The Clone Saga. Those words make most Spider-Man fans and comic book readers cringe. While it's been years since the infamous story took place and was resolved. To this day, I am still unsatisfied in the outcome.
When I first started reading The Amazing Spider-Man in the 80s, I did pick up the back issues that involved Professor Miles Warren, aka the Jackyl. He was a brilliant man that was able to discover the key to creating clones. While a little unhinged, he became obsessed with some of his students, specifically, Gwen Stacy. He created a clone of her but she wasn't the only one. Because Peter Parker was one of his prized students, he borrowed a DNA sample of him when it came to testing his cloning theories. This lead to his discovery that Parker was Spider-Man. Spider-Man fought his clone. The clone died and Spider-Man disposed of the body. Or so he thought.
Years later he (and us readers) discovered that the clone did survive. Coming to terms with the fact he was a copy of Peter Parker, he headed west and took the name Ben Reilly (using Uncle Ben's name along with Aunt May's maiden name). When Aunt May was on her death bed (again), he felt he had to return to New York City and Spider-Man's life.
Readers were subjected to the fact that Ben could actually have been the original Spider-Man and the character we had been reading for years was a fake. This outraged fans (along with some other crazy overuse of Spider-clones) and Ben was killed, putting an end to the question of who was the original and who was the clone.
With the way his death was handled, I still do not believe he truly died.
This isn't just wishful thinking from a fan of the Scarlet Spider. Yes, trying to convince readers he was the original was asking a bit much. Yes, there were way too many clones and the story did go on a little longer than it should have. These aren't reasons for it to be necessary for Ben to die.
Ben dyed his hair blonde to differentiate himself from Peter Parker. He created a new identity and, even in New York City, had a completely new cast of supporting characters. Ben could have easily moved west, perhaps all the way to California. We could have had the Scarlet Spider fight crime on the West Coast and Marvel would have another Spider-character to add to their merchandising franchises. This would also give them a single 'Peter Parker' with the old girl problems that they craved. Thus, the marriage between Peter and Mary Jane could still exist. Instead, Ben was killed.
As brilliant as Professor Warren was, apparently he couldn't completely perfect the cloning process. Many of the clones he created suffered from a flaw that caused them to deteriorate over time. Their bodies weren't completely stable. Ben was his one perfect clone. He didn't have the flaw that the others did. Simply put, his body wouldn't dissolve into a mess of human goo.
The return of Norman Osborn would play a part in the downfall of Ben Reilly. Knowing Spider-Man's secret identity, Osborn unleashed several diabolical plans intended to torment Peter. Using Alison Mongrain to drug a pregnant Mary Jane, MJ went into premature labor. At the hospital (where Mongrain also popped up as a nurse), the Parkers were told their daughter didn't survive. Later we were told that Mongraine actually took the infant and gave little May Parker to the Scriers, a group Osborn worked with. This was merely one of Osborn's ways to torture Peter.
Seeing the close relationship Peter had developed with Ben (they had become like brothers), Norman's next plan was underway. The question of who was the original and who was the clone caused some tension. Fake data was leaked to them that almost put them at odds against one another. This plan failed as the two didn't really care, as long as they had each other in their lives.
Norman proceeded to kidnap Ben and beat him within an inch of his life. Norman's Green Goblin glider was about to impale Spider-Man but Ben pushed him out of the way, taking the hit meant for Peter. When Ben died, his body immediately decomposed, confirming that Peter was, in fact, the original and Ben was the clone.
But that doesn't make sense.
Ben was the perfect clone. He didn't have the genetic flaw the other clones had. His body didn't break down and decompose like the others. If he was a perfect clone without this flaw, why on Earth would his body decompose just because he died. HE DIDN'T HAVE THAT FLAW!
Shortly before his heroic sacrifice and death, he was kidnapped by Osborn. Osborn didn't kill him right away. Sure he beat on him but kept him alive as a way to torment Peter. Because Peter and Ben had become as close as brothers, Norman should be satisfied with Peter having to cope with Ben's death. But people get over death eventually. What if that wasn't actually Ben that made the noble act of saving Peter? What if Norman's scheme went further.
After taking Ben, he could have easily had Ben replaced with another clone (he had been working with Professor Warren in all this). This clone could have been programmed to think it was Ben and to give his life for Peter on cue when Norman unleashed his glider. Ben could be alive and being held captive. He's rotting away in some dark dank prison while Peter thinks he died saving his life. Whenever Norman sees Peter, he can laugh inside about this.
Is this a stretch? Tell me this isn't something twisted that Norman would do. It just doesn't make sense that a perfect clone without the decomposing genetic flaw would do so just because it died. That wasn't Ben Reilly. Would the comic book readers accept the return of the Scarlet Spider? I didn't have a problem with the debacle of trying to claim Spider-Man had been a clone for twenty years because I knew it would all revert to the status quo eventually. I say it's time to welcome back Ben and Marvel should take advantage of having another character they can make merchandise with so I can buy it all up.