Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 49: Swarm

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.

"Swarmed!", "Global Swarming"  Sensational Spider-Man #9-10

Writer: Todd DeZago

Artist: Mike Wieringo

Review by Eric Lee

 This story features Swarm another obscure Spider-Man villain. This really highlights writer Todd DeZago's penchant for using obscure, not as popular villains, like Willow the Wisp or The Looter.

In case people don't know, Swarm definitely has the most unique looking design of a villain. He's literally a swarm of bees that is in a humanoid shape. Also he wears a purple hood and cape. As far as wacky ideas go, this is pretty fun. He appears infrequently throughout the years as a B-level threat (Ha! Unintentional pun!).

So for this story, Swarm attacks a sonic-harmonic lab because their discoveries can help him communicate with more bees and become more powerful. If you're a regular person and there's a whole swarm of bees attacking you, it's terrifying. In fact, DeZago shows how scary a threat Swarm is. I wish more stories took advantage of the terror of being surrounded by mind controlled bees.
Meanwhile, Ben Reilly is at his job at the Daily Grind where Desiree Winthrop asks him out to see Rent. As Ben noted, Desiree is very aggressive here with her dating ambitions. I kinda like it. It certainly beats issues upon issues of the soap operatic "will-they-won't-they" that Stan Lee used to do in all of his Silver Age comics.

Ben rushes home to change and shower for his date with Desiree. However, he enters his bathtub being used by low-level mobster Jimmy-6 and a girl named Harleen. Yes! We finally see Jimmy-6 crashing at Ben's place after breaking in and making himself feel at home.

 I also don't know what's funnier about the scene: the fact that Jimmy-6 is huge and barely fits in the bathtub by himself, or that he's using a loofah, or that he's smoking while taking a bath, or how he's using the sink as an ice bucket for his champagne. Any case, great job with the comedy!

After some awkwardness, Ben was able to change and meet Desiree for their date. but it's all ruined because literally once they enter the theater, Ben ditches her to investigate a bee related threat as Spider-Man.

He literally leaves Desiree alone to watch the whole play by herself. That's hilarious and sad. But the crazy part is that Desiree isn't even mad at Ben afterwards, but we'll get there in a second.

Incidentally, the cover to issue #10 is horrifying to me. I hate getting stung by bees, so seeing  our hero get stung repeatedly with welts all over his body is just the worse.

So Spider-Man makes it through the storm of bees and into the labs to confront the scientist. Once they start formulating a plan to defeat Swarm, a scientist's mouth fills with bees.  Like I said, Swarm can be down-right terrifying.
 Anyways, the plan involves Spider-Man combining his smarts with the other nerds and tricking Swarm into creating some sort of counter vibration machine to throw the bees off their flight paths.

Spider-Man activates the device in time and makes Swarm lose control of his hive mind control as well as the bees' abilities to fly. Hence the threat is neutralized! And bonus: the bees were not harmed! Go, little bees! Pollinate the world!

Back to Desiree- who missed this whole adventure since the theater was on total lockdown- she sees Ben again. Instead of doing the normal reaction and yelling at the person who ditched her, Desiree calmly says she understands that Ben's not ready for another relationship so soon after Jessica left.

 However, she's not mad and still wants to be Ben's friend until he's ready. I don't know if this is a plot contrivance to get Desiree out of the way or what. But Desiree seems to be the most understanding person in the world. Ben should've locked that girl down fast! I liked it even though this character moment sorta contradicts Desiree's initial portrayal as a vapid, stuck-up princess. Or maybe she had tremendous character growth after  listening to the cast of Rent sing about how it's more important to treasure the time together and not get hung up on the little things.

Sing it with me! Seasons of looooove!

Oh two other things, before we close out. Peter and Mary Jane confirm that they're having a baby girl! And yes, this girl later becomes May "Mayday" Parker of Spider-Girl fame!

 Also, we see that Oscorp director Donald Menken seems to be plotting against the current CEO Liz Osborn-Allan. Dun, dun, duuuuunnn!

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • Swarm attempts to gain more power
  • Spider-Man defeats Swarm
  • Ben almost goes on a date with Desiree Winthrop
  • Desiree wants to continue being friends
  • Peter and Mary Jane discover they're having a girl
  • Donald Menken is plotting something at Oscorp

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • Gaunt
  • Mystery Boss
  • Mystery Stalker
  • The Rose
  • Mystery person who bankrolled Scorpion

Subplots Count:

  • Peter and Mary Jane are still pregnant, but moved back to New York- UPDATE Peter and Mary Jane are pregnant with a girl
  • 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
  • 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
  • A mystery man is targeting Peter and Ben
  • Potentially another mystery person is stalking Peter and Mary Jane
  • Peter is laid off and now back to being a freelance photographer
  • Garon is a police detective hunting the gangs
  • Arthur Stacy is interested in Spider-Man
  • Don Fortunato tries to take over the New York crime scene
  • Jimmy-6 is crashing at Ben Reilly's apartment
  •  Hammerhead has an exoskeleton
  • The Rose is now joining forces with Scrier and Gaunt
  • A shadowy person upgraded Scorpion and has other plans
  • Judas Traveller is stalking Gaunt and Scrier 
  •  Donald Menken is plotting something at Oscorp

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: 9 (Gabrielle Greer, Betty Brant, Janine, Rachel the waitress, Carrie Bradley, Desiree Winthrop, Firestar, Jessica, Black Cat)

    Verdict

  This isn't an important storyline or anything. But it's a dang well-written one. I really like how DeZago uses different Spider-Man villains who are like Dr. Octopus round 45 or whatever. Also, Swarm is pretty menacing here.

There is some dumb plot holes, like how Swarm keeps on threatening scientists but never actually harms them. I am on the fence about whether Desiree's speech at the end is too convenient or not. Overall, this is solid.

 For previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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