If you’re a ’90s kid like me, a part of you loves Ben Reilly. The costume was insane for the time, back when new costumes weren’t popping up every week, and the Clone Saga complicated things to the point that you just had to accept it. It’s why I’m so intrigued by Peter David’s series Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider. The third volume comes out this week, and so too does the intense complexity of the Slingers reappearing after years in hiring.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider, is a perfect clone of the amazing Spider-Man, but with none of Peter Parker’s responsibility! After the events of the Clone Conspiracy, Ben moved west to carve out a new life for himself in Las Vegas. But now, someone from Peter’s past is encroaching on Ben’s turf…the new Hornet! But who is he working for, and what will his former teammates in the Slingers – Dusk, Prodigy and Ricochet – have to say about the new man under the mask? Chances are, their views might not quite line up with Ben’s… If you’ve guessed that it’s all leading up to the return of the Slingers, you guessed right! Strap in as Ben Reilly’s second life takes another unexpected turn!r
Why does this matter?
This collection is tightly connected to Las Vegas which has had some recent changes (like turning into Mephisto’s playground in Damnation) with the “Secret Empire” storyline cutting into this trade paperback. This collection is also self contained amongst its characters and can be enjoyed apart from the rest of the Marvel universe stories.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I dug the last volume, so why not dig into volume 3? This collection heaps on the Slingers drama with a heavy dose of Prodigy added to the mix. It also focuses on Ben Reilly’s need to do good, thanks to Death making him uglier if he continues to be bad, and the reaction of the Slingers who come to realize he’s probably evil. Writer Peter David is exploring redemption in this story and his use of Death adds a certain level of credibility to the judgment side of things. By the end, you get the sense that some change will happen to the once very evil character, and that’s saying something.
The supernatural element of the story continues to be the outlier that makes the book stand out. I don’t want to spoil it, but a certain character is a literal demon and that gives the story some credibility when you have Death walking around. And hell, it’s all set in Las Vegas, the city of sin, so why not. Considering there are two clones running amok it’s nice to see some otherworldly business going on.
This issue is drawn by Will Sliney (three issues) with André Lima Araújo, David A. Williams, and Ray-Anthony Height drawing two others. Overall, I continue to love what Sliney does. His ability to draw realistic, super muscular body types is excellent for a Spidey book like this. The agility of these characters is fully on display and it looks sharp as hell. There’s also a great comedic bit with a priest that Sliney nails.
It can’t be perfect can it?
It’s hard to deny you’ll need to at least know about the Slingers and Ben Reilly to truly enjoy this volume. You can get some enjoyment going in blind, sure, but if you don’t know who Scarlet Spider is or the rich history of these characters the weight of the story may be lost. The Slingers characters are also a hugely nostalgic element that I imagine new readers just won’t get.
The only other complaint is the last chapter of this collection, which serves more as a fight comic between a random hippo humanoid character and Scarlet Spider than anything else. It’s a by-the-numbers action comic with some slight relationship drama thrown in.
Is it good?
I liked this collection, but only because I’ve read so many Scarlet Spider and Ben Reilly comics. I never got into the Slingers, but I know enough about them to enjoy their eclectic mix of costumes. This book continues to mix supernatural elements with super heroics quite well.