Anybody notice that the final issue of Spider-Man Clone Saga was never reviewed? No? That probably tells you all you need to know right there but I’m finally going to tie it all up anyway.
So, Ben isn’t dead after all because the Green Goblin “deliberately avoided any vital organs” when he skewered him previously (which is pretty darn impressive when you think about it). The Goblin has Ben chained up in his hideout and he punches him repeatedly as he tells Ben that he is not only Peter’s clone but a “tool to help me strip the real Peter Parker of everything.” Peter checks the Jackal’s old hideout for a clue to his daughter’s kidnapping, but comes up empty. Meanwhile, the Goblin unmasks for Ben, revealing himself to be Harry Osborn in the flesh. (“Real flesh, not the cloned kind,” Harry says. And this is supposed to be a shock, I guess, since we’re expecting Norman but it’s all pretty yawn-inducing at this point, unfortunately.) Elsewhere, Kaine hangs out with the clone of Norman Osborn and the kidnapped child. Kaine reveals that Harry found out about him (How? Who knows? Just “somehow.”) and convinced him to create clones of the Jackal and Norman.
Back in his hideout, Harry beats Ben to a pulp and then sends up a Goblin flare, attracting Peter to the Oscorp building. Back wherever the heck Norman and Kaine are, Norman finds out that his original self is dead and he hopes Harry will get revenge on Spidey for it. Kaine, however, is starting to feel familial. He tells Norman that baby May is family and shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of others.
At Oscorp, Spidey arrives only to find Harry who defeats him too. Before he can administer the coup de grace, Norman breaks in, wearing a Goblin costume sans mask and riding a goblin glider. Harry thinks Norman is there to kill Spidey but Norman attacks Harry instead. “The time has finally come to end the cycle of violence,” he says. Harry can’t believe it (neither can I). He decides something must have gone wrong with the cloning process and attacks his “dad.” Spidey leaps in on Norman’s side. As the battle begins, Kaine shows up at the hospital and confronts MJ and May. Back at the battle, Harry tries to skewer Peter with his goblin glider but Norman saves him (having apparently been convinced by Kaine’s few “family” words; his years of insanity cured by one informal therapy session), getting skewered himself. When Harry asks him why he did it, Norman says, “You need to stop wasting your life and end the circle of…,” then dies and does the clone fade.
At the hospital, Kaine returns baby May and promises to never bother Peter and Ben again. Two weeks later, everyone is home and happy. Ben is ready to head out of town. Peter tells Ben that “Kaine’s still MIA and the sanitarium says Harry’s still ranting about resurrecting his dad.” He then reminds Ben that both Harry and the Jackal are liars and they can’t rely on either of them as to who is the real Peter Parker. “I don’t think it really matters,” Pete says, “You’ve got your life. I’ve got mine and we both have each other.” Ben agrees and rides off on his motorcycle. “Think he’ll ever return?” asks MJ. “Trust me, Mary Jane,” replies Pete, “We haven’t seen the last of Ben Reilly or the Scarlet Spider!”
Yeah, we probably have. And that’s too bad. One of the things I like about this story is that Ben is left alive to travel the country on his motorcycle. You may think it’s a cop-out but another thing I like about this story is that the question of who-is-the-clone and who-is-the-original is never answered. I’m fine with that. I would have liked them to go that route. But, on the other hand, I’m one of the guys who liked the revelation in the original Clone Saga that Ben was the original so you can’t go by me. I also like Norman being a clone and dissolving at the end. I wish they’d do that to the Norman in current continuity. The Green Goblin was a great villain but I’m so tired of loopy ol’ Norman. Can’t he be dead again? He did kill Gwen Stacy after all, you know. And I like this line from Ben: “I can see how someone can grow to hate this clone thing. It never seems to end.” It’s the kind of winking self-referential line that Tom D. always excels at.
So, this issue isn’t a total loss but it does feel a bit phoned-in with a plot imposed over the characters who, kicking and screaming, do what Tom and Howard instruct them to. Do we really believe that Kaine suddenly decides to return May and never bother Peter and Ben again? Do we really believe that Norman… even a clone of Norman… would face off against Harry… even sacrifice his life saving Spider-Man…to save Harry? I sure don’t. Unless this is one of those passive-aggressive things parents do to their kids sometimes. You know. “Stop wasting your life, Harry, and end the circle, you pathetic loser. Get a job! Stop imitating me!” I can maybe buy that but otherwise… no, can’t buy the sincerity angle.
So, we labored through five issues that I can barely remember (and I’m sure not going back to check) only to have Kaine and Norman get religion while the Jackal is forgotten completely. (Wasn’t the Jackal sort of the point of it all… at one time…it’s so hard to recall…) In other words… ker-thud. The credits page has this: “Dedicated to Michelle Scheunemann…who always knew.” Always knew what? That during the Clone Saga the writers didn’t have a clue what they were doing and made it up hastily as they went along? Yeah, Tom, I always knew that too.
I’m upping the rating to two webs, this time. For Ben living, for Norman crumbling and for being the last issue of a pretty woebegone mini-series. I had high hopes for this series. It really could have been a must-read but it turned out to be so forgettable I only got around to writing this review right now. A gloriously missed opportunity. Too bad.