The lesson of "with great power must come great responsibility" is one that defines Marvel Comics' icon Spider-Man, but it also has implications for the Marvel Universe's other spider-powered heroes as well. Kaine Parker, the genetic clone of Peter Parker and titular hero of the ongoing "Scarlet Spider" series by writer Chris Yost and artist Khoi Pham, is just starting to understand that lesson thanks to his role as the costumed champion of Houston, Texas.
Kaine's past as a former villain and assassin means he's had a tougher time coming to grips with protecting a city, but it also means he's had to deal with some questions about responsibility that his "brother" couldn't or wouldn't face. For example, to save a life that's important to you would you agree to to take the life of another person? Or, would you allow yourself to be transformed into something monstrous to protect an innocent?
Kaine answered both questions in the affirmative, with the latter answered at the conclusion of "Scarlet Spider" #14. Kaine was transformed into a monstrous figure by the mysterious being known as The Other in order to save the life of Aracely, an equally enigmatic girl the Scarlet Spider rescued from a human trafficking operation in the book's first issue. Comic Book Resources spoke with Yost about the transformation and his plans for the series.
EXCLUSIVE: "Scarlet Spider" #17 art by Carlo Barberi
Chris Yost: Very much so. Aracely is heavily involved in Aztec mythology and it could well be that she's just a creepy weird girl, or the host of an Aztec god.
The research I did on that god, Huitzilopochtli, suggests it's a male Sun God. Is that correct?
Yes, Aracely is supposedly the host to Huitzilopochtli who is known for being the god of war, human sacrifice and other non pleasant things. That's according to Esmeralda Lobo though, one of the super powered cartel enforcers chasing Aracely. So who knows if it's true or not; even Esmeralda was unsure.
Esmeralda and her brother Carlos are in the employ of some other villains. Are these villains also possibly Aztec gods? And are they interested in using Aracely to fulfill some sort of prophecy?
Salamander, the fire villain from our first two issues, is obviously connected to all this business. He was sent by a figure named the Coyote. Then in issue #6 you saw a mysterious old man who came and freed Salamander. So those characters do seem to be connected.
You'll see a lot more of them in upcoming issues. In issue #15 you'll see how Aracely ended up in Houston, who put her there, and who else might be coming for her down the road. So you got a few answers about Aracely in issue #14 and you'll get a lot more in #15.
Aracely isn't the only one dealing with mysterious god like beings. In issue #14 it looked like Kaine allowed himself to become inhabited by an enigmatic and powerful being. Is that correct?
Right. He's become inhabited by an entity we first saw in the J. Michael Straczynski run of "Amazing Spider-Man," The Other. The Other definitely has ties to the Spider Totem and all the mystical spider elements that Peter Parker himself dealt with when he was battling guys like Morlun.
Let's talk a little bit about Kaine's mindset and why he allowed himself to be transformed. In "Scarlet Spider" #12-14 he referred to himself as a monster because of the things he did as an assassin and a villain. Was Kaine being driven to be a hero by a different form of the classic Peter Parker guilt?
Yeah, Kaine is a guy who was created to be more or less the evil Spider-Man. He was created by a monster, the Jackal, to do bad things. Kaine spent his entire short life doing some very bad things partly because of the cellular degeneration and genetic breakdown he experienced meant he was always dying. He hurt, tortured and killed people. He went after Ben Reilly and tortured him for reasons he later discovered were really messed up.
So this is a guy who all his life he's believed and known he's a monster and then in the aftermath of the "Spider-Island" story he was given a second chance. He's starting to think that he was a monster, but maybe he can be better. Then issue #14 is a crucial issue where in order to save the life of Aracely, someone he cares about, he give up the idea of not being a monster. He embraces the monster.
I'm curious about the Other and what he wants from Kaine. Can you say anything about this being's motivations or the motivations of its master, the Great Weaver?
The Great Weaver does have a motivation and you'll see what it is. I can't say more than that because I will be killed by multiple people. [Laughs]
Fair enough. On the final page of "Scarlet Spider" #14 Kaine pops out of a web cocoon completely transformed. Can you talk about his physical and mental states going into issue #15? Kaine looks physically transformed, but mentally is he still the same man?
No, he's not. Next issue you'll see how little of Kaine remains. It's pretty much all The Other now. And that transformation that you saw on the last page of issue #14? It's not done.
When The Other more or less took over Peter Parker to defeat Morlun he was dealing with a person who was very strong, good hearted, and morally upright. Now you're going to see The Other inhabit someone who is pretty much none of those things. So he'll be a very different being.
It looks like this new being will have some new powers if the way Kaine looked at the end of issue #14 was any indication. I noticed he had more eyes and strange hairs running up and down his arms.
Yeah and that's just on the surface. There are a few surprises coming.
Kaine's transformation came about partly because of the savage mauling he was given by the villainous lycanthropic cartel enforcers known as the Lobos. One of the Lobos, Carlos, is an established villain you brought back to the Spider fold, only this time he's joined by his sister Esmeralda, a new character you created. What inspired Esmeralda's creation? And what can you tell us about her personality? It looks like she's a lot more vicious than her brother.
Esmeralda is a complex character because on the surface she definitely seems much more vicious. In a recent issue we saw that Carlos is assisting the people after Aracely because he hopes they'll bring his dead brother, Eduardo, back. He's been promised that as a reward.
