The Spider-Man Beyond Era for Amazing Spider-Man has come to an end. This new era that originally set out to establish Ben Reilly as the new Spider-Man transformed to become something fans may not have expected. What can’t be argued as that the Spider-Man Beyond Era shook up the normal direction for Amazing Spider-Man. Gone was the normal Peter Parker and Spider-Man adventures as Ben Reilly was transformed into the corporate Spider-Man thanks to the Beyond Corporation’s backing. Now how successful was the Spider-Man Beyond Era for Amazing Spider-Man? Let’s dive into everything that took place.
SPIDER-MAN BEYOND CREATIVE TEAM
Beyond Board Writers: Kelly Thompson, Cody Ziglar, Saladin Ahmed, Patrick Gleason, Zeb Wells, and Jed MacKay
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Travel Foreman, Ivan Fiorelli, Sara Pichelli, Jim Towe, Michael Dowling, Carlos Gomez, Jorge Fornes, Paco Medina, Mark Bagley, Fran Galan, and Ze Carlos
Inkers: Walden Wong, Wayne Faucher, Paco Medina, Andew Hennessy, Victor Olazaba, Roberto Poggi, and John Dell
Colorists: Marcio Menyz, Jim Campbell, Edgar Delgado, Nolan Woodard, Rachelle Rosenberg, Jesus Aburtov, Erick Arciniega, Bryan Valenza, Dan Brown, Morry Hollowell, Nathan Fairbairn, Espen Grundetjern, and Brian Reber
Main Comics: Amazing Spider-Man #75 to Amazing Spider-Man #93 (19 comic book issues)
Supplementary Comics: The Amazing Spider-Man #78.BEY, The Amazing Spider-Man #80.BEY, The Amazing Spider-Man #88.BEY, The Amazing Spider-Man #92.BEY, Mary Jane & Black Cat: Beyond #1 (5 comic book issues)
The Spider-Man Beyond Era followed the Brand New Day template as a new Brain Trust was created with the Beyond Board. Much like the Brain Trust during the Brand New Day, the Beyond Board worked together to map out the direction for Spider-Man Beyond. The Beyond Board was made up of Kelly Thompson, Cody Ziglar, Saladin Ahmed, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells with Jed MacKay joining later on, though he served more as a guest writer. Along with plotting out the Spider-Man Beyond direction together each member of the Beyond Board wrote different story arcs and one-shot stories. This allowed Amazing Spider-Man to maintain a 3-times a month release schedule.
The “main story” of Spider-Man Beyond was told over the course nineteen issues that started with Amazing Spider-Man #75 to the final issue taking place in Amazing Spider-Man #93, which is also the final issue of this volume of Amazing Spider-Man. Additionally there were four additional .BEY issues that expand on the stories that focused on other characters that were part of the main story. There was also the one-shot Mary Jane & Black Cat: Beyond one-shot that also expanded on the story. All in all Spider-Man Beyond was a direction while only lasting six months took place over the course of 24 issues, which would normally be two years of comic books for a normal series.
THE STORY OF SPIDER-MAN BEYOND
After making key transactions that included buying things previously owned by Parker Industries the Beyond Corporation used their IP rights to the Spider-Man name to make Ben Reilly their official Spider-Man. After Peter Parker was taken out of action due to severe radiation poisoning suffered during a fight with the U-Foes it opened the door for Ben to take the spot of being the leading Spider-Man.
As Spider-Man, Ben took on various villains such as Kraven the Hunter, Lizard, and Morbius. Eventually Ben as Spider-Man would take on Doctor Otto Octavius, with the fight resulting to Ben mentally breaking due to revelations of how the Beyond Corporation has been manipulating him. Seeing this, Maxine Danger, the CEO of Beyond Corporation, had her scientist “fix” Ben so he doesn’t have a complete mental breakdown.
Meanwhile, Peter Parker continues to recover from the radiation poisoning he suffered. The recovery process is a long one. After a while, seeing that Peter is getting better, Mary Jane Watson calls Felicia Hardy to help re-train Peter so he doesn’t recklessly return to being Spider-Man. Along with Captain America, Black Cat trains Peter to get to back into shape.
Back at the Beyond Corporation, when Maxine notices that Dr. Ashley Kafka is causing Ben to remember memories she had suppressed. Maxine turns Dr. Kafka into the new Spider-Man villain known as Queen Goblin to go after Janine Godbe to ensure their true work is released to the public. While Ben saves Janine from Queen Goblin he does not find the new villain. Instead, it is up to Black Cat and a returning Peter Parker as Spider-Man to defeat Queen Goblin.
