The mid-90s ‘Clone Saga’ that ran through the Spider-Man titles is widely considered by many fans as one of the worst storylines in Spider-Man… if not in all of comics. The ‘Clone Saga’ actually ended with me taking a break from reading Spider-Man for several years. That said, one of the only redeeming qualities of the ‘Clone Saga’ was the character of Kaine. Kaine was an imperfect clone of Peter Parker, created by the Jackal (of the recent ‘Spider-Island’ arc). As soon as Kaine was created, his body began to deteriorate, leading the Jackal to toss him out onto the street after trying to destroy the botched experiment. Kaine went on to become one of the main villains of the ‘Clone Saga’. After the events of that storyline, Kaine has slowly been sidelined in the Spidey Universe.

Kaine made a return as one of the mutated minions of The Queen in Dan Slott’s ‘Spider-Island’. Near the climax, Kaine was cured of his cellular degeneration and went on to help save NYC from the spider-virus. In the aftermath of the final battle, not wanting to be a hero, Kaine fled the city.

That’s where ‘Scarlet Spider’ #1 picks up Kaine’s tale. After leaving NYC, Kaine is in Houston, TX where he is still trying to come to grips with his murderous past and decide where he wants to go from here. Kaine’s initial plan is to take down a few crooks, keep their ill-gotten cash, and move on to some Caribbean island to relax. But, before that can happen, Kaine finds himself in the middle of a human trafficking scheme. Still not able to face up to his past and be a hero, Kaine has plans to leave the Houston police to deal with the situation of the new super villain that is somehow connected to the crimes.

The tagline on the cover of this issue reads ‘All of the Power, None of the Responsibility’ and writer Chris Yost (‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’) delivers exactly that. His Kaine is a troubled man with the powers of Spider-Man. But, whereas Peter Parker has a system of loving family, friends, teammates, and associates, Kaine is on his own and on the run for his past crimes. More importantly, Kaine has never had that learning experience that Peter Parker so painfully dealt with when his Uncle Ben was killed. That leaves him with no clear path as to what he should do and, like anyone would be in that situation, he just wants to run and be left alone. But, as this issue’s story progresses, it seems like Kaine might be headed toward a tragic lesson of his own.

The art from Ryan Stegman is a great fit for ‘Scarlet Spider’. His pencil work reminds me quite a bit of Francis Manapul’s work over in ‘The Flash’ and, if you’ve been reading my reviews there, you’ll know that this is an awesome thing and a great compliment.

This title, along with ‘Venom’, makes for some of the best Spider-books to come along in a while. Spidey’s origin has been told and retold through the ages and, in true realistic fashion, we all know that he didn’t become the hero right away. These new titles give the writers a chance to explore the themes of someone with Spider-Man’s powers but in very different situations. Flash Thompson in ‘Venom’ is an ex-military man and addict who is becoming addicted to powers that he knows will eventually harm him. And Kaine has no ties to anyone or anything so it’ll be interesting to see how his story develops from here. There’s a reason Scarlet Spider popped up on my ‘Top 5 Comic Characters to Watch in 2012’ list.

Verdict: Buy

Written by CHRIS YOST