Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 23: Ultimate Commitment

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.

"Ultimate Commitment" Sensational Spider-Man #0

Writer and artist: Dan Jurgens

Review by Eric Lee

Finally! We can start the new chapter of Ben Reilly's life. He is now finally Spider-Man. The Ben Reilly as Spider-Man phase tends to be decent-ish stories. There are some flops and not all are the greatest. But they don't ever touch the nadir of Clone Saga stories- I'm looking at you, "Maximum Clonage".

We start out the next phase of the Clone Saga with Ben Reilly at Aunt May and Uncle Ben's grave. But his visit is truncated when he runs into yet another petty crime. This guy is a magnet for crime
After he stops the robber, he has an awkward encounter with Aunt Anna, who mistakens him for Peter. It's a funny, but necessary scene: what would happen when Ben inevitably runs into people who knew Peter? 
It's too confusing to explain to people how he and Peter are two separate people. The writers come up with a weird solution to the problem: have a completely new supporting cast and minimize interactions with the established cast members. The experiment yielded mixed results that I'll get into that later.

Speaking of the new cast, we meet Ben's new boss a coffee shop owner named Shirley Lewis and her son Devon. We also meet yet another potential love interest model Desiree Winthrop. Unfortunately, the new supporting cast barely makes appearances once the Clone Saga ended. 
Incidentally, now seems like a good time to discuss Dan Jugens' art. He was made famous writing and drawing Superman, specifically the most famous Superman arc "Death of Superman". His art is typically more polished there. 

Here, he's inked by Klaus Janson, which gives his art a slightly edgier, grittier feel. However, this is the sweet spot where the art is not too sketchy, giving it more character than his Superman art. 

His Spider-Man poses are great too. Muscular, but still retaining that acrobatic energy. Plus, Jurgens and Janson draw great-looking females.

So, after Ben steals borrows fabric from the University fashion department, he mixes up new webbing and dies his hair blond.

By the way, after months of having extremely long hair, I really like Ben's hip haircut. It makes him look younger and trendier than Peter's typical hair styles.

We see Ben swing around and he is caught on camera by girl called Jessica. We don't know much about her, but she's strangely obsessed with Spider-Man. 
Anyways, a new villain named Armada steals some secret prototype tech from the labs. Who else stops him other than the new Spider-Man?!
By the way, Armada is another cool villain idea. He has a tech suit that relies on  specialized drones. The armor is a bit goofy, but I think if it were updated, he'd be a perfect villain for today's time.

Despite defeating Armada, Ben still fails to prevent the DIT-chip from getting stolen.  It turns out that Armada was working for none other than Mysterio!
Once again, I think that Mysterio's new flaming head look is really cool. Of all the villain re-designs from the Clone Saga, this is one that I wished stuck. It gets rid of the purple cape and the iconic fishbowl, but it makes Mysterio look more mystical and-well-mysterious.

After a productive night, Ben returns to the Daily Grind coffee shop, where Shirley offers him a new job as a barista. With that, the new status quo is established!

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  •  First appearance of en as the new Spider-Man
  • First appearance of Shirley and Devon Lewis
  • First appearance of Desiree Winthrop
  • First appearance of the Daily Grind coffee shop
  • First appearance of Armada
  • Mysterio begins to enact his plans

Shadow Mystery Men:

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

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane's baby is fine
  • Daily Bugle reporter 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
  • 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's plans for the DIT-Chip
  • Who is Jessica? 
  • Ben needs an apartment

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Love interests for Ben Reilly: 6 (Gabrielle Greer, Betty Brant, Janine, Rachel the waitress, Carrie Bradley, Desiree Winthrop
  • Awkward times Peter's friends mistaken Ben for Peter: 3
  • Number of petty crimes/ crises occur around Ben Reilly: 5
  • Scene with Uncle Ben and/ or Aunt May's graves: 5
  • Number of times Ben Reilly's web shooters jam: 2
    Verdict
 This opening issue for Ben as Spidey checks off a lot of the boxes for a feel-good Spider-Man adventure. There is a light-hearted feeling with enough mystery and intrigue to want readers coming back for more. This is a much-needed break from a year and a half worth of Clone Saga pathos and angst. It also does a lot of thankless work of setting up a new status quo for Ben. Most of the new supporting characters are pretty blah, with the exception of the mystery woman Jessica.

The art is a pleasure to look at. I like how there is a distinct art difference between Jurgens' Spidey and his Superman work. I'd say this is a pretty decent comic.
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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