The return of Ben Reilly meant either he or Peter was the spider-clone, and one of them was the original. After tests by Ben's friend, Seward Trainer, it was determined that Peter was the clone, and he chose to hang up his webs and commit to having a family with Mary Jane. Ben is now the man behind the mask, but the discovery in the smokestack where the original clone was dumped of a skeleton wearing a torn costume casts doubt on everything all over again. Ben's new love interest Jessica, who's father was the burglar who killed Uncle Ben, managed to get a photo of Ben in costume with his mask off.
Jonah had Peter fly back in to New York, to get a picture of Ben as Spider-man stealing the above-mentioned skeleton. A gang of cybernetic thugs jumped Peter and a pregnant MJ out in the street, beating the recently-depowered Pete to an inch of his life. Ben meanwhile had his apartment ransacked, and his place of work, The Daily Grind coffee shop, burned to the ground. Ben tracked Seward Trainer by placing a tracer on some crates of equipment at his old lab which were shipped out. He ran afoul of the new cyberneticly-enhanced Hobgoblin, who's own motives in this are as unclear as ever. Ben and Pete become aware of a company with a shady agenda funding Cell-12 and Hobgoblin, a company called Multivex.
They trace the company funding Multivex back to Oscorp. Pete goes to talk to Liz Osborne, who lied and said she hadn't seen her brother in law, Mark Raxton, aka The Molten Man, in months. When Pete and Ben decide to check Multivex themselves, they run into Raxton, as well as Seward Trainer and the mystery man who's been behind the whole plot all along.
|Cover Art:||Mark Bagley|
Molten Man is fighting off Multivex goons. Gaunt says to kill Molten Man but spare the others--he wants Parker and Spider-man to live. Ben grabs the depowered Pete to get him to safety. Trainer says everything's gotten out of hand, and that it's not safe to continue the rebirth procedure on Gaunt. Gaunt tells him to shut up and get the regenerator back on line, and goes to deal with Raxton personally. Raxton asks what the connection between Gaunt and his step- sister's company--Gaunt says the answer would only terrify them.
Mary Jane is sitting with Liz Osborne (nee Allen), and Liz is running down the Multivex/Oscorp company connection. Mary Jane thinks she better alert Pete and Ben to the situation.
Ben confronts Seward Trainer. Seward says they forced him to work for Multivex. Before Ben can ask who "they" are, he has to push Trainer out of the way as Molten Man is flying at them like a 'metal-covered missile'. Molten Man clobbers Spidey. Gaunt begins to wail on Spider-ben--he says his appearance was different at the time of their last encounter, and says dying tends to slow a man down, as Ben is about to find out. Peter's out wondering the Multivex halls. Security calls over the loudspeaker that his wife Mary Jane has been apprehended at the main gate. Pete says he can't risk having anything happen to her or his unborn child, so he gives up.
Ben's thinking about all the villains he's faced that were supposed to be dead that have come back. He then wonders if the mystery man Gaunt could be Harry Osborne. Trainer gets the "regenerator" back online. Gaunt takes Spidey out with some green gas. As he's passing out, he asks the mystery man who he is. He says to call him Gaunt, and that his employer wants him to keep both their identities secret, for now. Gaunt goes to regenerate himself. Spidey and Molten Man are both in chains. Peter is loose with Mary Jane, and they're all in the same regeneration room with Gaunt, etc. Peter feigns a fight with Ben, giving Ben a chance 'to expand (his) chest muscles' (huh?), so he can break the chains. Ben uses Raxton as a shield against the guards' gun blasts. The regenerator becomes more unstable and starts to explode. Everybody runs, Ben says it's time for Seward to go, Seward says he's going to delay the blast until everyone's clear. The place blows, Ben starts to go back for Trainer but Molten Man holds him back.
Finally, Gaunt and Trainer are walking down a shadowy corridor. The Bugle says the next day that the Multivex destruction was because of industrial sabotage. They meet with a shadowy figure who says he's been building his criminal empire for years, and cannot condone losing Multivex. He says they'll meet again and he'll deal with Ben and Pete, but at a time and place of his choosing.
Talk about a letdown. We never learn the real identity of Gaunt, or who his real employer is. We never learn why Trainer is being forced to help them. We never learn anything else about the cloned skeleton or who the real deal is between Ben and Peter. Of course, the creators wanted to string along readers as they teased these details out, so that means six more months of Ben as Spider-man. Another complete tease of a story arc, and I don't know why I'm even surprised.
It's kind of a novelty to see Ben and Pete working together--Pete staging the fake fight to help Ben free himself is definitely how Peter would probably think in that situation, and Ben plays right along. The novelty is fleeting though. And why did Mary Jane have to show up at Multivex? To have Peter pseudo- surrender and to set up the whole fake fight between him and Ben, which makes it stupid. For someone who professes as much love for his pregnant wife, he sure takes a lot of chances with her and their unborn baby's lives. Ridiculous. Consequently, this is where I checked out of Spider-man back in the mid-90's until today. With endlessly convoluted storylines like these, I'm sure I wasn't the only one.
Just a web and half, mainly for Mark Bagley's reliably awesome artwork. Everything else about this arc's ending, to the story title this issue itself, is a trick and a feint.
Gaunt is revealed to be Professor Mendel Stromm in Sensational Spider-man (Vol 1) #11. Most of this clone silliness, as well as the identity of Gaunt's benefactor, is later explained in the Revelations arc.
It's just dawned on me much later that the name "Multivex" is a pun in and of itself (i.e. Peter being vexed with multiples of himself).