Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #1
By Peter David, Mark Bagley, Jason Keith
Ben-Reilly: Scarlet Spider kicks off a new chapter for the character who is labelled as one of the most controversial in Spider-Man’s history. Written by Peter David, who was responsible for the fantastic All-New X-Factor run as well as Spider-Man 2099 more recently, it’s interesting to see him take on Ben Reilly here. David, Bagley, and co. move the character the forefront and manage to effectively establish just how different the Scarlet Spider is from Spider-Man in this book. He’s someone who will take reward money from people who he’s just saved, something that Peter surely wouldn’t do, and he isn’t afraid of using a gun if one falls into his hand. For newcomers who have never read a Scarlet Spider comic before and aren’t particularly familiar with the character this may come as a surprise, but David manages to lay the groundwork for the character effectively for the most part, even if it doesn’t always feel consistent.
Rather than filling up New York with another superhero, Ben Reilly relocates to Vegas. It’s interesting to see here how the Scarlet Spider deals with this new location and the city itself is established here as a nice setting that offers a different take from those who might be tired of seeing Spider-powered humans in New York. This provides the backdrop for Ben to recover what was once his, dealing with his scarred face at the same time. His personality too is made more interesting by the addition of two different characters speaking to him through his head, two different versions of himself, both the previous Scarlet Spider and Ben as the Jackal. It certainly gives an extra dynamic to the character, but at the same time treads well-worn territory, as we’ve seen something similar tried in the past with Deadpool. Although the book doesn’t break the fourth wall as frequently as Deadpool does there are plenty of similarities here, but this addition also serves as a purpose to help make Ben stand out from just being another version of Peter.
Mark Bagley’s artwork is largely pretty good. The striking night-time backdrop of Vegas is good and his characters are lively and interesting. The colors too, provided by Jason Keith, help flesh out the landscape and give it much-needed depth. It nails the look and feel of Los Angeles very well and doesn’t feel like it could pass as another generic city, capturing several elements really well. The casinos are filled with energy and movement, and it’s great to see just how well executed everything is here.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything about Ben Reilly – Scarlet Spider that helps make it stand out on its own as being a truly must-read comic. It’s flawed and doesn’t really have anything particularly new to add to the story. Ben Reilly is rather unlikable and to make matters worse, the ending feels rushed and imbalanced – not feeling particularly natural at all. The book could have been paced a lot better, and as a result, it’s kind of a letdown. It still remains a decent read and there’s potential for the book to get better, but for now, despite the veteran creative team attached, it doesn’t do anything to establish itself amongst the other, superior Marvel titles out there.