Rave : 2016 : Uncle Ben there, done that.

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Date: Mar 10, 2016
Next: CBR Has Sold Out
Prev: Run Review: Len Wein

In the Spider-verse, anything is possible. Time-travel is an everyday thing, marriages can be erased out of existence and the dead can be resurrected with ease. As the old saying goes, the only thing that is consistent (within the Spider-verse) is change; and occasionally that change can be monumental. There's really only one thing that CANNOT change, Uncle Ben must remain dead. This pillar of Spider-lore has been noticeably respected by Spider-writers over the years...and for very good reason. Uncle Ben's death created Spider-Man, undoing that would be tantamount to undoing Spidey's origin...it's an obvious no-fly zone.

Yet, clever writers have always found a way to bring Uncle Ben into a story in a manner that does not violate that unspoken rule. Roger Stern brought Ben back in Revenge of the Green Goblin #2 during a dream sequence that Peter experienced whilst listening to a CD that was chock full of Osborn's subliminal messages. Norman was doing what Norman does best, messing with Peter's head.

Who could forget the touching scene between Peter and Uncle Ben that Straczynski's penned in Amazing Spider-Man #500, a fitting end to that milestone issue. What made that scene even more powerful was the implication that that was the REAL Uncle Ben...not ghost, or construct or a dream. That visit from Ben was a gift given to Peter for his help with Dr. Strange. Good stuff!

Peter David gave us an Alternate Universe Uncle Ben in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #9, which was not the first nor the last AltU Ben to grace the pages of a Spider-title. David's Uncle Ben even punched Jarvis (who had been dating Aunt May) before being killed/body swapped by the Chameleon. Alternate Universes seemed to be the perfect place to use Ben, so writers have indulged over the years.

I found all of the aforementioned instances to be rather enjoyable uses of Uncle Ben. But, like all things that are enjoyable, they are best when used in moderation...which brings me to my reason for writing this rave. If you're reading Spidey's current titles, you may have noticed some similarities therein. Within two weeks, Marvel has published three Spider-titles that involve Uncle Ben.

Spider-Gwen and Spider-Ben (an Uncle Ben with Spider-powers) have been working together to fight a group of Electros in Web Warriors #4. This whole set of circumstances is basically fall-out from the Spider-Verse storyline of 2015. Both of these characters are Alternate Universe characters (who both have notorious deaths in the 616) and their partnership seems to be a match made in heaven.

Spider-Man and Silk have traveled back in time to find a living Uncle Ben (which, thanks to Einstein's relativity is technically an Alternate Universe Ben) in the Amazing Spider-Man and Silk mini series. This story just got started so I'm not sure where this one's headed.

And in Amazing Spider-Man V4 #1.3, Spider-Man experiences a delusion in which Uncle Ben attempts to give him life advice. Ben shares some rather insightful life lessons with Peter in order to get the web-slingers head straight. Ben's appearance in this story was relatively brief.

I don't want to be outwardly critical of the stories themselves (the Amazing Spider-Man and Silk mini is only one issue deep at the moment), rather I'd like to forewarn the overuse of Uncle Ben. It seems like there are a countless number of Alternate Universes (dare I say, a Multiverse!) into which Marvel loves to dabble. If there was one character I would prefer to not exist in EVERY one of those universes, its Uncle Ben. Every time he's brought out of the toy chest, the impact of his death is eroded slightly more...simply because he's not 'missing' from the characters' lives if he's constantly showing up. And since Marvel has officially broken down the barriers between each universe, the possibility of the 616 Peter permanently reuniting with an Uncle Ben becomes more and more a possibility. That would be a nightmare!

I'm not sure what the appropriate frequency of Uncle Ben usage should be, but I think three times in a few weeks is way too high. I would like Uncle Ben to stay dead and to be used on occasion, perhaps to remind us of why Peter's mission is important. Seeing Ben so frequently dilutes his impact when he does return and as a storytelling mechanism it's becoming a bit played out.

Til next time, keep on Goblin!