Friday, December 26, 2014

New Warriors: Work Relationship

Based on Yosts' all too brief New Warriors run although this touches a little on the other Warriors and Vance's past with other Scarlet Spiders. Mainly about the progression of Scarlet Spider and Justices' relationship since they don't start off so well.

I read Yosts' series mainly to follow up on Scarlet Spider/Kaine after Yost finished up his solo series. Anyone that's familiar with it or the character knows Kaine isn't a team player. He ran away from New York to avoid superheroes (believing they'd send him to jail) and had a very negative reaction to being asked to join the Rangers. His story in New Warriors starts where his series ended, with him and Aracely in Mexico after Kaine decided to quit being a hero. While he ends up saving tourists he's still claiming he wants nothing to do with heroics despite Aracely being a telepath/empath that knows he's lying. They still end up unintentionally being dragged into the fight against the High Evolutionary.

Justice is actually in a somewhat similar position of not fully accepting part of himself because of past mistakes. While it's obvious he loves his time with the New Warriors the fact that their looked down on weighs heavily on him. No one remembers all the good they did only the one costly disaster they were involved in. Speedball is all for them being a team again while Vance doesn't seem to take the idea seriously. At least not at first but you can tell as the story goes on that he's slowly seeing otherwise. After hearing such horrible things about his team it's no wonder he's bought into the mind frame of having to call the Avengers to avoid making the same mistakes. But their not around and you can see in the exchange where Sun Girl challenges him to act like a Warrior the wheels are moving.

The fact that all these people from different backgrounds all come together at once to stop this great evil when no one else can? That feels familiar, that's fate just like the first time the New Warriors formed. He says as much to Kaine later on, that it's not luck and he firmly believes it by the end of their first fight together. Now I worried how Yost would write the Kaine/Vance interaction because let's face it we've seen the tough guy vs. the straight laced leader combo before. It can be repetitive and in some cases make the fact their allies feel pretty unbelievable. I like how this is approached in the book and during re-reads have seen it a little differently. But let's start at the beginning when these two meet during the fight.

Scarlet Spider calls out to Justice as the one "in the cape" having correctly guessed he's the leader and says they should leave as their outnumbered. I noticed that when Vance isn't around Kaine seems to be calling the shots but he couldn't get Nova to listen to him to go for help. If not for the others arrival they would have died because they were overwhelmed. He likely saw people following Vance and knows he's the one to tell this to. Even if everyone save Nova did listen to him Kaine also knows he's not a people person and proves it by saying he doesn't care who Justice is when he tries to introduce himself . The heroes don't leave however and despite most of them not knowing each other work effectively. After Nova is knocked out Vance tries yelling at him to find out what's happening and despite mocking the idea Kaine soon does it himself with better results. Once the day is saved Vance is sure that there is a place in the world for the New Warriors. They protected the world and it felt right. Not even having most of them turning down his idea changes his mind.

Now here's the part I read into it a little to make my own assumption. Robbie and Vance split up with different members of the team. To "save the residences around the mountain" is Robbie's excuse but I don't think Vance ever bought it. When he later asks how everything went Robbie claims they saved everyone and Vance's reaction implies he knows it's B.S. He doesn't even ask for details which is why I believe he knew Robbie wanted to get to know the newbies. First of all he knows his friend and I firmly believe that was what Vance was trying to do too. He's a leader and both of them were teachers. They know how to make a team function and want to make this work. Robbie focuses on the more mundane getting to know you with those that are actually new to the lifestyle. Vance has the two more seasoned fighters that he wants to question for different reasons. Watersnake/Faira Sar Namora and the unknown Scarlet Spider. Reading this again it didn't seem like he was merely curious but rather carefully prodding them. While Faira is the first to complain of their mission to clear the mountain of death traps he latches onto what Kaine says to causally mention the Scarlet Spider legacy.

Vance is actually one of the few people that has encountered all of them (*1.) He never knew what became of Ben Reilly (*2), the fake SS was taken into custody, two died, and one changed his name. That said he knows enough of them and Spider-Man to realize this is someone else. This is the first Kaine is hearing of Ben being part of the New Warriors which might add to his reluctance to join but is never addressed afterward. I do kind of question how Kaine couldn't know this since that took place during a time he was following Bens' activities. He doesn't seem to be aware of a lot of superhero history in general but he was very aware of what Ben was doing and knew him better than anyone else. Even if that took place during a time he was wounded or imprisoned it seems iffy that he wouldn't find out.

