scarlet_spider_20_cover_2013superior_spider-man_team_up_2_cover_2013Clones. I hate those guys.

Ever since Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body, started calling himself the Superior Spider-Man and violented himself up, it was only a matter of time before somebody put him face to face with Kaine, the Scarlet Spider – the version of Spider-Man who was already violented up. After all, the comic reading public has since proven that they will pay to see different versions of Spider-Man tuning each other up. It started with The Amazing Spider-Man #149, back in October, 1975, the first time Spider-Man fought a cloned version of himself, and continued, on and on, through the creation of Venom, and then Carnage, and then the return of that original Spider-Clone. And then the Clone Saga.

The Goddamned, everfucking Clone Saga.

Anyway, there wasn’t a hope in hell of getting through this Doc Ock incarnation of Spider-Man without someone spending some time having him knock around, and get knocked around by, Scarlet Spider. And frankly, I wasn’t looking all that forward to it; again, only 15 years ago, Marvel had one Spider-Man punch another, and they spent the next year and a half dragging it out until they all but knocked the title’s dick in the dirt. So in my mind’s eye, I was expecting a multi-issue extravaganza, dragged out over weeks if not months with big fights and constant wondering who the real Spider-Man was at any given time.

So imagine my surprise when the inevitable fight between these two guys was done in just two issues, both available on the same day, with some decent believable interplay between the two, and a common enemy to fight.

Of course, that enemy is The Jackal, who started the whole damn clone business in the first place. Oh: and a bunch of other clones.

Dirty, stinking clones.

scarlet_spider_13_cover_2013I’ve kinda lost track of what’s been going on in Scarlet Spider over the past few months, but this week seemed like a good time to jump back in for a couple of reasons, the first being that, with the recent events in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Superior Spider-Man, I had a taste for a story about a Spider-powered hero who isn’t a reincarnated vainglorious blowhard… and it takes a lot to make a story about a spider-clone to seem like a palate-cleanser.

The second reason was that the book’s recent Minimum Carnage event is over. Don’t get me wrong: not having read the event, I really can’t address that there was anything particularly wrong with it per se, but once I heard the title of the event at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I had a problem with half of it. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t “minimum.” Suffice it to say that, when it comes to Carnage? Yeah, not a fan.

So Scarlet Spider #13 is my first jump back into the title in some time, and my first time back with the character since the closing events of The Amazing Spider-Man. And this is gonna be a strange review because of it, because, coming back into the book immediately after reading those events, I’ll tell you this: if there aren’t plans to cross the Doc Ock version of Spider-Man over, at least briefly, with Kaine? Either The Superior Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, or Scarlet Spider writer Christopher Yost, or both, aren’t thinking things through.

Editor’s Note: With great spoilers must come great responsibility. More or less.

Okay, so Peter Parker is “dead,” and Otto Octavius is Spider-Man now. Whether you agree with how Dan Slott did it or not, it’s the way things are for the time being. And given that Spider-Man appears regularly in four different comic books that I can think of off the top of my head, if you have any intention of following Marvel Comics – particularly the Avengers books – for the next year or so, you’re going to need to come to terms with this new Spider-Man, and get to know what Otto’s like now that he’s Spider-Man, and what makes him tick. You know, besides being suddenly able to walk, see his own junk without a mirror, and leer at Mary Jane (and make no mistake, it will just be leering; if you follow Dan Slott’s Twitter feed, you know that he’s bought himself enough trouble without setting himself up to be confronted by women in red wigs at every comic convention, asking him why he supports date rape via deception in his comics).

Marvel Editorial, possibly realizing that killing Peter on December 26th and leaving readers to wait two weeks for the debut of The Superior Spider-Man on January 9th would only give the most rankled ones more opportunity to figure out how to plant hooker toes on Slott and then dime the police, made the decision to give us the first real taste of the new Spider-Man in Avenging Spider-Man #15.1, released this week in parallel with The Amazing Spider-Man #700.

So: what do we get in our first full issue of Doc Ock as Spider-Man? Scenes of a former villain embracing the responsibility that comes with his newfound power? Or does he frantically masturbate to Pete’s iPhone gallery of Mary Jane pictures before going to the barber, handing over his favorite bowl and saying, “Just follow this”?

Okay, I finally get it. Scarlet Spider is for people who want to buy both Spider-Man and Wolverine, but only have three bucks a month to throw around.

Make no mistake: this isn’t me screeching that Scarlet Spider is a bad comic book, because it isn’t; it is reasonably well-executed with a decent story, plot, characters, and pretty good art. But in its DNA, this is a book for the rare and nihilistic comics reader who says – presumably while listening to “classic” Limp Bizkit – “You know what would really make Spider-Man an ageless comic book hero? If someone would just write him as a stab-crazed, nearly-remorseless dickhead.”

This issue finds out protagonist being attacked by a bunch of ninjas out for revenge over the fact that, in his past as a lone, non-affiliated killer, he refused to pay allegiance to their clan. The ninjas have a bunch of superpowers, the fight goes public, the hero fights dirty, stuff explodes, dudes get kicked, and a lot of people get maimed in a visceral yet entertaining manner. All of which makes for an exciting comic book, but it makes an exciting Wolverine comic book. All of this feels a little weird when it’s happening with a guy in a Spider-Man suit.

Amazing Spider-Man #680 was good and fun enough that this week’s immediate followup of issue 681 was the first book I pulled off the stack yesterday, despite the cover that, if you remove the planet Earth from the background, looks like a frame grab of a Spider-Man / Human Torch bukkake flick. Seriously: if that’s how people look in hard vacuum, we now know why HAL wouldn’t open the pod bay doors: because it’s fucking hilarious. They look less like they’re suffering from asphyxia than like they have a pube caught in their throats. I could go on, but rumor is there’s a whole comic book behind this cover.

