Cynicism vs Optimism

What can I say about power and responsibility that hasn’t been said before? Responsibility is Peter Parker’s mantra, his motto, possibly his reason for being. It is what his thinks about first thing in the morning and the last thing that he thinks about at night. He would die to uphold his responsibility to another person, even an enemy. Having such lofty ideals is what makes him a hero for many of us. He is, in short, a very good person.

Sometimes that bothers me.

Think of the trauma he has been exposed to. The deaths of numerous loved ones and attacks against other people he cares about. Random innocents cut down by thugs, killers and crooks. Countless injuries and near death experiences that he has personally suffered through. Afterward, he gets the “gratitude” of the people of New York. Yet he goes on, still seeing the best in everyone, still hoping for a better tomorrow. It is an admirable trait but it is realistic?

Does Peter get angry at times? You bet. Just ask Norman Osborn, Wilson Fisk, Firelord, Sergei Kravinoff, Otto Octavius, Stan Carter and anyone else that has harmed someone close to Spider-Man. Murderous vengeance was certainly on his mind while facing some of these foes. Yet, his sense of responsibility held him back at the last moment. It always does.

I’m certainly not looking for Peter to turn as bloodthirsty as the Punisher, Ghost Rider or Moon Knight. Those kinds of characters have always bored me. They seem tailor made for immature teenage boys looking to prove how hardcore they are. There is no depth to those characters. They are all flash and action and no substance. Strength of character is what keeps bringing me back, but Peter’s decency borders on naivety.

Consider the time that Electro powered himself up. He runs into Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #423 and tries to fry him. Peter is stunned at Dillon’s attack. “H-Humiliate you?! Don’t you remember how I saved your life a few months back? You even thanked me!” Then there was the time that he found out that Felicia Hardy had gone back to being a burglar in Amazing Spider-Man #606. “Work…are you breaking and entering?” Yes, Felicia had become a detective for a while but she has never stayed a good girl for long. Finally, in Amazing Spider-Man #363 he has just captured both Cletus Kasady and Eddie Brock. However, Peter feels guilty for tricking Brock after giving his word to let him go free after Kasady was apprehended. There is rarely uncertainty for the reader as to how Spidey will react in a moral situation, which can lessen the suspense.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve been enjoying the Scarlet Spider series, featuring Peter's clone, Kaine. Not only has a character returned after he seemingly disappeared off of the face of the earth, but Kaine is an interesting contrast to Peter Parker. A good case can be made for Doctor Octopus, Venom or even the Scorpion being Spider-Man’s dark opposite but Kaine Parker is as close to an evil Peter as a person can get. He is Peter, down to his genetics and many of his memories.

The difference between Peter and Kaine revolves around their upbringings. Peter’s father figure was the kindly Ben Parker, while Kaine’s was a psychopath bent on a genetically perfected humanity. This has proven to be a significant obstacle for Kaine, who has killed in the past without remorse. Even now as the Scarlet Spider, he tried to kill the Salamander after the murderer torched a hospital. He spared the killer at the last moment, but he really had me wondering if he would cross the line.

Kaine is a useful mirror to hold up to Peter. As Peter's clone, Kaine us biologically the same as Spider-Man so the real difference between them is their pasts. Kaine is what Peter could have become without Uncle Ben’s influence. The difference between them is paper thin yet it makes all the difference in the world. We still don’t know exactly how Kaine will act as his series progresses, but that is part of what makes it intriguing. One thing is certain: Houston has a very different wall crawler to contend with than New York does. Time will tell which city is better off.

It's going to make for darn fun reading.