Once a clone turned the Jackal, Peter David’s new Spidey series has displayed a different kind of arachnid hero. He’s a bit crazy, a bit of a loose cannon, and very willing to commit terrible acts of violence if need be. Basically, the same Spider-Man, only kinda crazy! The first volume was an interesting look at a different kind of Spider-Man and this second volume aims to change all of that. That’s right, volume two is the spin zone you may not have expected.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Out of the ashes of The Clone Conspiracy, Ben Reilly is alive once again – and has taken up the mantle of the Scarlet Spider once more! But with enemies bearing down on him from every side, neither of those status quos might last for too much longer! Ben is running out of options and running out of time! And it doesn’t help that one of the people out for his blood is his spider-powered, web-slinging “sibling” – fellow clone Kaine! Can Ben Reilly run this latest gauntlet and emerge victorious, or will he lose his new lease on life?
Can I jump in easily?
Not exactly. This volume gives you a summary recap to start, but also drops you into a drama between Ben Reilly and Scarlet Spider (yet another clone) and also requires you catch up to the main plot. It also drops a huge twist that rejiggers everything, so in a way it’s an okay to start since everyone is going to be a bit off kilter.
Reason 1: Ben Reilly’s life changes completely.
By the end of this volume it’s going to be easy to forget the main character was once pretending to be the Jackal and making Spider-Man’s life a living hell. That’s because Peter David not only gives Ben a complete facelift (thanks to some cosmic “magic”), but he also makes him far less of a questionable hero and much more your standard good guy. Now that’s spin!
He does all this by introducing Death into the story. She shows up–seemingly at random–to tamper with Ben Reilly’s life. Her reason for doing so is a bit weak, but you can’t argue Death, and this trade, completely spins the character and makes him completely new. She instills in him a new direction that changes almost the entire point of this series. Gone are his evil proclivities and his somewhat crazy internal monologue via captions. For all intents and purposes he’s the real Peter Parker at this point, save for a bit of an edge.
Awesome full page spread!
Reason 2: The Slingers are back.
Way back in 1998 Marvel introduced the Slingers, a superhero team of youngsters who don multiple costumes once worn by Spider-Man. This team of four consisted of Hornet, Ricochet, Prodigy, and Dusk, two of which come back in this issue. If you’re not familiar you won’t have to worry too much as this trade paperback contains Slingers #0. Ricochet and Hornet appear in this issue under mysterious circumstances and add an additional web spinning flavor. This volume doesn’t give readers answers to why they’re around (they show up rather late in the volume), but it is fun to see even more 90s Spider-Man throwback elements thrown into this series. If they can bring back the blue sweater look they can bring it all back, right?
Reason 3: Will Sliney draws some of the best web spinning and swinging.
Taking over for Mark Bagley, Will Sliney draws this entire issue and if you’re familiar with his long run on Spider-Man 2099 you know he knows his way around Spidey. His ability to draw the human form–and all its musculature–is at times jaw dropping. The fact that the comic only gets better when Hornet and Ricochet show up is partly due to how he can frame a scene with super agile heroes.
He also draws some fantastic webs. The way they spin and twirl around a main thread is quite cool looking. It has a structure to it that other artists don’t capture. If we’re talking accessories he also weilds a gun and somehow Sliney draws him in a way that reminds you this isn’t the normal Spider-Man through some subtle expressions behind his mask.
Get this man an ambulance!
Reasons to be wary?
I don’t know if David got a memo from an editor or what, but Death’s involvement is incredibly strange and out of left field. I was left perplexed at first, not believing they were really going to retcon elements that the first volume laid out so definitely. This element also drops a bomb right in the middle of the trade, affecting the overall flow of the story. By the end of the book there isn’t so much a self contained story as the the middle of a second one. If they waited and bundled volume 3 with this volume the story would have flowed much better and would have ended with some kind of conclusion.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
Even though this collection completely changes Ben Reilly in a way that’s somewhat disappointing since I liked where they were going, I still enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for Sliney’s art, and even though the inclusion of Death is borderline nonsensical it still had some big surprises and plenty of spin worth reading.