What happens when a clone of Spider-man, whom he thought was long-dead, returns from a long self-imposed exile just in time for everything in Peter’s life to go to heck? Well, originally it took years and hundreds of issues to tell the whole story, but since it wasn’t really intended to be quite that long, the original masterminds are given a chance to try again and retell it the way it was planned.
As expected, there are some positive and some negative aspects to this re-working of the story. There’s no way the story was going to be told in a six-issue miniseries without there being some liberties taken – though as someone who only has a passing knowledge of the original story, it wasn’t too jarring for me. In fact, it was downright fun at times – having Ben Riley (the clone) come back was like being able to see Peter interact with a brother again, it works really well for the character and is one of the best parts about the story.
Ben returns because Aunt May is sick – and he’s kept in touch with her all these years because he has all the memories that Peter has, so he feels like she’s his mother as well. Turns out that May’s sickness is part of a bigger plot, one orchestrated by one of Spider-man’s greatest villains – and one that will involve clones… many, many clones. Clones of friends, clones of enemies, and lots of Spider-clones. At the time, people were sick of all the Clones, but in all honesty it’s part of the fun of the story.
The real problem with the original story was that Ben is revealed to be not the clone, but the original – which had readers up in arms (and caused editorial to change everything back and kill off Ben after revealing him to be the clone again). This story uses that plot, but does what should have been done from the very beginning – keeps it much more ambiguous at the end who is really the clone, and keeping Ben alive for future use. I’m hopeful that somehow with all the other changes that have been made to Peter Parker’s past (changing his marital status and so on) in the comic recently, that somehow this Real Clone Saga has replaced the original as the true story, leaving it open that Ben might still be alive.
Either way though, if you’re looking for a self-contained Spider-man story that delivers on a lot of action, and a good dose of humor, this is a good place to start. I’m a long time fan of Spider-man who can’t get into what Marvel has been doing with the character recently – but this throw-back to a time when Spidey was a character I recognize, this I like a lot.