Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 37: The Ultimate 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 Ultimate Responsibility" Sensational Spider-Man #6

Writer/ Artist: Dan Jurgens

Review by Eric Lee

We pick up on the Jessica Caradine plot line again for the last time. This is also writer and artist Dan Jurgen's last issue of any Spider-Man comic. According to the-editor Glen Greenberg, when Jurgens first jumped on, he was disappointed that he wouldn't be writing Peter Parker, but Ben Reilly as Spider-Man. It's a little odd he didn't think he'd write Ben when he first signed on.  Jurgens was aware of the Clone Saga in the  Spider-Man books at the time. Unfortunately, constant editorial interference frustrated Jurgens to the point where he left the books.

The issue acts like a pretty good bookend to Jurgens' run. The issue is reuses the same beats as Sensational Spider-Man #0. We open with Jessica at her father's grave as she gives a distorted retelling of the Burglar's encounters with Uncle Ben and Spider-Man.

 Of course, the retelling is full of holes. She actually believed that her father was held at gunpoint by Uncle Ben and then he somehow twisted Ben's gun to shoot himself? How does that even work?

Actually, looking back at Jessica, I wished that she didn't believe such an obviously twisted account of her father's life. She knew he was a career criminal. What would've been a little more interesting, is if she was mad at Spider-Man for sending her to the foster system and stealing her childhood away from her. 

 Not only is that true, but more of a believable stretch than "my father was a career criminal, but Spider-Man must've framed him".

Anyways, Jessica still contemplates what to do with the photo she took of Ben unmasking. Meanwhile, Desiree asks Ben out on a lunch date. It's a funny scene with some awkward banter, because Desiree keeps on using the word "hot".

"Some nice hot picante sauce sounds good!" 

"Oh theirs is hot alright! The hottest. And I like it hot. Like my men."

The scene cuts to after Ben and Desiree eaten their meals, even though their plates look sparkly clean. And Desiree is still talking about "hot".

It's funny because I imagined that started the date saying "Hot", continued talking about hot sauce or things that are hot during the meal, and now the readers are seeing the tail-end of the conversation still talking about hot stuff.

Anyways, the two happened to sit next to the restaurant window, which of course Jessica walks by and sees them on a date. Jessica is pretty pissed even though the previous issue, she told Desiree that she doesn't care if she dates Ben. But Jessica is still angry that Desiree didn't know she actually didn't mean what she said

Out of anger, she is about to deliver the unmasking photo to J. Jonah Jameson, but then a fire on the top of a skyscraper breaks out.

 Ben ditches Desiree to become Spider-Man. Jessica also follows him to the fire site. Spider-Man sees there are too many people to swing down one at a time. So he saves time by creating a web slide all the way to the ground.

I am 100% certain that is not how webbing works. How can people slide on it? Wouldn't they just get stuck?

A rescued woman tells Spidey that some kids are still trapped up there. He courageously goes back up while Jessica is shocked that he'd so cavilerly sacrifice himself like that.

After an exciting explosion, Spidey comes out of the wreckage alive and kids in hand. Seeing Ben be so noble and heroic, Jessica gives the photo to Ben and tell shim that she has been wrong about him the whole time. Unfortunately for Ben, he is swarmed by paramedics, firefighters, and news reporters, as she slips away.

While the conversation is reassuring that Jessica is no longer mad at Ben, it is also bittersweet because that's the last time they see each other.

The issue ends with Jessica visiting Aunt May and Uncle Ben's graves and apologizing for everything her father did. Then she walks away saying how she learned about holding power and using it responsibly. We never see Jessica again. Presumably, she moved away and is living her life elsewhere. 

I personally would love to see Jessica again.  She has a very different background than most other Spider-Man supporting cast, as well as being in the unique position of only interacting with Ben, but barely with Peter Parker. How interesting would it be to see her mixing it up with the rest of the cast?

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • Ben and Desiree go on a date
  • Jessica reconciles with Spider-Ma 
  • Ben now has the unmasking photo, so his secret is safe
  • Last appearance of Jessica Caradine

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • Gaunt
  • Mystery Boss
  • Mystery Stalker

Subplots Count:

  • Peter and Mary Jane are still pregnant, but moved back to New York
  • 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 
  • Trainer works for Gaunt and a mystery man
  • Peter may be starting to regain his spider-powers
  • Spider-Skeleton is a clone
  • Jessica discovers Ben's secret identity- RESOLVED Jessica gives the unmasking photo to Ben and leaves his life
  • A mystery man is targeting Peter and Ben
  • Potentially another mystery person is stalking Peter and Mary Jane
  • Peter is now a staff photographer at the Daily Bugle

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  •  Love interests for Ben Reilly: 9 (Gabrielle Greer, Betty Brant, Janine, Rachel the waitress, Carrie Bradley, Desiree Winthrop, Firestar, Jessica, Black Cat) 
  • Scene with Uncle Ben and/ or Aunt May's graves: 6
  •  The day is saved by talking about love and/or responsibility: 5

    Verdict

This issue was pretty good, but it is also bittersweet. It's too bad that Dan Jurgens has never returned to Spider-Man since this issue- unless you count the DC vs. Marvel crossover comic.  Focusing this issue from Jessica's perspective is a smart move. There are times when the dialogue is awkward and the ending is kinda cliche, but it was strong overall.
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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