Credits: Story by Tom Lyle, pencilled by Ron Lim and Ron Garney, inked by (intake of breath) Tom Palmer, Randy Eberlin, Tim Touhy, Al Milgrom, Jimmy Palmiotti, Klaus Janson, Sam De la Rosa and Dan Hudson. It was edited by Danny Fingeroth under Bob Budiansky
Cast: (Another intake of breath) Peter (Spider-Man) Parker dressed as Scarlet Spider, Ben (Scarlet Spider) Reilly posing as Peter in prison, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Dr. Seward Trainor, Felica (Black Cat) Hardy, J.Jonah Jameson, Joe ‘Robbie’ Robertson, Ken Ellis, Jacob Raven, Stunner, Hobgoblin II, Electro, Shocker, Vulture, Beetle, Scorpia, Mysterio and Scrier.
Plot: Mark of Kaine part 5 – Unholy Alliances opens with seven of Spider-Man’s villains (a Sinister Seven?) meeting to discuss the recent killing of two other Spider-Man villains (Doctor Octopus and The Grim Hunter, son of Kraven) and what that could mean for them. Hobgoblin suggests they team up to deal with this potential threat to them. These are not team players and have a history of betraying each other but reason prevails (after some violent diagreements) and they all head out to places that Kaine has been sighted.
Meanwhile, Peter Park (dressed in the Scarlet Spider costume) has just dropped Ben Reilly (posing as Peter) at the prison. Ben is to wait in Peter’s place to answer for the murders that neither of them committed so Peter can be with his pregnant wife. Hang on though, Ben wore that costume during their battle with Kaine, most likely working up a severe sweat, now Peter, also in that fight, is wearing the costume now. Imagine how that costume smells right now. Swinging on home, Peter catches a view of the Beetle flying around. Beetle, seeing the Scarlet Spider takes off. Expecting trouble, Peter follows the Beetle, who escapes by flying through a skyscraper and people are hurt. Peter stops to help, when 1st responders arrive, he leaves, dropping the mask, gloves and web-shooters from his black costume, this is noticed by Daily Bugle reporter Ken Ellis.
The villains are having no luck finding Laine, much to Hobgoblin’s chagrin. But as they all check in with him, Hobgoblin is being watched by their quarry, Kaine. Peter gets home and unmasks in front of Mary Jane, but Mary Jane sees the Scarlet Spider costume and Peter’s face is the exact same as Ben and Peter has to convince his terrified wife that he is, who he says he is. He does this at gunpoint and when she is, they just hold one another.
In prison, Ben leaves a voicemail message for Mary Jane hoping all is well. He is then visited by Felicia Hardy, who knows Peter, knows he is Spider-Man and is an ex-girlfriend. Ben knows absolutely none of this as it all happened after the moment his and Peter’s memories diverge (after the clone’s apparent death in Amazing #149 ) and so this is a stranger. She offers to help, but he politely declines making her suspicious.
Back with the Hobgoblin who is attacked by Kaine, dressed in a Spider-Man costume stolen from Peter’s flat (okay, that’s a bit weird right?) Hobgoblins starts firing his gun and the gunfire attracts the attention of Peter who has to leave his wife to go and take care of it, Mary Jane is left bereft. Kaine has the upper hand in his battle with Hobgoblin and looks about to kill him with the other six arrive and a larger melee ensues.
Subplot time! Jacob Raven and Stunner are looking into some of the murders Peter is charged with. Raven is taken aback at Stunner’s brutal methods, but they bear fruit as they learn of the involvement of Kaine. Elsewhere Dr. Seward Trainor calls Mary Jane and asks her to come in regarding the results of her recent medical tests. She is upset, but lets be honest, has being called in to see a doctor ended up in good news? JJJ and Robbie are at the Bugle and are struggling to find someone to cover the unfolding battle the Hobgoblin is involved in. They end up sending new guy Cole Cooper and Jonah laments Peter’s absence. Finally at the scene of the last battle with Kaine, Scrier takes the remains of 3Pete.
The battle has intensified and only now has Peter arrived once more dressed as Scarlet Spider. He battles alongside Kaine, who knowing who he is, doesn’t want him hurt. It’s been a brutal fight and when most of the villains are down, Mysterio uses his halluciogenic gas to cause Kaine to see Peter as Hobgoblin and attack him savagely. Once the gas’ effects have been shrugged off, Peter and Kaine can see that the villains are gone and Kaine runs off.
At Felicia’s apartment, a frantic Mary Jane. who has fled Dr Trainor’s office, needs someone to talk to.
Notes: Eleven people worked on this comic and that’s before an editor got to see it, eleven. Just going to leave that there.
The Mark of Kaine story has had good consistent art, good characters moments and action that had stakes, or at least parts 1-4 did. Okay have no desire to be overly negative, so how about we look at the good first.
The subplot stuff is solid. Jacob Raven regretting his alliance with Stunner, Mary Jane’s fears over her pregnancy and her and Peter’s uncertain future all the way to Scrier taking 3Pete’s corpse (?) is all solid Spider-title stuff and shows how this should be viewed as part of a larger unfolding narrative that the single comic it purports to be. Other good parts are how Peter is viewed when dressed in Ben’s costume and also vice versa. Ben not getting who felicia is set opposite Mary Jane pointing a gun at Peter is well done. Even the Bugle scene with JJJ missing Peter is all kinds a good.
But the bad follows as it often does. Tom Lyles plot is decent enough, but as part 5 of 5, this feels no sense of the stories actual end. Writing multi-part stories is hard, there is often some kind of wheel spinning somewhere as pieces are moved into place, but that shouldn’t be the final part. This entire issue has that ‘this meeting could have been an e-mail’ feel to it and a couple of pages at the end of part 4 could have done the necessary work of this issue.
Writing: 3 out of 5 – The villains scrambling not to be the next Grim Hunter despite not trusting one another is well conceived. I did like that Hobgoblin is freaked out a bit by Mysterio as a good character moment. But scripting is off somehow, no one seems to sound how they did an issue or 2 ago.
Art: 1 out of 5 – 10 people on art, do I honestly need to say anything else? Okay, the pencils aren’t bad, the two Ronnies (Lim and Garney) are competent enough story-tellers and the switch between them is noticeable, but not too harsh a switch. But that is almost completely undone by the many hands/ too many cooks inking. Now I try to understand the on-going battle with deadlines and sometimes you need a fill in, but 9 fill ins does take a chainsaw to the quality.
Overall: 4 out of 10 – Maybe having this 5th tier ancillary title as the climax of this story wasn’t a good idea. It was a slog, taking me months to finish reading this comic, then days to write this stuff down and this really speaks for itself. This whole issue felt both unnecessary for the most part and a bit of a chore. er
Next Time: Gambit and the X-Ternals? (sigh)……..okay.