Since this is basically Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #0 lets take a look at it shall we.
Disclaimer: I am going to give you some very basic cliff notes of Clone Conspiracy because I am not re-reading it for the sake of reviewing this one tiny story. Also note when I say ‘Ben’ or ‘Ben Reilly’ or any variation of that I am referring to Ben’s clone from the story, not the actual Ben Reilly character. It is just makes it easier for me in writing this as opposed to writing ‘Ben’s clone’ over and over again.
The story so far:
When Ben Reilly died in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 Miles Warren secretly acquired some of his remains and from them grew a clone of Ben. This was part of an experiment using a new cloning process, which allowed clones to retain all of their memories, even up to the point of death. However due to the Ben clone still possessing some genetic defects Warren killed him and created another clone, this one now remembering dying twice.
Warren repeated this cycle over and over again, killing ‘Ben’ in a variety of gruesome ways until he snapped and broke free. ‘Ben’ developed pills, which would stabilize a clone’s genetic structure thus preventing degeneration, though they had to be taken regularly.
Masquerading as the Jackal, ‘Ben’ founded the company New U technologies that used cloning technology to help seemingly terminal people, actually replacing most of them with clones. Ben hoped to use New U to ‘help the world’ and to this end cloned everyone who had ever died in Peter Parker’s life (exempting Uncle Ben) all in an effort to recruit him to his cause.
Despite Ben’s efforts to persuade him, Peter rejected his ‘brother’s’ offer and shortly thereafter all the New U clones began degenerating, including Ben, risking the spread of a contagious virus within each of them. Peter, with help from other individuals including Kaine Parker, succeeded in preventing the spread of the contagion but in the chaos Ben slipped away.
Ben had intended to transfer his mind into a new clone body was prevented from doing so by Doctor octopus and so instead downed several stabilizing pills, seemingly saving himself from further degeneration.
Whilst Peter Parker believes Ben to be dead, Kaine does not and has dedicated himself to finding Ben.
Doctor Rita Clarkson, one of the key employees of New U, is in a bar morose over the collapse of New U and its schemes.
She is approached by Ben Reilly who catches her up about how he survived. He also mentions he tracked her down to her favourite watering hole due to knowing a lot about her.
Rita laments that she is being treated as a villain when she thought they were doing good work. When Ben claims they were doing good work she rebuts that they were playing God, prompting Ben to claim that God hasn’t been paying attention so they filled the vacuum (?). She claims they messed with people’s lives but Ben simply says God does the same thing *rolls eyes*.
After this great exchange of dialogue Ben comes to the point and asks Rita for a loan. She claims she doesn’t have enough money (which Ben is sceptical of) before two men approach them. One of them is the husband of a woman that New U saved, the other is the woman’s brother. They are upset that New U lied, providing them with a copy, and that they had to watch her degenerate in front of them and the rest of their family.
They tell Rita to come with them and upon threatening her with a gun Ben steps in. One of the men, after being disarmed by Ben, seemingly recognizes his voice. Ben proceeds to use him as a shield when the other man fires at him.
After taking out both men Ben steals one of their hoodies and then he and Rita leave. Grateful for saving her life Rita withdraws a lot of cash from her bank and gives it to Ben. Ben offhandedly claims he knew about her funds and tipped off those men in order to save her from them and win her gratitude. Rita doesn’t seem to believe this.
Ben says the money is just a loan but Rita insists it is payment for him saving her life. Then he kisses her (…okay…). After saying he always wanted to do that he heads for ‘Broadway’. When Rita asks if that means he is going to New York he simply says there is more than one Broadway and departs.
There really isn’t much to say about this story.
Narratively little happens.
Ben Reilly gets money from Dr Clarkson in preparation for whatever he does next. That’s kind of it. I mean I guess you could also count beating up some guys, kissing Clarkson, maybe revealing he manipulated events and also grabbing a hoodie.
Unless Clarkson shows up in the new Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider on-going, really this story feels pointless outside of an ad for that series. And not even all that good of an ad as it is hardly reflective of what the status quo is likely to be, Ben isn’t even in costume. It is particularly pointless when one considers that Ben having been present throughout the Clone Conspiracy storyline (and being hinted at early into ASM Volume 4) has already been well established to the readers. In fact ASM volume 4 #22 and #24 were almost entirely about him so the character has been promoted enough, we really didn’t need this at all.
