Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ben is BACK!


My very first proper American Comic was an issue of Spider-Man. I was on my first holiday to the US with my parents and I managed to badger them into buying me quite a few that trip. But the first was part 1 of ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ - a storyline that featured a certain clone as the main star. Yes, my first proper comic had Scarlet Spider as the main star during what is widely considered one of the worst stories in Marvel's history, the Clone Saga. From that moment on I always liked Ben Reilly. I followed him through most of the saga, his stint as Spidey and his eventual death.

His was one comic death that never seemed like it was ever going to be reversed no matter how much it was wanted. This is comic books though and only Uncle Ben stays dead, so it was only a matter of time before the guy who took his name from him rose from the grave. While we may not have that yet, 15 years is long enough for Marvel to finally start admitting that Peter Parker's test tube brother existed. While a storyline in Amazing addressed the character in-continuity, we were also given an out-of-continuity story covering the Clone Saga that was to cover how it should have been told, instead of the mess it turned out to be.

Well that's what Marvel claimed anyway. The six issue mini series isn't really taking that stance. It's odd what the writers have done. They seem to have taken beats from the whole saga and are half retelling and half re-imagining. For instance, in the original saga Ben had a very 90s mullet and looked a lot scruffier to Parker's usual look. It was only after he took over the real Spider mantel that he decided to dye his hair blonde and tidy it back up. To distance themselves, in this clone saga Ben is blonde and working at the coffee shop while still running around as the Scarlet Spider.

Also Peter is the usual jokey Spider-Man, but part of the reason for the original story was that Parker had gone through so much he'd become dark and brooding. Editorial wanted the single, fun loving Spidey back, a problem they'd pursue another 10 years before getting to grips with, and that's a whole other rant. Having both Ben and Peter working in the same way does spoil some of the magic of the original series. Well, at least before it got out of hand.

That its now looking like Norman Osborne's behind it all again just goes to show that this is just them telling certain parts better than how it was originally. Osborne was originally only revealed to be back from the grave and the mastermind behind the saga when editorial sat down and tried to figure how to reverse the 'Ben is the real Parker' problem. The former Green Goblin was not even in the original plans.

The fact issues two and three cover about 4 different story-arcs within the original Saga just proves my point. One of those arcs was one of the Saga's lowest points. The God-awful Maximum Clonage, a SIX issue story, now part and parcel of a two issue story covering far more ground.

However, I'm loving having Ben Reilly back in comics. Especially in the Scarlet Spider costume. One of my all time favourite comics will be the issue where Ben first puts the costume together and fights Venom, all the way through saying he's worthless while proving the very opposite. It was Spider-Man through and through and I hope I don't have to wait another 15 years to see him again.
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