The Clone Conspiracy #3 delivered a strong punch to the gut as Ben Reilly was revealed to be the Jackal behind bringing everyone Peter Parker knew back to life. Instead of having to wait several more weeks for The Clone Conspiracy #4 to learn about Ben Reilly’s secret history the Amazing Spider-Man #22 looks to delivers us some answers. This issue could very well prove to be one of the most important tie-in comics we’ve ever had given what Dan Slott and Christos Gage are looking to clarify for. Will Amazing Spider-Man #22 deliver the answers the questions fans had following The Clone Conspiracy #3? Let’s find out.
Writers: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Jason Keith
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Spider-Man asks Ben Reilly to repeat what he said. Ben tells Spider-Man that they can bring Uncle Ben back to life together.
Spider-Man starts pounding on Ben’s face, who does not fight back or defend himself. Spider-Man says he would never desecrate Uncle Ben’s grave. Ben responds by saying “Not even to get him back?”
Spider-Man stops for a second and asks Ben how he could become the Jackal. Ben says he used a voice modulator in his Anubis helmet to replicate Miles Warren’s voice. Spider-Man still doesn’t understand how Ben is back. Ben reveals he has actually died 27 times.
Ben then goes into further detail that when he was dying in Spider-Man’s arms his entire life flashed before his eyes, from the time first woke up as a clone to his time as Scarlet Spider. After dissolving and Spider-Man left to deal with Norman, Miles Warren snuck onto the roof to retrieve Ben’s remains.
Sometime later Ben wakes up remembering everything that happened up to when he dissolved. Miles reveals that he has advanced his cloning process that eliminates having to create artificial memories and history gaps in clones’ minds. Miles goes on to say that the process is still not perfect as he is still facing a problem with cellular degradation.
Miles, focused on perfecting the process, kills Ben and makes him go through his life flashing before his eyes again.
Miles once again revives Ben and continues the process of killing and reviving him over and over again in order to solve the cellular degradation. This is torture for Ben who is forced to see his life flash before his eyes each time.
On the 27th time Ben begs Miles to let him die. Miles says he is letting Ben die but just not letting him stay dead. Ben finally is able to use his anger to break free from his binding.
Ben goes berserk and begins choking Miles. Before he kills him Ben gets a better idea.
Sometime later Miles wakes up in the tube he imprisoned Ben in. Ben welcomes Miles back to life and says he has joined the clone club now. Ben reveals he has solved the cellular degradation process through a pill he has created, though it’s not a permanent solution.
Miles does not believe he is a clone. Ben then shows Miles the other Miles’ clones he has created already. This breaks Miles, as he does not know if he is the real one or a clone, and takes the pill Ben has created.
After this Ben explains to Spider-Man that he took the experience of going through death and resurrection as motivation so others don’t have to go through it. He then used his and Miles resources to create a new Jackal persona.
Back in the present, Spider-Man shows sympathy for everything Ben went through but still does not agree with the cloning process he is doing. Ben tells Spider-Man that while they can save everyone, they can still bring them back in a better way than Miles did.
Ben goes on to say that it was going through hell that made him realize he could control his own destiny. Ben then says that he understands better than anyone the suffering Peter is going through as Spider-Man and that together they can make things right. Spider-Man hesitates for a second but asks Ben to tell him more. End of issue.
The Good: Though only a tie-in to The Clone Conspiracy, Amazing Spider-Man #22 did not read like a typical tie-in issue. Instead this issue could’ve easily been retitled as The Clone Conspiracy #3.5. No matter what the next issue of The Clone Conspiracy does, this is an essential issue to read to get the full context of the story, which isn’t normal for a tie-in issue.
There is no doubt with how this issue was all about Ben Reilly’s backstory it was the right choice to feature it in Amazing Spider-Man rather than The Clone Conspiracy mini-series. The reality is that if this story was told during The Clone Conspiracy #4 it would’ve slowed the entire event down to a crawl. And for an event comic book that is the last thing a creative team needs to give its readers. But by giving this story over to Amazing Spider-Man #22 to tell both Dan Slott and Christos Gage gave them enough time to tell the Ben Reilly’s backstory without dragging everything else around it down.
Making this decision work even better is that Slott and Gage did leave enough room for The Clone Conspiracy mini-series to give us more information of Ben Reilly’s return. While this does paint Ben in a much more sympathetic light there are still some question left up in the air. One thing left unanswered is that there seems to be a gap between when Ben first escaped and when he first created the pill. Because it was clear that when Ben escaped Miles still did not fix the cellular degradation so something else must off occurred during this time period that Ben did not reveal. Whether that is Ben having a secret partner or something else, there is still room for The Clone Conspiracy mini-series to reveal more about this secret history.
That said, Amazing Spider-Man #22 is so successful because it did paint this version of Ben Reilly as a sympathetic figure. Though we don’t experience all 27 deaths and resurrections, Slott and Gage show us enough of them to make us believe that Ben would be driven slightly crazy. The framing of Ben having to deal with seeing his entire life flash before his eyes so many times gives him enough of a reason to do something that is seen as sacrilegious.
This also gives us a better idea of why Peter Parker in other worlds would agree to work with Ben on his new cloning process. Ben does a great job sounding convincing to Peter and drawing on his own knowledge their shared experiences to get his sympathy. This further builds on how before all of this happened Peter did see Ben as the brother he never had. By the end of Ben’s story it was clear that this became a family matter for both characters.
Through Ben’s story Slott and Gage also remind us how wicked of a person Miles Warren is. As a guy so driven by his scientific achievements that he does not care about anyone’s basic human rights. His treatment of Ben made it that much more satisfying when Ben broke out of his confinement. It also gave us an interesting reason why Ben isn’t just warped but now stronger than Peter since his powers were pushed to limits far beyond his previous levels.
Drawing on how Ben is a sympathetic character also helps build on why Spider-Gwen and Kaine took the approach of stopping Ben and New U from partnering with Peter. Because it’s clear without their interference that things would’ve gone the way they occurred in the other universes. Now with both these characters around and Spider-Gwen revealing to Peter what they’ve seen there is a chance that Peter doesn’t team with Ben.
As with his previous work on Amazing Spider-Man, Giuseppe Camuncoli delivered a good looking issue. Though he didn’t get to flex his action muscles Camincoli provided us with some great panel design. The way he drew how Ben continued to re-experience his life gave us a better idea how with each death and resurrection he was losing his mind more and more. This made Ben’s transformation even more effective to the overall story as we now have a version of the character that is completely different from how we last saw him.
The Bad: With the price tag of both Amazing Spider-Man and The Clone Conspiracy there is no doubt some readers may have chosen to only read the latter while taking a break from the former during this period. With Amazing Spider-Man #22 giving us so much information on Ben Reilly’s backstory this can be seen as a nickel and diming maneuver. And as a consumer who has a limited budget when it comes to buying comic books having to spend another $3.99 on a tie-in comic lessens the excitement of buying an event comic book like The Clone Conspiracy since it isn’t telling a full story.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man could’ve easily been retitled as “The Clone Conspiracy #3.5.” Dan Slott and Christos Gage delivered crucial information on Ben Reilly’s history to make us understand his transformation to the Jackal persona. This new information gives us a new perspective into what is going on in the main The Clone Conspiracy event. How these details change the story for Spider-Man and other characters involved will be interesting to see play out. If you are reading The Clone Conspiracy I highly recommend picking up the Amazing Spider-Man #22.