Scarlet Spider #5: Race Against The Clock

Houston is about to be engulfed in a nuclear explosion. Unless a maniac like Kaine can put a stop to it.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Scarlet Spider #5

Scarlet Spider #5 is a stand-alone issue – and a high-octane one at that from ace writer Chris Yost and solid artist Neil Edwards.

We open on a crazy car-chase shoot-out with our ruthless anti-hero swinging down onto a speeding van, tossing one of the occupants cavalierly into the street and oncoming traffic and crashing the thing brutally. As it turns out, the reason Kaine is being so hard about this is not because it's a Tuesday, but because there's a dirty nuke out there threatening the entire Houston area he's reluctantly started calling home, and he's on the clock to track it down and end its threat.

As we've seen in previous issues, Kaine may be genetically identical to Peter Parker, but he definitely doesn't approach problems the same way, given that he's spent most of his short, warped-clone life as a deranged killer. When interrogating the van driver, Kaine threatens to tear his eyes out, threatens to kill his family and stabs something through his hand to get whatever information he can, which puts him at odds with Officer Wally Layton of the Houston PD, his pseudo-partner who has a problem with his methods. Problems that Kaine thinks are asinine and naive. The banter back and forth between them is funny and intense as their nerves get more and more frayed with trying to find this bomb – set by a right-wing extremist group called The Watchdogs trying to make a point about illegal immigration. Said banter even includes Kaine discovering that the news refers to him as "The Scarlet Spider," a development he laments as divine punishment.

Weird developments in this issue that I don't have answers for include A.) Does Kaine carry around weird bony talon-looking things to stab people with now? B.) When did Kaine gain the ability to telepathically connect to all spiders in a city-wide radius? Is that Spider Island fall-out and I'm forgetting? and C.) Who is Daisy Johnson and when did she become director of SHIELD? What book aren't I reading that would've told me that? (A quick Wikipedia search indicates the answer is "Bendis"). For that last question, we also get a panel showcasing Battle Scars Nick Marcus Johnson Fury and Phil Coulson, although it's mildly hilarious that after making a big deal about getting a NIck Fury who looks like Samuel L. Jackson, Coulson doesn't look a thing like Clark Gregg.

Regardless, Scarlet Spider #5 is still a fun pseudo-buddy-cop story with a breakneck pace, highlighting just how differently Kaine works – including wanting to give up every time they hit a dead end and flee for their lives, and irritably yelling at cops who are trying to be his friend and encourage him to actually be a quality good guy. The fact that it takes place in Houston, so far removed from the central Marvel happenings, with a hero so scattershot in his morality and capability means that when the stakes are this high, you can more easily buy into the possibility that he's going to fail and everything's going to explode.

That's why this series works. It's entertainment with a fresh edge.