Before diving into this issue, it's worth noting that Part One of "Sibling Rivalry" also came out today. It takes place over in SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #2 and, while this issue does have a quick recap of what went down in those pages, I really recommend picking it up as well. If not, you're going to totally miss out on why Otto loathes Kaine and decided to assault him (unless you already know your history, that is). Plus, the art is glorious and it's also written by Christopher Yost. So, if you want to fully appreciate what's about to occur, I strongly recommend picking up that other issue first.
I haven't read the rest of my stack yet, but despite that, I can say with full confidence this is one of the best looking issues you'll set your eyes on this week. It's simply gorgeous, and I know that's not exactly the most fitting word for a story which takes place in a dark lab and involves the likes of Jackal, Spider-Man, Kaine and crazy Spider mutants. However, it totally is. It's crisp, polished and beautifully defined. From the furry outlines along Jackal's body to the terrific amount of attention given to the environment and every muscle on each and every character, this issue has absolutely stellar artwork for the core of its story and deserves major credit. There are so many panels where I caught myself simply gazing at the work for several moments before moving on. The beginning and epilogues go back to more traditional styles we've seen from the series and the drastic change in tone is indeed a bit jarring but it's by no means bad.
The core of the story plays out pretty much how you'd expect it to and it wraps up before you know it, but what makes the story rise above (art aside, of course) is Yost and co-writer Erik Burnham. The duo nails it with a solid script, making Otto totally arrogant and unlikable. He's the perfect character to bounce off of Kaine at the moment. Yes, along the series I thought the self-pity card was a bit drawn-out, but the dude finally found closure and happiness (speaking of which, are we going to get a follow-up on that kiss?). Now, a man he views as the "good" version of him makes that all come crashing down again, so to speak. It doesn't make Kaine take any steps back and he still walks away a strong individual, but the I really dug the emotional toll it clearly took on the guy. To him, Spider-Man's the symbol of who he should be. To have that guy now calling him a useless monster added a nice dose of emotional weight to the issue. I'm obviously rooting for Kaine and want to see him become a better man, but to see this slightly tragic element brought back into his life in this manner was definitely powerful and greatly appreciated.
Oh, and it's not all drama and frowns, friends. Yost and Brunham manage to throw some of their signature humor and charm into the mix, too, most notably when Jackal babbles like a stereotypical villain ("Really. I'm not a Bond villain.").
On the surface (and for all we know at the moment), this was a fairly generic course of events which mostly played it safe. Although, when we're dealing with clones, nothing is truly as it seems, is it? I wouldn't be surprised if we're hit with a few big reveals from this course of events as the story progresses in SCARLET SPIDER. But for now and reviewing solely the events of this chapter, it's a totally serviceable but seemingly generic story. Naturally, this could all change when reading it in a collected edition. The majority of time spent with the Jackal definitely has a "been there, done that" vibe to it. That's thankfully countered by a conclusion with a lot of potential, though.
Stunning artwork and a strong serving of emotion helps SCARLET SPIDER #20 rise above the chunk of its fairly straightforward tale. It's absolutely an able jumping on point and wraps up with a whole lot of promise. Kaine continues to serve as a gripping lead and this is looking to be yet another adventure of his that I'll definitely follow. Lastly, if you've been wondering how Marvel plans on reintroducing a certain blue hoodie wearing individual, then you'll want to check this out.