A Spider-Clone dies. Again. Surprised?
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Paco Diaz
Color Artist: Israel Silva
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: David Nakayama
Production Designer: Idette Winecoor
Editor: Devin Lewis
Senior Editor: Nick Lowe
Story: The friendly, neighborhood Spider-Clones, Ben, Kaine, and Jessica, take on Jennix in his lair and get pummeled. Ben decides to sacrifice himself by blowing up the signal that allows the Inheritors to jump into their clone bodies. Kaine goes off seeking revenge.
Thoughts: Well, that was a bit of a letdown.
Scarlet Spiders, a title about a strike team of Peter Parker clones, had great potential considering the pairing of characters. Add to it that there was a section of fandom eager to see Ben Reilly return, even though it isn’t the exact one we lost in Peter Parker, Spider-Man #75, and one can understand how anticipation could get high.
Following the format established by the prior two issues, this one is entitled “The Hero”, referring to Ben Reilly and shifts the focus accordingly. Whilst we still get insight into the other Spiders, Ben is the one under the microscope and I appreciated that Costa gave us glimpses, however small, into this Ben’s continuity. Apparently, where his Peter was a failure, Ben was a success. The narration stresses that it was Peter who lost Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy, Gwen, and his powers, but all Ben does win. Maybe there’s an Emma Stone on his Earth who also did a karaoke battle against Jimmy Fallon to DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” and Ben used it as a mantra. Regardless, we get flashbacks showing Ben saving Marla and surviving Doc Ock’s final assault in Amazing #700. I guess that makes Ben the Superior Spider-Man.
It’s with Costa’s definition of hero that I take some minor issue with. He states that Ben has learned that if you never give up you will always win. Furthermore, Ben has never been actually beaten. He is a hero and heroes always win. I appreciate the sentiment. I do. I even agree that if you never give up, you’re a winner in a sense. It’s the juxtaposition with Peter that I don’t care for. Peter is a hero not because he has powers or is undefeated, but because he has suffered loss and has come back from it. To me, that’s what makes Parker a hero. Say what you will about the Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, and one can debate the script and performances, but what resonated with me was that Peter got knocked down. He got knocked down hard, but he picked himself back up and got back out there to fight the good fight with a positive, fun loving attitude. I don’t dispute that Ben is a hero, but there is more to the title than a win column and that doesn’t make him more of a hero than Peter just because he’s had successes that Peter hasn’t.
Ben and Kaine seem to partner up well when they take on Jennix and while they have some banter between the two, I don’t know, I guess I was hoping for more friction. Kaine HATED his Ben and dogged his every trail. Granted, that was a very long time ago and characters grow and change, but I didn’t feel that their relationship hit the peaks it could have. By story’s end, I didn’t feel the connection between the two was strong enough to cause Kaine to erupt with fury like he did.
Jessica felt like an afterthought to me once her issue passed. She was the tech wizard with the science smarts which puzzled me why she would have more knowledge than Ben. I’m not debating her intelligence, but I would think Ben would be on par with or surpass her as he’s been around for much longer and had more cloned education memories, I guess. Ben was often depicted as the idiot compared to her which doesn’t scan when it comes to the techie stuff. It also didn’t help that she was splintered off from the group for most of issue 2 and thankfully it felt like she got a little more screen time with #3. Another character opportunity was missed when that world’s Johnny Storm came after her. Ultimate Jessica Drew had a thing for her Human Torch and that didn’t even get mentioned as she dealt with his doppelganger. However, I did appreciate her dig at him and how she outsmarted him with her trap. Having her perspective on the final page was a nice touch bringing the story full circle.
Diaz gave a nice scope to the location of their battle in the finale. It felt like the end of a movie to me, our heroes nearing defeat in the heart of the villain’s lair. Costa emphasized the threat well having Jessica point out the hard time the three of them were having with the “nerdy” Inheritor, although I suppose one could see that as an insult to nerds.
Ben points out not once this issue, but twice that they aren’t supposed to kill anyone. TWICE. Yet, when Jennix pops up to stop him, he willfully throws down the unstable round into a box of similar ammunition, knowing full well that it will kill them both. Kaine and Jessica kinda get a pass since they weren’t really killing Jennix as his mind would leap into another clone body, but Ben’s actions were meant to stop that process. Surely he would know that he was serving Jennix a death sentence due to his proximity, right? Then again, this Ben comes off buffoonish at times, so it’s anyone’s guess.
By this issue, I’ve actually grown accustomed to Diaz’ art and came to appreciate it more than I did in the first issue. However, I still don’t know what to make of Costa’s narrative techniques. I do appreciate the consistency they both brought to the book and Silva did a great job with the coloring.
End of the day, I finished reading Scarlet Spiders with a sense of disappointment. Perhaps my nostalgia got my expectations up too high, but this was not the grand return of Ben Reilly that I had hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect Marvel to launch him in his own spin off, but I had at least wished that he would get to survive Spider-Verse and content us with the knowledge that he was still out there in the multiverse. Instead, like other fan favorites, he has been discarded yet again, and I can’t even say it had the resonance his 616 counterpart’s did.
My Grade: C
Javi’s Huh?: Why did Ben have to stand atop the explosion? All he did was spike the ammo down! He couldn’t start to swing away and then toss the round like a football? There was no reason for him to die in that manner other than Marvel wanted him gone again.
Upon already warning Kaine not to kill, Ben couldn’t web him up once he saw the stingers pop out?