20 Years ago, a title called Scarlet Spider hit the shelves. It was a part of 4 other titles that comprised the Spider-Man lineup, Amazing, Spectacular, Web of, and Unlimited. The Adjective-less title went two issues along with the rest of the line-up until Ben Reilly was introduced as Spider-Man in the Return of Spider-Man month of titles. This ushered in a new title, replacing Web of Spider-Man, Sensational. Mark Bagley was drawing Amazing Spider-Man/Scarlet Spider and all was right in the Universe. Eventually, the Adjective-less Spider-Man title would be renamed Peter Parker: Spider-Man with the conclusion of the Clone Saga. In 2012, the Scarlet Spider title was reborn! This time Kaine was the title star.
Much of the reasoning for this title’s existence was because of Editorial wanting it to happen. Somehow, in the planning of the post-Clone Conspiracy landscape, someone (Nick Lowe? Is that you?) thought it would be a good idea to launch a title coming out of the event. After all, it’s something that has routinely happened since 2008, why not now? Peter David was approached by Marvel, as explained in the latest Clone Saga Chronicles Podcast, to write with Mark Bagley drawing.
The guys at Bleeding cool then leaked it and ruined everyone’s fun, at least in Marvel’s eyes. Nevertheless, there was only one candidate that was approached to review this title for CrawlSpace. Yours truly. Gee, could it be because I helped accidently inspire an issue of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man? Read on True Believer, as I take you through this issue.
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider
Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: John Dell
Color Artist: Jason Keith
Letter: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art (Main): Mark Bagley, John Dell & Jason Keith
Variant Cover Art: Greg Land and Morry Hollowell, Tom Lyle and Andres Mossa, John Tyler Christopher (Action Figure cover), J. Scott Campbell and Edgar Delgado
Assistant Editor: Allison Stock
Associate Editor: Devin Lewis
Editor: Nick Lowe
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonzo
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
President: Donald Trump Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
BACKSTORY: Ben Reilly was resurrected and Killed 27 times. He goes insane and becomes the man whom he hated the most in life: The Jackal. He gathers a Scarlet Business Suit, a new Mask, and embarks on becoming a superior Miles Warren. He then starting reanimating corpses and tries to give loved ones peace through the company known as New U. He wanted Peter Parker, CEO of Stark Parker Industries to join him in building a great empire. He failed. Now on the run, Ben Reilly must make his next move.
STORY: Our issue opens with a Spider-Figure on the Statue of Liberty. You’d expect the Human Torch to show up, but no! It’s not THE Statue of Liberty in New York, nor is it the twin in France, It’s in Las Vegas! Ben Reilly apparently stole this costume which is a cross between the Kaine-as-Scarlet Spider, Spider-Gwen-Hoodie, and SpiderCide Face from a Cosplayer at the superhero convention that was held recently in Vegas. (Seems Legit, and Meta!) Ben begins arguing with the Ben Reilly you all know and love: The 90s Tom Lyle-Created Scarlet Spider. Ghost Ben continues to haunt Ben as he tells him that his plans made him into a Bad guy. Ben seems to have a plan, but not before someone is in trouble! Ben is cracking wise about the attacker not having a costume, and proceeds to save the woman (a redhead, naturally), him being harmed. Ben proceeds to inspect the gun, but not before shooting the assailant with his own gun because he called him Spider-Man. She asks how can she repay him, but he surprisingly says that they’re square if she gives him a hundred dollars. He then gives her the gun for protection. Meanwhile, Dr. Rita is going to her Car, when she is confronted by Kaine, dressed as Ben Reilly from Clone Conspiracy. Back in Vegas, Ben is confronting his demons, at first by staring at the new Jackal Mask, and Ghost-Jackal is trying to convince him that he was right! Ben swings at the air, putting his fist through the ghost, chasing him away. Ben dons a hoodie and some Bret Hart inspired-glasses and heads to the Casino. We are introduced to Cassandra Mercury, a businesswoman who owns the Casino of which Ben is at. A woman named June is at the slot machine, and her Husband is arguing with her to come home. June doesn’t care and tells Ben, who has named her Aunt June, if he can help her. She tells him to shut up. Armed robbers come in to rob everyone. Ben reminds himself that this is like the old days, and the two Ghost of Ben’s Past try to reason with him. 90s Ben is telling him to do the right thing, 2016 Ben is telling him to let them go (?) and Ben doesn’t care what they say. Robber 1 tries to take June’s Quarter’s, and Ben snaps his wrist. Then breaks his gun in half. Robber’s 2 & 3 are about to fire when Cassandra’s Body Guard jumps in the way. With his unbreakable skin, he’s shot but okay. The bodyguard then takes Ben to see Ms. Mercury, and she recognizes Ben from his Jackal Days. It appears that he brought her daughter back to life and now she’s going to kill him. To… Be continued.
