Out of the 5 books I was at least considering buying this week, this was the only one I could find here in town. The others will have to wait until they arrive in the mail next week. In other news, it's very impressive how quickly Nick Spencer has put himself on my, "Don't buy anything this guy does" list. He's like Homer using "Line Inspector!" at Mt. Splashmore.
Ben Reilly; The Scarlet Spider #1, by Peter David (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), John Dell (inker), Jason Keith (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - Ben's attempts at a second career staging puppet shows with real people is off to a rocky start.
So this Ben Reilly, having survived the Clone Saga he created, is trying to regroup in Vegas. The new costume was one he stole off some guy he mugged in a hotel room, and he's being haunted by a hallucination of himself in the original Scarlet Spider costume, and himself as the Jackal. Angel and Devil, respectively. He's got a plan to approach a Cassandra Mercury, some bigshot he provided a clone of her dead child to, but she's less than friendly towards him. Also, Kaine is hunting him, because that's what he does, stalk Ben Reilly.
And Ben seems to be trying to collect his own little family, only instead of Aunt May, he finds June, an elderly woman with a slot machine habit and a husband who declares himself dead to her. he may or may not be trying to cultivate something with the redhead he saved from a mugging, although giving her the gun the guy was using, while demanding money for saving her, is a curious approach. I can't tell if it's meant to be a sign of how warped his perspective is, or simply part of some larger plan. Have people he can be around who won't rat him out, out of fear or indifference, so he has places to live.
I read in a recent column by Brian Hibbs that Marvel releases something like 75 different titles each month, which jibes with my general impression while reading solicits that Marvel has too many goddamn books. This is probably one that has no real business existing, but here it is, for now, and I kind of like it. A lot of that is based on potential, the possibility of where it could go, what David and Bagley could explore through Ben Reilly.
One of the things I liked about the old Ben Reilly was him trying to find a place in life, and the difficulty that arose from the fact the place all his memories and instincts told him to occupy was already taken by someone he was a copy of. Which made him superfluous, and left him struggling to find meaning and direction. This Ben thought he'd found something with his cloning people and passing them off as reviving the dead, and that got blown to bits by that same guy whose existence means this Ben can't occupy the spot his memories said he should. He's struggling between trying to distance himself from the Peter Parker part of himself, but isn't prepared to abandon everything about that guy, and isn't so sure about his past actions either.
It's a little weird being able to see Ben's smile through the mask. That's more of a Deadpool thing. Especially since at time all signs of his mouth vanishes entirely. But I like the fact Ben's almost absent from the panel of him breaking a member of the group trying to rob the casino's wrist. You can see his arm, but nothing of his reaction or emotions, just the anguish (though the mask) of the robber. And in the next panel, he's breaking the gun in half, trying to show off for his "Aunt June", and the robber is falling off panel, already forgotten. He's not really any part of Ben's life, they just happened to cross paths for a moment, Ben broke the guy's wrist, interaction over.
Although the robber is visible again after the threat is over, down on the ground, holding his wrist, ignored by everyone else in the panel. It's an effective statement about Ben - although the part earlier where he shot the mugger in the knee with his own gun for calling Scarlet Spider "Spider-Man" after Scarlet expressly told him not to probably covered that too - and the people he's surrounding himself with. June is only interested in herself, her particular fixation, and Mr. Slate is focused on his work of keeping the casino running smoothly for Ms. Mercury. And among people like that, there's no compassion or concern left for others who made bad decisions. Which Ben is probably going to need, by probably doesn't think he deserves.
Anyway, yes, I'm staying with the book for now.