The latest issue of “Iron Man” regarded the Scarlet Spider as a joke, even though he previously served as a competent replacement for Spider-Man.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Iron Man #5 by Christopher Cantwell, Cafu, Frank D’Armata, VC’s Joe Caramagna, and Alex Ross, on sale now.
Facing the universe-threatening power of Korvac, Iron Man has had to call in some backup lately. With little time to lose and availability at an all-time low, Tony pulled in the closest heroes he can find, including Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider. It looks like things have taken a bit of a nosedive for Ben’s career, though, and somehow the once formidable hero has become little more than a punchline.
On such short notice, Tony puts together a ragtag team consisting of Scarlet Spider, Misty Knight, Gargoyle, and one of the latter’s employees known as Frog-Man. All but the last of them are well known and capable heroes, but Scarlet Spider has apparently gone from fighting crime full-time to working the occasional graveyard shift as a security guard. As described in his byline, Ben Reilly is quite literally a carbon copy of Peter Parker, great powers and all. He hasn’t been seen in a while, but that doesn’t mean he’s deserving of the status he is apparently garnering now. Reilly has never really been taken as seriously as the real Spider-Man, but he did prove capable of carrying that mantle for a time.
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Ben Reilly’s strange and bewildering origin begins all the way back in 1975’s Amazing Spider-Man #149 by Gerry Conway and Ross Andru. Created by the Jackal to sew discord in Spider-Man’s life as a form of revenge for the death of Gwen Stacey, he was apparently killed when a bomb collapsed the stadium he was in. Ben survived, and spent the next five years in a sort of self-imposed exile, believing himself to be worthless as a clone. When Aunt May’s health took a turn for the worst, Ben returned to New York City and confronted Peter, the two eventually coming to terms with the nature of their relationship, and fighting alongside one another as Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider.
During Peter’s short-lived retirement to Portland, he left Ben his suit, and the clone of Spider-Man was given a chance to become the real deal. Though most people were unaware of the switch, some heroes close to Peter found out before the original Spider-Man returned to team up with his successor and battle the Green Goblin. The fight resulted in Ben’s death, though he would later be resurrected as a clone of himself.
Even worse is the convoluted mess that is Ben Reilly’s history and the infamous The Clone Saga. Often considered one of the worst Spider-Man arcs in history, the entire thing was so derided by fans and writers alike that Marvel published the one-shot Spider-Man: 101 Ways to End the Clone Saga in 1997, wherein various Marvel writers were given the opportunity to “fix” and poke fun at the story.
As humorous as it was, the title did a lot of damage to Ben Reilly’s reputation, even more than there already was considering his origin. If nothing else, at least the Scarlet Spider is on someone’s speed dial these days.
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