PETER DAVID REALLY DELIVERED A COMPELLING STORY
THOUGHTS: I’m going to be very frank in my thoughts on this. I wasn’t expecting much. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. The fact is, I wasn’t a fan of the status quo that was brought forth by the Clone Conspiracy and I was going into this expecting to dislike it. But, between reading these issues a listening to him discuss it on the CSC Podcast, I felt different in terms of how I approached the book. I was going to give it a fair shake regardless, but I couldn’t put down my bias against the status quo until I finally realized it wasn’t going to give that fair shake that frankly Peter David deserves. The interview helped but so did letting go of the fact this isn’t MY Ben Reilly. But, in spite of that, my faith in the team prior to this story was rewarded because Peter delivered a really compelling story. Because in no manner is this your 90s era friendly neighborhood Scarlet Spider. The scene that Ben shoots the mugger is both sort of humorous and horrifying at the same time. The internal struggle between 90s Ben and Nu-Jackal is what really sells this story. Ben is trying to figure out his next move, and he is torn between his past, and his present. Ben created this mess and now must figure it out. Setting it in Vegas is an interesting choice and Kaine lurking in the shadows of this book helps it greatly. I’m trying to figure out how Ben is going to get out of this mess, and I’m legitimately anticipating the next issue.
This said, there was a scene that feels so off to me, and of course, I’m talking about the ‘Aunt June’ scene. June is the antithesis of May, and while it someone you can only find in Vegas, it comes across as bizarre at best. Where PAD takes this will be key, as even though I found the premise funny in the interview, I don’t know what to think of it. She si going to be a big part of the book, and so I hope that we will see it develop in a meaningful way. Who knows.
In regards to the Artwork. Man. Is it nice to see Mark Bagley drawing a Spider-Character again. Ben was blessed with some great artwork in the 90s, from Bagley, Steven Butler, Tom Lyle, Sal Bucemea (Before Bill Sienkiewicz did inks), to Mike Wieringo, Dan Jergens, and John Romita Jr. They defined the era of Spider-Man, and Mark still performs at the highest of levels today. The New Costume kind of has grown on me, but that’s because I know that it is temporary and won’t last forever.
In terms of Ben’s Characterization, it shouldn’t be expected that this is the Ben Reilly of old. Because it isn’t. The reasoning is because, in the belief of the creative staff, Ben has endured something no other has: to be killed and brought back that many times, well, it is unprecedented in the history of Marvel, which is a rarity these days. To be honest, I’m not entirely sold on it, but I feel that I need to let the storytellers tell this story and judge it on its merits. Plus, as I have said on both CSC and Crawlspace, this isn’t really MY Ben Reilly. It’s A Ben Reilly. So we shall see where this holds.
David has my faith, so I am sure that there will be a good story told by people who are professional in their approach. There is precedent to having a satellite title outperform the premise, books like Silk, Scarlet Spider, 2099 or Superior Foes of Spider-Man have done well in the past and exceeded all exceptions. I am cautiously optimistic in this title’s future. I know plots have been made through issues 6-7, so I’m hoping for a long, successful run. Please pick up this book. I promise that you’ll be in for a wild ride, regardless.
GRADE: 4 out of 5 stars.