The events of this story could even have been mentioned briefly in BR:SS #1 since all it amounts to is explaining where Ben gets some start up money from.
But okay, lets talk some positives.
I’m no art expert but Mark Bagley, whilst not at the height of his powers as he once was, is still a decent artist. And the family members of Nikki confronting Clarkson was a nice idea to depict some of the realistic fall out of what she and Ben got up to.
To be honest though there is little else to praise this story for because again, it is thoroughly superfluous.
However a mixed moment is when Ben says he knew about Clarkson’s funds and tipped off the men who accosted her.
Now unto itself it is well written because it genuinely leaves us in some doubt as to whether or not Ben genuinely did manipulate events for his own sake or is he just saying he did as like a joke.
When you think about it from a character perspective though that is where it gets dicey.
On the one hand that shows a cunning and manipulative aspect to Ben, which is an interesting trait for a character to have.
On the other hand it is anathema to Ben Reilly’s specific character and not at all what people liked about him. The extent to which Ben manipulated anyone in the original Clone Saga began and ended with maybe him tricking a bad guy in order to beat them and save the day; or I suppose his liberating Janine from police custody. Here he’s straight up endangered a woman’s life and injured two people (possibly even killing one of them) all as part of a scheme to get money.
Again, not Ben Reilly.
Now sure…this actually isn’t Ben Reilly in the first place. This is Ben Reilly’s clone.
And sure between his torture, playing God and the degeneration he is suffering from there is more than enough in-universe justification as to why Ben might be acting this way.
The same is true of his weird, never before mentioned attitude towards God. He effectively says God is an uncaring asshole, which somehow justifies him and Clarkson stepping in to mess with people’s lives, even though they were kind of assholes too. Once more, not the Ben Reilly we knew but I guess you could kind of explain it based upon his experiences.
Here is the thing though…nobody ever wanted this.
If this character is going to be so utterly different to the Ben Reilly we all knew, loved and asked to come back then he might as well be a totally unrelated character. Just have him be yet another clone of Peter’s with little to do with Ben at all.
I know that would remove a lot of the emotional investment we have in the character but that same emotional investment is screwing us over since we emotionally invested in Ben being a certain way. This is akin to wanting Peter Parker back after Superior Spider-Man but when he returns he is nothing like the guy we knew and loved.
Or to use a more abstract analogy it’s not unlike in the issues preceding the 1990s Clone Saga where Peter had had a mental breakdown and called himself ‘THE SPIDER!!!!!!!’ That direction did make sense in so far as it was far from unrealistic the character might act that way given his then recent experiences and the context of the time. But it was not what anyone wanted and it went against the core conception, appeal and underlining philosophies of the character and series.
Of course sometimes that works, at least up to a point. Kaine becoming the new Scarlet Spider after Spider Island conceptually worked even though it was not what was originally intended for the character. But even then a lot of the core characteristics of Kaine were retained alongside the things which made him appealing, even whilst some things were dropped (e.g. his degeneration illness) and other things developed (like his desire to help others).
It is difficult to articulate the exact difference between that and what is happening to Ben, beyond one feels more organic than the other. I’m sure if you, me or somebody else out there sat down and really thought about this harder they could explain it better, but for now this is the best I can come up with.
Beyond that there isn’t much more to say about the story.
I guess it is intriguing to find out how they will manage Ben not looking like a normal human in his on-going series.
The romance between him and Clarkson was forced and kind of pointless beyond he is a hot guy she is a hot woman so I guess…sexual tension?
And I really hope we do not get any more of Ben discussing God or comparing himself to God because regardless of your or my own religious beliefs, that just gets obnoxious (and also repetitive if you’ve read PAD’s 2099 series).
So all in all, unless the first issue of Ben’s new series surprises us, I do not recommend this story. It’s superfluous to the point where it’d be a waste of time in general and a really big waste of money if you pick up Clone Conspiracy Omega just for it.
The art was decent though so I’m giving this a very generous C-.
P.S. At one point someone recognizes Ben’s voice as the voice of the Jackal. Putting aside how the idea that his helmet included a vice modulator despite not covering his mouth at all, how would they recognize his voice if he was disguising it?
Author: Alex Evangeli
I’ve loved Spider-Man, Spider-Girl and the Clone Saga since I were but a wee lad living in the United Kingdom. Glad to be here!