Marvel (October, 1994)
“Power And Responsibility” part 3: “A Heartbeat Away!”
WRITER: Howard Mackie
ARTIST: Tom Lyle
FINISHES: Scott Hanna
COLORIST: Kevin Tinsley
LETTERER: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
EDITOR: Danny Fingeroth
As Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker (I envy those of you who don’t know the history of the Clone Saga), sits by Aunt May’s bedside he wrestles with rescuing Peter. However, he’s still Peter where it counts and despite all self-objections goes to the Ravencroft Institute, where Judas Traveler is trying to understand the “essence” of Spider-Man. We’ll come back to that. As part of his test he has Spider-Man “dreaming” that his greatest enemies are trying to conquer him, but Spidey’s mantra of “with great power comes great responsibility” pushes him through. The thought also comes to Ben’s head as he battles against Boone and Medea, the latter trying to kill Ben because she’s kind of psycho like that, even though Judas wants him in one piece. Ben manages to defeat them just as Spider-Man breaks out of his cage. Now alpha and clone stand together ready to stop Judas Traveler from destroying the Institute and killing anyone.
If you’re not clear what’s going on, the full story really won’t help. At the bottom of this review I have embedded Linkara’s review of the entire story arc with his blessing. I should warn you that this storyline, like most of the Clone Saga or anything with Judas Traveler, is very very stupid.
What they got right: There has to be something; this isn’t totally unreadable. Okay, how about I like Ben’s fight with Boone and Medea, seeing Spidey overcome is always nice to see, and….yeah, that’s all I’ve got. No, wait–as 90s art goes this was actually fairly decent.
What they got wrong: As you’ll see in Linkara’s full review Judas’ desire to understand why Peter is the kind of hero he is doesn’t come off as well thought out from a writing perspective. Why does Judas have so much trouble why Spider-Man doesn’t kill (unless he’s been mind-jacked by Doctor Octopus but one stupid story at a time please) or what drives him to help others? “Good” seems like a pretty easy concept to me. Ben’s emotional issues are understandable to a point, but hearing him complain about how easy it would be to just take over Peter’s life if Judas kills Peter, then complain about why he’s running off to help anyway (more for how long it goes on rather than Ben having trouble understanding his own hero drive), then talk about hoping he, as in Ben, dies trying to help, then tries to stay alive against Medea…he’s just all over the place emotionally and remember, this guy was supposed to replace Peter Parker because the Spider-Writers were trying to push away the Spider-Marriage even back then. Heck, that was the point of the Clone Saga, to regress the character. Finally, there’s the fake out of Aunt May’s heart monitor flat-lining only to be a pulled cable. That was weak and unnecessary.
Other notes: Fun fact: remember the Drake’s Marvel comics I reviewed for Free Comic Inside? As part of the promotion Drake’s sent the stores copies of Spider-Man comics. Knowing I was into comics and not realizing how horrible this saga was (or that I was a DC guy), my manager at the time (the good manager I had working there) gave me the comic. To be honest, it’s history that keeps it in my collection and not much else. So the flip book that was present with these books exploring Ben Reilly’s history is not in this version.
Recommendation: I can push you away from this issue, since it’s better if you know what’s happened before with Ben Reilly and Aunt May, but Linkara, who has suffered the entire arc, can push you away from all four issues of this storyline. And you really should take that recommendation, even if this is before the Saga fell apart. There may be some good ideas, the art in this issue was better than we were getting, and the fights are cool, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired and in the end had no real impact on the Saga beyond continuing the whole “who is the real clone” thing. It’s easily one to miss.