Scarlet Spider #23

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 06 November 2013

So it looks like that even though the Scarlet Spider will end as a regular series, writer Chris Yost isn't done with him, or Aracely, just yet. Because our favorite Spider-Man clone and his excitable teenagesidekick will soon be joining The New Warriors come next year. But until that happy occasion arrives, we still have a few more issues left until the final issue in Scarlet Spider #25, including the conclusion of the three part “Into the Grave.” Only where we left off last time, things weren't looking too god for either Kaine or his supporting cast as they were at the mercy of Kraven the Hunter and his creepy psychopath of daughter, Ana. And Kraven has given Kaine a sadistic Hobson's choice: that if Kaine wants to survive and save his friends, he must also kill him.

We open with the issue back at the Houston Zoo, with Kaine's friends tied up to posts while lions and tigers encircle them. Kaine narrates how each of his friends, in their own way, persuaded him to stay in Houston and that they're now all in danger now because of his choice. And he's particularly worried about Aracely (still half-unconscious from Kraven's toxin) and Annabelle Adams. He also says how, unlike his friends, Kraven knows that Kaine isn't a hero, but a killer, and that he's trying to get Kaine to prove it by killing him.

Kraven once more demands Kaine kill him. Kaine says there are “easier ways” to Kraven to die, but Kraven explains that, because Kaine's blood was used to resurrect him, they're now bound together. He also says how when he bested Spider-Man (re: “Kraven's Last Hunt”), he had committed suicide with the knowledge that he was superior to him (I think Doc Ock might disagree with that one) but that his family took his victory from him and that now he “intends to have it back.”

As officer Wally demands Kaine to help rescue them, Kaine tells Kraven that if he wants to kill himself so badly to get his daughter, Ana, to do it, and sprints over to his friends. However, Kraven tackles Kaine to the ground, saying that only Kaine must be the one to kill him because “the ritual demands it.” He also says that Kaine will never be the hero that Ben Reilly was or that Peter Parker is, that he is the killer “the other spiders never could be.” Kaine also notes that, despite his being stronger and faster than his “brother,” he's still being “torn apart” by Kraven and thinks how “no one should want to die this much.”

Kaine tries to ensnare Kraven with webbing, only for Kraven to cut it with his hunting knife and then knee Kaine in the face. Ana attempts to intervene, saying how Kaine doesn't deserve the honor of be treated as an equal, and that she should be the one to grant her father's wish. Kraven, however, interrupts his daughter with a back-handed slap across the face, reminding her that she already tried to kill him once before and failed. Again, Kraven says he can only die by Kaine's hand, adding that, because of his immortality, he is “in agony, a hell [he] does not deserve,” and that he's being denied “the only peace [he's] ever known.” Meanwhile, Wally tells Kaine to take Kraven down, while his husband, Dr. Donald Meland, tells Kaine not to, saying how he doesn't have to kill any more.

At last, Kaine says to Kraven that “if [he's] in hell, then [he] can just stay there” and says that, just as he told Ana, he refuses to play Kraven's game. At this, Kraven laughs, realizes that, for all of Kaine's talk about being a “monster,” a “part of [him] actually thinks [he's] a hero.” He then orders Ana to kill one of his friends. Horrified, Kaine tries to run after Ana, only for Kraven to grab his foot, swing him to the ground, saying that Kaine's mistake was thinking this was a “game” when it's really a “the hunt.”

Meanwhile, a giggling Ana approaches Kaine's friends, hunting knife in hand. Finally, she stops in front of Dr. Meland, telling him, “You were my favorite.” Then she slices her knife across his abdomen!

Wally, Annabelle, and Kaine react in horror. Kaine again tries to struggle free and cries out for Dr. Donald, only for Kraven to tackle him to the ground once more, saying how there will be “no rescues” but “death,” saying that since Kaine has once killed Dr. Octopus and Kraven's son, the Grim Hunter, why should he stop now from killing him as well? Ana, licking the blood off her knife, asks her father if she can kill one more. Kraven tells her to kill them all.

And at this, Kaine says then yells “No!” and slams the palm of his hand into Kraven's chest, stopping his heart!

