Saturday 14 January 2017

Twenty years late, Marvel, but thank you

(Spoilers for Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy and suchlike tie-in stuffs)

Nostalgia is a funny thing. I realise, intellectually, that the Clone Saga was crap. It was an incestuous, over-extended, poorly edited mess. By the end it was so confused that Marvel even published a parody one-shot about how desperate they were to end the thing.

And yet I started reading comics around the time of the Clone Saga. There is a part of me that will always feel, deep down in my gut, that Spider-Man is a blond guy called Ben who works in a coffeeshop not this Parker guy with his science and his journalism. I know I'm wrong, I know that I just happened to start reading during a replacement hero storyline but part of me will always believe (as I was, originally, meant to) that Ben Reilly is the one, true Spider-Man.
He also had the best Spider-Man costume. You can keep your classic look and your black costume, this is the best design.

True, he was only Spider-Man for a year but back then that meant four monthly series, team-up books, crossovers and the quarterly Spider-Man Unlimited oversized specials. There was, quite simply, a lot of material where Ben was Spider-Man and once he died he was just sort of forgotten. He just wasn't mentioned for about ten years, the forgotten Spider-Man.

Then, at some point, enough time had passed and suddenly Ben Reilly was a nostalgia object. He got a mention here and there; there was a Brand New Day storyline about his wilderness years; his nemesis Kaine made a comeback and even started using Ben's Scarlet Spider identity; and, an alternate universe version made an appearance in Spider-Verse. He was a legitimate part of the franchise's history and, as a fan of the character, that was kind of satisfying.

Plus, those appearances were really good. The Brand New Day storyline treated Ben's years as a homeless drifter with seriousness, looking into what a Spider-Man with a hell of a lot less privilege would look like as the Clone Saga-era stuff only managed on its best day. The Spider-Verse version took a different tac, examining the renewed optimism of Ben's time in the Spidey suit, a Ben reclaiming a life that wasn't Peter's but was a full and fulfilling life after his years on the road. Even the Kaine version of Scarlet Spider was pretty entertaining.
So, as much as I'm sure Ben will be a very different character after The Clone Conspiracy, I feel confident Marvel has a plan to honour the past and origins of the character. Plus, writing duties on this thing are with Peter David, a man basically known these days for coming up with innovative angles on existing properties that take them in different directions that still feel like natural progressions of past eras (X-Factor, Spider-Man 2099, Young Justice, to name a few).

Though I'm not entirely sold on the built-in hoodie. I know where they're coming from, referencing the original Scarlet Spider costume but... meh. 

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