Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 17: Exiled

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.

"Exiled"  Web of Spider-Man #128, Amazing Spider-Man #404, Spider-Man #61, Spider-Man Unlimited #10

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

Artists: Steve Butler, Darick Robertson, Pat Broderick, Shawn MacManus, Roy Burdine

Review by Eric Lee

After the overwhelming "Maximum Clonage", Peter and Ben now decide who will take on the mantle of Spider-Man. And you get an answer....sorta.

"Exile" is a weird story line because it's technically four-parts, but  it's more like three unrelated stories. The first part deals with Black Cat finding out that the Spider-Man she knows and fell in love with is actually a clone. Those feelings of anger and resentment are amplified by running into the villain D'Spayre.

D'Spayre is pretty much like a Scarecrow-wanna be villain except he's also a demon.  You would think that being a demon meant that he'd have something better to do than jerking  Spider-Man around. 

When Scarlet Spider and Spidey are alerted to Black Cat missing, they investigate and find her under mind control. D'Spayre manipulated her feelings into trying to kill Spidey. But instead of fighting Cat, Spidey breaks down and apologizes profusely. That breaks her out of her spell (somehow) and they join Scarlet Spider to defeat D'Spayre.

For being a demon, D'Spayre crumbles like a wet bag against three people quickly. Also, there's a weird thing where Ben knows D'Spayre from some untold tale. This is the second time Ben has some untold tale with a villain (three if you count Kaine). What is the point of this? It's just more confusing. There's no explanation other than a cheeky editorial note saying that they'll tell the story someday.

In the end, Peter gives the mantle of Spider-Man to Ben. Except, he rejects it and tells Peter that he's going to leave the city again. So the answer to "Who will wear the webs?" is... I don't know.

Also, Mary Jane gets hooked up with her modeling manager Rolfe. Apparently she wants to get into modeling for maternity clothes.

Getting back to Ben. He leaves the city until he has second thoughts. He eventually decides instead of road-tripping, he's going to stay at Seward Trainer's cabin in Vermont.

We finally see some back story on Seward too via Ben's flashback. It's odd at this point  Trainer's pretty much an enigma, even though he has been an important part of the Clone Saga. Apparently Ben met Trainer in a drunken stupor. Despite this, Trainer gives Ben a job as a lab assistant. That works out for both of them even though Ben was initially surly and off-putting.

Back in the present day, Ben wakes up and Trainer calls to warn him to get out of the cabin. Ben races out as the cabin explodes. Believing somebody is targeting Seward, Ben investigates his labs. The labs are trashed, but Ben stumbles upon some octopi-looking robots downloading the computer files.

The robots overpower Ben and he is captured. He also finds out that Trainer is held captive. How was he able to call and warn Ben about an exploding cabin if he was captured?  

Ben musters enough strength to break out of his restrains, fight the octopi-robots, and save Seward. Nobody knows who is behind it, but we do see some metal tentacles smashing computer monitors. Hmmm... Seems like Dr. Octopus. That sounds intriguing, perhaps Ben should investigate.

But he doesn't. The next issue features him fighting the Vulture. I'm not sure why the creators decided to hold off on the new Dr. Octopus reveal for another few issues. It's not necessarily a bad story telling choice, but just weird. It's not like the Vulture story was so important where it needed to interrupt the Dr. Octopus plot line. Anyways, we'll get there when we get there.

One side-not, what's up with the way artist Pat Broderick draws the Spider-sense? It looks like jaundiced sperm is about impregnate Scarlet Spider's heard.

Back to the Vulture, he needs to steal some more electronic parts to create a stronger Rejuvenator device to suck the youth out of people.

This also ties into a story where Ben remembers Uncle Ben's death and meets an old acquaintance of his. Apparently the same day Uncle Ben died, he lent his fellow factory worker Colm Mulligan money to start his education. This act of kindness touched Mulligan deeply.  Flash-forward to today and Mulligan has a son Jimmy who is doing errands for a low-level gang boss. 

One thing about the art, it's not great when depicting normal humans. Wacky anatomy aside, the artist draws Mulligan with the biggest biceps ever. Keep in mind, Mulligan is supposed to be a contemporary of Uncle Ben, which means he's at least in his late 60's.

Lord, I should be so lucky to have smokin' hot biceps like that when I'm in my 60's.

So Mulligan's son meets up with his gang. Their plan is to steal the newest tech that will  "make a CD player obsolete". So I assume they were planning to steal an iPod?

Also, the "prototype" is in a warehouse. Why would a tech company keep secret projects in 
a warehouse? Coincidentally, this warehouse also is where the Vulture is robbing.

