As any good Spider-Fan knows at this point, the many Spider-People of multiple dimensions have banded together to defeat a common threat, the fearsome Inheritors! They are a race of powerful beings that survives by eating the energy of Spider-People.
The stars of this book are Ben Reilly, Scarlet Spider (Kaine), and Black Widow, all of whom happen to be clones. They discovered that the Inheritors are able to essentially live forever by using cloning technology that replaces them whenever they die. The trio of Spider-People traced the technology to a building in Loom World, the home of the Inheritors. The villainous Jennix is in charge of the process, and he commands an army of cloned superhero duplicates. Jennix, who is less savage than the rest of his family, has attempted to clone Spider-Men to consume so his family wouldn't need to hunt them anymore. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to successfully duplicate the energy in the clones for them to eat. Fortunately for him, standing in his home are two successful Spider-Man clones with the essence for research! I guess that isn't very fortunate for Ben Reilly or Kaine though.
Ben Reilly is the type of hero who believes that persistence will always result in success. So has been the case when he was fighting villains from his dimension like Doctor Octopus and Electro. He carries this confidence that heroes will always prevail when facing the immensely powerful Inheritor, Jennix, with the help of his ally, Scarlet Spider. He nonchalantly cracks the quip to Jennix, “Kinda expected you to be bigger.” When asked if they should do the classic good cop / bad cop routine, Scarlet Spider chooses to play the latter role as he webs Jennix in the face and punches him through the wall. He must take this direct fighting style because the invisibility on his costume is ineffective against the Inheritor.
The fight continues in the cylinder-shaped room containing the cloning technology. Jennix gains the upper hand by smacking Scarlet Spider. Luckily, Reilly launches a cloning tank at the villain, and quips, “How about we both get to be bad cop?” The heroes continue to beat up the villain until Kaine finds himself being taken over by the Other (which possessed him in Scarlet Spider (Vol. 2) #14). Stingers grow from his wrists, hairs cover his body, and spider-like teeth tear his mask as he prepares to kill Jennix. Reilly tries to stop him, but he grimaces, “We aren’t fighting Mysterio or some idiot in a goblin mask. We’re fighting extinction.” He proceeds to slaughter the Inheritor.
Reilly grabs Kaine, appalled that he would commit such a horrible act, but he doesn’t need to mourn Jennix for long. In case you haven’t been following the plot, the Inheritors maintain immortality due to their cloning facility, which our heroes are standing in. So, soon enough, Jennix emerges from a pod and explains that his father will reward him for bringing him the Other. Unluckily for him, the Inheritor is soon killed again, this time by his own security defenses. Let us not forget the third Spider-Clone, Ultimate Black Widow, who has managed to hack into the defense systems. Reilly orders Jessica to shut down the security systems altogether so that the Inheritors cannot use them against them. He also reminds her not to kill anybody, frustrated that she slayed the Inheritor. Obviously, he hasn’t been following this story’s plot because a new Jennix clone is fighting them soon enough.
While Scarlet Spider is battling the villain, Reilly decides they must make a plan to trap Jennix. He figures that there must be a carrier signal that transfers between each body every time an Inheritor dies which he suggests they can shut off. Jessica thinks she knows how to do it, but she runs into the Inheritors’ clone of the Human Torch, the head of security. He explains she couldn’t simply hack into the system without alerting him, and the two begin battle.
Meanwhile, Reilly realizes that Kaine is running out of energy, and while Jennix isn’t as accustomed to fighting as the rest of his family, he is still strong and tireless. When Reilly tries to save Kaine, the villain dislocates his arm. Outside, Black Widow decides to duck into a hole of the building surface, bringing the Human Torch into close quarters. This allows her to sock him with a webbed up fist. The main battle isn’t going as well, as Reilly is in bad shape, and Jennix doesn’t respond to his toughest attacks. The skirmish in interrupted when an unconscious Human Torch falls from the ceiling, and Black Widow enters. Jennix throws Ben at her, and she notices he’s not doing well. Despite this, he is still making jokes and encourages her to go assist Kaine instead of him.
As Jennix defeats Jessica in front of him, Reilly begins to doubt himself. In his dimension, Peter Parker was the one who always made the mistakes and caused the deaths of those he loved. Ben, on the other hand, was always successful and perfect in being Spider-Man. He realizes that in his present situation, “hope hangs on a single, thin thread.” Below him, Jennix explains that, no matter what, he will succeed because he has many cloning facilities across Loom World.
As the villain prepares to consume Jessica’s life force, Reilly returns with a missile launcher from the defense system. Jennix is unimpressed and even encourages Ben to kill him so he can return in a “fresh body.” The hero has a different plan, explaining that he assumes that the signal that carries Inheritors’ consciousness to new bodies is received by the main center that they are in. The signal then goes to the many cloning facilities around the world. He accredits this discovery to Jessica and plans on exploding the receiver with his missile launcher. Reilly must be right with his theory because when he swings off, Jennix worriedly pursues. Black Widow remains behind to attend to Kaine.
