Last time we learned that other dimensions are involved as Kaine and Spider-Gwen have fought the Carrion virus on multiple Earths. The Gwen Stacy at New U turned out to be Spider-Gwen infiltrating the group while the “real” Gwen Stacy had been kidnapped by Kaine and taken to Harmony University. Kaine admitted to Anna Maria that he and Spider-Gwen didn’t let Peter in on what they were doing because, in all of the worlds they have visited, Parker Industries was allied with New U.
Spidey and Spider-Gwen escape New U through the air vents. The Lizard pursues but assures them that he is still Curt Connors inside and that the Jackal wishes them no harm. They believe him but still attack him and web him up. “Not fair!” says the Lizard.
Captain Stacy sends out a contingent of super-villains (the Rose, Mirage, Tarantula, Montana, the Spider-Slayer) to search for Spider-Gwen so that she can lead them to the resurrected Gwen Stacy. He contacts the Prowler who is on the roof with Mysterio, Stilt-Man, Jean DeWolfe and Eduardo Lobo. The Green Goblin (who refers to himself as “Hamilton,” so we now know which Goblin he is), Jack O’Lantern, and Hobgoblin search from the air as, from the roof, Spidey and Spider-Gwen look on.
Back at Horizon University, Gwen Stacy is held captive. Several of the Horizon folks are uneasy about that. Kaine, in his Scarlet Spider garb tells them to give Gwen one of the Jackal’s pills even though the group hasn’t found a way to duplicate them yet. In order to prove the seriousness of the Carrion Virus that would hit Gwen without the pills, Kaine removes his costume to show his ravaged body. He assures Anna Maria that he is not contagious. “I’m one of the Jackal’s original clones. We’re a sturdier batch. But these New U models…these ‘reanimates’… their bodies don’t just break down from this…they become carriers. Deadly infectious carriers.”
So here we go again. Are these “reanimates” clones? Kaine sure seems to think so. He also seems to think they are flimsier than the Jackal’s previous clones. In which case, should we regard the revived Dr. Octopus, for instance, as the real Ock? It can’t work both ways.
Anyway, Max Modell and the others quickly realize that Kaine may be the key to a cure for the virus, since he is resistant to it. And Anna Maria convinces the others that they should call the police to warn them about the potential epidemic. This turns out to be a bad idea because Police Chief Anderson turns out to be one of New U’s patients. She hears Gwen Stacy’s call for help in the background and passes on her location to the Jackal who sends Rhino and Electro to retrieve her. “Try not to electrocute anyone this time,” Jackal tells Electro, “I’m about bringing people back from the dead.” In a quick meeting with “armed forces, media moguls, formerly dead spouses,” Jackal asks for “More New U factories, less government oversight,” promising, “free procedures to fallen soldiers.” He meets briefly with Doctor Octopus who tells him to kill Peter and Spider-Gwen, then, “bring them back…give them your pills. Problem solved.” But Jackal says he wants “Parker to come to me willingly.” He adds, “Soon, I’ll have exactly what he wants.”
Having escaped from New U (and suspecting the Prowler helped them out by taking his men on a wild goose chase) Spidey and Spider-Gwen check in with Kaine and find out that Horizon is under attack by Rhino and Electro. The villains free clone-Gwen and capture Kaine. Anna Maria talks them into taking her along as well. Spidey and Spider-Gwen show up on a spider-cycle but too late. When Spidey pushes to know why he was kept out of Kaine’s plans, Gwen tells him that she has seen this New U scenario play out on dozens of worlds, “And every time you join up with the Jackal. You switch to Warren’s side, Pete.” While the Spiders confer with the Horizon folks, the Kingpin shows up and offers to lead them to the Jackal. (When seeing him, Spidey blurts out, “Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime,” as if he’s letting the fans of the Daredevil TV show just who this is.)
And so, at “a private airstrip outside of town,” the Jackal meets with Burke and Hare; the men who provide him with the corpses from which he resurrects his subjects. (Burke and Hare are named for the 19th murderers who sold their victims to Dr. Robert Knox for his anatomy lectures.) They bring the Jackal the corpse of a “nobody” whom the Jackal says is “important to me.” Spidey arrives on his cycle and uses his impact webbing to subdue Burke and Hare. He is surprised, however, to discover the Jackal is his equal in speed and strength. How can this be? Because the Jackal is not Miles Warren but Ben Reilly, Peter Parker’s clone. He removes his mask and reveals himself to Peter. When Spidey says, “You’re dead, you dissolved,” Ben replies, “I told you the New U process is more advanced than cloning. It can restore anyone. With all their memories intact. I remember it…burning away in your arms. (In Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #75, December 1996. If I can come back from that…imagine the possibilities. With your help. With Parker industries’ resources, we could go worldwide. You never want anyone to die. I’m offering you something better. Everyone gets to live!” And then he tells him he can have back the man whose body is in the coffin brought in by Burke and Hare…Uncle Ben.
I think we all knew that the Jackal was not Miles Warren this time. And while I didn’t pick Ben Reilly as the Jackal, I’m not surprised. What I am is thrilled to have Ben back. As an old Clone Saga fan, Ben is a favorite of mine and he was treated rather harshly in Marvel’s haste to put the clones behind them twenty years ago. But will he stick around this time? Will any of these resurrected people stick around? You can’t have Uncle Ben back unless you want to destroy the whole thrust of the series. And you have to have Doc Ock back or why go to all the trouble to resurrect him in the first place. So, part of the fun of all this is to try to anticipate Slott and see which characters will remain and which will go. I haven’t had this much fun with Spidey in years.
The reveal of Ben is wonderful here but it brings up the question of who reanimated him. If Ben isn’t the man in charge, who is? Norman Osborn? The real Warren? Another fun question to pursue.
The exact definition of these "reanimates" is still hazy, unfortunately. It still sounds like they have cloned bodies. Horizon thinks Kaine, who is definitely a clone, is the answer to curing the Carrion virus that the "reanimates" contract and spread. It comes back to the question I posed before as to what constitutes an original. We'll see if Slott makes this any clearer in the concluding issues.
In spite of that muddiness, I am very pleased with the direction of this mini-series. Jim Cheung’s artwork is both dynamic and expressive. (Check out the speed displayed in the Spidey-Jackal battle on pages 17-18, check out the set jaw and steely brown eyes on Ben Reilly in the full-page reveal on page 19.) Turning the page to see that full-page Ben Reilly reveal was worth the price of admission. The cliffhanger of possibly resurrecting Uncle Ben is sublime. For all of Spidey’s protests that he would never join New U, he has been placed in the perfect dilemma. Which way will he go? What will he do? I’m excited to say I don’t know where Slott is taking this. Plus, Gwen Stacy and Ben Reilly are back, even if they are apparently on the wrong side of the issue. This is all being done exactly right.
A great issue with two great reveals (Ben and Uncle Ben) and opening up all sorts of possibilities. If Slott pulls this off properly, I will forgive him all the things I haven't liked about his Spidey run. Five webs.