it was cancelled because of low sales – though Kaine still pops up as the Scarlet Spider from time to time, and I will always try to grab those issues as and when I can. Scarlet Spider is a brilliant alternate to Spider-Man as we see a hero with, as the tag line so eloquently puts it, “all of the power, and none of the responsibility.” But Kaine is still a Parker, and as he begrudgingly accepts the responsibility of being the Scarlet Spider, we get to see a villain slowly change into (well, almost) a hero. However reluctantly.
This is a fantastic run, easily one of my favourite parts of my collection, but it’s one I don’t see getting the love it deserves – that’s why the book is Underrated.
Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.