Title: Spider-Man: Return of Ben Reilly?
Description: It's the 90's turn for nostalgia fun!
Raijin - July 11, 2009 10:41 PM (GMT)
There are a few Spidey fans here, and just about every Spider-fan I've met has professed to liking Ben Reilly, the Peter Parker clone and Spider-Man replacement from the 90s' much maligned Clone Saga. In the span of a few years, they introduced this guy as a possible threat to Peter's life, then grew him into a great brotherly supporting character, revealed him as the original Peter Parker who'd been replaced by a clone since the 70s, had that "clone" pass the Spider-Man torch to Ben while he prepares to have a family with Mary Jane...then they finally listen to all the complaining fans and reverse everything - Ben dies revealed as the clone, MJ has a miscarriage, Norman Osborn and Aunt May are back from the dead, and I stop collecting Spider-books, my first experience with comics comes to a close because Marvel wanted to get back to basics and go on acting like the Spider-Man era of my childhood never happened.
Well, it was only a matter of time before what went around came around. There were some news and rumors going around that Ben Reilly was due for a comeback. The Spider-Man Annual that came out this week starts it off. From what's in the issue, it looks like the promise was a bit misleading though. Spoilers follow:
A new villain attacks Peter because he thinks he's Ben Reilly. He believes Ben Reilly killed his family and burned down his home years ago, before Ben returned to New York during the Clone Saga. Flashbacks support this by showing a man that looks exactly like Peter doing just that. This sets up the problem our hero has to deal with over the upcoming storyline - his dead clone is suspected of a horrible atrocity and he has to get to the bottom of it.
Now, the "was Ben Reilly a murderer?" plot isn't a very original approach to the character, heck the Clone Saga launched on that exact concept. Peter went to prison for murders Ben Reilly was suspected of, but it turned out Ben was framed by Kaine, another Peter Parker clone. I think the "Lost Years" limited series used a similar concept as well, also with Kaine as the real murderer. If Kaine turns out to be the killer this time as well...nahhh.
The book also drops hints that the Ben Reilly we're dealing with here isn't even the one we're familiar with. No, not another clone. He could be an actual Reilly. The clone took his name from Uncle Ben and Aunt May's maiden name, Reilly. This issue starts off with a convenient family reunion of the previously unseen Reilly clan. May's got a sister Jan and a couple cousins, and supposedly another sister April who doesn't appear at the reunion because she's the "black sheep" who they "don't like to talk about". Forshadowing, or red herring?
Of course, if this Ben Reilly turns out to be one of May's relatives, it wouldn't make much sense for him to look exactly like Peter. Note that May is Pete's father's brother's wife, there's no blood relation there. Does the writer realize that though? There's a brief scene in the reunion where Peter meets his three hot "cousins", which are actually May's cousin's daughters which really makes them of no relation to Peter unless the father somehow managed to be a Parker. Nonetheless, Pete gets really flustered around them and thinks it's the creepiest thing in the world to lust after some attractive women he's never met just because they're his cousins...only they're NOT his cousins as I just explained. Could this be the writer's sloppy grasp of the geneology, or an intentional highlight of Peter Parker's own neurotic exaggeration of his relationship with Aunt May? There's also a scene where he argues that May is "like a mother" despite reminders that she's not really, so it could be that Peter just insists on viewing the Reillys as his own flesh and blood even though he's as good as adopted and has never met any of them besides May.
To boil that all down, either the writer is confused and "Ben Reilly" is going to turn out to be Pete's distant cousin on his Aunt's side, or the whole Reilly reunion thing is a red herring and we have the potential for some authentic Spider-clone rehashing.
Though even in the latter case, I'm not sure if that's something to look forward to. Either way, Ben Reilly likely stays dead, and the closest we get to his return will be flashbacks to an untold chapter of his life. Peter's memories of his clone in this issue seem to be tainted by the stigma of the Clone Saga. He doesn't mention Ben in a very positive light, he uses phrases like "duplicate created by a lunatic", "another attempt to kill me", "completely upending my life with Mary Jane", "confronting me", "turning my life inside out". To anyone that hasn't read the comics of that era, they might think Ben Reilly was just a villain from these words.
Technically everything he says is true, but he doesn't mention how Ben didn't actually try to steal his identity, that he went out of his way to take Peter's place in prison for those murders he was suspected of, how he helped him fight against the Jackal and get his life back together, how he saved his life a few times, how they came to see each other as brothers, how none of that "turning my life inside out" stuff was in any way his fault but a matter of circumstance, or how Ben was an awesome superhero and all-around great guy. No, he just mentions th bad stuff. Real classy. That's not what any of us Ben Reilly fans had in mind when we heard the whisperings of his comeback.
