Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 16: The Trial of Peter Parker

The Spider-Man Clone saga is one of the most reviled story lines ever. It featured the return of Spider-Man's clone Ben Reilly, but also dragged Spider-Man through one of the strangest, series of conspiracies and narratives that the franchise have ever seen.
But... is it really as bad as the internet would have you believe? Come with us as we review the Clone Saga story arc by story arc as we uncover how one of comics' most infamous series holds up today.

"The Trial of Peter Parker" Web of Spider-Man #126, Amazing Spider-Man #403, Spider-Man #60, Spectacular Spider-Man #226

Writers: JM DeMatteis, Todd DeZago, Howard Mackie, Tom DeFalco

Artists: Roy Burdine, Mark Bagely, Tom Lyle, Sal Buscema 

After 12 issues of being in-prison, we finally get to the trial of Peter Parker. Overall, it maybe the most impactful event of the Clone Saga ever. A lot happens in this arc.

We kick off with Peter on trial for murder. The DA and Peter's attorney making opening statements. But this is Ben taking the place of Peter. The real Peter is swinging around searching for Kaine.

Fortunately, Kaine finds him and the two battle it out. Kaine claims that everything that he does is in-service for Peter and vengeance against Ben. According to Kaine, he purposefully framed Ben and did not intend for Peter to get caught in his revenge scheme.
Okay? That plan is pretty awful if Kaine is trying to protect Peter, because obviously even if the conviction passes and Ben dies in Peter's place, Peter's life is effectively ruined. How is that a good plan at all? Peter can't return to a normal life if people think he's dead and a murderer. Also, Kaine claims that he meant to frame Ben, but that does not really match up with what occurred in "The Lost Years".

In "The Lost Years", it seems that Kaine murdered Louise Kennedy in a rage and then ditched the scene. Jacob Raven then came with only Ben standing over the body. Ben was more a victim of poor timing, not some planned conspiracy.
Anyways, Peter and Kaine duke it out for an entire issue before Stunner and Raven intervene. But before Stunner can get revenge, Judas Traveller comes in and teleports Kaine and Spider-Man away.
This leads to Spider-Man being put on trial by his villains. It's a diversion that adds nothing to the main plot. It's more grandstanding from Traveller, a villain who I despise. In the end, it was another test to see if a monstrous person like Kaine will defend Peter. If you seen the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Trial", then this is more or less the Spider-Man version.
Oh yeah and Carnage unmasks Spider-Man to reveal that he is Peter Parker. But don't worry about, because it literally nobody remembers by issue's end. 

 There are a few small tidbits that are interesting. Raven witnesses Stunner disappearing in  mid-air, giving clues to that she's not all she appears to be. There are also some implications that the Scrier is the real power behind Traveller. 
After Traveller's trial, he drops Kaine and Spider-Man off in the exact place where they started (making his whole side-story pointless). That's extra convenient for Stunner, who starts pummelling a weakened Kaine.
Eventually, Peter gets the upper hand on Kaine and brings him to the courthouse to confess to the murders while Ben and the rest of the court are in-session. Mid-battle, Kaine reveals that he is the first clone and unmasked to Peter to show his deformed face.
Once again, Kaine's deformed look does not quite match up with how he looked in "The Lost Years". In "Lost Years", he looked like mulched meat. Here, he looks more like Two-Face, with a half-handsome face and a half-scarred face. 

Amusingly there is an explanation for it. Kaine's costume is actually a life-support system to prevent the clone degeneration. His powers are also twisted versions of Spidey's powers. So his Mark of Kaine is an amped-up version of Peter's wall-crawling.

The funny thing is that none of the writers ever explicitly say that in any of the comics according to editor Glenn Greenberg. It's a great backstory, so it's a shame that it's never really dramatized. I definitely preferrto see  more storytelling space dedicated to Kaine's background than Judas Traveller.