As Ana rushes over to her slain father's side, Kaine leaps over to Dr. Donald, bleeding and barely conscious. He tells Kaine to bind and pack his wounds, which Kaine attempts to do with webbing. The pain makes Dr. Donald scream in agony, and a tearful and enraged Wally demanding Kaine to stop and cut him loose. After freeing Wally and Annabelle, they attend to Donald, while Kaine heads back to Ana cradling Kraven's body. Furious, she says Kaine shouldn't be worthy enough to kill her father and charges at him, only for Kaine to slice her across the face with his stinger.

Kaine, narrating to himself how Donald believed in him and wanting to be the hero Donald wants him to be, attempts to revive Kraven with chest compressions. Finally, with a punch to the chest, he restarts Kraven's heart and bring him back to life. 

Kaine then tells a weakened Kraven that, since he's already killed him, the connection the two of them had has now been severed and that it will be “the last death on his hands.” To which Kraven smiles and says “Are you sure?” To which Kaine turns his attention to Donald being attended by the others. He tells Wally to call the hospital, that he'll take Donald to them, but Wally bitterly tells Kaine “you've done enough!” When Kaine turns his attention back to Kraven, he finds that he and Ana have vanished.

At the Park Plaza Hospital, Donald is in critical condition as Aracely attends to his bedside. The attending surgeon tells Kaine and Annabelle that, while Donald survived the first operation, he still suffered massive blood loss and is unsure if he can survive the next one. He also adds that even if Donald lives, he will never be able to fully recover. As the surgeon leaves, Kaine and Anabelle embrace one another for comfort, neither knowing what they can do. Anabelle is also worried about Wally, as he's left the hospital and that he needs their help.

We then see that Wally has gone to the police station and is busy searching through the SHIELD's superhuman criminal database. After Wally then types in Kaine's name on the search prompt, he is shocked to see Kaine's mugshot and NYPD arrest record displayed on screen.

I've enjoyed the way Chris Yost and co-writer Erik Burnham have been steadily increasing the tension and sense of sheer terror and dread over the course of "Into the Grave." You just knew something really, really horrifying was about to happen, something which would also reinforce how different Scarlet Spider was compared to the title it spun off from. So when I first read the scene in which Ana Kravinoff gleefully gutted Dr. Meland, and then Kaine actually killed Kraven the Hunter to save his friends, my reaction towards both was, “Holy crap! They aren't fooling around! They really are pulling out all the stops and going out with a bang!”

But then Yost and Burnham wind up pulling two massive cop outs--first with Kaine reviving Kraven, and then with Dr. Meland being sent to the hospital and placed in a coma.

Granted, given how Kraven is a notable Spider-Man villain who was just brought back to life, the odds of him being killed off again so soon was going to be very low. But having Kaine stopping and then restarting Kraven's heart with a well-placed strike to the chest, and then claiming that because he technically still killed him, their mystical "bond" is now severed even though Kraven is still alive and presumably still immortal? Not only does this come across as an incredibly lazy "resolution" of the conflict that's building up between them even before the Scarlet Spider series began, it's outright ridiculous. 

And as for Dr. Donald Meland? Well, when you have a regular recurring fictional character hospitalized and is "touch and go," 9 times out 10 that character will “miraculously” survive. Because if they really were supposed to be killed off, they wouldn't have been placed in a coma for the other characters to be worried over. And if that character does end up dying, then it just raises the question of why the writer didn't just have them die to begin with? Don't get me wrong, I'm not one for killing off characters for the sake of it, only look at where we are by issue's end—Kaine is now wracked with guilt over having failed to protect Meland from harm, and Wally, believing Kaine had the power to prevent this, is motivated to uncover Kaine's criminal past. In light of this, wouldn't it have made just as much sense if Dr. Meland actually had been killed?

Also, at no time throughout this story were we ever provided with the answers for how Kraven not only learned all about Kaine and who he really was, but also how he learned about Ben Reilly and discovered that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. That last part alone should be really be deal seeing how Spidey's secret identity is now known by one of his more notable enemies as opposed to just being taken for granted like the story seems to make it.

In spite of my criticisms however, much of this issue, and “Into the Grave” in general, was still very well done. The characterization is solid, particularly with Kraven and how he, in his need for death, has become more ruthless, cunning, and insane than before. Also, unlike the previous issues, we have single artist in David Baldeon, and his illustrations are very good in showcasing action, movement, and facial expressions. So for two-thirds of the issue, Scarlet Spider #23 is absolutely top-notch. Too bad the remaining third ended up being so disappointing.

