Spider-Verse has been crawling along for a few weeks without much direction so far. It started off well-enough but the utter proliferation of tie-ins has just about killed it for me. I’m hanging on only for a few characters like Gwen Stacy, Jessica Drew, Kaine, Ben Reilly, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir and a few others but other than that, I’ve been feeling rather underwhelmed by the entire event. There are some gems in here for sure, but I think what this event needs is some strong narrative direction rather than focusing on each character on his or her own.
This week’s Scarlet Spiders #1 brings together three clones of Peter Parker for a short-lived adventure set in Spider-Verse. Kaine, Ben Reilly and Ultimate Jessica Drew are sent on a mission to a world identified as the one where the Inheritors are cloning their bodies (Amazing Spider-Man #10 I believe). Writer Mike Costa is at the helm of this series and he makes this first issue an absolute joy, bringing together three of Peter’s more famous clones, even as artist Paco Diaz makes them visually stand-out in a great way.
This first issue involves Team Clone heading to the dimension where the Inheritor Jennix maintains vast cloning facilities. Their mission is to cause as much disruption as possible and remove cloning from the enemy’s arsenal of tricks. For me, this was one of Spider-Verse‘s most exciting releases, and it is nice to see that Mike Costa seems to really get all these characters and that he is able to tell a fun story that has humour as well as some seriousness to it.
Here we have Kaine aka Scarlet Spider (Marvel-616), Ben Reilly aka Spider-Man (of his own dimension) and Jessica Drew aka Black Widow (Ultimate Universe). These are the characters that we follow in this mini-series, and the interesting thing about them, as mentioned above, is that they are all clones. Clones of Peter Parker to be exact. As such, the expectation is that each of them would echo some part of Peter’s own personality, but the reality is different, and in a good way too.
I’ve followed Kaine in the New Warriors book for a few issues, and he definitely stands out as a character on his own, with his own attitude and personality and way of doing things. And both Ben and Jessica here echo that in their own way. To say that they are facets of Peter Parker is a disservice to the characters, and it is nice to see that Mike Costa writes along the same lines. There are contrasts between the characters, but they also stand out as unique characters.
The issue is also about them bonding together and they seem to get along without the usual ego-pumping, which is extremely gratifying to see since most team books, especially new ones, seem to go along that cliched route. Scarlet Spiders #1 breaks out of that rut and it focuses on everything that makes the characters who they are.
The whole mission against Jennix seems to be a decent one at best, one that doesn’t move the overall Spider-Verse plot forward, but that’s fine with me right now. Since the mini-series is only on for 3 issues, that is indeed a concern, but in the first issue, I’m willing to look beyond that since Mike also needs the first issue to establish the characters and get comfortable with them.
With the next issue I definitely want to see some advancement of the plot, so that the story becomes more about the larger event rather than just something entirely self-contained, but for now I’m having fun.
Paco Diaz is the artist here with Israel Silva on colours, VC’s Travis Lanham on letters and David Nakayama on the cover. For the most part, I really liked the artwork here. Paco’s characters are a bit too gaunt at times with some of their features needlessly exaggerated, but each character has a different body language, and the facial expressions are really good. Plus I love Jessica and Ben’s costumes. On the cover side, David’s art is a bit flimsy since he chooses to emphasize some features in a particular character and de-emphasizes features in another character, but it is still a good, decent composition.
Great start to the mini-series!