BY MATT TUCK
If you trust the rumor and innuendo, Marvel is about to write off Peter Parker. His replacement will be his dear old clone, Ben Reilly, but could it be a setup for Miles Morales to become the one and only Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man?
That’s right; Marvel is dusting off yet another comic angle. It’s becoming less the House of Ideas and more the Warehouse of Recycled Ideas.
It was previously announced that Peter’s clone, Ben Reilly, would be taking up the Spider-man mantle once again beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #75. This comes on the heels of the end for Nick Spencer’s run with ASM #74.
As Spencer makes his exit, apparently from writing comics altogether, a new team of creators will be picking up the web shooters for ASM. Miles Morales co-creator Sara Pichelli, Patrick Gleason, and Michael Dowling, along with Arthur Adams handling the cover art, will steer the ship, and it’s reported that Reilly will be their new Spider-Man going forward.
Much of this comes from ASM teasers Gleason has posted to social media. The first showed a battered and beaten Peter tenderly kissed by Mary Jane, and comic fans have been trained to recognize a farewell kiss when they see one. More recently, another cover image has surfaced, this one features Spider-Man still in his torn costume apparently in traction in a hospital bed with MJ by his side.
While no details of Peter’s fate are being released just yet, the indication is that Peter Parker will be written out of the protagonist role in some fashion. Whether he dies, is crippled, or just chooses to retire again remains to be seen, but Gleason clearly wants fans to assume the worst.
SHADES OF THE PAST
Have a favorite classic Marvel storyline? Chances are, you will get to relive it in the near future.
In recent years, Marvel has been working hard at rekindling the magic of old. This year, the X-Men will star in another “Inferno.” Then there’s She-Hulk, who will have her own take on “World War She-Hulk” as well as getting a Winter Soldier makeover. There also was the Avengers’ version of the “Phoenix Saga,” and I would assume we’re going to get yet another take on Dark Phoenix in the next year or two. Before that, Miles contended with his own Clone Saga, and that was after he participated in 2015’s Secret Wars. Whatever happened to originality? (Am I the only one hearing that to the tune of the Full House theme song?)
All that being said, it looks like Marvel is going to combine two past stories: the Clone Saga and “the Death of Spider-Man” in the Ultimate universe.
The Clone Saga is one of the more contentious Spider-Man stories ever printed. It started way back in 1975 when the Jackal secretly cloned Peter Parker and his then-deceased girlfriend, Gwen Stacey. The two Spider-Men had a brief encounter with both versions thinking he was the original. They would eventually team up against the Jackal, but an explosion killed him and Peter’s clone. Meanwhile, Gwen’s clone just kind of wandered off, though she would turn up in a later, less significant story.
For 19 years, the Clone Saga essentially lay dormant. Then in ‘94, the Marvel editorial team chose to dust off Spidey’s clone and take the characters on a weird, sci-fi adventure.
Somehow, Peter’s clone was still alive, living as Ben Reilly, aka the Scarlet Spider. It was even revealed that Ben was the original, and Peter was the clone, which prompted Peter to retire from superhero life. Years later, that portion of the story was retconned so that the resurrected Norman Osborn had tricked both Peter and Ben into believing that Peter was the clone when he was not.
Confused yet? It’s a complicated story with too many modifications and retcons over the years, and it has been a sore spot for fans ever since. It looks like Marvel will be adding yet another layer of complication onto the convoluted Clone Saga.
THE DEATH OF ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
This time around, instead of Peter hanging up his spandex because he thinks he’s a Spider-Man clone, Gleason’s teases have many fans theorizing Peter is about to die. With Spider-Man: No Way Home premiering later this year, it would stand to reason that Marvel would want to push Peter as a top hero. Not this time. The company already announced the coming “Death of Doctor Strange” that’s coming later this year, and that comes ahead of his sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Clearly, Marvel has no qualms about using the death angle to boost interest in characters with new movies on the way.
It’s not like we haven’t seen Peter Parker die before. In 2011, Brian Michael Bendis penned the controversial “Death of Spider-Man” in Ultimate Spider-Man. Despite this being an alternate-universe story, fans revolted, but they would eventually be won over by the introduction of Peter’s replacement, Miles Morales.
For better or worse, the new ASM creative team has created plenty of buzz for their upcoming stint on Spider-Man. Whether fans agree or disagree with the move to replace Peter Parker with Ben Reilly, it will sell copies of the new issues, and that is the real endgame.
