Dr. Damon Ryder, otherwise known as Raptor, has shown up and terrorized Peter Parker, thinking that he's really Ben Reilly, who he blames for the deaths of his family years ago in Portland. In actuality, Ben Reilly was noneother than Peter Parker's clone, who perished years ago. Ryder has accosted Peter at his work, and has now gone to Peter's apartment looking for him. Meanwhile, Peter as Spider-Man has gone looking for Ryder, only to find himself face to face with his first failed clone, KAINE!
Spider-Man and Kaine tangle in the warehouse which used to be Raptor's hideout. During their fight, Kaine reveals that he needs Dr. Ryder, as he's dying from the cellular degeneration that has affected the failed Parker clones in the past, and Ryder alone might be able to stop it.
Back in the past, Ben confronts Ryder about conducting his experiments upon himself during trials. Ben tells Damon he's out of control, which leads to the two having a brief fight, and Ben tying Damon down so that he can get doctors and security to restrain Ryder for a more long-term solution. As he leaves, the shadow of Kaine gets closer to the facility.
Kaine and Spider-Man continue their brutal and dangerous battle in the present, until Kaine pulls a quick fade and disappears while Spider-Man saves some bystanders from a thrown taxicab. As Spider-Man saves the bystanders, he hears a message on the radio being replayed at random intervals that has been set-up by Screwball, who's looking to call out Spider-Man for another tussle, so that as a result her web traffic will skyrocket (like it does every time the two tangle).
Peter gets home and finds a copy of the newspaper that Damon had brought to Frontline during the last issue, and walks into Michele's room worried for her safety, to find her relatively scantily clad, preparing for a work thing. She tells Peter about Ryder's prior visit, including that he left something for him, which is a burned-up child's doll.
Back in the past, in Portland, Ben brings a doctor to the lab to find that Damon has disappeared.
Back in the present, Peter tries to get more information out of Michele, and finds out that he was planning to visit the Reilly cousins, currently staying at Aunt May's house in Queens. Peter tries to convince Michele to stay at a hotel for the night, and then takes off for Queens.
Back in the past, Ben visits the Ryder home, and pushes past his wife so that he can find Damon. His wife, Laura, is scared by Ben's tone and urgency.
In the present, Peter arrives at May's house, and opens the door to find Harry looking nervous and scared. Damon is behind the door, and levels a gun at Harry's head, asking Peter to come into the house. Damon is dressed up in a costume, has the Reilly cousins tied up and gagged, and has a gun leveled at Peter.
In the past, Reilly finds Ryder, as his face has started to mutate as a result of the experiments. From nearby, Kaine has found Ben...
In the present, Damon lays out his cards, telling Peter that he's going to kill HIS family because Peter was responsible for the death of his own family. Damon goads Peter that he should reveal who he really is, meaning Ben Reilly, even as Peter Parker considers revealing that he's Spider-Man, and prepares to pull up his shirt to prove it...
This issue is a step up from the last, that's for sure, although unfortunately the characterization woes continue with regards to the scripting. The confrontation here between Peter Parker and Kaine just doesn't work for me on almost any level, as it just seems to ignore all of the real history between the two. Kaine was a complicated character in the '90s, partly because writers wrote him many different ways, but he wasn't just a character who hated blindly. His anger towards Ben Reilly was because of what had happened to himself, in that the cellular degeneration that happened to almost all of Miles Warren's clones had affected him deeply, and not Ben Reilly. The two tangled often, yet their history here seems reduced to base components that just don't add up. Kaine as written here just isn't the '90s Kaine, who is actually more interesting than what we've got here.
In fact, the portrayal of Kaine visually doesn't seem to take into account why he was wearing his costume back in the '90s, as it was used to help slow the degeneration process. So to bring Kaine in here, and say that he needs Raptor to help him with his ongoing cellular degeneration just seems overly convenient and also lazy writing.
I know I'm really critical of the writing in this storyline nad how characters are portrayed, but I figure that if you're going to be bringing back these characters, more attention should be paid to their histories with each other, so that the story is clear and makes sense to new readers and to the old, continuity-obsessed readers, because it's not a mutually exclusive goal.
The Ben Reilly aspect of the storyline is actually much better here, as we get more details on just what went down years ago when Reilly was on the road. It's the modern-day storyline with Peter and Kaine that I find so bothersome. The rest of the issue, with Peter Parker trying to warn Michelle, and trying to find Raptor, is actually really well-written.
The artwork is actually quite enjoyable, although I'm stymied as to why Ross/Magyar are needed for spot fill-ins every couple pages. If Checchetto needs more time to illustrate, perhaps he shouldn't be taking shifts on a high-profile book with an accelerated shipping schedule like this one. That being said, I'm really digging his artwork in this issue, although I wish Kaine had been illustrated in his classic costume, or barring that he had far more evidence of cellular degeneration on his body.
This issue is better than last, and far more enjoyable, although certain key characterizations and moments in the script stick out at me like a sore thumb. But we're headed in the right direction, and it's more enjoyable to read.