Real Name: Ben Reilly
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #149 (October, 1975)
Fight Club Ranking: #82
- vs SCARECROW & SCARECROW: Marvel versus DC #2 (Mar 1996)
- vs SUPERBOY: Marvel versus DC #3 (Apr 1996)
As you may or may not know, Spider-man has been seeing dead people of late. More specifically: Marvel's Clone Conspiracy has brought about the return of the villainous Jackal persona - an identity most associated with mad scientist Miles Warren.
Not unlike the original, this Jackal's been using cloning to effectively resurrect the dead -- provided they meet requirements that will earn them the medication needed to maintain their living state. CBR reports last week's Clone Conspiracy #3 revealed the secret identity lurking behind the revamped mask -- none other than clone supremo and Hero of the Week: Ben Reilly!
With misdirection and conspiracy so inherent to the plot, I'm not sure I'm totally willing to take the reveal at face value. It seems to make a good lick of sense, though. Both within the terms of the story itself, and as confirmation of what struck me as one of the most obvious guesses for the "Dead No More" pre-release teasers. Whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen.
I should probably confess to having enjoyed aspects of the much maligned, original mid-nineties "Clone Saga". At inception, it seemed like an interesting way to revisit the earlier 1975 clone battle, and spin a bigger plot out of its famous conclusion.
The science and ethics of cloning was a pretty "in" topic at the time, and the uniquely genuine belief that "our" Peter Parker may have been the clone all along was a pretty exciting, paranoid concept! The eventual creation of the Scarlet Spider was the epitome of nineties ripped sweatshirt naff, but it had a certain streamlined appeal, exploring Spidey from a fresh angle.
Of course, even at the time, it was easy to understand the haters.
Ditching enduring icons and their history is always pretty bogus. In the schoolyard of the 1990s - knowledge was power, and superhero backstory a cool currency that could come in handy at any moment. DC Comics struggled for playground market share, hampered by the often misunderstood fault lines caused by Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even as fans rushed to collect the first appearance of edgy new heroes -- nobody was diving into Marvel Comics because it didn't have a classic canon!
It's hard not to look back on The Clone Saga and see the grim legacy of Death of Superman. Those who predicted doom were ultimately right. Instead of being unique experiments in high concept ideas, stories like The Cloen Saga are viewed as publisher precedent. Where once Spidey would turn into a giant spider for a few issues -- we now endure deviant concepts for a few years. Characters die and return in seasonal events. The time afforded to classic heroes is shorter and shorter.
There are elements of The Clone Conspiracy I like. As a mask and bodysuited wannabe Green Goblin, The Jackal always left something to be desired. Entwining The Jackal name with relevant imagery of Ancient Egyptian death gods is a welcome improvement. Marrying his clone science to issues of mortality - a nice way of building on the idea. Even the notion of reshaping Ben Reilly as an antagonistic counterpart has its appeal! I'm just not sure it's sustainable.
As a means of undoing the last few frustrating years of death and mayhem - it's an unattractive prospect. A cycle of invalidation implying time wasted. I don't want to see Doctor Octopus dead, but the lesson learned is to not take the mortality of characters so lightly. As a reference to, and proliferation of, the diminishing returns of post-Death of Superman stunts, The Clone Conspiracy would be unwelcome. It's an old, tired, joyless way of doing superheroes. Something we get far too much of these days, from far too many mediums. Comics should be better. To hell with other versions.
That we once again have a Spider-man swinging through the Marvel skyline is nice. I'm not overly opposed to his current status as wealthy industrialist, even if I think getting to the inevitable reset sooner than later is preferred. It's good to know Spidey's there, though. Let's just hope it stays that way, without falling back into the trap of diminishing the concept through rampant reproduction!