Review by Jesse Baker
Let’s start off with a rant. To be frank, the filler nature of the current status quo fills me with great dread and a lot of nerdrage. After the massive ball of revelations in Amazing Spider-Man #74, we Spider-Man fans have been denied any actual exploration of the fallout from the ending of the Kindred saga and or answering of questions. Like who created the Harry Osborn clone running around these last twelve years? Who was the biological father of the Stacy twins who became Kindred? Spider-Man dealing with clone Harry and Boomerang’s death? Liz Allen and Normie Osborn reacting to the news that Harry was really dead all this time and they were living with a clone? Is Ned Leeds still corrupted by the Goblin Serum? And what it was Peter was going to ask MJ in Sinister War #1?
A lot of people have speculated that the current storyline “Beyond” and Ben Reilly being restored as Spider-Man, to be nothing short of filler to burn through issues so that Marvel can get to Amazing Spider-Man #900 as soon as possible. The resurrection of the three times a month shipping schedule seems to indicate that Marvel wants the sales they’ll get selling a $10 Amazing Spider-Man #900 sooner than later. And Ben Reilly back as Spider-Man reeks of Marvel wanting to try and rehab the character after Dan Slott’s character assassination of Ben, especially after Peter David’s attempt salvage the character failed to stick.
But the big truth of the matter, is that Ben Reilly became irrelevant the moment Marvel effectively decided to recast rival Spider-Clone Kaine as the new Scarlet Spider. The backlash against Marvel putting Ben back into the role after the critically acclaimed Kaine ongoing by Christopher Yost should have been a sign that Marvel should focus on Kaine and just sunset Ben into retirement. But here we are and again, after Nick Spencer’s wild ride, it feels explicitly like Marvel’s spinning their wheels after Spencer did his best to undo Dan Slott’s ten year rape of the franchise.
The disconnect is apparent with the crappy way Peter Parker was taken out of action (at the hands of Hulk villains U-Force, who when last seen were supposed to be working for the government but now are back working as villains) and the fact that we don’t even see Ben Reilly avenging the radiation poisoned Peter as #76 ended with him about to attack the foursome.
Amazing Spider-Man #77 opens with the story’s cover and Ben Reilly being strangled by a menacing mechanical hand. However, once you open the book you find out that the hand belongs to cyborg private eye Misty Knight and that Knight and Colleen Wing of Iron Fist fame are having a training exercise with Ben Reilly as we skip over the consequences of the entire U-Force two-parter entirely.
Written by Kelly Thompson, Amazing Spider-Man #77 is more downtown with Ben Reilly as we try and reintroduce the character to new readers. We get a lengthy counseling session sequence with Dr. Kafka where Thompson re-establishes that Ben has Peter’s memories up until the events of the original Bronze Age Clone Saga. We also get a sequence with Ben and his girlfriend Janine (a character who’s backstory and history with Ben has yet to be outright explained to new readers), which doesn’t do much to fill in the backstory as to why we should care about them as a couple.
Meanwhile the two pages we get to check in on Peter, MJ, and Aunt May serve to establish, yes again, Dr. Strange is dead and unavailable to help Peter. As is Tony Stark, which features a footnote that also reminds people of Ben’s previous appearance in the current Iron Man series and his meeting Misty Knight in that books. We also see the Black Cat looking into the window, watching Peter and his family from a distance, even as Aunt May states her intent to find someone in the super-power community to help save her nephew from certain doom
The downtime comes to an end with the last couple of pages which sets up a Morbius/Spider-Man figure. Morbius has been caught surrounded by a ton of dead bodies, which causes Ben to accuse Morbius of going villain again. They fight and the book ends with a cliffhanger of Morbius biting Peter’s neck to drink his blood.
Kelly Thompson produces a serviceable story here, though the disconnect from #76’s cliffhanger is rather frustrating. Artist Sara Pichelli does good work in the issue, with her giving Ben Reilly the start of a beard to go with his blonde hair to make him look different from Peter. But I have to wonder what the game plan for Morbius is going to be, as the character has been written very inconsistently over the years and even with him getting a movie soon, I don’t know what Marvel has planned for him outside Thompson picking him for the purpose of a Spider-Man vs Vampire fight.
Overall a decent issue, but the stench of filler is overwhelming. Kelly Thompson does her best, but I’d much rather see her dealing with the aftermath of the Kindred saga than a Morbius/Spider-Man fight.