Spider-Man: Who Is Kaine?

Kaine Spider-Man - Cover
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Kaine, one of Spider-Man’s erstwhile clones, made his return to comics this week as part of the “Spider-Geddon” event. He is leading a team of various Spider-people, including Jessica Drew, on deadly missions in the three-issue miniseries Spider-Force as part of the collective effort to save the multiverse from the Inheritors. The series is being written by comics legend Christopher Priest and artist Paulo Siquiera, providing plenty of reason for superhero fans to check it out, even if they are skipping “Spider-Geddon.”

While Kaine makes for an unsurprising front man and has been the focus of his own ongoing series in the past, he’s also a character that few but the most astute historians of Spider-Man lore know all about. Kaine emerged as part of the epically complex “Clone Saga,” and each year since his debut has only added more layers to an already tangled web. That’s where we come in. While Kaine’s history may not be new reader friendly, his stories and place in Marvel Comics are currently too good to resist. In order to help you dive into Spider-Force and whatever may follow, we’ve collected an essential summary of Kaine’s most important moments so there won’t be any big questions as he fights the Inheritors and resumes his role as a great Marvel superhero.

Origins and Powers

Kaine did not make his first appearance until the events of the “Clone Saga” in 1994, but he was designed to be part of Amazing Spider-Man stories dating back to 1975. It was in this moment that the very first clones of Peter Parker emerged as part of a plot by The Jackal to seek revenge upon Peter Parker. The Jackal, also known as the biology professor Miles Warren, had been in love with his student Gwen Stacy and blamed Spider-Man for her death. His plan for revenge took a variety of forms (including the first appearance of The Punisher) and climaxed with the revelation of a Spider-Man clone in Amazing Spider-Man #149. While both the clone and The Jackal seemingly died during this confrontation, the events of this story laid the groundwork for years of Spider-Man stories to come as well as the origins of Kaine.

It was almost two decades later when writer Terry Kavanagh and artist Steven Butler created Kaine and retconned his origin into the now classic story of The Jackal’s revenge. The clone that Peter Parker fought in Amazing Spider-Man #149, who would return during this period under the new name Ben Reilly, was revealed to have not been The Jackal’s first attempt at cloning Peter Parker’s mutated DNA. Kaine was the original clone, and an imperfect replica which led to some dire consequences.

The Jackal quickly realized Kaine was degenerating and discarded his first cloning attempt, resulting in some very ill will between the two. In addition to the increased degeneration of his cells, Kaine also experienced an increase in his DNA’s spider powers, including some new effects. His spider-senses were heightened enough to allow him to brief glimpses of the future, and he also had a burning touch that allowed him to scar victims with a “Mark of Kaine.”

Kaine Spider-Man - Clone Saga
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Early Days

While The Jackal might have expected his first experiment to quickly die due to these unexpected side effects, Kaine managed to survive as a mercenary and bounty hunter, using his incredible abilities for disturbing and violent purposes. His mental state was every bit as unstable as his DNA, which brought him into conflict with both Peter Parker and Ben Reilly during his earliest appearances. Both men co-existed for a time with Reilly bearing the mantle of Scarlet Spider and only Kaine being aware of their biological connection.

In addition to his work as a bounty hunter and obsessive stalking of Ben Reilly, Kaine would eventually come into contact with Spider-Man’s own rogues gallery. He killed a number of villains, including Doctor Octopus, resulting in Peter Parker taking the fall due to their similarities. While Peter tried to bring Kaine to justice, Kaine refused to admit to his crimes until it became clear that his continued silence would result in harm to his originator. It was at this moment during a mock trial that Kaine confessed to all he had done during the years he had been absent from Amazing Spider-Man as well as his placement as Peter’s original clone.

Over the course of the next decade, Kaine slowly moved from being a villain to an anti-hero. He learned to let go of his anger toward Ben Reilly and sought to continue fighting crime, even as his cellular degeneration worsened. Kaine’s methods did not lessen and he killed a number of criminals and burned others with his Mark of Kaine, but strove to serve a greater good, even if it was through questionable methods.

Kaine Spider-Man - Stegman
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Recent Days

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In the past decade Kaine’s ascent from deadly villain to costume-wearing superhero has been completed. During Dan Slott’s run he underwent a number of important changes. First, during the “Spider-Island” event he was transformed into a monster before being saved. This process salvaged his DNA, stopping the degenerative process and serving as a jumping-off point for a series of his own, Scarlet Spider. While active under this new alter ego, he served as the protector of Houston, Texas, battled a number of notable villains, and joined the New Warriors. It was also during this time that his role as “The Other” in Spider-Man lore was raised, leading to the events of “Spider-Verse.”

This other name made Kaine a key figure in the prophecy that would defeat the Inheritors during the multiversal battle of “Spider-Verse.” It first appeared as though Kaine had to sacrifice himself in order to save all of reality, but a fresh hand exploded from his old corpse in an epilogue to the event. This second rebirth also returned Kaine to a state in which his body would undergo rapid degeneration. He continued to fight with heroes and played a key role in stopping his “brother” Ben Reilly, who had gone insane, during the “Clone Conspiracy” event. In spite of these new challenges, Kaine remained one of the good guys and worked alongside a variety of Spider-heroes to save the day and himself. Given this incredible growth, it’s no surprise that Kaine has joined a team in Spider-Force and even become a leader in battling the forces of evil. It’s rare in superhero comics for a redemption story to stick, but in the case of Kaine it appears this superhero is sticking around, without or without degenerating DNA.