Ben talks with Janine about wanting to get the memories he is feeling he is missing. Ben finds Maxine and is convinced by the Beyond Corporation CEO to use a device to take the memories he is missing from Peter.
When Peter finds Ben again it leads to a fight between Spider-Men that Ben initially wins. Peter powers out and destroys the device Maxine gave Ben. In his rage Ben tries to strike Peter but falls into a vat of quantum-shifting polymers. While there is no initial sign of Ben surviving it is shown several months later Ben has gained new powers and is going by the name of Chasm.
BEN REILLY FAILED RETURN AS SPIDER-MAN
When the story of Spider-Man Beyond started it appeared as though this was going to be a story to reestablish Ben Reilly as a superhero. That is something Ben hasn’t been since he died back during the Clone Saga in the 90s. Since then while Ben did return during the Clone Conspiracy the beloved superhero known as Scarlet Spider was no more as Ben became the new Jackal. After that villainous turn we did see Ben go back to being Scarlet Spider but even in that role he was far from being the superhero fans remember him being.
Ben becoming a superhero again certainly appeared to be the direction for his latest run of Spider-Man. But while he was taking on classic Spider-Man villains the fact that he was being funded by the Beyond Corporation made this superhero return not feel right. There was always something to everything that the Beyond Corporation was doing to help Ben as Spider-Man that made you question his current role.
That ended up being the case as we learned that the Beyond Corporation was also a super villain factory. This revelation turned everything Ben was doing as Spider-Man to be incredibly artificial. The artificiality of Ben’s new run as Spider-Man was further emphasized with how he was manipulated by the Beyond Corporation scientist to make sure he always fell in line.
What was the result of this time as a corporate sponsored Spider-Man? Well as it turned out Spider-Man Beyond was not a celebration of a returning hero. Instead, it was a nineteen-issue comic book story for the origin of the latest Spider-Man villain known as Chasm. That’s right, all of this was to turn Ben Reilly into a villain, a role he was familiar with from his previous turn as Jackal in the Clone Conspiracy.
If you doubted that this new role of Chasm was Ben becoming a villain Marvel made this clear in their own post-mortem article on Marvel.com. In the article Editor Nick Lowe said “Get ready to get to know the most terrifying new member of Spidey’s Rogues Gallery. Part of the point of ‘Beyond’ was the creation of Chasm and we have HUGE plans for the artist formerly known as Scarlet Spider, so keep your eyes peeled Web-Heads.” So it does not get more definitive than that if you had questions if Ben was going to be a villain as Chasm.
That will definitely not be something that makes Ben Reilly fans happy. As someone who was never a big Ben Reilly fan this result just further emphasized how Spider-Man Beyond was more of a stopgap than something that would define the franchise for at least a year. At no point did the Beyond Board convince me that Ben was the permanent Spider-Man. Ben was just the fill-in Spider-Man until Marvel was ready for Peter to return. Now because of that it is hard to ever take Ben being Spider-Man seriously again if Marvel attempts to do this again.
MENTAL HEALTH OF CLONES
When it comes to Ben Reilly’s character arc the one, I was most invested in was how the Beyond Board would explore his mental health. They made it clear this is one aspect of Ben’s character that was going to be emphasized as Dr. Ashley Kafka was brought on to be his therapist. Its during these therapy sessions that we got better insight in what it means to be a clone.
As a clone of the original herself, Dr. Kafka was aware of the mental impact of knowing you’re a clone has on a person. And with the events of Clone Conspiracy causing further damage to Ben Reilly’s mind Ben wasn’t in the best spot. Which we saw throughout Spider-Man Beyond as we were always being made aware of Ben’s mind possibly collapsing on itself. It is the one aspect of Ben’s breakdown at the end that did work as you did understand after all his experiences and the Beyond Corporation’s manipulation that he wasn’t mentally well.
While I’ll give the Beyond Board credit for touching on mental health through an iconic superhero like Spider-Man it is unfortunate what it all lead to. Because once again rather than this giving Ben greater complexities as a superhero than even Peter had it was all to explain his new villain origin. Connecting mental health to why a person becomes a villain is not original at all. It is all incredibly disappointing that mental health is used to try to convince fans they should be along for the ride of their favorite character being vilified. And with Nick Lowe specifically calling out the fact that Ben’s Chasm is a new addition to Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery that disappointment is only increased.
