Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 24: Blasts From the Past

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.

"Blasts From the Past"  Amazing Spider-Man #407

Writer:  Tom DeFalco

Artist:  Mark Bagley

Review by Eric Lee

We continue the first month of Ben Reilly as Spider-Man. This time we see the reactions of various Peter Parker's allies.

Apparently, there was some time past since Peter retired and Ben started as Spider-Man, because the Daily Bugle headline screams, "Whatever Happened to Spider-Man?!?"
I don't know if we needed so many exclamations and question marks in the headline, but we get the idea. The original Spidey is gone and replaced by a newbie. That thought creeps J. Jonah Jameson out.

Elsewhere, the Human Torch is concerned that the Spidey he knew is  gone. He leaves a flaming message in the sky telling Spidey to meet him at their usual spot (i.e. the torch of the Statue of Liberty). The message is a test to see if a new guy understands his note.
Other people who want to test this new Spidey are Silver Sable, and a reformed Sandman. 
We also meet yet another new cast member, Buzz, Ben Reilly heads out to rendezvous with the Torch. The trouble is that he sees Sandman first, and instantly assumes that he's still a criminal. Spidey battles it out with him, and generally acts like an ignorant dope for not  recognizing Silver Sable, or knowing that Sandman's now a good guy.
The Torch also intervenes to help Spidey, before Silver Sable interrupts the fight.

Unfortunately, Ben as Spidey comes off really poorly to every person present. He's unintentionally sexist to Sable, standoffish to Sandman, and an overall jerk towards the Torch.

It's not hard to see that writer Tom DeFalco is trying to re-capture the spirit of "Spider-Man as a loner".

Back in the classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko run, Spider-Man acted like a bit of a jerk towards his superhero peers. Of course, this is due to him being an insecure, angsty teenager.

Here, Ben acts like a bit of a jerk, because he feels awkward trying to fill in as Spidey, while realizing that Peter had a fulfilling superhero career when he was gone. Understandably, it  makes Ben a little nervous and aloof towards others.

It's a kinda cool idea to revert Spider-Man to a more "wild card" character. You're not sure what Spidey will do exactly because Ben has his own personality.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  •  First time Ben meets the Human Torch, Silver Sable, and Sandman
  • First appearance of Buzz

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: 2
  • 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: 3
 The way the writers decided to replace Peter with Ben is a strange solution. Let's minimize the established supporting cast and replace them with totally new ones. It causes a lot of confusion among people of who already know Peter as Spider-Man. 

This issue makes the best of an awkward status quo transition. The character interactions are amusing and fun, which starts to sorta recapture the "unpredictable" feeling of the original Spider-Man run.
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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