Here we are at chapter 3 1/2 of “The Clone Conspiracy,” Dan Slott’s latest change-everything Spider-event. Being consistently controversial, the midpoint of the story changed everything (again) by bringing back Ben Reilly, the hated-then-beloved Spider-Clone of the 1990s. Comics being what they are, Ben’s return was inevitable…but Slott’s got some serious explainin’ to do given that he’s written as the quasi-villain of the story.
“The Clone Conspiracy’s” Amazing tie-in issues have taken the unorthodox step of working as in-between chapters of the actual Clone Conspiracy main title. Amazing‘s chapters literally pick up from where The Clone Conspiracy leaves off, spends the issue on a flashback relevant to the story, then finishes in a spot where Clone Conspiracy can pick up as if the tie-in never happened. This renders the Amazing issues optional to the buyer now, but they’ll also cleanly fit into the collected edition when Clone Conspiracy is bundled as a whole. (The problem with Slott’s last Spidey event, “Spider-Verse,” is that the tie-ins all overlapped to a point where they couldn’t be efficiently collected.)
So Amazing #22 covers the story of exactly how Ben Reilly survived being turned into dust back in 1997. The fun in getting there is a brief review of the life of Reilly, and Giuseppe Camoncoli has some fun in imitating the styles of Dan Jugens and John Romita Jr. and everyone else who drew the original issues. Visually, it’s a lot of fun.
The story, for better or worse, takes a turn for the dour as we learn exactly how Miles Warren brought Reilly back, and how that led to him taking on the identity of the Jackal himself. It’s a disturbing story element, evocative of a similar resurrection method used in the Superman “Emperor Joker” storyline some years back. Slott may not be intentionally copying that story, but Reilly’s return is likely going to remind readers of that element.
Reilly’s darker turn is going to upset his fans, but at least this story offers an explanation for why Ben’s a little nuts. Whether he can be redeemed from this is a different question–he’s definitely no longer the likable guy he was back in the 90s, as this whole cloning story definitely has a distinctly un-Spidey like twistedness to it. But credit to Slott: it’s maintained the element of surprise which gets people talking, and Reilly fans will at least want to know how he comes back from this one.
Rating: Three and a half webs out of five.