Anf then there's the whole BND continuity thing. Who knows what really happened in the updated version of the Clone Saga? There was no marriage and no pregnancy, so why would Peter quit being Spider-Man and let Ben take his place?
I haven't bought many Spider-Man books in the last decade, but it looks like I'm going to start up again, at least until this "Ben Reilly" thing blows over. Good or bad, I can't resist comics that grant me cameos by the under-appreciated characters I grew to love in my childhood. That could actually be happening a lot more often now that the decade-long statute of limitations on nostalgia has been reached on the 90s. Can't wait.
Gauntlet101010 - July 11, 2009 10:53 PM (GMT)
For us who got into comics thanks to the 90's gimmicks .... we get screwed over a bit sometimes.
It's ironic that the Clone Saga, an idea that's agreed by pretty much everyone as a bad idea, got you into comics, tho. I agree that it seems like the writer is mixing up his own interpretation of Ben Rily with how his relationship with Peter actually was. I suppose that's similar to how it goes though ... as the "poster child" for that story, Ben Rily and everything connected to him is reviled by those who ddin't like the Clone Saga. I actually liked his Spider-man costume more than the classic one.
Big Boss - July 12, 2009 03:10 AM (GMT)
There were a few comics that I'd pick up regularly as a kid, and one of them was Spider-Man. I was pretty big into Spider-Man since before the Maximum Carnage arc, but mid way through the Clone Saga, I ran far, far away from that mess. It was pretty bad that I was able to keep up with Spawn at the time, and that comic book was fucked up if you missed a few issues in a row. I eventually whittled down my reading to the Age of Apocolypse titles, which were awesome for a while, then I stopped reading Marvel altogether.
I dunno, man. Not too long ago, I did try to revist the Clone Saga via the internet to see what I missed when I ditched it, and I still don't think I missed too much. It started out promising, but then the writing changed directions far too many times. That happens alot in comic books, but it got ridiculous during that arc. By the time Kaine was introduced, I was long gone. I think I had heard at one point that Kaine ended up being another clone during this era, and I simply shook my head.
I'm still of the opinion that one of Marvel's best story arcs of the 90s was the Wolverine-loses-his-adamantium saga. He was starting to get stale just before it happened, so they went and knocked Logan down to near-human level to make him more relatable, and it worked for me. The one book where Lady Deathstrike catches up with him only to discover what happened to him really appealed to me; she ends up feeling sorry for him and leaves without throwing another punch at him. That, and Cyber stomping the shit out his bone claws was gruesome and strangely intriguing.
Raijin - July 12, 2009 03:52 AM (GMT)
Not sure why I'm one of the few people that could follow the entire Clone Saga and think it all made sense. Maybe because I was 11 and had nothing to compare it to yet. I just assumed all comics told stories like that all the time and I liked it. Just last year I got a DVD of the complete Amazing Spider-Man series and read it all the way through, and in revisited context I can see exactly how convoluted it must have seemed to longtime fans, and was able to spot some plot holes I didn't notice when I was a kid. I still gotta love it for sentimental reasons though.
Also, while the overall plot in that era may have been a mess, I actually think the writing was waaay better than outgoing writer David Miceline's. Every plot that guy came up with was so contrived and mindless. Did the fans really prefer Maximum Carnage and the Peter's Parents arc to the Clone Saga? I just can't see it. As near as I can tell the only thing that makes the Clone Saga worse than those stories was that it lasted longer so it could get on people's nerves more.
Out of any potential 90s revisitings I'm looking forward to at Marvel, top of the list has got to be Slingers. It's still my favourite series of all time. Me, and like two other people, maybe. I looked up the writer for that series recently to find out what he was doing. Wasn't easy, there are a few Joe Harrises in comics and he doesn't even seem to be the most reknowned of them. Apparently he last wrote a Man-Bat one-shot for DC. Not the most prestigious of gigs. Well, even without much demand, I've seen at least a couple other fans express interest in a Slingers reunion. The characters have been shown here and there in other Marvel books, and as I suggested above, it's compelled me to buy those books. Ricochet's cameo got me into Runaways, Prodigy's cameo got me into the Initiative. No complaints there. Hornet got killed in Wolverine and Dusk got sex-slaved in Ms.Marvel, both as random Z-list throwaway picks. There I have complaints, but it doesn't stop me. All they need to do is gather the living members together again, maybe add in some new ones from the same stock like Mattie Franklin Spider-Woman and the Initiative's Scarlet Spider for a little one-shot gimmick and I'll be ecstatic. If anything, I'm sure Joe Harris would be available for the freelance work.
Edit: One thought I forgot to mention - I've noticed that even the people that agree that the Clone Saga was a horrible atrocity against comics everywhere often at least feel positively about Ben Reilly. For all the story's faults, he was a very likable character and his death brought manly tears to many a fan's eyes. That's why I hope whoever's in charge of this upcoming story recognizes the difference between Ben Reilly and the Clone Saga.
