SPIDER-MAN #52-53; SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #7; WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #117-119 (1994): 1st Kaine; Venom/Brock separated

Ben Reilly, clone of Peter Parker, believed to be dead, is back. This a foundational arc for The Clone Saga.

The Clone Saga is pretty much universally reviled. So is 1994 Marvel. And so, these issues spring out of the 1990s reboot of the Spider-Clone, Ben Reilly. Amazing and Spectacular Spider-Man ping back and forth with Peter Parker, and Web of and adjectiveless Spider-Man focus on Reilly.

And like it says on the cover, it’s a Venom story.

The issue spends several pages showing Venom trying to become his own “person,” distinct from Carnage and Shriek and the other symbiotes, paralleling that with Reilly trying to carve out what is his from all the memories that are actually Peter Parker’s.

This includes a very contrived attempted suicide off a bridge, an obvious reference to Gwen Stacy’s fatal fall.

After saving the girl, Reilly decides to take out Venom. That seems to give him a sense of purpose.

That’s the cliffhanger to Spidey Unlimited #7 which…Barely ties in. Hm. And half the book is a Spider-Man vs Cardiac story, which nobody wants to read. I mean, Cardiac (whose secret ID is a heart surgeon) ends up operating on a villain he just beat up but…

…Yeah, nobody wants to read that. And finally, another short story of Boomerang vs. Spidey where Mary Jane frets a bit and then kisses Peter when he survives.

Back to the “Exile Returns” storyline, and Spider-Man #52–and we’re at the Scarlet Spider vs Venom story. (This is the tale where Reilly puts on a hoodie, getting his distinctive look, but he still doesn’t have the distinctive name yet.).

I get that Venom has clones and Reilly is a clone, but the narrative construction would have made more sense if it were Reilly vs. Carnage.

Anyway, the fight is pretty good…

Venom is a “hero” now, in his own miniserieses, and yet…He sure is eager to kill Spider-Man. But that’s because he doesn’t like liars.

Well. Lookie here…

So we still don’t get clone on clone action–Scream shows up and fights Venom instead of fake Spider-Man.

Everyone gets away, and now Venom is hunting both Scream and Reilly–wanting to kill them both.

Venom does get a good one-liner in.

Big free-for-all battles and Reilly has some new weapons like a spider-sting–and he manages to prove himself by separating Venom and Brock.

The Guardsmen cops tell him no one else has done that, but that’s literally the way most Venom “big stories” have ended.

In the background, this story introduces two new characters. One is another clone, and another future Scarlet Spider:

Kaine. We actually first see him in an interlude…

There’s an interlude with the first appearance of Kaine. We’re in the clone saga.

The other new character is the son of Kraven, who will go by…

Grim Hunter.

Overall, this story is A LOT BETTER than I expected. I found myself enjoying much of it. Fun comics and, unlike most 1990s books, no gigantic guns at all in the entire story–even the back-ups!

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