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Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1

by mahargen on April 27, 2017

Writer:  Peter David
Pencils:  Mark Bagley
Inks:  John Dell
Colors:  Jason Keith
I’m glad you could all be here today.  We’re going to be talking about something very important, and it may be difficult for some of you.  Yes, we’re going to be discussing the Clone Saga.  I’m intimately familiar with it.  Somewhere I still have all the issues.  From Power and Responsibility’s beginning in 1994’s Web of Spider-Man #117 all the way to the end of Revelations in 1996’s Spider-Man #75.  Those two years of my life seem like four when I look back fondly on them.  My name is Matthew, and I am a Clone Saga Apologist. 
The return of Ben Reilly, the original clone, in this year’s Clone Conspiracy/Dead No More event was met with mixed feelings.  I enjoy the character, but maybe it’s best to leave that chapter of Spider-Man’s history in the back of the closet gathering dust.  Bringing the character back as, at best, a severely misguided heroic figure or, at worst, a straight villain was an interesting move.  I can’t say I support it, but it’s somewhat better than “Hey, kids, guess who’s back?” with no change to the character.  There’s drama and story, regardless of how thin it may be.  That hook’s there, playing every so gently with my nostalgia.  And nostalgia brings us full circle to Ben Reilly:  Scarlet Spider #1, a title I honestly never thought I’d see.
This isn’t the Ben Reilly from my youth, however .  He’s back and he’s damaged.  The Jackal saw to that in one of the more brutal elements of Clone Conspiracy.  So, we find ourselves back with a classic character trope – the wanderer.  A man without a place, lost in this world.  Ben Reilly has been here before, only last time his exile was self-induced.  Now he has been driven away by his progenitor, Peter Parker and quasi-brother Kaine.  A man in the wild, he seeks comfort in familiarity.  Only with his damaged psyche there’s a bit of a ride for everyone involved.  Presenting Ben Reilly as a man torn was not what I expected, and really saved this entire story for me.  Seeing him play off multiple personalities of himself, the heroic classic 90’s Scarlet Spider and the evil-ish modern Jackal, was fun and invested me in the story.  It got me thinking maybe there’s hope after all.  If that classic take on the character isn’t truly gone, just buried beneath the pain, this might turn into a tale of redemption. 
Being a debut issue, there are of course new characters introduced, and a new setting to explore.  The world of Spider-Man has come to Las Vegas.  I can’t say I’m terribly intrigued by the characters.  They seem like stock villains, if not a little more interesting due to their past with the Jackal.  They could have done worse.  I’m also glad Kaine will be sticking around.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the character.  Having him pursuing Reilly should make for some fun stories as I’ve always liked their interplay.  With Riley being more than a little off his rocker lately it should make for some good moments.
Mark Bagley has had a storied career, but in recent years his work has been slipping.  I’m happy to say he’s back on point with this issue.  Nothing seems to be rushed and everything pops.  There is an essential flow to a Spider-Man action scene and Mark hasn’t forgotten it.  Scenes flow well together and there is an organic feel to the book that is hard to describe.  There’s no stiffness or trying to find the voice of the story.  This feels like just another chapter in an ongoing saga.    My only gripe is the costume.  Ditch the hood or keep it down and we’re good.  At the end of the day, if it has to happen, I’m glad the return of Ben Reilly is in the capable hands of Peter David and Mark Bagley.  They are weaving an interesting story and I hope they get to tell all of it.

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