Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 19: The Greatest Responsibility

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 Greatest Responsibility" Amazing Spider-Man #406, Spider-Man #63, Spectacular Spider-Man #229

Writers: JM DeMatteis, Howard Mackie, Tom DeFalco

Artists: Angel Medina, Gil Kane, Sal Buscema

Review by Eric Lee

This arc is the climax of the Clone Saga, where we see Peter give the mantle of Spider-Man to Ben Reilly. But before we get to that crucial scene, we start off with Ben in the Matrix.

Just kidding, it's a virtual reality simulation where Ben's mind is hooked up to a computer. So... pretty much the Matrix. Although to be fair, the Spider-Man creators pre-date the virtual reality idea a few years before the film.
Getting back to the story, Ben is trying to use the VR to track who is hacking Seward Trainer's files. Unfortunately, the machine crashes and blows up in Scarlet Spider and Trainer's faces.

Ben and Trainer don't know, but the culprit is the new female Dr. Octopus. She's trying to get all Trainer's information about VR and be able to re-create it in the real world via a virtual reality bomb. Or it's for corporate espionage. It's actually not clear what Doc Ock's motives for wanting the virtual reality tech.

Regardless, all for some mystery employer, who's only seen in a fuzzy video monitor.  Yes, we are introduced to yet another mystery person late in the Clone Saga narrative.
Personally, I like the female Dr. Octopus. Unsurprisingly, she was part of an initiative in the Spider-Man offices to try to update some of the rogues gallery. I appreciated that her backstory was fairly succinct and logical. Otto Octavius was her scientific mentor, so it's not hard to imagine her having the means to wear the octopus arms herself. 
Also, she upgraded herself, making her more innovative that the original. Now she has force-fields and other gadgets, like the tentacles shooting lasers. What a simple, yet smart idea.

Unfortunately, she was semi-retired once the original returned. Still, she makes occasional appearances in comics. Most recently, she was a part of an all-female Sinister Syndicate.

Later, Trainer helps Peter find and deactivate and other mind control's from the Jackal. Once that was taken care off, Peter and Mary Jane have an intimate moment where they felt the baby kick for the first time.
This is a great scene, because it's so humanizing and relatable. Unfortunately, the emotion is a bit ruined by the cartoony pencils. No offense to guest artist Angel Medina, but I wished Mark Bagely could've drawn that scene. I think Bagley's penchant for facial expressions would've  killed it.

Getting back to Trainer and Ben, they get attacked by the new Doc Ock. She reveals some shocking information: her full name is Carolyn Trainer, Seward Trainer's daughter.
While that's a cool twist, I don't think it ever really amounts to anything. I maybe incorrect, but it seems like there could've been a lot of story telling avenues that went unexplored with that relationship.

Speaking of Trainer, why is he always dressed up like a SHIELD agent? I never figured that out.
Eventually, Scarlet Spider and Trainer lure Doc Ock outside where Spider-Man spots them and intervenes. The battle goes poorly for Spidey who gets freaked out when Doc Ock comes dangerously close to snapping his neck.

Ben finds a really clever way around Ock's force-field. He slowly spins his impact webbing along the tentacles, allowing the impact webbing to naturally unfurl and up her tentacle and towards her face.
This is probably the most clever  and innovative solution I've seen Howard Mackie write. Seriously, normally Mackie resolves Spider-Man conflicts in the normal, cliche ways. So it's nice to see Mackie employing some extra creativity in his writing.

Unfortunately, Ock manages to evade the two Spiders, forcing them to shake down gangs for her whereabouts. When the two Spider-Men hit up a chop shop, Spidey loses his cool on a gang member who reveals that he has a wife and baby at home.
In fact, for the rest of the issue, Peter becomes really sensitive about family-related topics and/or  unusually fearful for his life because he thinks about the baby growing up without a father.

It's logical, since the baby wasn't really "real" until he felt it kick. Now, he's constantly thinking about what  will happen if he dies and all that. However, it's kinda funny how often Peter has those thoughts, where almost every little act of danger makes him freeze up.

It reminds me of the episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Marshall loses his health insurance, so he's deathly afraid of doing anything remotely dangerous.

So the rest of the issue plays out like the classic Amazing Spider-Man #33 story line where Peter needs to get the antidote from Dr. Octopus to save Aunt May from radiation poisoning. Mary Jane has fallen ill due to the radiation poisoning and Trainer's cure is stolen by the new Doc Ock. 

Ben and Peter have to retrieve it from her underwater base, fight Ock, get pinned by rubble, and grab the serum.  The only difference is that Ben helps get the rubble off of Peter.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. There's homaging and then there's just plain ripping off  another person's plot. I'm still on the fence on which one this issue is.

Amusingly, since her force-field failed her earlier, Doc Ock wears a new giant helmet to prevent getting webbed in the face. Why is the helmet so comically big? Couldn't you make it a cool helmet like Magneto's?
In the end, the Spider-Men save the day and MJ.  Peter also walks away believing that family is his new responsibility, thus giving the Spider-Man costume to Ben.
So Ben is now assuming the mantle of Spider-Man. Which means the next issue will be... more of Ben as Scarlet Spider? Yeah, so next month the Spider-Man titles reset as Scarlet Spider titles, despite Ben owning the Spider-Man identity. 

Anyways, that's for next time.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  •  The first full appearance of the second Dr. Octopus
  • Discovered that Carolyn Trainer is the daughter of Seward Trainer 
  • First appearance of the new virtual reality mystery employer
  • First appearance of virtual reality bomb
  •  First time the baby kicked
  • Peter retires as Spider-Man and passes the mantle on to Ben 

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • The new Green Goblin 
  • Stunner 
  •  The new Dr. Octopus-  Revealed to be Carolyn Trainer
  • Virtual reality boss

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane's baby is fine
  • 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
  • Who is the new Green Goblin? 
  • What happened to Janine?
  •  Peter and Ben decide to stay in the same costume identities- UPDATE Peter retires and passes the Spider-Man identity to Ben
  • The Scrier has his own agenda and needs the Jackal's intel
  • A new Dr. Octopus is targeting Seward Trainer- UPDATE Dr. Octopus is needs Seward Trainer's information for a virtual reality bomb

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Number of times Peter freaks out over the thought of Mary Jane and family: 7
  • Number of times an old Peter Parker locale triggers a flashback for Peter or a clone: 10
  • Visions of Mary Jane dying: 14
  • Number of people Ben Reilly had untold adventures with: 4 (Kaine, Seward Trainer, Wild Whip, and D'Spayre)
  • 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!

Verdict

Finally, we reached the end of the first part of the Clone Saga. Ben is the new Spider-Man and MJ and Peter can walk off into the sunset to raise a family.

The story itself is decent. The ending was fitting and logical. I do feel a sense of relief seeing Peter hand-off the Spider-Man identity to Ben. 

There are some silliness to the comic. Like, do we really need an introduction to another shadowy, mystery  person? The new Doc Ock is cool too. Her relationship with Trainer is a bit wasted potential, but whatever. 

This arc also included the last issue by JM DeMatteis. Apparently, he was so sick of the constant crossover stories, he decided to quit. But no worries, he eventually returned to a regular Spider-Man title after the Clone Saga. It's too bad he quit though, he wrote one of the more touching scenes in this arc with Pete and MJ feeling the baby kick for the first time.
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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