Monday, April 9, 2012

WEB OF SCARLET SPIDER #1 - November 1995

Virtual Mortality Part One - There’s a New Spider in Town
Credits: Tom DeFalco (plot), Todd Dezago (script), Paris Karounos (penciler), Randy Emberlin (inker), Steve Dutro (letterer), Kevin Tinsley (colorist)

The Plot: Scarlet Spider stops a helicopter from hijacking a van, unaware that the van is carrying stolen computer components and the helicopter is piloted by Dr. Octopus’ henchmen. Later, her men try to steal the components again from the police, and this time manage to escape Scarlet Spider. Crimelord Tso is dismayed to learn of his competitor’s tenacity.

The Subplots: Ben Reilly searches for a job, eventually finding work at a restaurant named Noir. The manager, Joey, later gets into a car with Tso.

Web of Continuity: Doctor Octopus has been “killed” by Kaine at this point, as a part of the rather lazy attempt to build the character up at the expense of established villains. He’s been replaced by the female Doctor Octopus, who we later learn is Seward Trainer’s daughter.

*See _________ For Details: This story is continued in Amazing Scarlet Spider #1.Link
Production Note: All of the Spider-titles have been renumbered and renamed after Scarlet Spider for the next two months (Marvel’s marketing department loved the X-titles' similar stunt during “Age of Apocalypse”). Unlike the rest of the titles, Web of Scarlet Spider lasts four issues instead of two for some vaguely defined marketing reasons.

Review: Web of Scarlet Spider #1 kicks off the Scarlet Spider stunt, setting up a timeless storyline that centers on the horrors of virtual reality. In this issue, we learn that Dr. Octopus and a gangster are competing for a stash of computer chips, and poor Scarlet Spider has been caught in the middle of their feud. This somehow leads to Ben doubting himself and declaring himself a failure when compared to Peter. Later, we’re supposed to feel even sorrier for Ben as he’s unable to find a job. These are obviously attempts to evoke the “classic” feel of Spider-Man as the insecure, hard-luck hero with real problems, and while these scenes are the best moments of the issue, they still feel tired and predictable.

Ben’s having these problems because they’re the ones Marvel thinks he’s supposed to be having, not because there’s a great concept behind them, which makes the delivery feel tedious. The action that lands Ben his job, helping a waitress pick up a tray of food before it hits the ground, is a tired cliché that goes back to the Flash’s origin story. (A virtually identical scene appears in the first Spider-Man movie, although I doubt anyone involved read this specific comic.) When we aren’t getting the recycled secret identity scenes, the audience is forced to endure repetitive fight scenes that are horribly rendered by Paris Karounos. Not only are the characters repulsive, but the action is often hard to follow, making me wonder just how bad “cartoony” work had to be in the ‘90s before an editor would turn it down.

I’m not sure if even the most ardent clone saga fans will defend the renamed Scarlet Spider books. These are conspicuously bad filler comics rushed out in order to fulfill a marketing directive…we really didn’t need Life of Reilly to confirm this. They’re ugly, pointless, and boring. And somehow I’m stuck reviewing four of them.


Matt said...

I won't defend them exactly, though I did appreciate getting a little more Scarlet Spider action before Ben became Spider-Man. I loved (and still love) the Scarlet Spider costume.

But yeah, I seem to recall this storyline being pretty bad. And even now I remember thinking Paris Cullens' artwork was pretty awful.

And wasn't it next month when they used the gimmick of printing the cover logos with a special fifth color? That was one of the lamest "special" cover thingies they ever did...

thinkingcog said...

We have really hit the nadir of the Clone saga here, I mean Maximum Cloneage was an incomprehensible mess but even that had some stakes due to it being an "event" of sorts.
I remember this being such a come down after and even as a kid I noticed the "holding pattern" nature of the stories more than I should have.

What with Peter and MJ starring in the cop out that became "Spider-Man The Final Adventure" at around the same time this was a rough few months for the whole line.

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