Writers Dan Slott and Chris Yost have delivered what is still a big, fun comic book, but in no way will it make you smarter. In fact, you’ll need to turn off large parts of your brain in order to fully enjoy it as the high-budget b-movie that it is. The science in this issue makes Michael Bay’s Armageddon look like Nova with Neil Degrasse Tyson.

The Amazing Spider-Man #680 is a buddy flick set in a zombie apocalypse occurring in space. If you walked into a movie studio executive’s office with that pitch, you’d be thrown out on your ass. Unless that executive worked for the Sy-Fy channel. In which case you’d be given their largest production budget to date: 75 bucks. Although they might go up to an even hundred, assuming Tiffany and / or Lorenzo Lamas was available.

My point is that this comic book is a big, glorious mess where I’m sure that the one “splorch” sound effect in tne book represents the sound of writers Dan Slott and Chris Yost throwing absolutely every plot idea they can think of at the wall… and it all sticks. I can almost picture those two guys saying, “Spider-Man… we bring in The Human Torch… and put them on a space station… what can they fight, what can they fight, what can they – space zombies! Now let’s write, but first: let’s take this TV apart!”

Like some kind of demonic Energizer Bunny, Fear Itself continues to chug along, now in the guise of The Fearless. Sure, The Serpent is gone, Thor is dead and Odin has fucked off for points elsewhere, but Sin, the daughter of the Red Skull, still has daddy issues and she wants them addressed right friggin’ NOW! Damn it, people! Some jerk took her special magically evil hammer that daddy surrogate, The Serpent, gave her and she wants it back. That is her toy and she sure as hell isn’t going to let Valkyrie or anybody else play with it. Nope, not when she can throw a tantrum and have a bevvy of bad guys go do her bidding to go get the hammer back for her.

Hair pulling, slap fights and spoilers, after the jump.

Scarlet Spider is going to be a hard book for anyone who read comics for a long time before the Spider Clone saga to read with any level of objectivity. I’ve just now written and deleted a bunch of reasons why that is, but what it comes down to is that if you spent your 1980s adolescence reading books like The Dark Knight Returns, Mage: The Hero Discovered and Watchmen, the logic in the 1990s was simple: if ($_spider + $_clone) {($_comic == shit) && ($_comic_dollars_spent == 0)}. Sure, there are people crawling out of the woodwork now defending the Spider Clone saga, but there were also people who begged for conjugal visits with Ted Bundy; we call whose people cranks on a good day and apeshit crazy on a bad one, and we don’t generally entrust either with important things like firearms, or the editors’ desks of major comic books.

Long story short: I have not been looking forward to Scarlet Spider.

So I was prepared a few weeks ago to pick up the first issue, summarily review it and probably discard it… except by the time I got to my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me if I’m such a hotshit writer about comics how come I don’t rank free advance review copies, it was already sold out… and this was by Wednesday evening. Which proves that despite my personal prejudices, someone was looking forward to this book.

So this week, I was able to get my hands on Scarlet Spider #2, and even at face value, I wasn’t excited about it – I mean, look at that cover. The center focus is the hero’s crotch with a bisected stone behind it, making it look like Scarlet Spider either has The Thing’s wang or that he is literally shitting a brick.

With all that said: Scarlet Spider #2 is actually a decent comic book. The character work is engaging, and I actually enjoyed it… even if I think it’s all presented in a way that isn’t going to be sustainable in the long term

EDITOR’S NOTE: This final review of last week before the comic stores open contains… I’m not sure “spoilers” is the correct term… howsabout “reckless speculation?” Nah, we’ll stick with spoilers. We’re fucking OG that way.

So being an American hero runs in Battle Scars protagonist Marcus Johnson’s family, and people think his father can’t die. That conventional wisdom is that those statements mean the smart money’s on his dad being Nick Fury… but since plot credit to this book includes Matt Fraction, it really could be anyone. Because no one can die in a Marvel comic by Matt Fraction.

Battle Scars has been the most – if not the only – interesting spinoff from the Fear Itself event, the story of an Army Ranger whose mother was killed during that event, and who returns home for the funeral to find he’s extremely popular with S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America, and Taskmaster. In this third issue of the six-issue miniseries, Johnson discovers that he is also popular with everyone in the Marvel Universe with a gun and a Swiss bank account. This month, that includes Deadpool, and thank God, because he almost never appears in comic books these days.

We here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives have decided that, no matter the cost, hardship or obstacle, we will attend and report on next year’s New York Comic Con. Because we feel that we have a responsibility. A responsibility to you, to us, and to every comic book reader who lived through the last 35 years of comics publishing. To prevent anything like THIS from every happening again:

Marvel then showed off the teaser already seen of the burning hoodie of the Scarlet Spider. “What’s this?” [Manager of Sales & Communications Arune] Singh said for [Spider-Man Editor] Wacker to respond “The worst costume ever!”

…and when they came for the people who fucking hated the Clone Saga, there was no one left to speak up.

Sorry, that was unnecessarily pessimistic. Hell, they made FUN of the Scarlet Spider, right? Maybe things’ll be okay, right? RIGHT?

That exchange prompted the announcement of a new “Scarlet Spider” ongoing by writer Chris Yost and [penciler Ryan] Stegman.


*deep breath*

Okay, let’s all calm down. Maybe this isn’t all bad. Maybe they’re bringing the Scarlet Spider back to make fun of him. It could happen! Maybe they’re making Ben Reilly the Forbush Man of the Spider-Man books! It’s a light-hearted gag! They can’t possibly be taking this seriously, right? RIGHT?