Monday, 6 January 2014

Scarlet Spider Vol.3: The Big Leagues/Wolves at the Gates


Scarlet Spider Vol. 3: The Big Leagues

Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting
yourself! Stop hitting yourself!
Writers: Christopher Yost and Eric Burnham

Artists: Khoi Pham, Carlo Barberi

Collecting: Scarlet Spider 16-20 and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2

Background Information

Firstly, if you want to find this book online, be aware that many bookseller are listing this collection as Scarlet Spider Volume 3: Wolves at the Gate.

But if you’re trying to figure out who Scarlet Spider is, he’s Kain Parker- basically a literal clone of Peter Parker (spider-powers and all) and used to be evil. A few life-altering events later, Kain finds himself in Houston trying to build a new life and looking after a mysterious young immigrant girl by the name of Aracely; who has displayed psychic powers and a certain freakiness throughout the series.

Review:

Yost’s Scarlet Spider ends in its next volume, and frankly, I’m worried. It’s not that this volume is bad per se, but more that there are so many unanswered questions that I’m doubtful that the next volume’s five issues will be able to wrap the story up effectively. Yost has created an intriguing run that has effectively explored the themes of repentance for past sins and resisting your inner demons. Honestly, The Big Leagues does less with these themes than the previous two volumes did and the collection ends up feeling a little stale. Not awful, but definitely not on the same level as the previous volumes.

The Big Leagues starts with a one-shot story where Kain is treated to a rodeo only to have it ambushed by Armadillo- it would have been a fairly pointless story had it not cemented Kain’s relationship with Annabelle Adams. It’s hardly the best way to start off the volume, but it’s a enjoyable one-shot. All the same, it kinda feels like Yost is wasting time with this one. He should be tackling the story that he’s been setting up in the previous volumes, and he just doesn’t do that here.

The second story arc has more substance. If you remember fromthe first volume, Kain owes the assassin’s guild a favour and in The Big Leagues, the guild comes to collect. Kain is tasked with killing Wolverine, something that’s sorta hard, considering the healing factor. When Wolverine is involved in a story, I tend to be less interested. I like Wolverine, but the dude is in way too many comics (if I’m wrong let it rain elephants... is it raining elephants? No? Then don’t say I’m wrong on this one). Thankfully, Yost downplays Wolverine’s involvement in the story by letting Kain actually defeat him, and thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Expect the assassin’s guild to get pretty messed up by the time Kain’s done with them.

The standout star of this arc is definitely Aracely. She’s continually amusing throughout the story, breaking the tension when it needs breaking the most. Although Aracely has been a constant throughout the series, it was The Big Leagues that convinced me that she really needs to be in her own ongoing.

The collection finishes with the crossover arc into Superior Spider-Man Team-Up. In these two issues Kain meets the Doctor-Octopus-in-Peter-Parker’s-Body-Spider-Man. Kain has no idea that this Peter Parker isn’t Peter Parker, and Doc Ock still has beef with Kain for having killed him long ago (talk about a grudge). While interaction between these two characters in interesting, it still feels like a time-waster. Yost has way too many loose ends to tie up and should be focussing on them. Instead, he creates new loose ends, and I fear they may end up getting swept under the carpet.

In the last volume, the art was fairly inconsistent, not bad, but inconsistent. Un fortunately, that’s not a problem that is fixed in this volume. Here, the art is all over the place. One minute, it’s bold colours and cartoonish proportions, the next it’s highly detailed paints and subdued colours. Neither of these styles are bad, but it’s distracting to read and offsets the feel of the collection. It doesn’t help that issue appears to feature two completely different styles of art between the main story and the epilogue. By the end of the book, I felt like I was reading two very different series, and that’s never a good thing.

What will have me coming back to Scarlet Spider when Volume 4 comes out, however, is the cliffhanger at the end of the volume. I won’t spoil it, but it’s setting up for a big finish to Kain’s adventures. Again though, Yost has a huge job ahead of him, some of the loose ends from the first volume haven’t been wrapped up and volumes 3 and 4 have given us some new twists that need to be wrapped up in one volume, so I’m not sure we’re going to get a satisfying conclusion.

The Big Leagues isn’t a bad book, but it comes off as a teenager who has spent the term playing video games when he has a test in an hour. It’s a fun time-waster, but a time-waster nonetheless. It gets three out of five falling elephants.

***

+ Aracely is awesome.

+ Quality of the art is quite high.

+ Second story arc is fantastic.

- New plot twists may not be resolved.

- Inconsistent art.

- Two “Time-Waster” story arcs.

Alternate Option: Scarlet Spider: Lone Star

You kinda need to read this and Life After Death in order to get The Big Leagues