[WARNING: Spoilers for ahead for Clone Conspiracy and Amazing Spider-Man #22.]
Clone Conspiracy #3 had one hell of a bombshell ending, revealing that Miles Warren was not the one wearing the new Jackal mask. It was an old school Spider-Man cliffhanger, like all the times Hobgoblin’s mask came off over the years. The man behind New U is none other than Ben Reilly! The Peter Parker clone that was Spider-Man for a good chunk in the 90’s and died in Peter’s arms. It was a reveal that truly caught me off guard, while in retrospect being so obvious.
Amazing Spider-Man #22 focuses on Ben explaining to Peter (and readers) what happened to him after dissolving into a pile of dust. Kaine wasn’t the only Parker clone whose existence became one of only pain. In order to develop Miles Warren’s clone work into that of New U, the mad scientist resurrected Ben Reilly. To perfect the formula, Ben came back to life only to be killed 27 different ways; each time remembering his entire life including each new death. Eventually he broke free, killed Miles, took over his work, cloned him a bunch, and set forth the plan to resurrect those he and Peter had lost. Suddenly, those other timelines where Peter joined the Jackal make sense, and the issue ends with Spider-Man willing to listen.
Dan Slott has lived up to the high expectations of fans so far and Clone Conspiracy has been a blast. This really does feel like Amazing Spider-Man comics of old, and not in a way that’s overly familiar. Bringing back Ben Reilly, no matter what happens, should make Spidey fans that grew up in the 90’s smile from ear to ear (myself included). The horrible torture that Ben Reilly has gone through at the hands of his creator is a fitting extension of their already toxic history. His decision to finally break through and take matters into his own hands gives him a sympathetic character motivation.
Slott has turned beloved tragedy of a lost hero into a seriously badass villain who readers are going to side with until he does something truly terrible. With Kaine currently out of the picture, maybe we’ll get a new Scarlet Spider series starring Reilly after all is said and done. This issue, unlike the last one, was a highly entertaining back track. For many, this is a Spider-Man comic book they’ve been asking for a long time now. For others, it’s an issue that’s so well done that afterwards they have something new they didn’t realize they wanted before.
Visually, this issue isn’t as strong as the others. Not to suggest it’s bad, it just doesn’t meet the high standard set by the rest of the series. There are some truly wonderful panels in Amazing Spider-Man #22, and by keeping Pete’s mask on it wasn’t confusing to follow a conversation between him and his clone. The flashback webs showing Ben and Peter’s history are also beautifully detailed. I wonder if it’s because I read it digitally, but the colors seem more limited than usual on the less-busy pages. If it were another book, this would be a fine effort, but I come to expect a bit more from this Amazing Spider-Man team.
Amazing Spider-Man #22 is another solid chapter in a story that has so far delivered on its promise of being a true clone conspiracy. Slott brought back a long dead, controversial but favorite character and made him into a villain who both readers and Spider-Man are willing to sympathize with. This is comic books done right.