Ben Reilly: the Scarlet Spider #5
Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Mark Bagley
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Release Date: 07/26/17
Plot: Old rivalries never stay buried. The two Scarlet Spiders battle it out to see who’s the superior Spider-clone. Who will win: Ben Reilly the fallen hero, or Kaine the villain turned hero?
Story: This issue’s main story is a fight between Ben Reilly and Kaine. During these characters’ first appearances in the 90’s Clone Saga, it quickly established them as arch-rivals. A confrontation between Ben and Kaine is long overdue, especially after Ben’s actions during The Clone Conspiracy. Unfortunately this issue’s fight is pretty uninteresting. There’s hardly any emotion between the two clones during their battle, and the whole time Ben is cracking bad jokes. The title should’ve built up this fight by waiting at least one year after the first issue so the readers could be more invested into Ben’s story. Plus adding the fight this early in the title feels like Peter David could not think of a better ending to this arc.
Another problem with this issue is the humor. While Peter David is known for injecting great humor and catchy dialogue into his stories, this time most of his efforts fall flat. One notable example is Ben’s dialogue. While the Parker wit is a common trait for Spider-Men, Ben relies on it too much. Almost every attempt at a joke makes the character feel like a Deadpool knockoff instead of Spider-Man character. David also uses some transitional humor during the Scarlet Spiders fight. Unfortunately most of these jokes feel cliche, such as the heroes crashing into a room right after another character talks about super hero fights. Despite David’s best efforts, this proves that comedy really only works in small doses.
Outside of the Scarlet Spider fight, this issue does have a B-story involving Ben’s employer, Cassandra Mercury. The B-story involves Cassandra and her bodyguard, Slate, confronting a rival who also owns a casino in Las Vegas. It turns out Cassandra’s rival is actually her brother. Unfortuantely, Cassandra is one of this title’s less interesting characters and the revelation that she’s competing against her brother is not very exciting.
Art: Despite my problems with the story, I did enjoy the artwork. The colors in this issue are bright and vibrant. One thing I appreciated was Jason Keith using different shades of scarlet for Ben and Kaine. The different shading helps distinguish between Ben and Kaine when they overlap during their fight scenes. Also the shades are great visual metaphors for the characters personalities (Ben’s a little brighter and Kaine’s darker).
This issue also had some cool sound effect placements. The words were perfectly aligned with the scenes. Plus the text was the right size for how loud the sound would be in real life. Also most of the backgrounds in this issue were very detailed. The only scenes that had simple backgrounds were the ones that needed to focus on the characters.
Verdict: While this issue had some cool artwork, it suffers from a weak story. The Ben and Kaine fight should’ve been its own arc instead of a quick ending to the current arc. Even though Peter David is one of my favorite writers, Ben Reilly: the Scarlet Spider is not his best work. If you’re thinking about getting this title because you love Spider-Man, do yourself a favor and don’t get it.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5