Anyway, Vance flat out asks him who he is which naturally gets Kaine riled up. The panel it's self has tension in the background making it seem like the standard cliche rivalry will take place. It's also a callback to the trouble Ben encountered on the team as he had friction with Vance. Of course Kaine can't reveal his ID for the same reason Ben couldn't--that it would out Peter. (*3) I think it's this moment that makes Kaine really give into his first impressions deciding Justice is the type of hero he assumed the Rangers were. To his amazement Faira defends him saying his heroic actions defined him and that's all they needed to know. No one really stood up for him before so this blindsides Kaine a little. Switching gears Vance takes this opportunity to mention that he believes Faira is his friend Namorita. While Kaine takes her side I don't think it's just because she spoke up for him. I saw this as him being able to empathize with someone who has her own identity while others want her to be someone else. Whether it's true or not doesn't matter to him it's who Faira sees herself as, something that comes back when he tells the surviving New Men that no one can tell them who they are.

Despite ticking Kaine off Vance still presses him to join and after his reaction with the Rangers I consider it growth on his part for not decking the team leader right then. Vance calmly states his case about all the good they have done. I like to think Kaines' insistence at not being a superhero--despite wearing a costume--is what makes Vance interested in him. Just to figure out what this guys' deal is because there's a story there. After all the work he's done with mentoring and leading Vance has to know the attitude comes from a painful place. Kaine on the other hand seems sure he knows who Justice is and I think the code name only confirmed that for him. This has to be the know-it-all leader that has to have control and has a massive stick up his ass. This might not have Kaines' thoughts present like his solo series but it's still apparent in what he says. That's not to say he doesn't see that Vance is a skilled hero. He does.

When their attacked Vance makes the mistake of assuming too much with Scarlet Spiders' power set. Sure Kaine isn't wearing armor but to automatically think he has Spider-Sense? I'm not sure how he came to this conclusion since others with the spider theme don't have that ability. It leads to Vance getting slashed across the chest. This is one of the few rare times Vance is visibly frustrated and pissed at Kaine and it's not actually his fault. He actually points out that he's not Spider-Man (despite Nova repeatedly saying he is) and doesn't have that ability. I know this was played up for comedy I just like the fact it shows how much they need to learn from each other. In fact I'm fairly certain Justice still isn't aware of most of Scarlet Spiders' abilities as he doesn't witness them on panel. Not that Kaine makes the situation better by mocking Vance's inability to stop their foe although he does save their leader from getting his face cut open.

Once they land in New York the original New Warriors have to meet with Captain America and Thor. I find it interesting that Kaine leads in their absence. Granted it makes sense as most of them are newbies and Faira was possessed. I do wonder how much information Robbie, Vance and the others exchange. If he knows how Scarlet Spider acted when they were gone and since he seems to be aware of how much Aracely adores Kaine. Then again Faira mentions having a room in the mountain so maybe they've been there awhile. When two of their members get taken something seems to have shifted as Kaine seems ready to take Aracely and leave.

Most likely because he realizes their lingering too long and doesn't want disaster to strike. Aracely is already getting close to the others and for all he knows the rescue mission will fail. It took me a few reads to get a better idea of why he snaps at Justice. When Kaine tells Aracely their not heroes Vance enters the room then not long after says he doesn't know where to find their teammates yet. To me this says that while he may not like Justice for who he thinks he is Kaine knows the guy is everything a hero should be. To have Vance not know what to do pisses him off and likely makes him feel worse for not being "a real hero." If this know-it-all doesn't know what he's doing he's going to let him have it. Thankfully this doesn't go down the tired road of team brawling since Vance actually does have a plan and doesn't get upset at the lack of faith.

Naturally things still go bad which leaves Kaine with the chance to tell him that he hates him which Vance shrugs off not the least bit surprised. He's still dismayed to see that Kaine is violent and doesn't listen very well. Even so Vance knows that he will protect others like Aracely which might be one of the reasons he believes Scarlet Spider can work on the team. Because despite acting otherwise it's obvious he does care. Hell Kaine tells Aracely what to do in the fight and trusted Speedball to watch his back. That's some nice teamwork and has potential. Yet this is the mission right before he decides to quit the team which might have freaked him out. Maybe because Kaine realized he did care and saw how together the team was. We don't see how he quits as the next issue starts with the two of them in Houston with Justice trying to talk him out of it.

With Mark there was some understanding of being an outcast since Vance is a mutant. He got him to see that even if his family abandoned him then he could have a place with them. Obviously Vance sensed something was up with Kaine he just isn't sure what since they haven't really connected and Aracely was likely vague. Taking them to Houston seems like a good idea to make him more comfortable only Kaine has bad memories since he lost everything except Aracely.

So he is openly hostile that he was brought there instead of Mexico. Still Justice tries to reason with him saying he doesn't believe Scarlet Spider really wants to leave. Calm and collected as well as reasonable. Pointing out he could stop him with his powers if he wanted to and that he sees through the tough guy act. Kaine may deny caring about the good they did or wanting to save the world but he starts to waver when Vance mentions leaving Aracely behind. I'm guessing Kaine saw how attached she was and how the team was there for Mark which made him changed his mind in between issues. Now he believes the New Warriors are what's best for her.

