Not everyone sees eye-to-eye. You might love something that’s reviled by most others. When we at PoP! feel like that, we make an argument In Defense Of…Not everyone sees eye-to-eye. You might love something that’s reviled by most others. When we at PoP! feel like that, we make an argument In Defense Of…
Once more into the breach I go, defending 90′s era Spider-Man comics. Now, I’m not going to do anything crazy like stick up for Spidey’s infamous Clone Saga. It might’ve started out as a cool idea, but it turned into a bloated, chromium-covered mess; a perfect example of what happens when sales & marketing tell the creators how to do their jobs. But even from dreck such as this, some good can emerge. In my opinion, the best thing to owe its origins to the Saga is the character of Kaine, a tortured, tragic figure of dark vengeance.
First debuting in Web of Spider-Man #119, Kaine was one of several mysterious figures roaming around the Spider-books of the time. We didn’t know much about him for a while, only that he wanted to protect Spider-Man (who he seemed to know was Peter Parker) and had a mad-on for Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter also known as the Scarlet Spider. He was strong, fast and brutal, with the ability to burn an imprint of his hand into the faces of his opponents (dubbed the Mark of Kaine, naturally). He also had visions of Peter’s wife Mary Jane dying, an act which he swore he would prevent. After killing both the newly debuted Grim Hunter (one of Kraven’s sons) and Spidey’s arch-villain-who’s-not-Norman-Osborn Doctor Octopus and battling both Peter & Ben numerous times, as well as having ties to Spider-clone creator the Jackal, it was revealed that Kaine himself was Jackal’s first attempt at cloning Peter. His powers were even amplified versions of Peter’s regular spider powers: the Mark of Kaine a version of Spidey’s ability to stick to walls, and his precognitive flashes an enhanced version of Peter’s spider-sense. With his body ravaged by clone degeneration, kept somewhat in check by his specially designed bodysuit, he was deemed a failure and cast out by his “father.” A few fries short of a Happy Meal, he believed Ben was the original and Peter the clone, and followed Ben during his years away so as to torment him. Eventually, his inner Parker nobility shone through, and he willingly went to prison for his crimes. Aside from a few cameos he pretty much disappeared for years, until recently brought back in the build-up to the “Grim Hunt” storyline in Amazing Spider-Man. He sacrificed himself taking Peter’s place in a ceremony that resurrected Kraven the Hunter, but was last seen himself emerging from the grave, mutated into another form as the newest Tarantula.
When handled right, Kaine was an extremely cool character. J.M. DeMatteis especially seemed to get what made him tick and delivered some of the best stories that featured him. His costume, power-set, motivations, they were all well done and provide excellent story material. That’s not to say he didn’t have any drawbacks, though. It’s almost never a good idea to attempt to show how cool & extreme a new character is by having them kill off an already established one, especially someone as beloved as Doc Ock. That was a huge misstep against Kaine almost right out of the gate. His genesis in the Clone Saga almost certainly contributed to later Spider-scribes not wanting to use him, since nearly everything associated with it was looked down upon by readers. It’s also frustrating that despite all his appearances in that time, the fact that Kaine’s powers were offshoots of Spidey’s was never explicitly stated in the books. I learned it myself from the fascinating Life of Reilly blogs, a behind-the-scenes look at the Clone Saga. And if alternate futures are your thing, then you have Kaine to thank for a huge divergence in the 616 that branched into the MC2 Universe when he rescued baby May Parker from Norman Osborn’s clutches, preventing her death and allowing her to grow-up and become Spider-Girl. He occasionally showed up in her various titles, too. Hopefully with his importance in “Grim Hunt” we haven’t seen the last of Kaine in the modern Spidey books.