Peter David’s Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider has had a roller coaster of a run so far. From fighting demons to fighting his own “twin” brother Kaine, David and his various art teams have made sure that Ben’s new lease on life has been anything but ordinary. However, underneath it all, David has ensured the subplot of sickly little Abigail needing a cure for her incurable disease has never quite left readers’ minds. Finally, after 22 issues, Ben has found a cure: Blood, from an angel. The Archangel Gabriel, in fact.
Will Sliney and Rachelle Rosenberg return to provide the visuals for David in this issue, and it is a doozy. After a comedic interlude with a disgruntled cab driver and a heart-to-heart the only way Kaine and Ben can hope to connect, Ben delivers the cure to Abigail’s mom. However, before the cure can be administered, life throws Ben another curve: a time traveler appears in the middle of the room. And it’s Abigail.
Who is now 723 years old, despite looking identical to her current self in bed.
Peter David has taken one of the older time travel dilemmas and given it a personal angle with this issue. If you knew the future, if you knew saving someone would cause them no end of torment, what could you do? It is a genuinely touching twist to the plot, and Abigail’s story is one that would be an incredible limited series if expanded. Ben and Kaine are also great, actually feeling like a pair of estranged brothers rather than a pair of action figures sharing some lines.
Sliney and Rosenberg also shine with their art duties. Abigail’s tale has some extra punch with some wonderful background details from Sliney, featuring some major cities’ landmarks. This issue of Scarlet Spider actually completely lacks an action beat, which is unusual for a modern comic, but this also means Sliney also has room to flex his muscles when it comes to showing emotion and facial expressions. Sliney does a solid job with this, and he has many chances to show off excellent expressions of shock and disbelief. Rosenberg’s colors are also great, and her choice of tones and shades on the time travel effect is fantastic.
Really, the only main issue with this comic is that there’s a complete lack of action. If you picked up this issue hoping for the Scarlet Spider brothers punching people, you will be sadly disappointed. However, as mentioned in prior reviews, Peter David has been honing his writing craft on making cliffhangers that keep the reader guessing. This cliffhanger is one of the best he’s done, and really leaves the reader wondering exactly how Ben can get out of this one.
A great examination of an age-old time travel dilemma, but light on the actual Spider-ness, this comic was ultimately setting up what could be the finale of Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider. It’s worth reading, just to see where the future books are going.