Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 53: Revelations

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.

"Revelations"  Spectacular Spider-Man #240, Sensational Spider-Man #11, Amazing Spider-Man #418, Peter Parker Spider-Man #75

Writer: Todd DeZago, Tom DeFalco, Howard Mackie

Artist: Luke Ross, Mike Wieringo, Steven Skroce, John Romita Jr.

Review by Eric Lee

 We have finally arrived at the grand finale of the Clone Saga. All of   most of your questions will be answered! Who lives? Who dies? Find out in "Revelations"!

We open with the traitorous Seward Trainer helping the Gaunt turn into a full-grown man. If you don't remember, Gaunt is a gross, sickly body of a human being and needs Trainer's treatment to become revitalized.

Gaunt and Trainer's unknown benefactor talks off-panel about his plans to destroy both Peter Parker and Ben Reilly's life. Finally seeing who's the mastermind, Trainer tries to warn Ben about the dangers to come.

 Except, it isn't easy to sneak out without arousing suspicions. Trainer sneaks onto the streets only to be confronted by an all-new robo-armored Gaunt!
 Trainer gives Gaunt a chase for a bit, but gets captured a killed right before he reaches the Daily Bugle! Farewell, Seward. We barely knew thee.

Seriously, he's had like 30 appearances and we barely have an idea of his personality. Trainer has been only used as a plot device to do science-y stuff. It's not surprising that future writers never even bothered to revive Trainer.

Meanwhile, the other part of the villains' plans come in fruition. We see a mysterious Alison Mongrain hired as the Daily Grind's newest employee. And if you can't tell that she's secretly evil, then you're not paying attention to the extremely unsubtle witch decoration hanging over her head.

 That's practically a glowing red arrow pointing out who's the evil one.

Other parts of the villains' plan: suspicious pumpkins are being delivered to the Daily Bugle as a part of a Halloween celebration. Also Peter's friends are getting invitations to a Halloween party at the Bugle.

 Also suspicious is  how two maintenance guys from Oscorp and Multivex were hired at the Bugle. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it kinda is later on! Really!

Actually not really. They had a specific job of making sure the elevators didn't work so Bugle people can't escape. It's a complete waste of storytelling real estate. They could've easily skipped an explanation.

 So Mary Jane and Aunt Anna set up an early dinner date with Ben and Peter at the Daily Grind. But Peter and Ben are lured into a trap set by Gaunt, who begins to attack them.

Gaunt then reveals his secret identity to Spider-Man: he' really Mendel Stromm who was the Robot Master way back in the early days.

Stromm was the former business partner of Norman Osborn, who actually created the original Green Goblin formula. But Osborn cheated Stromm out and stole the formula and became the Green Goblin. Stromm actually died of a heart attack in his first appearance, but not before creating some super cool robots. Anyways now he's back in an upgraded armor.

So now Peter and Ben are surrounded by Stromm and his garrison of robots. Is there a way things could get worse?! Yes. Yes, it can get worse.

At the Daily Grind, Alison Mongrain slipped something into Mary Jane's soup that induces her labor. So while Mary Jane goes to the hospital, Peter is stuck battling Stromm.

 Unrelatedly, the old police precinct get a surprise guest: Arthur Stacy, the brother of George and uncle of Gwen Stacy! His scenes do not figure into this story, but set up future plots. I won't get into him really, other than he has way too many pages dedicated to him in "Revelations".
So. at Ben's behest, Peter leaves to rush to see Mary Jane.  Ben continues to battle and defeat the Robot Master. Unfortunately, Ben is then quickly dispatched by the mysterious mastermind.

At the hospital, Mary Jane gets bad news. Apparently the baby was a still-born.

Except, we see the creepy Mongrain take a cart out of the hospital and loaded into a yacht. She also meets the mastermind: a resurrected Norman Osborn!

 Finally! We see that it is Norman behind all of the Clone Saga! 

Brief side-note, I do like the idea of a resurrected Norman. He had so many great stories since this story arc. Looking back at his resurrection some 25 years after, it's crazy to imagine a time that Norman was not used for like 30 years.

 Back to the story, it's surprising how little they explain what's Norman been doing all this time. Typically, at this  point of the story, writers explain how the mastermind planned for every event leading up to this moment. But they sorta glaze over it other than a brief explanation about how he faked Peter and Ben's clone results. 

If we wanted more answers on the intricacies of Norman's machinations, that's a separate one-shot called The Osborn Journals.

Amusingly, there is a reason why this is the story barely touches upon the past events. According to then-editor Glenn Greenberg, it's because writer Howard Mackie is so bad with recalling continuity, editorial decided it's just easier for him to side-step in his scripts.

Unfortunately,  this results in a lack of catharsis from the narrative.  Also, it means that Peter actually never learns how Norman is behind most of the Clone Saga, so that's a weird gap of knowledge that he never questioned.

So Peter is capture by Norman and is revived in his Spider-Man costume for some reason. Norman reveals that he has a slow regeneration factor. It saved him from normally fatal wounds. To prove his story, Norman rips open his shirt to show the scar where he was stabbed in the chest by his own glider back in Amazing Spider-Man  #122.

 I know I tease Mackie a lot, but he and artist John Romita Jr. are great at creating the mood and atmosphere. This whole opening scene between him and Spider-Man takes place in a darken room that's only lit by his flaming pumpkin bombs. It's an awesome slow reveal that really builds up the anticipation.
 So Green Goblin reveals his plan is to gather all of Peter's friends together in the Daily Bugle offices and bomb them. Which is fine and all, but why does he need to dress up and terrorize them as the Green Goblin? In fact, why did he dress Peter in his own Spider-Man costume, including giving him his web shooters? Why bring a beaten Ben Reilly to this room? Norman's practically asking for his plans to get thwarted.