BEN REILLY’S SUPPORTING CAST SIDELINED
Early on we got to see Marcus Momplaisir, Janine Godbe, Dr. Ashley Kafka, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing brought on to be part of Ben Reilly’s supporting characters. Just seeing those names would make you think we would get a lot of interesting interactions outside of the Spider-Man adventures. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for the majority of Spider-Man Beyond.
For a large portion of Spider-Man Beyond Janine Godbe was only around to serve as Ben’s love interest he would occasionally hang out with. Even then Janine didn’t add a whole lot to the narrative. It wasn’t until the last half dozen issues of Spider-Man Beyond where we saw Janine start to take agency for herself. When that finally happened Janine went from being a simple love interest to a full-fledged character. The timing of this was late but it did add importance to Janine’s character as she played a key role in ending the story with the Beyond Corporation.
The characters that really suffered were Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. While initially brought on to be Ben’s trainers and field partners they were quickly sidelined to not ever truly factor into the story. Even when they were seemingly given an important story of their own as it was revealed they were working with Monica Rambeau to investigate the Beyond Corporation. While that would’ve been interesting to see as a sub-plot in Amazing Spider-Man we never saw that unfold in the main story. Instead if you wanted to read Misty Knight and Colleen Wing’s story you had to buy the supplementary Amazing Spider-Man .BEY issues. The fact that 19 issues weren’t enough to figure out a way to integrate such a key plot point made the return of Misty Knight and Colleen Wing in the second to final issue of Spider-Man Beyond even more infuriating.
The only supporting character that did get consistent character work was Beyond Corporation employee Marcus Momplaisir. While not having any long scenes Marcus basically acted as the man-in-the-chair for Ben, providing him with new devices and other support information. Marcus was enough of a presence throughout Spider-Man Beyond that I was honestly concerned if he would be killed because he was the one decent person working for Beyond Corporation. That led him to have his own hero moment as he did save Peter from being crushed by the collapsing headquarters of the Beyond Corporation.
RISE OF MAXINE DANGER AND BEYOND CORPORATION
If there is one character that truly benefited from the Spider-Man Beyond Era it was the Beyond Corporation CEO Maxine Danger. Maxine was by far the best developed character of this entire run as it was made clear from the beginning, she wasn’t a character to be part of the protagonist side. Maxine was a straight up CEO whose only concern was the bottom line of the Beyond Corporation. That meant everyone working for her, including Ben Reilly, was nothing more than a tool that could easily become disposable if she deemed them to be.
In many ways Maxine reminded me a lot of why I love to hate Lex Luthor. There is a need to have these sorts of antagonists that are both honest and deceitful people at the same time. It gave such complexities to Maxine’s character that you do end up loving to hate her because of the way she treats everyone. That is best shown with how she completely owns Otto Octavius during their meeting. She never showed any sort of fear of the Spider-Man villain. Instead, it always just seemed she was ready to laugh in his face because she knew she was in control of everything.
Maxine’s development made the revelation of the Beyond Corporation being a super villain factory even better. You need an anchor like Maxine to get over this type of concept so the Beyond Corporation isn’t just a faceless organization. Even though it does look as though Maxine is on the outs with the Beyond Corporation the end of Spider-Man Beyond left us with an antagonist that could easily pop up as a major threat in any Marvel comic book series moving forward.
MARY JANE & FELICIA HARDY MAKE PETER PARKER BETTER
With Ben Reilly being the main focus of Spider-Man Beyond we saw the normal cast of characters we are used to seeing in Amazing Spider-Man not be a heavy presence. Luckily, thanks to the series release schedule, we didn’t have to wait long before we got one or two occasional issues featuring Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and Felicia Hardy. And really credit to the Beyond Board for doing such an excellent job showcasing why both MJ and Felicia are such important characters to the franchise.
First it started with MJ saving Peter from being attacked by a mysterious monster in Amazing Spider-Man #82. In that issue we saw how fearless MJ is as she stepped up to protect the still weak Peter. From there we got Mary Jane & Black Cat: Beyond #1 where MJ and Felicia teaming up to save Peter from the returning The Hood. While they were initially reluctant to work together, we saw over the course of that issue how they perfectly compliment one another as they took on various villain before taking down The Hood. In the process we saw them gain a better understanding of one another and showing how badass they are.
