I hate grabby drunk people. The ones who lose all respect for personal space - assuming they had any to begin with - once they get a few drinks in them.
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #5, by Peter David (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), John Dell (inker), Jason Keith (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) - That is the opposite of how I would expect that fight to go, but the actual comic taught there are many things different about Kaine from what I remembered.
Kaine and Ben fight for the entire issue. Ben keeps trying to stall, so he can get Kaine to listen to him, Kaine just keeps trying to kill him. Ben, after failing with the, "let's play with swords" tactic, and the, "You want to shoot me? Fine, shoot me," tactic, eventually plays the "Uncle Ben" card, which does convince Kaine to listen, and Kaine agrees to let him live until he saves the little girl. At which point Kaine will kill him. Also, the mysterious "Thorne" causing Ms. Mercury trouble is her brother, who runs a rival casino.
I wasn't aware Kaine doesn't have a spider-sense, but I also thought he was still far stronger than Ben or Peter, which apparently isn't the case. How things change with a character I've barely paid attention to in 20 years.
Watching Ben's various attempts to get Kaine to lighten up was mildly amusing. It added something to the fight between them, kept adding new elements to the fight. Though it's hard for me to take Ben's arguments seriously. It all feels like an attempt to manipulate Kaine, rather than genuinely reason with him. Of course, Kaine's hellbent on killing him, so trying to honestly debate with him would probably be stupid.
I would have preferred Bagley not skimp on the backgrounds as much as he did in certain panels, but he did a good job laying things out so an element in one panel guides the eye naturally to the next. Like Kaine throwing a sword at Ben, and it's point guides us to the end of Ben's sword in the next panel as he deflects it, and Ben's sword guides us down to the dialogue and also the deflected sword, which brings us to the next panel (Kaine webbing Ben's sword). The webline draws us back to the next dialogue balloon, and that and the angle of the sword point us down to the last panel on the page, where Kaine's pulling Ben off balance. It's basic stuff I assume, but it's also important stuff to making the story work.
Also, Bagley's remembers to establish where characters are in relation to each other at the beginning of a scene, and then making sure the action works from that. So if he shows there are knights to Ben's left, and Kaine tries to web him, Ben's going to jump right, and sends a couple of weblines left to snag their swords. Just basic panel-to-panel continuity, but I feel like there are a lot of artists who either don't get that stuff, or just don't give a shit.
Still, enjoyment of the fight scene aside, I don't know about this book. I still don't really care about this thing between Cassandra and Thorne, siblings or not. It's two casino owners in a pissing match. It's probably setting something up that will present Ben with some important character moment down the line, but I don't know if I'm going to care to stick around until then. I've gone back and forth just in the time since I started working on this post about whether I'm even going to give the book a chance once Bagley leaves. I say no, then talk myself back into it, then out of it again.
The Unbelievable Gwenpool #18, Christopher Hastings (writer), Gurihiru (artists), Clayton Cowles (letterer) - I'm most disappointed in Howard. After all the times angry mobs have chased him, and he turns around and partakes in the chasing himself. Tsk, tsk.
Teddy, Gwen's brother, wound up in the Marvel Universe when she did, but didn't adapt as well, and struggled to get by. Which is how he wound up working for Mr. Orto, the demon Gwen killed in one of her first jobs. Which means Teddy watched his sister calmly murder a bunch of dudes, then cheerfully run off to She-Hulk's Christmas party. At which time a future Miles Morales appeared and warned him of all Gwen was going to do. Gwen's still in the weird space outside the universe (but still in the story) so she learns all this, and jumps back in to confront Teddy with the fact his plan didn't work, and they're still in the comic.
Hastings may have completely lost me here. They're still in the Marvel Universe, but in some halfway dimension? Or is it an astral projection, an elaborate illusion, they borrow one of Mongul's Black Mercys?
I'm not sure whose side I'm meant to be on here. Teddy is messing with Gwen's life, not cool. On the other hand, Gwen does kill people with pretty no remorse or hesitation whatsoever. Her machine-gunning a bunch of goons in an alley was not an isolated incident. Her argument would doubtlessly be that they're fictional, and nameless unimportant characters, they're put there to die. But their lives are real to them. Gwen is mad because, essentially, Teddy is interrupting her treating the world like her private Grand Theft Auto. The fact that Teddy's time in the Marvel Universe has placed him as one of those nameless unimportant characters plays into his perspective as well. It's difficult to be on her side, given that.
But the issue felt pretty thin. I got to the end and was surprised that was it. Because it spent so much time on a flashback, there wasn't much forward momentum. Two steps backwards, one step forward.
The two panels of Teddy sitting horrified on the fire escape and then silent one of the bleeding corpses was effective. This is not something I say often, but I didn't like how Gurihiru version of a character, specifically The Thing. Because they gave him a neck. Normally he's drawn like his head sits directly on his shoulders (or else his lower jaw extends down far enough that it blocks his neck). Anyway, he just looks odd.
Outside that, though, they're doing their usual excellent work on the art. The panels of Gwen in that white void, where she's observing everything and slowly gearing up are kind of terrifying. She's casually stepping on pages of her past adventures, reaching in and helping herself to items from them. She's not raging or outwardly furious, but she's not geeking out over what seems like would be a cool experience. She's kind of miffed, in that way cosmic entities are shown to be when they see a mortal preparing to confront them and aren't worried, but are still offended someone would try to challenge them. Gwen having reached that level is not a good thing. She's going to break everything worse than Thanos usually does before he learns his latest Important Lesson.