The usual weekly reviews of the best comics for July 24th, 2013!
Books of the week: Scarlet Spider #19
The tag-line for this series, “all of the power, none of the responsibility” was meant to note that the series’ star – the reformed clone assassin, Kaine – was more of an anti-hero than Spider-Man would ever be. During the year and a half that this spin-off has been in print, however, many changes have arisen in its parent title. “Amazing Spider-Man” is no more (for the moment) and “Superior Spider-Man” has arisen with a deadly, murderous super-villain having successfully possessed the original wall-crawler. Next to the morally ambiguous “Morbius the Living Vampire” and the often violently unstable “Venom”, it can be hard to find a spider-hero who is terribly “responsible” these days. While “Superior Spider-Man” has become a story about an arrogant super villain who seeks to be a more efficient superhero to ease his own ego and self righteousness, Kaine remains the story of a violent guy with a bloody past who is trying to become a better man, albeit with a lot of stumbles along the way. To that end he’s quite similar to what once made Wolverine popular, which is likely why writer Chris Yost has chosen to pair the two together for this latest arc.
United with co-writer Erik Burnham, artist Carlo Barberi and a whopping gang of six inkers and colorists (often a sign of rush), Yost wraps up his subplot with the Assassin’s Guild from the previous issue as well as the start of the series last year. As predicted in the last issue, Kaine’s attempt to manipulate the berserker X-Man Wolverine into aiding in his war against the guild has led to the revival of the guild’s patron saint – the immortal “external” mutant Candra. Axed off roughly fifteen years ago, Yost and Burnham display quite a bit of continuity knowledge without it seeming impossible to follow for newer readers. All one has to know is she’s an old enemy of the X-Men who was seemingly destroyed ages ago who is now back and nastier than ever. Barberi seems to channel the kinetic flair of Paco Medina as he draws a chaotic battle between the murderous vampire-like Candra, two superheroes and the assassins caught in the middle. While it is quite violent, there does seem to be some attempts to hide the worst of the gore with some interesting camera angles and in the end, Wolverine learns just how much Kaine has been willing to wade into gray territory. The only downside is seeing Kaine willing to bargain with one organized crime ring to get out from under another would be more stunning had “Superior Spider-Man” not upped the bar for morally ambiguous spider-fare.
Kaine’s supporting cast is scarce for this issue, which is a shame as he’s developed a strong one. The main draw is on his team-up with Wolverine and how the two compare. While they’re similar in many ways, Logan has likely evolved to a point which Kaine isn’t at yet – which is understandable given that Logan is roughly two centuries old. This may not have been the best issue or arc of this series run, and even at best it’s nowhere near some works such as Mark Waid’s run on “Daredevil”, but it still offers an interesting take on a dismissed character, a unique setting, and high octane adventures.
Superior Spider-Man #14: Officially past the midway point of 2013 and the era of Dr. Octopus possessing Spider-Man’s body has continued farther than some may have initially thought. As longtime head writer Dan Slott continues along his new take on the wall-crawler, the series has entered an awkward phase in its life. To be blunt, the more extreme that Slott seeks to make “Spider-Ock” as an anti-hero (or anti-villain), the more absurd it becomes that none of Peter Parker’s cast, superhero allies or even random pedestrians haven’t clued on unless a story draft specifically demands it. On the plus side, more happens in this issue than in the previous two or three. Without the ghost of Peter Parker alongside him, Ock has shifted from trying to exist in the life he stole from forcing it to match a slightly different version of the life he once had. To this end, Spidey-Ock has a new (Alex Ross inspired) costume with mechanical tentacles, an army of giant spider-robots and a battalion of minions with matching spider-designs. His first demonstration of power is leveling “Shadowland”, the ninja style den in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen where Kingpin ran the Hand for a few years. The same public who used to be horrified when Spider-Man webbed up a mugger upside down in certain periods of print now stands in awe stricken glee as Spider-Ock leads a destructive bunch of “mecha” to blow up several city blocks and vows nothing but death to his enemies. J. Jonah Jameson, the current mayor who lives in a universe where the public embraced Norman Osborn as a savior despite being a convicted serial killer and domestic terrorist because he shot an alien on TV is now being blackmailed because he vowed to kill a super villain during a siege. And Kingpin proves to be more of a savvy judge of demeanor than MJ, Aunt May, or the Avengers. Humberto Ramos is back on art and as usual he excels on action and with bizarre designs, such as giant robots or Spidey’s new cybernetic suit. While the ending seems to mirror that of “Gangland” from “Spectacular Spider-Man” (circa 2009), this is a perfectly exciting action issue which removes one subplot while setting up more interesting ones. The fact of everyone Peter knew being this conveniently gullible is quite a whale to swallow by this stage, and it sadly seems to persist no matter what sorts of zaniness Slott dishes out.
Uncanny Avengers #10: The experiment to merge a team of X-Men with Avengers has splintered, as the new “Apocalypse Twins” have succeeded in splitting the team down the middle over issues of morality. Now Wolverine, Rogue, Sunfire and Thor are trying to track down the twins by picking on Apocalypse’ old lackey Ozymandius, while Havok, Wanda, Capt. America, Wasp and Wonder Man try to follow the twins’ tracks of destruction. With a new set of “horsemen” created of several dead characters from both franchises, this is the phase of the plot where a splintered team is picked off one by one. Rick Remender always has a flair for dialogue and narration, with Rogue’s perspective on Cap being quite interesting. Daniel Acuna’s art continues to stun, working with complicated designs and bombastic action alike and making it all look beautiful. Remender also seems to be playing matchmaker with his mingled cast, teasing “ships” between Thor and Rogue along with Havok possibly being in the middle of a love quadrangle. This remains an interesting team book although it seems to stick moments of brilliance within moments of functionality.
Young Avengers #8: Marvel have been publishing this series at a roll, either due to its cult status, dwindling mainstream sales or both; three issues have been published within six weeks. Writer Kieron Gillen and artists Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton (along with colorists Matthew Wilson) continue to produce their wild, madcap, and often fun and terminally hip teenage superhero series. This issue has more antics across dimensions, adorable munchkins, snappy banter, and one of those final pages which will light “tumblr” like a switch. One character from Gillen’s “Journey Into Mystery” run pops up, which may confuse those who haven’t read it. All of the characters have their own voices and Prodigy has slipped in seamlessly alongside them lately. While some of those voices may differ from how they were written in the past – namely, Noh Varr – they serve the purpose of making the series unique. This series may often be the poster child of flash over substance, but when the flash is this entertaining it hardly matters.
Another good read: Tomorrowland #1 from Titan Comics, which will get its own review post haste!