On the roof with the receiver, Jessica tells Reilly over their communications system that she can walk him through how to rearm the defense system to use it against Jennix. He realizes that it isn’t an option, though, because the Human Torch fried the controls. She suggests teaching him how to make a timer to set off the ammunition from the defense missiles, but Ben has a more “immediate” solution in mind. Reilly explains that he’s proud of Jessica for maintaining the morals of Peter while being her own person. He encourages her to tell Kaine that no matter what he may believe, he’s a good guy. “And I know you guys don’t believe this, but the good guys always win, Jess,” Reilly says. With that said, he throws a missile at the receiver, blowing up the instrument to the Inheritors’ cloning but killing himself in the process. The resulting blast knocks Jennix off of the building and gives the other heroes a chance to escape the complex.
In the aftermath of Reilly’s death, Jessica realizes that he was noble in sacrificing himself, but Kaine is vengeful. “You can’t focus on the ugliness or it’ll poison you,” she tells him. Scarlet Spider ignores her, explaining that the ugliness should be used for fuel. The Other begins to take over him again, and he decides he’s going directly to the other Inheritors for a fight. Jessica tries to convince him how stupid his idea is, since they could barely handle one Inheritor, but he doesn’t listen. Kaine explains that he’s been holding back, but he won’t anymore since they’ve killed Reilly and they’re vulnerable. Once he has teleported away, Jessica is standing in the wreckage of the blast. Despite their differences, Jessica decides Reilly was right today: the good guys won.
And so Scarlet Spiders ends and good riddance! Of all the Spider-Verse tie-ins, this one has probably been my least favorite, and that’s saying a lot with the horrific Spider-Woman (Vol. 5) issues. The series, as I have repeatedly mentioned, had immense potential. I can only imagine the possibilities of a story about three clones of different backgrounds with dissimilar personalities on a mission to stop the creation of more clones by the Inheritors. Oh, the possible character interactions between Reilly, an optimistic character, and Kaine, a grim and pessimistic character! Oh, the possible morality discussion over the destruction of clones! Oh, the possibility to reflect and comment on the Clone Saga of the 90’s! Sadly, these possibilities are never realized.
The main event of the issue, of course, is that Reilly gave himself up to end the immortality of the Inheritors. First of all, I want to express how easily he could have been saved if Jessica had simply stayed out of the main battle and destroyed the receiver. Jessica isn’t given much of a role in the issue, and she didn’t help the fight against Jennix because he quickly beat her up. Second, Mike Costa’s main theme of the story is the prevalence of idealism. Reilly sacrificed himself and proved that the good guys always win. It's a good idea, but the plot point that Kaine loses himself to his inner demons and is later killed in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #13 totally extinguishes it. Therefore, the issue makes no real sense in the long run. Thirdly, the impact of Reilly’s death is diminished by the fact that it is spoiled in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #13. It came out the same week as this issue, but there was no spoilers alert in the issue. Therefore, any readers who read Amazing Spider-Man already knew what would happen. This isn’t necessarily Costa’s fault, nor would I blame Dan Slott (the writer of ASM). It’s probably editorial’s fault for not figuring out the shipping schedule right. (Otherwise, I think that’s the only time the tie-ins and main event screwed up in continuity. It’s really impressive, considering how they have screwed up shipping before. *cough* Civil War *cough*) Altogether, these three factors ruined Reilly’s death.
Otherwise, Costa spoils most of this issue in the problems he had in the first two parts. The characters don’t have too much truly insightful or fun intercourse. Kaine and Reilly briefly banter, but it’s short-lived. Reilly’s last words to Jessica and Kaine are touching but ultimately don’t make up for the fact that the characters didn’t really know each other very well. The pacing of the issue is slow, and superfluous elements are added into the mix just to slow down the plot, such as the quick fight between Jessica and the Human Torch. In all practicality, the story of these three issues could have been told in an effective one-shot or just in the main event. Costa never puts any interesting twists into the mix, and everything goes pretty much exactly as readers could have expected from the onset of the series. I think it might have been interesting if the Scarlet Spiders had decided to work with Jennix to create a way to clone Spider-People so the Inheritors wouldn’t need to hunt them. It would pose questions about the morality of clones and provide a possible plot twist that could have enhanced the series.
In the original Clone Saga, the writing may have been awful, but the art was sometimes good with the work of Mark Bagley and the thrilling art team of Sal Buscema and Bill Sienkiewicz. On the other hand, the art could have been terrible in the fashion of 90’s excess. Paco Diaz’s artwork fits in the latter category. He chooses style over substance with his work, as the storytelling doesn’t flow especially well. That’s fine in my opinion because it can occasionally work for artists. That is, if their style is enjoyable or innovative. Diaz’s isn’t, and it doesn’t work. His figures are long, awkward, and hard to look at for too long without becoming disgusted. I feel dirty every time I look at his depiction of Jessica, which doesn’t fit with her character at all. (Her new costume sucks anyways.) I wish Diaz would leave Spider-Man to better artists in the future.
Yep. The lowest possible score. I wish I could say something good about this miniseries because I wanted it to be good so badly. I was eager for the opportunity to review it when it was announced. Costa and Diaz failed on just about every level I can think of with this uninspired story. In retrospect, Marvel should have never even published it and explained the plot points in the main event instead. It was spoiled in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #13 anyways!