Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 29: Media Blizzard

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.

"Media Blizzard"  Sensational Spider-Man #1, Amazing Spider-Man #408, Spider-Man #65

Writer: Dan Jurgens, Tom DeFalco, Howard Mackie

Artist:  Dan Jurgens, Mark Bagely, John Romita Jr., Tom Morgan

Review by Eric Lee

We finally kick off with Ben Reilly as Spider-Man's first big adventure. He battles Mysterio who has controlled peoples' minds and addicting them to his newest cable show.

Ben is at his job as a barista at the Daily Grind when a college photography student named Jessica pops in and shares a drink with him. Normally, it'd be weird to be going on  a date on the job, but his boss Shirley doesn't seem to mind. 
In fact, Shirley even lets him take a long lunch break to leave with Jessica. Ben just started his shift and you're already letting him leave to take a break? Man, Shirley doesn't seem to run a tight ship. 

So Ben sees Jessica's dark room, which is full of pictures of him as Spider-Man.  Oddly, it's only pictures of his new costume. For someone who is obsessed with Spider-Man, it's interesting that she only started collecting pictures of him recently.
Ben sees the inventor of the recently-stolen DIT chip rush to a television and then become hypnotized by it. Once he took care of the professor, Ben goes to the Mystery Vision network offices, where he meets the CEO Randolph Hines.

After Hines allows Ben to try on a prototype VR goggles, he immediately reveals himself as Mysterio. Honestly, while it's refreshing that the writers don't drag out a mystery of a villain identity, I am also confused why Mysterio would reveal his hand so quickly.

Also, Mysterio's plan makes no sense. His plot is to trick Spider-Man into putting illusion tech on his mask's lenses, so Spidey thinks he's battling monsters and stuff.  That way, Mysterio can film Spidey for his channel. That's all fine, but Mysterio has hypnotizing tech that forces people to watch his shows regardless of what's on, so why does he feel the need to film Spidey?

Also where did Mysterio get the hypnotizing tech anyways? It literally never explains that. In fact, the story is more focused on how amazing Mysterio's illusions are. But personally, hypnotizing tech sounds way better than a fancy hologram system. 
Also also, it's revealed that Mysterio's end goal is to just make stuff that people like. But Mysterio feels so insecure about whether people like his shows or not, he utilizes the hypnotizing tech as a crutch.

 That's actually a cool motivation of Mysterio. He's more interested in getting acclaim for being a showman, but does shady things to make it happen.  I don't really think I've read a story that uses that exact motivation for Mysterio, but it makes sense. He originally turned to crime because he was annoyed that Spider-Man got more attention than his special effects. A plan that garners him similar attention through entertainment, fits perfectly in-character for him.
However, I don't think this plot really exploits that motivation a lot. It's pretty shallow in its examination of Mysterio, because it favors the slam-bang action aspect.  That's too bad, because this arc would've been greatly improved by a deeper dive into Mysterio's personality.

Speaking of missed opportunities, the title is called "Media Blizzard" because it's set in a snowstorm. But the snowstorm plays no factor in the plot or the outcome. It's purely used as a pun for the snowy setting, that's it.

So Spidey runs around town beating up on gang members, who he thinks are orcs. Also, Armada escapes prison only to get trounced by Spidey. After teaching an inner-city kid an afterschool lesson about the dangers of gangs, Spidey tracks Mysterio.
Spider-Man tricks Mysterio into blowing up his hypnotizing transmitting tower and then the two crash into an investment meeting for Mystery Vision. Amusingly, the investors are totally unphased by the revelation that Mysterio is the CEO of the channel. However, once the hypnotizing tech was knocked out, ratings plummeted, thus the investors leave.
It turns out that for all of Mysterio's imagination or inventiveness, nobody actually likes his shows. I feel like there is a germ of a good story concept there too. Like, Mysterio is a special effects genius, but is actually so disconnected from the pop culture zeitgeist that he has terrible tastes in entertainment. 

Unfortunately, this is a 90's comic, so the characterization is fairly shallow.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • First time Mystery Vision appears
  • Mysterio attempts to create a television network, but it thwarted by Spider-Man
  • Armada escapes prison and is quickly defeated by Spider-Man
  • Jessica has an obsession with Spider-Man

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  •  Jessica

Subplots Count:

  • Peter and Mary Jane moved to Portland, while awaiting for the baby's birth
  • 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
  • What happened to Janine?
  •  Peter retires and passes the Spider-Man identity to Ben
  • The Scrier has his own agenda and needs the Jackal's intel 
  • The Great Game 
  • Seward Trainer is trapped in cyber space 
  • Mysterio buys a cable network to use the DIT-chip for entertainment purposes- UPDATE Mysterio's network fails
  • Who is Jessica? 
  • Peter loses his spider-powers

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  •  Number of tech crimes committed: 7
  • Number of times Ben Reilly's web shooters jam: 4
This story arc is pretty mediocre. Mysterio's overall plan to take over the networks is a good idea, but if you think about it too much, it doesn't make a ton of sense. I feel like there were inklings of really awesome ideas, but it didn't really go there. Instead we get some cliche scenes, like the Spidey telling the kid not to join a gang or Spidey catching Mysterio and ending it with a cheesy one-liner.

I really really like the idea of Mysterio longing for acceptance in the entertainment industry, but attains it using villainous ways. I also like the idea that Mysterio thinks that he's an entertainment pro, but in real life, he's too weird for anybody's taste. These are genuinely great ideas, but it's barely touched on the arc.
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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