Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 50: Secrets!

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.

"Secrets!" The Amazing Spider-Man #417

Writer: Tom DeFalco

Artist: Ron Garney

Review by Eric Lee

 Finally! We're at our last Judas Traveller story. I've hated this guy ever since he first appeared when the Clone Saga kicked off. I hated his vague seemingly limitless powers, his cryptic motivations, endless teases of his true nature, and his overall condescending attitude.

This issue not only lays out all the cards on the table on who Judas Traveller really is, but it closes the book on his story. Actually that's not true. There's still a billion unanswered questions about Traveller, but they're never answered because he's never appeared in a comic since then. Honestly, at this point  who the hell really cares?

We open with Traveller locked up on what looks like an astral plane screaming for Spider-Man's help. It appears that Scrier has commandeered Traveller's team the Host. Now all of them have betrayed him with the exception of Chakra.

 Scrier also is now associated with Gaunt as they try to rope the Rose into their criminal schemes. Note how the Scrier wears a mask and the white face is not his real face.
 Peter Parker and Ben as Spider-Man meet with Chakra who has been on the run from the other Host members. She is asking for Spider-Man's help to locate Traveller. Why is she meeting them physically? She has powers to project an astral ghost to directly see people. That would've been way faster than her putting out a message to Ravencroft and waiting for then to contact Spider-Man.

But before we get into the intricacies of the main plot, lets stop at Peter's residence.  Now that Mary Jane is due for her labor any week, Aunt Anna volunteered to move in with Peter and her to help out. Despite being a long-standing character, Aunt Anna never had much of a personality. So because of that, the Spider-Man books were saddled with making Aunt Anna the new Aunt May.

 You know, where she's the doting naive type who is always super close to stumbling on Peter's secret as Spider-Man. It's a bit trite. And what's weirder, Aunt Anna looks super off-model here. At least she's appropriately old, unlike that time they got Marla Jameson's character wildly model wrong and made her a hot 26 year old model.

Meanwhile, Spider-Man and Chakra find Traveller trapped in a coffin in a gymnasium pool. I kinda wish we saw how he got there because in the previous issue of Amazing he was fine.  I assume that writer Tom DeFalco also did not really care and just wanted to get over this story as quick as possible.

So Chakra reveals Traveller's true nature: he is a mutant with the power to alter peoples' perceptions and cast illusions. And any real world destruction was caused by Scrier's machinations.

 Speaking of Scrier, who is he? Some cosmic being? A powerful mystical deity? Nope! He's actually an entire cult! Unfortunately, while the twist has a cool reveal scene, it's also super frustrating because we barely get any more information about what the cult is about.

Like, what's their main mission? Have we only seen one Scrier all this time or have there been different Scriers in every appearance?

 Interestingly, while this is their last big appearance in the main Spider-Man books, they've kinda gone on in Spider-Girl. There was even an origin for the organization in a Silver Surfer annual where it reveals the cult of Scriers actually base their beliefs and look on an ancient Scrier being. But honestly, they're still a pretty big question mark as far as beliefs, motivations, and methodology. 

Probably the most interesting tidbit that the Rose dropped is that the Scrier cult was waning until 5 years ago when they were renewed by a new leader. Hmmmm...

Oh yeah and Peter decides to bust into the fight to help. He claimed that Ben was wrong to ditch him for this fight, to which I say NOPE.

 Peter should not be fighting. Not only have his spider-powers been inconsistently cutting in and out, but he also has a family soon. To want to come into a fight is just straight up selfish.

So Traveller was released by Chakra and then he used his psychic powers to disorient and knock out all of the Scriers. And then Chakra teleports him away. That's it.

 We still don't know anything about his obsession with Spider-Man, why he ever teamed-up with the Scriers, who do his Host truly report to, what is the point of all the other times he caused trouble, or exactly why the Scriers and Host betrayed him. 

But you know what? Good riddance. If these dangling plot threads means never having to listen to another sanctimonious speech from him again, then so be it. 

So in the end, the remaining Scrier is killed by Gaunt for his failure to capture anybody and bringing the Rose into their plans. Not that it matters, there are literally thousands of other Scriers lining up to take his spot.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • Judas Traveller revealed to be a mutant with perception altering powers
  •  Scrier revealed to be a cult of many Scriers that utilize technology, not magic
  • Gaunt kills a Scrier, seemingly ending their partnership
  • Rose rejects Scrier's offer to join forces
  • Aunt Anna returns to live with Peter and Mary Jane

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller- REVEALED to be a mutant with illusion powers
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier- REVEALED to be a cult
  • Gaunt
  • Mystery Boss
  • Mystery Stalker
  • The Rose
  • Mystery person who bankrolled Scorpion

Subplots Count:

  • 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- UPDATE The Rose rejects the Scrier and Gaunt's offer
  • A shadowy person upgraded Scorpion and has other plans
  • Judas Traveller is stalking Gaunt and Scrier- UPDATE Judas Traveller was betrayed by Scrier and Gaunt and now has escaped them
  •  Donald Menken is plotting something at Oscorp
  • Aunt Anna moves in with Peter and Mary Jane 

Clones Running Around:

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

Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  •  Peter teaming up with Ben when he really shouldn’t: 3
  • Number of time Mr. Natch spies on others in the shadows: 3

    Verdict

How can I say this succinctly?This issue is garbage. It does finally address Judas Traveller's true powers and the Scriers, but it answers no other hanging Traveller-related plot threads. After all this time, we still don't really know Traveller's motivations or interest in Spider-Man. Spider-Man's involvement is incidental in this story because him and Traveller barely interacted. They could've gotten any superhero and the result would've been more or less the same. 

Similarly, we still don't really know what's going on with the Scrier. Why would the cult be involved with Traveller at all? And don't even get me started on how every member of the Scrier cult is like 7 feet tall. The whole thing is stupid.

To be totally fair, I prefer unanswered plot holes instead of overly intricate explanations, like in Scarlet Spider Unlimited #1. This whole issue did feel breezy at least. 

Other problems with the comic, the terrible message that says Peter should unnecessarily put his life in danger despite having a pregnant wife waiting for him. That's awful and the opposite of responsible.

I am just glad I can put all this Traveller nonsense behind me.

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

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