The tagline for “Scarlet Spider” #3 reads “All of the Power. None of the Responsibility.” It took the first two issues to convince Kaine Parker to don his scarlet costume and protect Houston, TX — the third issue offers us his first forays into patrolling a city quite unlike New York, as a hero quite unlike Spider-Man. Chris Yost manages to get a few laughs out of Kaine’s rookie exploits, such as when he runs out of skyscrapers in the Houston skyline and makes an ignoble crash-landing on a rooftop below. Luckily, the laughs are never forced and the frightening tone of the menacing Scarlet Spider is allowed to shine through.
This tone is depicted early on in “Scarlet Spider” #3 as Kaine snags a would-be mugger and prevents him from assaulting a woman in an alleyway. Dragging him up to a rooftop, the Scarlet Spider gets his first chance to make his mark on the criminal underworld in a scene reminiscent of 1989’s “Batman” starring Michael Keaton. However, where Keaton’s Batman was satisfied to have his captive tell all of his friends about him, Scarlet Spider tells him he will break his bones, rend his flesh and torture him until he begs to die. In a very understandable reaction to the circumstance, the would-be bad-guy wets his pants.
Kaine is a man who is afraid of his own responses to the scenarios he finds himself in, wondering often what Peter would do in his place. The choice of Ryan Stegman’s pencils serves the book extremely well, as his dynamic action-oriented style keeps the book light and entertaining despite Kaine’s menacing threats. As the book escalates to a climax and Scarlet Spider throws down with a murderer from the Assassin’s Guild, Stegman’s cinematic art is very easy to follow, allowing the reader to play out each step of the battle in their head with ease. Just as we feel like we’re reading a very well-drawn Spider-Man battle, Kaine loses his temper and disarms the killer by breaking his arm at the elbow; as he said in the preceding scene, Scarlet Spider is not a superhero — superheroes don’t commonly break elbows. We have yet to determine Scarlet Spider’s particular brand of vigilante, but Kaine considers himself something else.
Yost’s “Scarlet Spider” has covered an awful lot of ground in three action-oriented issues to date: we’ve established the city of Houston as an integral character in its own right, we’ve been introduced to multiple villains unique to the title and in “Scarlet Spider” #3, we bolster the supporting cast with a possible love interest in Annabelle Adams. Here’s hoping the trend of giving each supporting cast member unique details to make them interesting in their own right (such as Aracely’s willingness to fight back or Donald’s marriage to a police officer) continues with Annabelle come issue #4.
Kaine’s life is swiftly becoming something entirely different than it ever was before and Yost & Stegman’s work ideally captures the dizzying effects on the character and the breakneck speed of events on the page. “Scarlet Spider” #3 is a superhero comic about a man who isn’t yet certain if he fits the superhero mold — or if he ever cares to. As we make up our own minds about the character and direction, the comic ensures we’ll be thoroughly entertained along the way.