Superior Spider-Man 20

Posted by bulletproofsponge


This was to be the issue that Dan Slott said would be an iconic issue in which people will look back years from now on this issue and say, "Oh, that's when this happened." There were a number of changes that took place in this issue that could have lasting consequences.

The story

The issue begins with a flashback several months ago, when Peter Parker died in Ock's body. At that moment, Madame Web, who was in coma at the time wakes up shouting that ".. very soon all the spiders will die!"

Elsewhere a really fat anonymous bedridden person from the same hospital is asking about Otto Octavius. Upon hearing that Otto is dead ( the world thinks he is dead) the person goes berserk.

The scene switches to the Superior Spider-Man, who calls Anna Maria confirming a dinner date with her. While on the phone, he gets a notification from his spiderbots that the Black Cat is committing a theft.
Spider-Man soon confronts the Black Cat and punches her tooth out! ( Status change no. 1)  He beats her up and webs her up for the cops. Leaving the beaten Felicia Hardy very furious. ( End of Felicia Hardy in this issue, do not be deceived by the cover page!)

Later that night, "Peter Parker" brings Anna Maria on a dinner date on a Spider's Web. He has improved the web so that it does not dissolve until he allows it to. Peter also asks Anna Maria to work by his side in his new business - Parker Industries. ( Status change # 2)

The next day we see Jameson Sr. and Aunt May helping Peter get his business loan approved for Parker Industries with Sajani from Horizon Labs as his Vice President.

Meanwhile, Carlie, with new evidence against the current Spider-Man, decides she will bring her information to the Avengers. She also makes a call to MJ telling her to stay away from Peter. Mary Jane however does not answer as she is is busy heading to the firestation to hit on the fireman that saved her recently- Pedro Olivera. ( Possible status change # 3 if things get serious)

MJ, dressed very nicely, tries her " Face it tiger, you just hit the Jackpot" move, but is greeted by a wet dog who dirties her nice clothes. Fireman, Pedro, who goes by the name Ollie, comes out apologizing to her, inviting her for coffee.

In another scene, we see that on Peter's big day, he is denied his Doctorate because Dr Lamaze notices that Peter's work is a copy of Dr Otto Octavius' work! Peter decides he must destroy Dr Lamaze before he can destroy everything he has worked for. ( No status change here since Peter didn't get his doctorate.. yet)

Finally, we see the fat character from earlier in the issue, is actually the obsessed lover of Dr Octopus from the 90's who has a secret identity as "Stunner." Preparing to take revenge on the Superior Spider-Man


I really have no interest in the Stunner, as I see it as a side story which can probably be brushed away a few issues from now. Then again, I may be wrong and she might play an important role in exposing Doctor Octopus!

Unless I missed another possible status change somewhere in this issue, I would say that the biggest change to me would be Felicia having her tooth knocked out. It's unlikely that she wont get it filled with a gold tooth or something, but years down the road when people see her with a missing tooth, they can look back and say, " Oh, that happened in issue 20." Things could really change for the Black cat and Spider-Man from here on. In fact, it would not be surprising to see her become one of his worst enemies as opposed to a 'frienemy' like before.

As for Parker Industries, it doesn't look too promising to me. It is too much of a copy of Stark Industries. When the real Peter finally does return, I don't think he will be managing Parker Industries for very long.

So, what's the worst that could result from this issue. In my opinion, probably, Mary Jane hooking up with this Fireman, getting pregnant, and having a kid. That would be a real game changer for Spider-Man comics!

Once again, Octavius creates more damage to Peter Parker's life, making it almost impossible to fix. Supposing Parker Industries becomes successful, it's unlikely Peter is going to close it down immediately, especially since Aunt May seems to fancy the idea a lot. If he keeps Parker Industries however, it would also mean that he won't be telling Aunt May about his 'death,' which will mean he will not have a good excuse for everything wrong the current 'Peter Parker' is doing.

Good Luck Pete! Cheers.

Venom #42

Posted by Donovan McComish

Hello everybody and welcome to my review of the final issue of Venom, #42 (*sob)


Agent Venom & Mania arrive at a dilapidated casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with the intention of making a deal with the devil. Flash pops a coin anointed with the blood of a mad prophet into the only working slot machine, which summons Mephisto (how dare you show your face in a Spider-Man related comic you devil!). Mania puts the deal forth to Mephisto, requesting that he remove the devils mark in exchange for them not kicking his ass, but he just laughs in her face until he realises their both serious.

