Scarlet Spider #9

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 29 September 2012

So let's see: Kaine, aka the Scarlet Spider, decided it would be a good idea to have sex with a woman named Zoe whose life he saved, only to learn that not only was she the cause of her own predicament but is also the mentally-ill daughter of Roxxon Oil's unscrupulous CEO, David Walsh.  This then lead to Kaine not only being in Roxxon's crosshairs, but also hunted down by the Texas-based superhero team, the Rangers.  And now, he, Zoe, and the Rangers are on an oil platform, having stumbled upon Roxxon's illegal human experiments, and a gigantic energy monster.  So how can our "hero" get out of this quagmire he's stumbled himself into?  Well, let's find out, shall we?  

THE STORY: The issue opens at the Historic Pleasure Pier in Galveston, Texas when there's suddenly an offshore explosion, debris raining down on panicked-stricken bystanders.  We then cut back to Kaine, Zoe and the Rangers at the Roxxon Refinery, face-to-face with the monstrous energy being from last issue.  As The Rangers try to stop the out of control Mammon, Kaine tries to wrap his head around how he ever wound up in this mess, thinking he's going to kill Peter Parker and everyone else who pushed him to be a better person, and that all he ever did was save Zoe from falling off a building.

As the creature bursts through the facility, taking out Fifty-One and Firebird, the head scientist at the facility attempts to get away, only to be stopped by Kaine and two of the Rangers, Shooting Star and Red Wolf, forcing him to reveal what is really going on.  The scientist explains that one of their oil rigs had tapped into an unknown, self-sustaining energy source under the Earth's crust which was dubbed "Mammon."  However, when they tried to extract it, the energy caused an explosion that resulted in the deaths of eighteen people, and yet it took a single man to contain it.  That's when they learned that Mammon was actually a sentient being that needs a host body to sustain itself.  David Walsh saw even more potential value in this, and thus brought in more test subjects--primarily Mexican immigrants--but Mammon kept getting free more quickly, killing the hosts in the process, thus explaining the burned bodies Kaine and the others had found last issue.

Just as the scientist is finishing his story, Walsh along with a fully-armed squad of armored soldiers burst through.  Walsh orders them to find his daughter for her to be sent back to the asylum, and to kill all the heroes for trespassing.  Kaine, Shooting Star, and Red Wolf fight them when Mammon breaks through, blasting at the soldiers with energy from its mouth, with Kaine saves Red Wolf from being incinerated.  Kaine then sees the host body floating in Mammon and, realizing he's about to become just like the other hosts, jumps at the creature and--going through him--grabs the host out of Mammon.  The host is still alive, but Mammon says something in a strange, unknown language and increases in size.  The Rangers regroup, and Fifty-One attempts to communicate with Mammon and reveals (with Living Lightning translating his blank speech) that it wants a new host.

Meanwhile, Zoe angrily blames her father for everything that's happened, while Walsh tells her she's going back to the doctors and her medication.  Mammon then charges at them both and none of the heroes can get to them in time.  Walsh, however, pushes Zoe out of the way as Mammon enters his body, thus making him the new host.  
Kaine comes up with a plan, and tells the Rangers to distract Mammon.  As the Rangers attack, Kaine jumps at the possessed Walsh, getting Mammon angry enough to chase him and leading him away from the others and towards the large oil reserve tanks.  Kaine then shoots webbing at Walsh and pulls him out of Mammon just as the creature charges.  Kaine leaps out of the way at the last minute as Mammon hits the oil tank, causing a massive explosion.  As the smoke clears, the Rangers see that Mammon is being contained and absorbed into the oil.  Just when they think Kaine has perished, he emerges from the wreckage, carrying Walsh's unconscious body.