Despite this being a repeat of past events, putting Ben back into the Spider-Man role could be entertaining, especially if there is a bigger role for Spider-Carnage. At any rate, all this attention on Ben will put his key issues back on the collecting radar, so let’s check on the current market values.
ULTIMATE FALLOUT #4
Wait. This isn’t a Ben Reilly key issue. Why is it on today’s list? I predict the exit of Peter Parker will create a vacuum in the Spider-verse, and the only other Spider-Man whom fans have widely approved of filling those shoes has been Miles Morales. Ben may be the Spider-Man of the immediate future, but if Peter is truly out of the picture, then Miles will eventually take the mantle and be the Spider-Man of Earth-616.
Every time it looks like UF #4 will reach a plateau, this issue kicks in the afterburners. If I am right and Ben Reilly is more or less a transitional character before Miles ascends to the one and only Spider-Man, this issue will reach a whole new level.
It’s not like the UF #4 prices need a reason to get even crazier. At the moment, the standard edition 9.8 has been slightly cooling off. After reaching a record-breaking $3,500 in March, prices stayed in the upper-$2k to $3k range. However, the past four sales have all been near $2,250, which is the lowest they’ve sold for since the end of February. Of course, these are just four sales out of 197, so I would not label UF #4 cold just yet. Still, if you have been debating pulling the trigger on a 9.8, $2,250 is a much better price than $3,500 or even more.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #149
Back in 1975, the original Clone Saga saw the Jackal secretly clone Peter Parker, thus giving rise to Ben Reilly. At the end of the issue, it appeared the clone had died, but the concept would live on in the early 1990s. Now that Marvel is bringing him back to the main Spider-Man title, this issue will likely see a quick boost in FMV.
In the past two weeks, the 9.8 has sold for a record $3,360, and that can be attributed to the hype for the Spider-Man changes. On June 25, a 9.4 broke its own record with an $824 sale. A day earlier, the 9.2 sold for a record $479 while a 6.5 hit $149. By October, I expect we’ll see plenty more records falling for ASM #149.
WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #118
This may not be Ben’s debut, but it is a significant key to have in the character’s history. It is significant and will gain momentum because it is the return of the Spider-Man clone, who had not been seen since 1975 at that point.
Like ASM #149, Web #118 will feel the heat from the Spider-Man news. At the moment, the 9.8 sales have remained steady, consistently selling for $400-$500 in recent months. Earlier this year, there was a $600 sale, but that has proven to be an outlier.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #410
Since Marvel is bringing Ben back to the ASM series as Spider-Man, then there could be a fun return in order. Although short lived, ASM #410 contained the first appearance of Spider-Carnage, which was exactly what it sounds like: a mashup of Ben Reilly’s Spider-Man and the Carnage symbiote. In recent years, Carnage has bonded with characters besides Cletus Kasady, namely Norman Osborn as Red Goblin. It would not be a stretch to see Spider-Carnage make a brief return, and that would help this issue get a spike in FMV.
This month, sales for the 9.8 ASM #410 have firmly moved into $200 territory after mostly selling for $150-$175 this year. With Marvel recycling so many prior concepts, it would not at all be surprising to see Spider-Carnage return.
AMAZING SCARLET SPIDER #1
After nearly 20 years on the shelf, Ben made his grand return to the comics and took up the moniker of the Scarlet Spider. This incarnation never gained enough of a following to keep him in the Marvel-616 for long at a time, but the Scarlet Spider has been popular enough to have multiple action figures and various incarnations of his own title, though none of them hung around for long.
There have not been any graded sales this year, but the last 9.8 to trade hands online brought $100 in November. I don’t anticipate this issue suddenly taking off, but if Ben’s second round as Spider-Man proves successful, Amazing Scarlet Spider #1 could see modest record highs.
THE NEW SPIDER-MAN
As the new creative team for Spider-Man kicks off their run, it appears Marvel wants to change the direction of the title. The new crew could be looking to cement their status on the title by going a completely different route. The problem is, we’ve seen this already, and the Ben Reilly Spider-Man didn’t work in the mid-’90s, and I doubt it will go over any better in 2021. I’ve been wrong before, so we’ll see what happens. Even if it isn't a hit, it could all be a smokescreen before Spider-Miles takes over.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.