Esmeralda doesn't care about her brother though and kind of laughs it off. She wants something a little bigger. So she's a new character; the unknown sibling.
Another element I know people are curious about is the origin of Lobos' werewolf abilities. In the aftermath of M-Day, are they still mutants? Or are they something else now? We'll answer that question soon.
The Lobos are about to face off with a transformed Kaine in "Scarlet Spider" #15. What can you tell us about this confrontation?
It's a brutal all-out clash of spider versus wolf. I'm looking at Khoi Pham's layouts right now and they're amazing. We've seen some brutal fights in this book, but this one takes the cake. Anything you've seen Kaine do up until now is nothing compared to what he's about to do to these two. The Lobos more or less killed him. So now it's payback time.
Plus in issue #15 we'll see that Aracely is starting to remember things. So this will be the first issue where we actually get to see things from her point of view. You'll get narration from her and some full on memories. So Aracely is really starting to develop and by the end of issue #15 she'll have developed in some really interesting ways.
"In the Midst of Wolves" concludes with issue #15. What can you tell us about the issues of "Scarlet Spider" that follow it? It looks like you have a one-off and then a story guest-starring the cast of "Wolverine & the X-Men."
The one-off is every year in Houston, the biggest rodeo in North America comes to town. Houston has this image of cowboy hats and boots, but it's really not like that at all. It's a very urban and metropolitan place where everybody is really cool, but one day a year they break out the hats and boots and this is that. It's kind of a fun issue in the same vein as our recent Christmas issue.
The long requested Armadillo will make an appearance in it. Plus there will be developments with a lot of the supporting cast. Annabelle is a big part of this issue. And you'll discover what is actually in the letter that Julia Carpenter wrote to Kaine. Plus there might be an appearance by a well known Russian hunter.
Then the story that begins in issue #17 is a three-part tale. Back in issues #3-4 Kaine made a deal with Belladonna, the head of the Assassins' Guild. In return for the Guild leaving the people he cares about in Houston alone he would commit one murder for them and then he's done. So the Assassins' Guild has come to collect on that promise and their target is none other than a very angry Canadian by the name of Logan.
So this is Kaine versus Wolverine! Kaine has to travel to New York and infiltrate the Jean Grey School to kill him.
How does it feel to bring together these two worlds that you love -- the world of the X-Men and the world of the Scarlet Spider?
It's the best. I'm really having fun in "Avenging Spider-Man" doing these team-ups, but Kaine has been fairly separate. So to have him interact with the rest of Marvel Universe is pretty fun, especially this character. Spider-Man and Wolverine have a very specific relationship, but I like the relationship between Kaine and Wolverine for opposite reasons. These guys are both killers. So to see them run into each other is going to be fun.
Will Kaine interact with any of the other characters currently living at the Jean Grey School?
The students and teaching staff of the Jean Grey school will be involved. And Kaine isn't stupid. He knows he can't take on 20 to 30 different mutants just to get to Wolverine. So he's got a distraction for them in mind by the name of Aracely who dons a costume and takes on a code name for this particular story.
All she wants to do is go to New York. So she's very excited to be part of this assassination mission. She's a very upbeat character. Even when it comes to killing people. [Laughs]
Will Kaine have any conflicted feelings about his goal in this story?
It's funny because with the path that he was on I think he would have been conflicted by it. After the events of "In the Midst of Wolves" though, and his newfound dark companion, he's going to have a very different point of view on it.
Let's move from stories to art. Khoi wraps up your darkest "Scarlet Spider" story yet and will draw the done-in-one issue that follows it. Then Carlo Barberi is doing the art for the story that begins in #17. Is that correct?
Yes, Carlo is starting on issue #17, the Wolverine arc. He's the new ongoing artist on the book. He and I worked together on a Deadpool story way back in the "Necrosha" days and there's such a fun vibe about his work. As hardcore as this arc sounds with Wolverine versus Kaine and assassins, it's pretty fun.
So I'm a huge fan of Carlo's and I can't wait for people to see what he's doing. His pages look amazing. Plus we even have a little Superior Spider-Man cameo in issue #17.
Finally you're almost at the half way point of the second year of "Scarlet Spider." Can you offer up any hints or teases about what's coming further down the line in year two?
This second year really has been about paying off some of the stuff we set up in year one. So you're getting more info on Aracely and The Other. And you're seeing the return of the Assassins' Guild.
We've dropped a few hints about a guy named Clutch. The reason Houston was so excited about having its own super hero was Clutch. You're going to find out who and what Clutch is and why Houston so desperately wanted a super hero. Because Clutch is coming. Then after that we've got a big Kraven arc.
Plus, because we have a story where Kaine is in New York we'll be able to do a few Superior Spider-Man things. The Superior Spider-Man's activities are making news across the country so Kaine may pay a little visit to his brother.
We've got some big stuff coming up and if the Sales Gods smile on us, we've got the big Mexico story coming up after our Kraven arc.
With Kaine we've really tried to create a world for him and populate it with interesting supporting characters. Our plan is to continue with that. The supporting characters are going to be bigger than ever in the back half of the year. We'll find out what's keeping Kaine in Houston and there will romance, tragedy, laughter, and tears. Plus we'll keep delivering on the big action and the fun.
"Scarlet Spider" #15 concludes "In the Midst of Wolves" and goes on sale March 27.