Flash explains to the devil that Mania is somehow now marked instead of him. Mephisto reveals that Mania is actually wearing a clone of the Venom symbiote that it absorbed a while ago and has now used as a host for the mark. Flash attempts to ask more questions, but the conversation is conveniently interrupted by Crossbones, his thugs and Master Mayhem. Andi handles the goons whilst Flash takes on Crossbones one on one. While this happens, he narrates about how he never wanted to be a parent for fear of ending up like his own abusive father, recalling how Andi told him he should stop pretending to be hers. While she may not be his child however, he affirms that she is his responsibility and anyone who tries to mess with her will have to come through him, demonstrated when he stabs Crossbones in the hand with a tendril.

As the battle rages on, Master Mayhem comes face to face with Mephisto, who punishes him for mucking around with his plans by forcing Mayhem to summon the Monsters of Evil (that's a kind of redundant title isn't it?), all of whom are under Andi's control. She orders them to slaughter Crossbones thugs, leaving him and Master Mayhem to retreat, though he warns that the people he works for won't ever be done until they get what they want.

With the battle over, Mephisto reappears to Venom & Mania, saying he sent the Monsters of Evil away, along with the remainder of the thugs as snacks for the trip (gross!). Flash demands that Mephisto remove the mark from Andi. Mephisto asks what happens if he refuses. Flash's response...
Naturally this pisses Mephisto off a little (serves you right for One More Day jackass!), but fortunately for Flash, he needs him alive as Mania's guardian. Andi asks the devil why she's marked at all considering she never made a deal with him. Mephisto makes to leave instead, revealing to them both that his original deal was not with Flash, but with the symbiote, before vanishing in a puff of smoke (good riddance!). Flash gives Andi a much needed hug, swearing that he'll do whatever it takes to get the mark removed, while in narration he concludes that, even though he's now all the things he dreamed of being, he's still surprised with how his life turned out (aren't we all Agent Venom)...


This is possibly the most difficult Venom review I've had to write, not just because the series is ending, but because while this issue is pretty good, it doesn't feel very much like a finale to the book since it sets a new status quo up for Venom and Mania while leaving a number of questions, as well as the subplots involving Katy Kiernan & Toxin, unresolved. It's a shame that Marvel couldn't give Cullen Bunn some more leeway to end the series with a bigger sense of finality, but I can't judge since it's likely due to the schedule of Superior Spider-Man and when the chips are down, the needs of the main book outweigh that of the spin-off (still pretty annoying though).

Anyway, review what you've got, not what could have been. Bunn certainly caps this story arc off with a mostly satisfying conclusion. Flash Thompson has a great narration in this issue and it's the characterisation of Venom that I'm going to miss the most about this book. Flash has been consistently likable throughout the course of this series and considering this is the guy who used to bully Spider-Man, that's definitely an accomplishment. It's also quite funny that there's now "Thompson luck" as well as "Parker luck". Venom & Mania's partnership turns something of a corner by the end, which is yet another reason that the series needed another story arc since these two haven't worked together for very long.

The appearance of Mephisto certainly makes this issue eventful and he's more at home in this title than Crossbones, who doesn't get much to do other than providing the action, which is once again a flaw of this being the ending storyline for the series. Bunn clearly had a lot of fun writing the former and Flash shooting him in the face was both a laugh out loud & badass moment.

While I've been unimpressed with Jorge Coelho's art when compared to Declan Shalvey or even Kim Jacinto, this issue features his best work on the title. This is due to the more exaggerated features of Mephisto and the Monsters of Evil, which look great alongside Venom & Mania when they're in full symbiote mode. There are still a few disproportionate shots, some other parts are a little rushed and Flash still looks like he had his face run over by a steamroller, but these are small complaints in an otherwise good looking issue.

Before I finish up on this review I'd like to thank Bryan Lim for letting me review this book. It's been a fun ride for thirteen issues and it's sad to see this series end when there was so much more that Cullen Bunn wanted to do with it. Having said that, I'm grateful that we got forty two issues of this book. I hope you all enjoyed this book as much as I have and hopefully what's done with Venom in Superior Spider-Man will take the character in an exciting new direction. Let's just hope (and I can't believe I'm saying this) that it's "Spider-Man's" Darkest Hour rather than Venom's...


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