Anyways, that happened and Spider-Man and the Goblin battle each other outside of the Bugle building. Meanwhile, Ben puts on civilian clothes because his Spider-Man costume is all ripped up and frees everybody from the Bugle. He collects all the pumpkin bombs in the office until Flash Thompson stupidly tries to "help" Ben. Instead the bomb exploded, giving Ben a gut full of shrapnel.

 So the Goblin fight ends with Osborn crashing on the Bugle rooftops. Ben meets up with Peter with the bag full of bombs. However, Osborn sends his glider to kill Peter, but Ben pushes Peter out of the way and gets stabbed in the back. 

To rub salt in the wounds, the glider then propels Ben off the roof and drops him on top of a car.

 Incensed by the events, Peter throws all the bombs onto the Goblin's body, causing them to explode. Some people can argue that Peter intended to kill Norman there since it seems unlikely that even the Goblin could survive a bag of bombs glued to his chest. And the scene of the Goblin engulfed in flames looks damning.
Um.... lets just say that Peter figured Norman's healing factor would help him survive.

Back to Ben, Peter takes Ben's body to a nearby rooftop where he decomposes into clone dust. So in the end, Ben was indeed the clone since the clone degeneration took over his body.

With the threat adverted, Peter races back to the hospital to comfort a grief-stricken Mary Jane. Despite all the adversity, Peter and Mary Jane look to the future together.

We then cut to Ben Reilly's funeral with all of Peter's friends attending. Amusingly, Betty is there, although she makes no mention that her and Ben were dating before he died. 

The best scene is Jimmy-Six making a quick appearance promising that he'll help the Parker family to honor Ben's memory. It's a great scene. It's a bummer nothing comes out of it in future issues.

 Another great scene is Spider-Man having his personal funeral memorial for Ben where he dumps Ben's ashes over the Brooklyn Bridge.
 Finally, we get to the debris of the Goblin and Spider-Man's battle. Two workers are working to clear the debris until a battle-damaged Goblin rises from the ashes, kills them and walks away. Norman sheds his Goblin garb promises that he will haunt Spider-Man not as the Green Goblin, but as Norman Osborn.
 I will admit that for the most part, Norman's threats do follow through for pretty much the rest of Spider-Man and even the larger Marvel universe as a whole.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  •  Gaunt revealed to be Mendel Stromm aka the Robot Master.
  • Robot Master is presumably killed by Norman Osborn
  • Seward Trainer killed by Norman Osborn
  • First appearance of Alison Mongrain
  • Norman Osborn returns and is revealed to be the mastermind behind all of the Clone Saga
  • Ben Reilly is killed by Norman Osborn
  • Mary Jane goes into labor, baby implied to be a still-born
  • Alison Mongrain takes a mysterious package out of the hospital and onto a boat
  • Peter is confirmed to be the real Peter and Ben is the clone
  • Peter Parker returns as Spider-Man
  • Defeated, Norman promises to wreck havoc as Norman Osborn

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Gavin Thorpe
  • Gaunt- REVEALED to be Mendel Stromm
  • Mystery Boss- REVEALED to be Norman Osborn
  • Mystery Stalker
  • The Rose
  • Mystery person who bankrolled Scorpion

Subplots Count:

  • Peter and Mary Jane are pregnant with a girl- UPDATED Mary Jane presumably loses the baby in child birth
  • Thorpe wanting to kill Spider-Man for unknown reasons
  • Peter is the clone and Ben is the "real Peter"- UPDATED Norman Osborn confirms that Peter is the real Peter and Ben is the clone
  • 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- UPDATED Ben dies, leaving Peter to return to his Spider-Man role
  • The Scrier has his own agenda and needs the Jackal's intel 
  • Trainer works for Gaunt and a mystery man- UPDATED Trainer fulfilled his role, Norman kills him
  • A mystery man is targeting Peter and Ben- UPDATED Revealed to be Norman Osborn
  • 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- UPDATED Arthur Stacy returns to New York
  •  Don Fortunato unites the New York crime scene and revealed to work with Hydra
  • Jimmy-6 is crashing at Ben Reilly's apartment- UPDATED Jimmy-6 promises to help the Parker family after Ben's death
  •  Hammerhead has an exoskeleton
  • A shadowy person upgraded Scorpion and has other plans
  •  Donald Menken is plotting something at Oscorp
  • Aunt Anna moves in with Peter and Mary Jane 

Clones Running Around:

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

Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Number of people who fell to their death from the Daily Bugle building: 3  (Spider Cide, the Jackal, Ben Reilly)
  • Peter teaming up with Ben when he really shouldn’t: 4
  • Cyborg assassin: 8

    Verdict

Well this is the end. "Revelations" was a story I've heard a lot about , but never read. But now that I've finally read it, the story is actually a mite disappointing. Surprisingly, it feels like that the story is treading water half the time, as the momentum doesn't really kick in until Peter and Ben meet the Robot Master. That's almost half way through the story. 

The other problem is that there are some parts that I wished they'd elaborated on, and other parts that should've been excised. Like, we don't need so many pages dedicated to Arthur Stacy or explain that the maintenance guys sabotaged the Bugle elevators. However, we definitely needed more explanation about how Norman planned most of the events of the Clone Saga, but it was barely touched on.

As far as Norman's final plan goes, it's really dumb. The Green Goblin gave Peter and Ben every opportunity to defeat him. It would've been better if he just killed Peter's friends without all that monologuing... and there's so much monologuing.

I will toss it up to a draw and call it there. It's definitely not a bad comic, but it certainly is an unfocused one.

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

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