Benjamin - July 13, 2009 02:49 PM (GMT)
I find the Clone Saga a particular tragedy because the story was only supposed to last a few months but the men in business suits wanted to drag it out for as long as they could because it the few issues made them a lot of money. Had the executives and editors not interfered, the story would be regarded in a more positive light. I can take some solace in that no matter how drawn out the Clone Saga was, it will never be the clusterf**k One More Day was.
While on the subject on 90s Marvel, personally I thought Thunderbolts was probably the best title they released in the wake of Onslaught. Remember how that event removed Marvel's main heroes from the regular continuity for a year? I thought it was a brilliant idea for the Masters of Evil to pose as a group of Avengers wannabes to lure the world into a false sense of security. Granted the book floundered after Heroes Return, it was still an enjoyable read.
Too bad "Dark Avengers" is really nothing more than Thunderbolts-lite. Busiek > Bendis
Raijin - November 7, 2009 02:12 AM (GMT)
The clone revisit story in Amazing finished this week (storylines sure go fast when the book comes out almost every week).
Ben Reilly is still dead, but Kaine isn't, amazingly. Poor guy was in a perpetual state of just-about-to-melt-into-a-puddle-of-ooze since he debuted and apparently that's still where he is. As of the end of the story, he's still at large, so the clone saga redux could continue at a later date.
There was at least one big continuity flub, I think. Much of the story took place in flashbacks to a time when Reilly was living on the road, and at the end he has a bout with Kaine, wherein the fact that Kaine is another Parker clone is all out in the open. To my recollection, Kaine wasn't unmasked until later when the original Clone Saga was in full swing. So in these flashbacks Ben should only have known Kaine as some asshole stalker, not a clone.
Then there's one point in the flashback, basically at the same time, where Reilly cops Kaine's technique of using his wall-sticking ability to ridiculously amped proportions to rip out a chunk of the ceiling. I don't recall him ever being able to do that. I thought only Kaine's overclocked spider-powers had the capacity, but then again I have missed a lot of Spider-stories in the last few years so maybe that's a standard Spidey ability he just doesn't employ too often.
Otherwise, it kept quite true to the original themes; three estranged brothers that ended up taking very different paths in life, one embittered and abandoned of the humanity the other two cling to despite their existential crises. Even though the story started with Peter questioning Reilly's shadowy past, he eventually remembers Ben represented the best of his own qualities and puts his trust in his long-departed twin.
Also, I was originally worried they'd reveal Kaine as the murderer framing Reilly, y'know, just like when both characters were first introduced. The real answer was close to that, but Kaine was just an enabler this time, not the actual killer.
Meanwhile, we're also getting a Clone Saga miniseries, which is a condensed retelling of the original story from the 90s. I've heard people fret that it'd be the "Brand New Day" retcon version, but that premise is quickly quashed by the fact Peter and MJ are married and pregnant here. Instead it's "the way it was meant to be", with two of the original architects (Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie) writing it. It's what pretty much everyone agrees, the Clone Saga could have at least been forgettable if it didn't get dragged out like it did. Today they're attempting to redeem it by showing what it could have been like if it lasted six months on one title instead of two years on five.
I like that premise, but two issues in and it seems to be suffering the opposite problem. It's rushed! I guess it wasn't enough to just cut out all the superfluous and peripheral story elements, with only six issues to work with they also had to leave out a lot of character development. The second issue opens with a timeskip of a few months from the first and it's up to some clunky dialogue to fill in the blanks for us. It's clear enough at this point that the miniseries is only for readers like me that are familiar with the original Saga because we know how to fill in those blanks. For instance, they left out the whole "Trial of Peter Parker" event that's there to establish who Kaine is and why he does what he does. In its place is a timeskip where the dialogue explains that Kaine just attacked the Spider-Men a bunch of times, making him out to be a common trouble-maker villain of the week type. Well, maybe that is what DeFalco and Mackie had in mind from the start, who knows?
I look forward to seeing how it pans out though. Since it's not tethered to any continuity, they could get away with some good things like maybe actually killing off Aunt May for real, and revealing the chessmaster to be someone other than Norman Osborn. I was rooting for the Jackal to end up as the rightful big bad this time, but they're making it even more obvious from the start that he's a decoy.
Gauntlet101010 - November 7, 2009 03:36 AM (GMT)
It's pretty odd that they're revisiting this story, considering how reviled it is. It seemes liek they did a decent job, from your description.
Slash Man - November 10, 2009 08:37 PM (GMT)
I was a Spider-Man fan, but searching for a good Spidey adventure these days was getting so hard that I just gave up. I'm hoping to see 4 & 5, though.
On top of that, I think clones should stay in Star Wars.