Comics : Spectacular Scarlet Spider #2

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This story is part of an Arc: "Cyber-War"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Worst of the Worst

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Ben Reilly has assumed the responsibilities of Spider-Man, but not the name. He is currently trying to establish himself as the Scarlet Spider and avoid anyone that might identify him from "Peter's" previous life

In his role as the Scarlet Spider, Ben was able to stop a fight between Alistaire Smythe's new spider slayers and the new Dr. Octopus' operatives, which resulted in their arrest. In doing so, he has incurred the wrath of Octopus for his interference.

She has transformed Joe Wade, an undercover FBI agent, into a host for the virtual reality construct of the Scarlet Spider. She sets the VR spider loose to cause massive amounts of destruction in order to ruin his reputation. So far the VR construct is doing a good job of that.

In Detail...

"Arachnis Ex Machina (Spider In The Machine)"
Spectacular Scarlet Spider #2
Dec 1995 : SM Title
Summary: Ben decides to step into the role of Spider-Man
Arc: Part 4 of "Cyber-War"
Editor:  Eric Fein
Writer:  Todd DeZago
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Bill Sienkiewicz, Jimmy Palmiotti
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Articles: Ben Reilly, Doctor Octopus II (Carolyn Trainer), Joe Wade, Smythe, Alistaire, Smythe, Alistaire, Stunner, Stunner

In either of his lives, Ben Reilly can't catch a break. As Ben, he has a job as a bodyguard for low-grade mob boss Jason Tso. As the Scarlet Spider he is being chased by a violent mob that thinks he's responsible for the swath of destruction his VR duplicate has caused. The police are equally angry and have opened fire on him. And for some reason his narration includes hip-hop lingo.

Jason Tso pays a visit to Alistair Smythe, who is putting the final touches on his latest spider slayers. They are preparing for what they hope is their final battle in their gang war with Dr. Octopus over the cybernetic inductor chips.

At Octopus' lab, she informs the Master Programmer that after several failures, she will personally deal with Tso and reclaim all of the inductor chips for her master plan which is: to create a virtual reality wave generator that will allow the two "worlds" to merge, freeing him from the confines of cyberspace (wow, about time ya tell us that). Seward Trainer overhears this conversation between his daughter Carolyn and her digital accomplice.

Ben returns to his apartment (sans costume) to discover that Octopus has sent her VR construct to destroy the apartment he shared with Seward. He rushes inside to see if anything can be salvaged, finding nothing. Seward contacts him through the answering machine (you read that right) to warn him of Octopus' plan. Ben immediately changes to Scarlet Spider and begins to look for her.

Octopus goes directly to Smythe's lab and attacks him, but Smythe counters with his new spider-slayers. Smythe soon discovers that Tso has double crossed him. He has managed to override his control of the slayers, leaving him to fend for himself against Octopus. Tso speaks to him through one of the slayer telling him that since he provided these chips, he felt it was simply a matter of time before Smythe killed him. At this point the Pro appears and guns him down, fulfilling his contract to Dr. Octopus.

Octopus quickly defeats Smythe and takes the inductor chips from his control visor, adding them to her portable VR generation device. It links with the main system at her lab and begins to bridge virtual reality with actual reality, allowing the Master Programmer to take on a corporeal form. At this point the narration informs the reader that they are essentially "in love" and want to take full advantage of this new hybrid reality. Internet dating at its worst.

The avatar of Seward Trainer appears and give Ben the deux es machina: a VR virus chip he created that will separate the two realities. He has to hurry before this new reality "solidifies" and can't be undone. He attacks the Master Programmer and Dr. Octopus, introducing Seward's virus into the portable generator his (Seward's) daughter carries on her. The chip quickly goes to work causing massive feedback to the main system shutting it down and true to form, separating the two realities. Carolyn is in tears as she watches the Master Programmer – and all other cyber entities melt away. When the digital storm has passed, Scarlet Spider is once again attacked by the crowd and has to run away.

Later on in Seward's hospital room, Ben summarizes recent events for the comatose Seward Trainer. Tso is dead, their apartment is trashed, Octopus is gone, and he doesn't know what happened to his consciousness after Ock was defeated. To make matters worse he can no longer continue as the Scarlet Spider since his VR clone has ruined his reputation. However there is one identity he can use: Spider-Man.

In General...

Oh holy crap what a waste. I remember when this came out, I refused to buy this because I didn't like the idea of exchanging Peter Parker for a literal copy of himself from the 1970s era in a pathetic effort to de-age him and make him single again. Why did I decide to review them now? A) "See a need, fill a need" B) Found them in the 50 cent bins C) Glutton for punishment or D) All of the above. If you guessed D, you are correct.

Ignoring the "spider swap" aspect, the storyline itself was rather boring. A few halfway decent ideas were stretched out and mangled. This came across as The Clone Saga's kid brother - smaller in scale but equally damaging to the character.

Carolyn tried to created an altered state of reality so that she could bring the Master Programmer – her "perfect guy" - to life. I know from personal experience that it is very difficult to meet someone special, but this is pathetic. It's as pathetic as women that send flowers to themselves on Valentine's Day. I have many comments that can be made about Carolyn Trainer, but they have no place here as they are quite dirty. Not risqué, just plain dirty.

After 9 issues (counting the Scarlet Spider Unlimited issue) and with no other place to turn, Ben decides to step into the role of Spider-Man. As loathe as I am to say this, it's about time. At least they're finally doing something instead of running in circles.

On a final note, can you imagine what would happen in all the junk from the internet were to somehow become tangible? If you need help visualizing this, Dave Chappelle covered this topic on his short-lived (yet brilliant) show in season 2, episode #6.

Overall Rating...

1 web. Regardless of the external forces at work, the deadlines, and the sympathy that I feel for the creators, the story still sucked. The biggest problem with this storyline is the writers appeared to be working independently of each other. They had certain beats that they needed to hit, but the rest was fluff until part 4 of each arc. At that point DeZago had to provide some kind of resolution that used the established plot points. The result was very dissatisfying.

Footnote...

Ben begins his career as the new Spider-Man in Sensational Spider-Man #0.

For those of you that wonder what happened to the VR Scarlet Spider, check out Web of Scarlet Spider#3.

This title returns to normal next month with Spectacular Spider-Man #230.

The "See a need, fill a need" line is a quote from Robots, a very entertaining animated movie. Robots, Dave Chappelle, and Spider-Man. Who'd have thought it possible to get all that in one place?