Spider-Man’s “Clone Saga” is one of the most controversial storylines throughout Spider-Man’s history. The epic storyline saw Ben Reilly, a clone of Peter Parker, take over as Spider-Man in New York with no one truly knowing which was the actual clone. Peter Parker inevitably reclaimed his role and Ben Reilly was seemingly killed off and scarcely appeared in any comic for nearly 20 years. Marvel is now teasing the death of Spider-Man, and with it came news that Ben Reilly would be coming back as the Web-Slinger. Ben Reilly’s return to the spotlight has not been easy but he’s proved that he’s ready to tackle Spider-Man’s responsibilities once again.
Ben Reilly was revealed to be a clone during Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75 by Howard Mackie, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, and Kevin Tinsley. After the Green Goblin stabbed Reilly through the chest with his glider, Reilly promptly turned to dust, proving that Peter Parker was the original, and when Ben Reilly returned in Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, he did not adopt a spider persona.
It was revealed in Amazing Spider-Man #22 by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Jason Keith, and Joe Caramagna that the Jackal had gathered Reilly’s ashes after he had turned to dust. The Jackal then developed a new process for cloning that allowed the clones to retain all memories until the point of death. Unfortunately, the clones still came back with cellular degeneration. The Jackal killed and resurrected Reilly numerous times in an attempt to fix his error. Reilly would eventually break free of Jackal’s grasp and took the villain’s place after creating a cure for the cellular degeneration.
Ben had planned to use Jackal’s new technology for good and began to resurrect Spider-Man’s greatest villains and friends. He had created a utopia where he was actively trying to reform villains that had died while fighting Spider-Man. These villains lived side-by-side with some of Peter’s greatest friends like Gwen Stacey who Reilly had also cloned. Ben tried to convince Peter to join him by offering to resurrect Uncle Ben, but his offer was rejected.
Ben eventually came to odds with Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, prompting Otto to try and destroy Jackal’s base. Octavius transmitted a frequency that turned all of Ben’s clones into zombified husks. Ben decided to channel this signal on the entire world, planning to bring everyone back as clones. Spider-Man saved the day by reversing the frequency, thus restoring humans and clones alike. Ben Reilly was able to escape during the chaos and fled New York City in favor of Las Vegas.
Ben’s time with clones did not end in Vegas. He was soon confronted by Kaine, another clone of Peter Parker. In Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #3 by Peter David, Mark Bagley, John Dell, Jason Keith, Jay David Ramos, and Caramagna, Kaine wanted to kill Reilly for his actions as the Jackal. Kaine was eventually successful in killing Reilly, but he stayed dead for a relatively short time. He would be resurrected once more and upon his return, he fatally injured Kaine.
Ben Reilly would return to heroics during Gage’s Spider-Geddon. Here he wanted to make up for his villainous actions as the Jackal and teamed up with the Superior Spider-Man to stop the Inheritors. He was sacrificed to one of the Inheritors but due to his many resurrections, the Inheritor was driven insane while consuming him. Ben was then revived once again by Otto Octavius; this time he came back without scars and claimed to feel saner than ever before. He returned to Vegas for a short while before recently teaming up with Iron Man in an effort to stop Korvac in Iron Man #7 by Christopher Cantwell, Cafu, Frank D’Armata, and Caramagna.
Even though Ben Reilly has come a long way from his days as the Jackal, he still has some pretty big shoes to fill if he plans to reassume the role of Spider-Man. This will his first time acting as Spidey while knowing he’s a clone. Worse yet, he has experienced extreme tragedy since the last time he fought to protect New York on his own. While Ben Reilly may have recovered his sanity, he still has to understand the importance of responsibility if he plans to be an effective Spider-Man.
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