Credits: Written by Todd DeZago, pencils by Roy Burdine, inks by Randy Emberlin and Don Hudson and edited by Danny Fingeroth.
Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly (posing as Peter Parker) Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Kaine, Jacob Raven, Stunner, District Attorney Blake Tower, Mr Locker (Peter’s lawyer) and Dr. Judas Traveller.
Plot: Opening Statements opens as the trial of Peter Parker starts and we get to see Spider-Man tracking down Kaine only for Kaine to tackle Spider-Man mid-air and start an brawl that goes on most of the issue. We split time between that fight and the court case where DA Blake Tower (always nice to see one of Marvel’s long-time bit characters) goes full crusading lawyer in his attempt to convict Peter (who thanks to Ben posing as Peter, isn’t actually in the courtroom) whilst Mr Locker does his best to point out that the jury have to make sure they have the right guy before convicting.
During the Kaine/Spider-Man fight, Kaine’s motives become expanded upon, if not clarified. He seems to want Reilly to suffer and sees him as beneath both contempt and consideration, but he respects Peter’s drive to succeed. He wants Reilly to fall and is willing to destroy Peter’s name and person to get that done.
Paying attention to the ensuing carnage is Jacob Raven and Stunner, who are working together to get Kaine for their own reasons, Raven wants him to answer for the crimes Peter is accused of, but Stunner wants Kaine to die for his murder of Doctor Octopus.
The trial continues as Mr Locker makes his case, but confides to Ben that whilst he doesn’t feel Peter committed the crimes, the wealth of evidence raises doubts. Before either can elaborate, DA Tower calls Mary Jane to the witness stand.
Kaine is cornered by Spider-Man, joined by Raven and Stunner, where Stunner declares her intent to kill Kaine. Before anyone can make their move, Judas Traveller appears out of nowhere and teleports Kaine and Spider-Man away.
Notes: Wait, what? As we move towards a cliff hanger we get a game of two halves. Part one is the tense legal drama as Ben Reilly stands trials in Peter’s place for a series of murders which neither man committed. These scenes are well portrayed and hold your interest well. The second half is a bit different, an issue long fight with tension on 4 sides and then a deus ex machina ending where Kaine and Spider-Man are taken elsewhere by a sadly returning Judas Traveller. With the way this is done, it gives you the feeling that the writer didn’t know it was going to happen. As a result it comes across as abrupt and more than a little ridiculous. But this issue does move the clone/Jacob Raven/Kaine plot in the direction of a conclusion and offers us the idea that we’re finally going to get some answers.
Verdict: Writing 3 out of 5 – Whilst nothing spectacular, Todd DeZago does keep the plot progressing at a good pace and his cutting between Peter and Ben’s conflicts really works well in a TV/cinematic way. The only problem becomes that we’re not given much time in either place, so each feels a little short changed, with the very nature of how this Saga has been put together with multiple working parts, you are left with the impression that it’s not the fault of any single writer of a single issue. DeZago does his best with what he’s got and we get the beginning of an interesting story.
Art: 2 out of 5 – Whilst we again get the heavy inks and colours that were common at the time of printing, the main problem is with the penciller’s figurework. Everyone looks thinner than you feel they should which makes no one look on model and it has the effect of distracting the reader from the story. Everyone looks more cartoony and stretched than needs to and it brings the whole issue down.
Overall: 5 out of 10 – A good start to a story, rather than a good story and all we are left with is the idea that a better issue is coming. Whilst a hopeful sign, I was hoping this comic would be that issue.
Next Time: More courtroom shenanigans as the trial continues.