When Jimmy's crew hits the warehouse, the Vulture comes and sucks up most of the gang's youth. Scarlet Spider sees the surviving members and interrogates them. There is a brief duel with Scarlet and the Vulture too. Unfortunately the Vulture drops the night watch guard to cover his escape.

Scarlet Spider saves the guard, who proves to be unusually helpful. Seriously, this guard knew the exact electronics the Vulture stole, what they do, and how to counteract them.

According to the guard, he reads a lot of top secret  technical manuals on the job when he's bored, so he knows all the tech stuff inside and out. I don't know if the guard is secretly Tony Stark, but this proves helpful for Scarlet Spider.

So Jimmy gets beaten up by his mob boss and then Mulligan gets a gun to kill the boss in retaliation. By the time Mulligan arrives at the boss' hideout (how does he even know where it is?), the Vulture trashed the place and sucked the life out of the bodyguards. I'm not sure why the Vulture decided to hunt down members of the gang, but okay.

In the end, Mulligan can't bring himself to kill another man and the day is saved. Oh wait, the Vulture is still out there. Right, so Scarlet easily finds the Vulture. The Vulture tries to suck the youth out of Scarlet, but he insulated himself with a rubber shirt. 

Once again, I wouldn't think that'd work, but what do I know about the science of Rejuvenation machines? It does remind me of that Batman and Robin scene where Robin defeats Poison Ivy with rubber lips.

After part one of the story, Peter only appears sporadically, with Ben taking the main focus. But Peter did have a few interesting scenes. At first, he had a nightmare. Next, we started grinning evilly, while crushing a brick. Now, he's having those visions of Mary Jane being killed, like Kaine's visions. Something is not right with Peter...
By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • Ben and Peter decide to continue having being Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider
  • Black Cat confronts Peter about being a clone
  • Flashbacks show Seward Trainer being a really nice guy to Ben Reilly and discovering he has spider powers
  • Cameo of a new Dr. Octopus
  • First and only appearance of Uncle Ben's work friend Colm Mulligan
  • Peter is acting strange and has a vision of MJ's death
  • Mary Jane gets offered a modeling gig for maternity wear

Shadow Mystery Men:

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

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane's baby is fine
  • Kaine "sees" Mary Jane's murder- UPDATE Peter also "sees" Mary Jane's murder
  • Daily Bugle report Ken Ellis' obsession with Scarlet Spider
  • Thorpe wanting to kill Spider-Man for unknown reasons
  • Peter is the clone and Ben is the "real Peter"
  • Judas Traveller is helping Peter for unknown reasons
  • Other super-villains are teamed-up to kill Kaine
  • MJ asks Black Cat for help- UPDATE I think the Black Cat helped Mary Jane by confronting Peter? It's not clear if the plots are related
  • Who is the new Green Goblin? 
  • Who will be the new Spider-Man? - UPDATE Peter and Ben decide to stay in the same costume identities
  • The Scrier has his own agenda and needs the Jackal's intel
  • Peter's strange behavior 
  • A new Dr. Octopus is targeting Seward Trainer

Clones Running Around:

  • Ben Reilly
  • The first Gwen clone
  •  The four mini-Jacks

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Number of people Ben Reilly had untold adventures with: 4 (Kaine, Seward Trainer, Wild Whip, and D'Spayre)
  • Visions of Mary Jane dying: 13
  • Number of times Kaine spies on others in the shadows: 23
  • Number of times the Scrier spies on others: 10
  • Number of Gwen clones: 5
  • Number of Mini-Jackal clones: 5
  • Number of times a girl falls reminiscent of Gwen Stacy's death: 3
  • Number of tests Judas Traveller gives to Peter: 4
  • Number of disaffected Peter Parker clones: incalculable ERROR ERROR!
  • Number of times an old Peter Parker locale triggers a flashback for a Peter clone: 7


At this point, it feels like the Clone Saga is padding itself out. This story line had one goal: definitively say who will be the new Spider-Man, but the answer is unclear. After that, it just goes onto more tangents like introducing a new Dr. Octopus, having a generic Vulture battle, or Ben helping Uncle Ben's old friend.

I don't mind having a filler issue every once in a while. But this is reallly three different stories and two of the three them are not written well. The Seward Trainer story is probably the best, but it accomplishes nothing other than showing a little more background on Trainer and Ben. 

The Vulture story is particularly bad. It's clear that there wasn't enough material for a Vulture story to fill the pages of a double-sized comic, so they awkwardly shoehorned in a subplot with Uncle Ben's friend.

Nothing is outrageously bad, but the stories aren't great either.

For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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