Choke the Bear shows up halting their conversation. For ages Kaine has been saying he's not a hero so his amazement that someone sees him as a super villain is interesting. It reminds me of his showdown with Kraven when the hunter said that for all his denial part of Kaine believes he is a hero. His solution to stop Choke by leaving makes sense as he thinks by staying he's making things worse. While Vance's utter shock at this is for the sake of humor he really didn't think Scarlet Spider would just abandon him and this situation. Did he misjudge him? Does he really not care? He really doesn't know and isn't given much time to dwell on these questions as Choke attacks him instead. Luckily for everyone except Choke there's someone around who can talk sense into Scarlet Spider. I love the dynamics of Wally and Kaine. You could tell at the end of the Scarlet Spider series that Wally's behavior was based more on the fear of losing Donald than actual hatred. This reunion inspires Kaine to go back to save Justice...I think. I'm not actually sure he'd die by a bear costume eating him.

Justice: You came back.

Something about this line gets me. It's a statement not a question yet says so much. I personally read it as Vance feeling vindicated in his gut instincts because this proved he was right. He's not being smug just stating a fact yet it's a relief to know his feelings were correct. For the first time since they met Kaine let's himself be exposed. Not just because of seeing Wally but Vance deserves the truth after he ditched him. It's a vulnerability that is especially hard to deal with then since in his mind he's talking to "the leader." The guy that was an Avenger--a group that's up there with Peter as far as heroes go--how will he react to the truth? Kaine assumed Peter accepted him until his "brother" basically said he had no right to live (he doesn't know that was Doc Ock.) He fully believes he'll get nothing save contempt in return for his honesty. Kaine explains why Houston is important to him, that he tried to be a hero and how he lost nearly everything important. How he wants better for Aracely and thinks the New Warriors are what she needs.

This moment was one I was looking forward to because given their histories it seemed obvious they'd have this interaction. It was simpler than I'd thought yet it works so well.

Scarlet Spider: But not me. I'm a bad person. I've done bad things. I've...I've killed people.

It's not that he didn't see the value of what Justice was saying all this time, he did. Kaine just doesn't see himself as a hero because of his past. He doesn't think he's good enough or will ever be a good person no matter what he does. Just try to imagine what's going through his head when he says this. How he thinks Justice will react to his confession. Disgust? Probably but maybe he'd agree to take care of Aracely to keep her safe. Then there's the hesitation at the end. The only person he admitted this to was Donald while being partly drunk. This is Justice, someone who he likely sees the flawless hero that looks down on people like him. He fully expects to be judged and condemned.

Yet it doesn't phase Justice at all because he's killed too. He's not perfect either and while he doesn't know Kaine he realizes that making up for past mistakes is their new mission statement. During this run Vance realized that just because the New Warriors had a horrible incident attached to it didn't mean they had to give up their ideals because of it. He might have seen them as a "tarnished brand" like Ironman did at the start but he realized it didn't have to be that way. The New Warriors series under Yost represents two things in my book: redemption and belonging. Vance knows about both and wants to provide a place for people to be accepted. He wants to redeem the team name and honor his friends that died. To help Speedball recover, to rebuild the family. Now he offers Kaine a place with people who can understand him.

Once that moment has passed they shrug it off with Kaine claiming his feelings for them haven't changed and Vance playing along. However the mood between them has changed. It's more playful as they attack Choke together enjoying the silliness of the situation. There's actual teamwork involved with Kaine not only trusting Vance but looking to him for what is the appropriate way to handle the situation. Just like Vance says at the end being around people can only help him out. By making sure he doesn't cross the line and giving him the inspiration to be better. At this point they have an understanding and they definitely like each other a lot more. There's not too much interaction between them in the next couple of issues. They attack the High Evolutionary with Justice trying to reason with him. Kaine and Faira tell him it's a waste of time since their lives clearly mean nothing to him. In #11 Kaine seems to be the only one jumping in to fight against impossible odds after Justice has been taken out by a speedster. Kaine hears that the mutant has been "dealt with" which prompt him to attack after he's been beaten. Clearly this news has upset him. We don't get any real reaction to Vance's return but Kaine is shown on the team afterward.

It seems like the membership is working out.

There's still Spiderverse to consider as some of his teammates are taken out to get to Kaine. Although  given the power level of some of those members I have a hard time buying more than three are present. Kaine is shown being upset over them being attacked but nothing else beyond that scene.

*1 Whether some are "official" is debatable.
*2 Firestar suspected the new Spider-Man was Scarlet Spider 1 although it's unknown if she told Vance this. Either way they wouldn't know what happened to him.
*3 Kaine wasn't careful in Houston with his ID and Faira has seen him sans mask.

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