The Clone Saga. You remember the Clone Saga, right? If you were a fan of Spider-Man comics in the 90s you’ll remember it. You’ll wish you didn’t, but you’ll remember it.

If you don’t know about the Clone Saga then I’m not going to be the one to inflict it upon you. Suffice to say it was one of the worst, most convoluted Spider-Man stories in the character’s history, and that your life is all the better for not having read it.

There wasn’t much good that came from the Clone Saga, but there were a few potentially interesting characters contained in its apparently endless pages. One such character was Kaine – a deformed clone of Peter Parker who was twisted in both body and mind. He was one of the villains of the story, although his motivations and loyalties shifted with virtually every issue.

Anyway, fast forward 15 years or so and Kaine popped up in the pages of the recent Spider Island story arc. Without giving too much away, Kaine was presented with the opportunity to sort his act out, and the damage to his body was repaired. Fast forward another couple of months and Kaine is now the star of his very own series, Scarlet Spider. But is it any good? On the basis of this first issue it’s looking promising.

Kaine is a man on the run. Haunted by the memories of his past life as a proper wrong ‘un, he is attempting to flee the US and set himself up in a beach hut in Mexico. He plans to get money by beating the crap out of some low level criminals and stealing their loot, which he does in impressive style in this issue’s opening pages.

Things turn sour for poor Kaine, though, when he discovers a big metal crate full of dead folks who were being illegally smuggled into the country against their will. Down there among the flies and the rotting flesh he finds one survivor, and despite his better judgement he brings her to the closest hospital.

That, as far as Kaine is concerned, is the end of his involvement, but events of the story soon begin to drag him back in. He wants to run, to be able to forget his past and live a normal life, but the old Parker (clone) luck seems determined to get in the way.

What makes this such a promising issue is the character of Kaine himself. The tagline on the front cover reads “All of the power. None of the responsibility” and that sums the concept up perfectly. Kaine is Spider-Man, but without the love of Aunt May to guide him, or the tragic death of Uncle Ben to set him on the path to hero-dom.

This is not a tale of a Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Hero, it’s the story of a man torn between protecting himself and making amends for his past wrongdoings. Kaine’s moral compass is still spinning at the end of this first issue so it is unclear whether he’ll become a hero or a villain, or something else entirely. Because this is Marvel, it’s almost certain to be the former, but the path Kaine takes to get there could make for an interesting journey.

This is a strong first issue by writer Christopher Yost (X-Men, Batman) and the artwork by Ryan Stegman compliments it perfectly. I can’t wait until February to find out what these guys can do with issue 2.

Rating: ★★★★☆