Why Spider-Man’s New Clone Identity Won’t Work

The following contains spoilers for recent issues of amazing spider manon sale now from Marvel Comics.

Ben Reilly, the Spider-Man clone, has gone through many changes over the years. Once the heroic Scarlet Spider, his latest transformation into Chasm has shaken many of his longtime fans. Ben, a perfect copy of Peter Parker, had recently operated as Spider-Man while Peter recovered from the injuries he had suffered in amazing spider man #75 (by various writers and artists). For Reilly fans, it was a dream come true to see Peter give him his blessing to continue as Spider-Man. However, during the storyline, Ben had his memories erased by the Beyond Corporation, which led to his mind and soul being degraded until he was a blank slate and took on the villainous identity.

It’s been a long journey for Ben Reilly, who was created by one of Peter Parker’s enemies for the sole purpose of destroying the webslinger. After a battle with his doppelganger at Shea Stadium in amazing spider man #149 (by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru), Ben escaped and went into exile on the road for five years. His years away forged him into something completely different, as he didn’t have Peter’s support structure to lean on. He had only himself and Parker’s memories to guide him on his journey of self-discovery. Ben didn’t expect anyone’s help, and all he’s achieved has been despite his troubled past.

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Ben eventually returned to New York in Spider-Man web #117 (by Terry Kavanaugh and Steven Butler) and forged her own path as the Scarlet Spider. After an antagonistic reunion with Peter, the two joined forces to fight the Jackal and began to form a brotherly bond. When Peter’s wife, Mary Jane, discovered she was pregnant, Parker pressured him to remove his webs. Ben now believed himself to be the original Peter Parker due to a doctored test result and was thrilled to once again don the Spider-Man costume in Peter’s place. However, in Peter ParkerSpiderman #75 (by Howard Mackie and John Romita Jr.), Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, has returned from the grave and murdered Ben, who heroically sacrificed himself to save Peter. Ben crumbled to dust when he died (proving he was the clone all along) and Peter became Spider-Man again.

What was happening behind the scenes at Marvel was as complicated as the storyline unfolding in the Spider Man securities. Although initially good, sales began to decline once Ben took over as the iconic crawler. Marvel overreacted to this spell and sent it out with real finality. The publisher was so eager to put behind them what was now known as the “Clone Saga” that Ben Reilly was barely mentioned for the next twenty years. However, he left behind a small but loyal fan base that has always longed for his return one day.

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In 2016 Clone plot miniseries (by Dan Slott and Jim Cheung) Ben finally returned as the new Jackal, obsessed with a mad plan to kill everyone and replace them with clones. This resulted in the predictable fan uproar that usually occurs when established characters are changed so much that they barely look like themselves. Over the next two years, Marvel seemed confused about how to properly handle Ben, causing him to vacillate between being good or bad at races like Peter David’s. scarlet spider series and the Spider-Geddon Event. But then came Beyond, and Ben was Spider-Man again…until he wasn’t. With many elements of his personality destroyed, Reilly became a hollow vessel bent on revenge. The former Spider-Man’s actions as Chasm so far have been anything but heroic, sparking a new wave of complaints from his fans.

Spider-Man editor Nick Lowe admitted it’s hard to find a place for Ben in modern books, and the sentiment is totally understandable. Miles Morales already brings much-needed diversity to the mantle, and Peter is now single, rendering Reilly’s original purpose moot. However, works such as the captivating JM DeMatteis Ben Reilly: Spiderman the miniseries shows there’s still a lot of ground to explore with the character beyond her transformation into another Spider-villain.

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