So now that we are back to our regularly numbered issues, the solicit for this particular story promises us that questions will start to be answered about how Kaine somehow came back to life at the end of "The Grim Hunt" storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #634 to #637, and the explanation behind his altered powers. And based on the cover, somehow it's connected to...werewolves?! Guess we might as well try and figure out what this all means as we get into Part 1 of "In the Midst of Wolves."
The issue opens with a pair of gang-bangers in the Greenspoint neighborhood of Houston, who, after busting into a warehouse, find a well-dressed man and woman--the same pair from the end of Scarlet Spider #12.5--welcoming them, dead bodies strewn on the floor. The man and the woman, who call themselves "The Wolves," tell the two gang members they need their help in finding "a girl."
We then cut to a bus terminal, where a guy is about to take a young immigrant girl and force her into a life of prostitution when Kaine attacks. The girl is too frightened to run as Kaine beats the guy to a pulp, so Kaine, noticing her fear, gives her money and sends her to a church. We read from the narration that Kaine wishes he can do more for her, but that he already has his hands full with looking after Aracely. We also read that Kaine wishes he could do more to stop the trafficking, but it seems like no matter what he does, it's never enough. We then see a montage of Kaine over the next five days trying to break up the traffickering ring and save young girls, wondering if efforts are futile and what Aracely is doing.
We then see Aracely in a field of flowers. She says that she knows the place is Aztlan, the paradise found by the "seven tribes" when they "left their caves." We then see a fox tell her that "the fifth creation is ending" and Aracely responds by saying "Mictlan rises" as the field of flowers turns into an arid wasteland of bloodied corpses. Then the fox and a man with a cane and bowler hat tell Aracley she shouldn't be here, while another man in Aztek garb (who we learn is "The Coyote Man") tells her she's the "left-handed hummingbird" and that she "will be consumed." As Aracely runs, she trips and sees a man being crushed by a snake and a woman pinned to the ground with ceremonial knives. The man tells Aracely that she cannot do what she needs to do alone, that she "requires a champion." The woman reveals that she is Aracely's mother, that they'll be together soon, and that Aracely belongs in Mictlan now because she's done terrible things. Suddenly, Aracely gets grabbed by the Salamander (the villain from the first story arc of Scarlet Spider) who tells her the wolves are coming for her and that "Mictlan rises." Aracely wakes up from her nightmare with a scream and Annabelle runs in, crying. Apparently, Aracely psychic powers made Annabelle experience the same dream, and Annabelle says they need to find Kaine.
Meanwhile, we see the Wolves in their limo along with one of their victims. The woman, Esmerelda, asks her brother, Carlos, what he wants. Carlos tells her he wants their brother, Eduardo, back, and Esmerelda says that makes him weak like their brother was. Then she sniffs the air and says the girl is close.
At a park, Kaine talks to Aracely about her dream. She says she knows the victims were her parents and that "the Coyote Man" will "bring darkness." Kaine says that, while he's not as smart as his "brothers," he can help her figure something out, saying that since they know Roxxon was responsible for the ordering the shipping container she was smuggled in, they can go to Mexico to track it down.
Suddenly, Aracely senses someone being killed and that the killers are coming for them. We see that it's the Wolves, who know that Kaine, while not being the real Spider-Man, has a similar scent to him. They tell Kaine to give them Aracely but Kaine refuses, and he and Aracely escape. After swinging up to a rooftop, Kaine demands Aracely to tell him who they were and why they're after her, but she doesn't know. She tells Kaine to go to Wally and the police, but Kaine changes into his Scarlet Spider costume, preparing to find out who the Wolves are. Then Aracely howls, and Kaine recalls how Bruiser (from Scarlet Spider #12.5) did the same thing and the Wolves--fully transformed into Werewolves--attack.
Kaine tries to fight them off and protect Aracely, telling the Wolves they have to go through him. Unfortunately for Kaine, the two werewolves overwhelm him, and he tells Aracely to run. As she does, one of the werewolves go after her, but Kaine manages to stop it. Then, just as he's about to stab the werewolf with one of his spider stingers, he thinks about Carnage and hesitates. This is enough for the other werewolf to chomp on his shoulder and slice him with its claws. Kaine thinks he glad that Aracely has escape show she doesn't have to see what's happening to him, but we that Aracely flees is actually psychically feeling Kaine's pain as she flees.
As Kaine starts to lose consciousness, he's told by Esmerelda that, while Kaine was "fun", Aracely will "taste sweeter." She then licks his face and Kaine, just as he's passing out, realizes that the other werewolf...is eating him alive!
Wow! I was definitely not expecting this. More of the mystery behind Aracely's origins is uncovered, the return of Carlos Lobos (who was another Gerry Conway creation from 1989 and whose brother, Eduardo, dated Glory Grant), the implication that Kaine's connected to both--all capped off with a shocking cliffhanger. Well done, Chris Yost!
Of all the possible theories I had about who Aracely is and where she came from, it never occurred to me that she would be seemingly tied to Aztec mythology. And while the issue doesn't outright say as much, I cannot help but think of the spider-totem angle J. Michael Stracynski introduced into Spider-Man's origins, especially considering how Kaine has all the powers Peter recieved during the Other and how it's pretty clear he's Aracely's "champion" the dream told her about. Normally, I'm not a big fan when writers bring a supernatural angle to Spider-Man, but when it comes to Kaine, Yost manages to make such elements fit like a glove. I also like just how personal Kaine's one-man campaign against the traffikers has become so personal because of his fondness for Aracley. He's essentially become a surrogate older brother to her, and it's quite touching to see this once self-centered killer now doesn't give a moment's hesitation to put his own life on the line to protect her.
Too bad I'm not as enthusiastic about the art. Don't get me wrong, sometimes Khoi Pham's pencil work looks pretty good, especially during the dream sequence. But there's other times when it's also really disproportionate and flat, especially the splash page where the Lobo siblings, in their werewolf form, leap to attack Scarlet Spider and Aracely. In spite of this, however, this is an intriguing issue, especially if you've followed the series up to this point, and definitely holds your interest to see where the story heads from here.