So Kaine and Spidey interrupts the trial and Kaine reveals that he is the murderer. He also elaborates that he faked Peter's fingerprints to frame him and burnt his mark of Kaine into a tabletop as evidence. Spidey and Raven eventually subdue Kaine and he is arrested. Peter is exonerated and Ben is freed. So all's well, ends well, right?
Not quite. the Parkers get a call from Seward Trainer telling them to come to his labs. He determined that Mary Jane's baby will be fine. However, after more extensive tests, it is revealed that Ben is the real Peter and Peter is the clone. Twist!
The news sends Peter in a flying rage as he starts trying to kill Ben. Like, he literally gets a pipe and tries to choke the life out of Ben with it. 
Unfortunately, in an effort to calm Peter, Mary Jane gets hits. Peter is horrified by his actions, runs out  like a crazed animal.
Regarding  that hit, the art definitely shows Mary Jane getting punched across a room. However, according to Greenberg, writer Tom DeFalco wrote the scene as if MJ was only being shoved. Unfortunately, whether is was a miscommunication between artist Sal Buscema or poor oversight from then-editor Bob Budiansky, the scene that appeared in the comic makes it way more dramatic than a shove.

I personally think the confusion comes from the inclusion of the "SPWAT!"  onomatopoeia. That totally sounds like a punching sound effect.

So Peter's life is turned upside-down. Meanwhile the Jackal and Third Peter clone Freakface say their plan is ready. 
By the Numbers

Lets tally up to see what the Clone Saga has done so far:

Notable Developments:

  • Kaine reveals himself to be another clone of Peter Parker
  • Stunner seems to de-materialize into thin air
  • Traveller reveals his Spider-Man' secret identity to Shriek, Carrion, Vermin, Carnage, and Chameleon. He then subsequently removes that knowledge from them.
  • Peter's cleared of murder charges and Ben Reilly is released from jail
  • Kaine is arrested
  • Mary Jane's baby is declared safe
  • Ben is revealed to be the real Peter and Peter is the clone
  • Peter runs away from MJ after hearing the news
  • Freakface gets a new costume (Good for him!)

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • The new Green Goblin 
  • Stunner

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane is concerned for her baby's health- UPDATE Mary Jane's baby is fine
  • Kaine "sees" Mary Jane's murder
  • Kaine stalks Ben Reilly AND Peter Parker- UPDATE Kaine hates Ben but will protect Peter
  • Daily Bugle report Ken Ellis' obsession with Scarlet Spider
  •  Ben and Peter switch places in prison.- UPDATE Peter is exonerated and Ben is released
  • Thorpe wanting to kill Spider-Man for unknown reasons
  • Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider are unsure who is the real clone- UPDATE Peter is the clone and Ben is the "real Peter"
  • Third Peter is Freakface- UPDATE Freakface is in cahoots with the Jackal
  • Jackal wants the Carrion Virus to create a race of super-clones
  • Judas Traveller is helping Peter for unknown reasons
  • Other super-villains are teamed-up to kill Kaine
  • MJ asks Black Cat for help
  • Detective Raven and Stunner team-up to hunt for Kaine - UPDATE Stunner and Raven sorta help take in Kaine
  • Who is the new Green Goblin?

Clones Running Around:

  • Ben Reilly
  • Kaine
  • Freakface
  • The first Gwen clone

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Kaine has a vision of Mary Jane dying: 9
  • Number of times Kaine spies on others in the shadows: 20
  • Number of times the Scrier spies on others: 8
  • Number of tests Judas Traveller gives to Peter: 4
  • Number of disaffected Peter Parker clones: 3
  • Number of times an old Peter Parker locale triggers a flashback for a Peter clone: 7
  • Number of times a girl falls of a bridge reminiscent of Gwen Stacy's death: 2
Verdict

"The Trial of Peter Parker" is definitely a memorable story line. It has quite a few pay-offs and twists to it.  Say what you have to say about Ben being the real Peter, it's still shocking and effective. It also has changed Spider-Man's life forever.

The story could have greatly benefited from tighter pacing though. The Judas Traveller diversion contributed nothing to the plot. The Kaine twist could've also used more pages devoted to it. Also, I am personally glad to see Peter out of jail. That plot took forever to be resolved!
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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