For the casual reader, if a hero doesn’t have a big, multimillion dollar summer blockbuster attached to him/her, it’s easy to overlook, or just not be aware of, that character. This is a real shame, as there are a number of great characters who deserve some real attention and fanfare, but just aren’t popular enough to warrant their own films…yet. (Disregard Guardians of the Galaxy, as they kind of wreck my point…) In my opinion, the forerunner for Best Hidden Gem in the Marvel Universe is none other than The Scarlet Spider. Spidey 2.0 brings a whole new spin, both in morality and drive, to the familiar power-set.
Created by Terry Kavanagh and Steven Butle for Marvel Comics, Kaine Parker made his first appearance in 1994’s Web of Spider-Man #119, though his first official appearance as The Scarlet Spider wasn’t until Scarlet Spider (vol 2) #1 in 2011.
By this point in the game, just about everyone is familiar with the Spider-Man backstory. Heck, even the most recent movie glossed over the events, taking for granted that everyone knows Peter Parker was raised by his loving Aunt May and Uncle Ben; the latter of which offered Peter his guiding moral ideal, that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Awesome… Now imagine that instead of Peter being a normal high school student raised by loving relatives, he was a hideously deformed and mentally unstable clone “raised” by a psychopathic villain named the Jackal, and only left alive as an experiment; that’s how you get Kaine Parker.
For a long time, Kaine was a really bad guy who stalked Peter and his perfect clone Ben Reilly (the original Scarlet Spider), attacking them and their loved ones while under the Jackal’s control. However, that was a lifetime ago and Kaine is a new man now. He is arguably a hero, though he probably wouldn’t agree. After the death of Ben Reilly and the curing of his cellular degeneration, Kaine took on the mantle of The Scarlet Spider to try and make amends for his evil deeds. Like the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe, (*cough*…Wolverine…*cough*) Kaine is a beautifully flawed person with extraordinary abilities. He is Spider-Man without the conscience…”All of the Power, None of the Responsibility.”
WOW…he sounds awesome, but where do I start?
For a full background on Kaine, I would suggest starting with his first appearance in Web of Spider-Man #119. What’s so great about getting into relatively new characters is that their backgrounds, key issues, and first appearances, are usually cheap and easy to find. From that point, I’d suggest checking out Tom DeFalco and Ron Lim’s Maximum Clonage Saga (which has its flaws, granted, but is still a fun read-D.T.). This sets the reader up for the kind of monster Kaine really was, which makes his path to redemption so much more meaningful.
After getting a feel for Kaine in his, uh… “growing years”… check out Joe Kelly and Michael Lark’s Spider -Man: Grim Hunt- The Kraven Saga (2010). This series sets in motion events that lead Kaine further down his path of redemption, and up to the most important saga of his life….
Spider-Island (2011), by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos, is the final stop on Kaine’s journey to becoming The Scarlet Spider. Within this huge crossover event, Kaine finally begins living up to the Parker name, and completes his journey to becoming an (anti)hero. While it might not be too very difficult to find all of the crossover titles included in this event, it might just be easier to grab the trade paper back released in 2012. This is a very interesting story arc that sees appearances of old villains, like the Jackal, and a few new ones that really give Kaine the opportunity to shine.
Finally, it doesn’t get any better than Kaine’s own, ongoing series, The Scarlet Spider (vol 2) (2012) by Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman, (and later, Khoi Pham). This is a series I have personally enjoyed quiet a bit. I have always been a huge Ben Reilly fan, so when I heard that there was a new Scarlet Spider (with no blue hoodie?! BLASPHEMY!) I was a bit skeptical. However, my mind was quickly changed. Setting the character in Houston, TX (my home state and GO ASTROS!) was genius, as it’s somewhere we haven’t seen a hero before. Also, it’s a place with enough history and quirks to make the location a character all its own. Then, we have Kaine himself, who has not disappointed yet. He’s kind of like Wolverine with Spider-Man’s powers (and a few all his own…*hint*). For real, even if you don’t hit any of the backstory, you can’t go wrong picking up this readily available book.
The Scarlet Spider, regardless of who wore the mask, has always been one of my favorite characters. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check this guy out, I really cannot recommend that you do enough. Plus, as crazy as this sounds, with the events of Superior Spider-Man still going strong, Kaine is the only real Parker left!
Here at ComicBooked, we do our best to spread the love to all the good heroes and villains, while taking you along for the ride. Thanks for letting me share one of my favorite characters with you, and I hope you enjoyed.
(Also, a big thanks to John Coughlan for providing the structure for this article. You should go and check out his Iron Man piece right now…for real, go!)