Back when Superior Spider-Man was first getting its sea legs, I pondered whether or not he might seem redundant, because we already had a version of Spider-Man that wasn’t afraid to kill, he was completely antisocial and who had a history of supervillainy. His name is Kaine, and he’s set up shop in Houston as the Scarlet Spider. However, as we’ve seen throughout Dan Slott’s work, no two supervillains are exactly the same, and the Otto Octavius brand of web-slinging is of a much different variety than Kaine’s.
Now, the two finally cross paths in this week’s double-shot of Superior Spider-Man Team Up #2 and Scarlet Spider #20, in a Christopher Yost story called “Sibling Rivalry,” and we get to see just how different they are. What happens when two Spider-Dicks go head to head? One of them has to be less dickish to counteract the other one. At least until the Jackal shows up and makes his play with big ugly mutant spider-clones.
In Part 1, in SSTU #2, Otto opens by congratulating himself on how great he is, and deluding himself by claiming there’s no arrogance or ego at play when he claims to be the greatest hero to ever walk the planet. Just as he’s happily reminiscing about wiping the ghost of Peter Parker out of his mind, a walking ghost of Peter shows up once Kaine drops in for a visit to the man who spawned his genes, the man who once called him brother. But this is not that man – not anymore. Otto Octavius has a much different response to Kaine, stemming from the fact that, back in the day, Kaine actually killed Otto once. Well, as killed as killed gets in the Marvel Universe. When last Peter spoke to Kaine, he was inspiring and encouraging. So it’s much to Kaine’s surprise that this Peter now seems to want to kill him. It’s confusing and infuriating, but before Otto can spill too much out of sheer pent-up rage, the aforementioned big ugly mutant spider-clones attack.
A while back, when SSTU was called Avenging Spider-Man, Jackal was shown raiding one of Mr. Sinister’s old genetics labs, and the result is that the Jackal has begun upgrading his clone work by adding the X-gene. Now, he’s trying to capture The Once and Future Peter Parker to re-harvest some fresh gene samples to advance his work and mock them in the process – especially his misbegotten creation Kaine, once a defective clone, now trying to make good. At Jackal’s side is Carrion, his old pal from ’90s comics, a clone of his old self Dr. Miles Warren, and a clone of Gwen Stacy, because the Jackal is obsessed with her. The fight is a big crazy mess, well-illustrated by Marco Checchetto, and there is a point where Otto ponders leaving Kaine to die at the Jackal’s hands, but finally stops him… to claim the right for himself. All to no avail, as they both get captured.
Then, Yost gets some writing help from Ghostbusters scribe Erik Burnham for Scarlet Spider #20 which also gives us a vastly different art style that’s a bit confusing. There’s a one-page dream sequence from Olliffe, Bit & Loughridge… yes, that’s the credit. Either that’s a law firm or it took three people to make one page. Then, we shift to K-Studio’s In-Hyuk Lee – again, the full credit, like Marvel’s The Avengers or TV’s Frank – which shifts drastically from a standard comic look to an interestingly dark and moody painted style and it’s hard to tell which one is the dream at first, but it fits perfectly with Kaine’s confusion as he wakes up in captivity, staring at a sympathetic Gwen clone, whose apologies are cut off quickly and amusingly by the Impatiently Superior Spider-Man, also in chains. Jackal strides in and explains his masterstroke, but he didn’t know that Kaine has recently had a bit of a power boost thanks to being possessed by The Other, and thus he breaks free and more fighting and bickering ensues. It seems Ock really hates clones, and Kaine’s self-loathing is so strong that he doesn’t take “Peter’s” derision as a sign that something’s up with Spidey, but rather as reinforcement of his own doubts about whether or not he’s an abomination. The Spiders do manage to foil much of the Jackal’s plan, but they leave pissed at each other.
It’s a pretty entertaining story overall, even if it does feel a bit rushed and chaotic. It’s been going on all year, but it’s still always surprising and funny to see Spider-Man mouth off in lofty, condescending villain language and being a complete dillweed to everybody around him, and it’s also fun to see Kaine so taken aback by the Callously Superior Spider-Man that he has to keep reminding him to act like a hero. Yost is obviously having a good time rehashing the 90s and playing around with Otto’s egomania. What’s interesting are the epilogues to SS #20 – one has Jackal deciding to make a “Spidercide 2.0” by cloning a clone, which seems like a dicey proposition, but we also see that Kaine’s degeneration problems may be returning, giving his ‘new lease on life’ a potential expiration date. Plus… a teaser for the return of Ben Reilly? Obviously, this is some kind of bait and switch, because they’d make a bigger deal of it if it wasn’t, but it’s still pretty intriguing nonetheless.
Anyway, if you like Spider-Dickery, you’ll probably enjoy “Sibling Rivalry.” Hopefully, as Otto says at the end, “it’s not over.”