BEN REILLY: SCARLET SPIDER #2
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Colorist: Jason Keith
Inker: John Dell
Letterer: VC’S Joe Caramagna
Release Date: 05/24/17
Plot: Ben Reilly continues to step away from complete villainy and back into his shoes as an anti-hero, but can he continue to sweet talk himself out of trouble before it’s too much to handle?
Story: Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #2 brings a unique story to the table by having Ben Reilly attempting to change his image and in some form, redeem himself. The character has gone through a lot of different stages of life in his years as a character, but now he has to sort of regain all contacts and establish himself as a trustworthy person again, or at least trustworthy enough. Although the book is only in its newborn stage, the events might already feel confusing to new readers who are not as familiar with Ben Reilly or the different people he has been involved with. Mainly, if people are diving into Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider expecting a hero, they might end up completely turned off by this character.
One of the biggest flaws in this story so far is Ben’s personality and trying to pinpoint what type of a guy he is. The character has the similar snark of Peter Parker but is darker, which opens things up really nicely and gives the book an edge that one would never find in a Peter Parker story. There’s a great concept in Scarlet Spider that Ben is not and never will be Peter, but that he has some of the same qualities. The book immediately sets a unique tone that shows how the character is an anti-hero and not a straight up hero, especially after coming off being a straight up villain. Peter David is a great writer, and within the first couple of panels he manages to fill the room with tension and set the stage for how each individual is feeling at the moment. Ben actually seems pretty cool and calculated with a personality that walks the line between good and bad, which can be a huge appeal to lots of readers.
Yet, as the story continues, Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider seems to lose its footing and possibly reveal who Ben actually is as a character. The one thing Peter David really nails is the emotion and tragedy behind the story by putting a young girl with an incurable disease at the center. David presents a pretty terrible situation and no matter who the parent is (hero or villain), helplessly dealing with a dying child is not something anyone deserves to go through. When Cassandra sees her daughter wake up, Ben chooses to take advantage of it, lying and manipulating Cassandra into providing him with everything he wants and needs.
From a story standpoint, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a bold choice so early on in the book’s creation. It’s been communicated that Ben Reilly was formerly a villain, so this behavior is most likely a reaction to his former ways. On one hand, it makes things more interesting because there is a nice display of how old habits are tough to break, but at the same time, this feels like something very low and scummy to take advantage of, no matter who you are. David really does a nice job with the writing and story, but it feels like Ben, as a character, is in a tough position right now in expressing who he is and wants to be. However, this is something that will hopefully develop with time.
Art: The art in Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider really carries the book and does a nice job of echoing the story that David is communicating. As stated earlier in the review, the book has a ton of immediate tension. The art brings in a neat feeling by delivering both stunning individual scenes as well as a nice flow. The panel above does a nice job with it’s background, providing a visual to the feeling of something or someone being right behind you. Artistic details like this really add to the feeling that reader will get and enhance situations nicely throughout the story.
Combining this with intense situations gives Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider a fast paced feeling that works really nicely for the book. The art provides a really unique feeling that diversifies the book more so than others by really bringing the action and increasing the feelings that the story conveys. The whole art team for Ben Reilly brings their A game in the book and delivers some amazing panel sequences along the way.
Verdict: There is a lot going on in Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #2 which can make the book confusing at times, especially for readers who aren’t as familiar with the characters involved and the history behind them. While at times Ben and the other people in the story can seem unlikeable and unappealing, it feels like Peter David is setting up a really nice long-term story arc for Ben that will have the character rediscovering himself and who he wants to be.