When then get a series of wrap-ups.  We're told by Kaine that the Rangers were able to put out the fire and the Roxxon ground crew contained the oil trapping Mammon.  Walsh is alive, but unresponsive, and is taken to the hospital with Zoe not leaving his side.  Roxxon then covers up the incident by removing all evidence of their experiment, and Kaine and Rangers meet the new acting CEO, Todd Hamilton, and Kaine takes an instant dislike towards him, saying how Roxxon is the real Mammon compared to the creature they accidentally unleashed.  

We then cut to Kaine and the Rangers on the roof of a skyscraper.  Texas Twister promises they will keep an eye on Roxxon and promises to bring them down the moment they mess up, even though Kaine points out that the Rangers tried to stop him from doing just that.  Twister counters by saying that, because the Avengers Initiative is no more, the Rangers are all the American Southwest has for immediate protection, and recruits Kaine into their membership.  Kaine, however, wants none of it, and punches Twister in the face, telling the others he came to Houston to get away from other superheroes.  As Kaine leaves, Twister tells him that he now is responsible for keeping the people of Houston safe, which of course, really gets under Kaine's skin.

The issue closes at the Houston Medical Center, with Zoe at her comatose dad's bedside.  She tells him to wake up so that she can tell him that she loves him, and that all she ever wanted was for him to love her too.  Zoe, as Walsh's heir, now controls the estate, and promises to use her inheritance to find the Scarlet Spider and make him pay for what he did to her father.  And we see that she has been drawing in a sketch pad Kaine's unmasked face.

THOUGHTS: See follks, this is why superheroes never, ever, ever sleep with random strangers that they save--because they just might turn out to be emotionally unstable, crazy people who can turn on them at a moments notice.  At least Spidey had the good sense to keep his mask on while hooking up with the Black Cat during Brand New Day! (Wait a sec--I'm actually defending that?)

In all seriousness though, this issue--and the overall story--was your standard, but very entertaining, team-up issue, very reminiscent of the early days in which Spider-Man joined forces with the Avengers.  In fact, Chris Yost seems to deliberately invoke these parallels, particularly whenever it came to the interaction between Kaine and Texas Twister, the later of whom has a lot in common personality-wise with Captain America.  We also see signs that Kaine, whether he likes it or not, is becoming a lot more like Peter Parker than he would openly admit.  Not only is putting other people's lives ahead of his own, but instinctively displayed what could be described as "scientific intellect" to stop Mammon, much like Spidey himself.  And while his reasoning for refusing membership in the Rangers is different from the reasons Spidey initially refused membership in the Avengers for so many years, Kaine also chooses to be a loner by choice.  Kaine may want to be his own man, but he's beginning to realize that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" as it were.

Granted, in terms of plot, this was essentially something right out of a B-list "creature feature," with of course the evil coorporation, blinded by their desire for big profits, unknowningly unleashes a monster which potentially threatens all mankind (not to mention the fact that the monster in question is named named after the term used to describe greed in New Testament is none too subtle either).  Nevertheless, there's an intriguing call-back to the very first issue, as this seems to imply that Aracely may have been intend to be another one of Roxxon's test-subjects used to contain Mammon.  Likewise, that Zoe, now bent on revenge, knows exactly what Kaine looks like and the fascinating ramifications that could entail, considering how both Kaine and Peter Parker have the same DNA.  Remember how much trouble Peter got into when he was mistaken for Ben Reilly?

In terms of the art, it's pretty much the same as last issue--Khoi Pham gets the job done, but it doesn't nearly have the same punch as Ryan Stegman did.  I pretty much echo the sentiments from one of a writers in the letters page, that while Pham is decent, Stegman had an obvious chemistry with Yost's scripts that helped to define this title and he needs to come back.

All in all, this three-parter is worth the read, especially in light of the introduction of Zoe Walsh into Kaine's life, and how she has become a potentially dangerous new foil for both the Scarlet Spider AND Spider-Man in the near future.  Of course, depending on what will happen with Peter in Amazing Spider-Man #700, such a potential crossover will be put on hold.  Although next time, we're getting one with the other Spider-Man spin-off, Venom, for the much-hyped and long-awaited mini-event: "Minimum Carnage."


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