Review by Frank Plowright
With Damnation, events of the wider Marvel universe impact on Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider, primarily because he chose to set up shop in Las Vegas, subsequently devastated by Hydra during Secret Empire. Peter David largely skirted around that in The Slingers Return, although the misunderstandings there were based on aid efforts, but with pretty well the entirety of Damnation based in Las Vegas David couldn’t avoid acknowledging matters. The short catch-up is that Lord of Hell Mephisto and his minions have emerged in the city after the dead from earlier stories were pulled back from Hell. To complicate things further, many demons are masquerading as human.
At first it seems David is going through the motions. Sure, the way Will Sliney draws it, it’s nice to see Scarlet Spider facing off against a few demons, even if with all the weapons he carries he’s increasingly resembling Deadpool. However, at the end of the second chapter David drops his bombshell. Ben’s purpose is redemption, and who can cleanse a stained soul better than Mephisto? Contradiction, self-justification and self-interest have seen seen Ben through his career to date, so can that confound what’s in effect a deal with the devil? That all sounds great, but it amounts to very little given the rushed way it plays out. There is redemption with a great twist in the following Deal With the Devil, but here it’s actually disappointing.
A second deal with the devil occupies the remainder of Damnation, as we finally discover what Mysterio and his daughter have been up to in Las Vegas. It’s surprisingly twisted, with a gruesome emotional conflict, and the art of André Lima Araújo gives it the slightly off-centre look needed for the locations. Because David follows through on the plots it succeeds better than the title story, which comes across as marking time.