The showdown we've been waiting for has finally come and thankfully, it's pretty awesome. We've all speculated what would go down in this action-packed issue, but luckily for us, co-writers Christopher Yost and Erik Burnham deliver way more than just what's expected.
Kaine's mentality over becoming a more traditional hero has certainly been mixed, but if you read the last issue, then you know he's trying his best to stick to that no-kill code and it's inspiring to watch the anti-hero try to better himself. He wants to be like Ben Reilly and Peter Parker, but can he? That's what Yost and Burnham dedicate the core of this issue to and it's an engrossing struggle for the character we've all come to love. Not only do they put a strong spotlight on that specific topic, but the two writers also open the door to even more difficult times ahead for the clone. The dude just can't catch a break, can he?
Kraven's my favorite Spider-Man bad guy and one of my favorite villains overall, so I'm very happy to see this issue captured his voice quite well. The physically struggle he has with Kaine is a blast, but the verbal exchange is particularly gripping and is the heart and soul of this issue. The punches are vicious and bloody, but the back and forth dialogue is what truly sells the passion behind this conflict.
Unlike the previous chapter, there's only one artist (David Baldeon) and one colorist (Chris Sotomayor). The result is a consistently solid looking issue which does a more than adequate job bringing to life all of the intensity and emotion Yost and Burham present. While it's definitely a darker chapter in terms of tone, Baldeon's more animated vibe gives the book a nice degree of energy and Sotomayor's decision to make some backgrounds more vivid adds to the frenetic nature of this issue.
Oh, and can we all just take a moment to admire Ryan Stegman's glorious cover?
I love me some Kraven, but the dude walks all over Kaine in this fight. Yes, I understand our hero has a lot going on with the reveal of his friends being in imminent danger, but Kraven has always needed an extra trick (poison, physical traps) to take the edge over Spider-Man in battle -- a character who is both slower and weaker than Kaine (as pointed out in this issue). Whenever Sergei tried to go toe-to-toe with Parker in pure combat, he'd realize he's outclassed and would have to resort to other options. Here, he essentially wipes the floor with Kaine with his skill and speed alone. Based on Kraven's history and the challenges Kaine has faced, I feel as though Kraven wouldn't perform nearly as well if he took Kaine on one-on-one with just basic weapons -- even if Kaine is striving for non-lethal while trying to reach his friends. The speed and strength edge he possesses is just too great. I understand this chapter needed a thrilling fight and it most certainly is, but I'm a total sucker for character stats and feats so I couldn't help but notice this.
Minor gripe regarding the conclusion: Personally, I'm surprised Layton never bothered to research Kaine prior to this. I understand he had faith in him, but as a police officer, I would have thought he'd at least do a little digging into the character's past before fully trusting him.
The best part about SCARLET SPIDER #23 is it gives us exactly what we want and still successfully throws a few greatly appreciated twists our way. Despite my personal gripes with it, the issue absolutely fulfills the last cliffhanger's promise of an epic brawl and, much to my surprise, is able to wrap up Kraven's involvement in a very pleasing manner while also teasing us with what's to come. It really is a shame this book's coming to an end so soon, because honestly, it's one of the most entertaining books Marvel has to offer.