Well, his costume may be a bust, but Ben Reilly has gotten a decent start on his return to action as a hero. That’s about to change, thanks to his “brother”, Kaine, the other Scarlet Spider… Your Major Spoilers review of Ben Reilly, The Scarlet Spider #3 awaits!
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Jason Keith & Jay David Ramos
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Devin Lewis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Ben Reilly, The Scarlet Spider: “After a misguided turn as a super-villain, Ben is trying to get back on his feet. With no resources, he went to Las Vegas in an attempt to make a new start, but he was soon confronted by Cassandra Mercury, master blackmailer and casino magnate, for failing to save her daughter from a deadly and incurable disease. Cassandra ultimately gave Ben another chance, offering him resources and promising to spare his life if he could find a cure this time. Meanwhile, Kaine Parker, another clone of Peter Parker, caught up with Ben’s old research partner Dr. Rita Clarkson, threatening her in exchange for information about Ben…”
YOU HAD ME AT ‘MARK BAGLEY’
We open with Ben Reilly (terrible burned and scarred, which feels a tiny bit too Deadpool for my tastes) meeting with Cassandra Mercury, who suddenly injects him with a tracker that will allow her to follow his movements. She also says that it will allow her to remotely detonate his head if he disobeys, a caveat that Scarlet Spider isn’t entire sure he believes. (He shouldn’t; it’s a big bluff.) Elsewhere, Kaine Parker, the other Scarlet Spider, is being attacked by a Kill Crew that seems to want him either dead or in custody, with some fighty-fighty that brings him closer to the orbit of his clone-bro. Leaving Cassandra’s office, Ben encounters a girl who owes him money, questioning her about what she’s doing. There’s clearly meant to be some sort of importance in this interaction, but I’m still not sure how this Mandy is supposed to fit into his life. Scarlet Spider’s questioning is interrupted by gunshots, as a group of local heroes wearing spider-costumes (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099 and Ben’s own original Scarlet Spider suit) clash with local muscle. One of them is murdered, causing Scarlet Spider to get involved. When he saves the remaining two, the entire issue goes right off the rails as the boy in the Scarlet Spider suit regurgitates fan complaints about Ben’s new costume, complaining about the colors and the smiley mask. Ben demands that the boy give him his costume, and slings out into the night, once again behoodied.
A LITTLE TOO META FOR MY TASTES
As much as I appreciate the why of what happened in these final pages, and as much as I appreciate the return of the superior Scarlet Spider costume, the entire exchange is distasteful to me. Not withstanding that it feels like a rant against ungrateful fans, ending with a “Here, shut up, you can have your dumb suit”, it’s a nonsensical moment in-universe, as it’s not just unhygienic, but makes our hero look like a jerk for shaking down a young cosplayer over snotty criticism. It’s not a good look for either the writer or the hero. That said, I’m okay with seeing Ben Reilly back in action, and the hoodie costume has grown on me since its 1994 debut; in many ways, it was far ahead of its time, presaging the more functional, real-worldy costume in modern superhero stories. (Not to mention the use of a hoodie as a design element in ‘Luke Cage’…) The art is fabulous throughout this issue, with a battle inside a casino, several quiet moments of conversation and one terrific battle sequence featuring Kaine versus his attackers. It would be an excellent issue if not for that one show-stoppingly awful sequence.
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD TO SEE THE OLD SUIT BACK
This issue serves as a good example of how a good comic can be struck down by one misguided sequence, character moment or conversation, leaving a bad taste in your mouth for the entire issue. Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #3 is impeccably drawn, featuring some potentially great moments, but is brought low by a writer tirade that makes me not want to come back for more of the good stuff, earning a middle-of-the-road 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s very disappointing to see this, but at least the hoodie costume has never looked better…