This development for MJ and Felicia’s character also worked well into Peter’s own story in Spider-Man Beyond. While Peter is no stranger to being seriously hurt this time was different. Like Matt Murdock, Peter went through the biggest near-death experience he has ever had. There was no way he can just jump out his hospital bed and return to being Spider-Man like nothing happened. Bringing in Black Cat and Captain America to serve as his trainer was the wake up call Peter needed that if he continued doing things like he normally does he will eventually die. It was a great way to use a story where Peter gets sidelined to actually force the character to mature before returning to being Spider-Man full-time.
THE ARTWORK OF SPIDER-MAN BEYOND
Where Spider-Man Beyond found its greatest success was with the artwork. The artwork was one of the most consistent parts of the story. With Spider-Man Beyond taking place over the course of nineteen issues that were released in a six month span there was no way any artist could handle the workload as the sole artist for the direction.
Which is why Patrick Gleason, Travel Foreman, Ivan Fiorelli, Sara Pichelli, Jim Towe, Michael Dowling, Carlos Gomez, Jorge Fornes, Paco Medina, Mark Bagley, Fran Galan, Ze Carlos, and the rest of the art team deserve so much praise. While each artist certainly had their own style there were a lot of subtle adjustments made by each artist so the tone of Spider-Man Beyond was always consistent. Whether the story went with a typical superhero or horror movie route the core designs of the characters and settings were present.
It’s not an easy task given the schedule of Spider-Man Beyond did place even greater pressure for the creative team to churn out stories. That makes it that much more impressive that we got such consistent artwork throughout this period of Amazing Spider-Man. When all was said and done Patrick Gleason, Travel Foreman, Ivan Fiorelli, Sara Pichelli, Jim Towe, Michael Dowling, Carlos Gomez, Jorge Fornes, Paco Medina, Mark Bagley, Fran Galan, and Ze Carlos are all artists I look forward to seeing in this or other comic book series.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMAZING SPIDER-MAN?
I honestly feel bad that when all was said and done that they weren’t able to do more because it was clearly decided that Ben wasn’t a full-time replacement. Since that was the case there was so much time that could be bought until Peter Parker returned as Spider-Man. When that happened the Beyond Board time was over, as is shown with the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man relaunch. While Zeb Wells will be sticking around as the sole Amazing Spider-Man writer for the series relaunch and Saladin Ahmed is still writing Miles Morales: Spider-Man we don’t know if this is the last of the other members of the Beyond Board when it comes to the franchise. Thompson, Ziglar, Gleason, and MacKay showed that they know how to write compelling Spider-Man stories and I hope Marvel gives them a chance to do so in the future.
When it comes to the lead of Amazing Spider-Man themselves we know that Peter Parker will be back as Spider-Man moving forward. Though there won’t be much time to celebrate this return as Marvel has promoted the latest volume of Amazing Spider-Man by Zeb Wells starting out with Peter falling out favor with every superhero and MJ possibly breaking up with him. So the “Parker Luck” isn’t going away any time soon for Peter. I will be giving this new run a shot as I do with any comic book run on Amazing Spider-Man. Wells has also shown a great talent for writing Spider-Man stories so I have high expectations that he has a strong long-term plan for Amazing Spider-Man.
What is more questionable is what the plans are for Ben Reilly as Chasm. Spider-Man Beyond turning out to be the supervillain origin story for Ben does not create greater excitement for finding out where his character goes from here. With Wells writing Amazing Spider-Man I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben as Chasm appears for a major storyline at some point. It would be a waste if we go the entire rest of 2022 without Ben as Chasm to get over his new villain role. That said, I’m just not excited for what that story will be with how lackluster Ben’s entire arc in Spider-Man Beyond turned out to be.
Spider-Man Beyond was certainly an experience. For what they did each of the members of the Beyond Board showed they know how to write Spider-Man and his supporting cast. There were some intriguing elements when it came to dealing with Ben Reilly’s mental health as a clone. Unfortunately, the run was truncated into being a story that took place over six months that they could not escape how rushed Ben Reilly’s entire Spider-Man to Chasm journey was.
Though Spider-Man Beyond failed to turn me into a Ben Reilly fan there was a lot to be invested in outside of the lead character. When given time, the developments for Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, Felicia Hardy, Janine Godbe, and Maxine Danger were the standouts of Spider-Man Beyond. So in the end Spider-Man Beyond was a mixed bag as the lead character turned out to be the greatest weakness of this entire direction. Luckily all the other characters around Ben Reilly lifted up this era for Amazing Spider-Man quality.