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How do you solve a problem like Ben Reilly?

Spider-Man’s infamous clone has fallen on some rough times, with the former Scarlet Spider now the villainous Chasm. It’s a hard turn for the fan favorite character. However, there may be some hope. Amazing Spider-Man #47 (written by Zeb Wells and penciled by Todd Nauck) kicks off a new Chasm-centric arc. Could this be Zeb Wells finally resolving Ben Reilly’s storyline?

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Amazing Spider-Man #47!

Who is Ben Reilly?

Image credit: Marvel

It would be an understatement to say that Ben Reilly has a complicated history. Spider-Man’s clone was created by the Jackal to make Peter Parker doubt his own identity. He was originally meant to be a one-shot character, appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #149 (1975) and dying at the end of the issue.

In the ‘90s he was brought back for Spider-Man’s infamous Clone Saga. The character was renamed Ben Reilly and took on the heroic identity of the Scarlet Spider. For a time, he believed he was the original Peter Parker and took over the Spider-Man identity, but it turned out he was a clone all along. He was killed by the Green Goblin in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #75. Marvel was eager to move on from the Clone Saga, so they avoided referencing Ben for years.

Ben was brought back during Dan Slott’s Clone Conspiracy storyline as a villain. Months of torture by the Jackal had caused Ben to snap and become evil. Peter David would go on to redeem the character, returning him to his heroic roots in the 2017 series Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider.

Like I said, it’s a complicated history.

Marvel’s Ben Reilly problem

Image credit: Marvel

Marvel currently has a Ben Reilly problem. The villainous Beyond Corporation scrubbed Ben’s mind in Amazing Spider-Man #86 (2022), removing most of the core memories he got from Peter Parker. This meant that Ben was missing most of his morals, and the formative life lessons from Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Ben tried to use a mad science machine to forcefully extract his missing memories from Peter, leading to a violent confrontation.

Amazing Spider-Man #93 (2022) ended with Ben partially mutated by some nearby chemicals, giving him new energy manipulation powers. With his sanity gone, Ben embraced villainy, rebranding himself as Chasm. Spider-Man editor Nick Lowe explained this move in the letters pages.

“I wanted to thank… and apologize isn’t quite the right word… to the Ben Reilly fans out there. Ben is an incredible character who didn’t really have a place in the Spider-Landscape anymore. Peter Parker isn’t going anywhere, and Miles Morales is here to stay, so Ben has been a challenge for us, and we thought this story gave us an opportunity to not only give Ben a last run as Spider-Man and to do a rare thing in the world of superhero comics – a tragedy. With most of our characters locked into eternal roles, a truly tragic story is very rare, and we hope we did Ben justice with it,” Lowe wrote.

Essentially, Ben was seen as superfluous in a Spider-Verse populated with Spider-Men, so Marvel reimagined him as a villain.

Lowe explained his reasoning well, but something about the status quo feels off. Wouldn’t Peter be working tirelessly to bring his brother back to normal? Ben’s status as a villain feels like an unresolved plot thread. Maybe it’s time for Marvel to finally resolve it.

Chasm Returns

Image credit: Marvel

Amazing Spider-Man #47 features the return of Chasm. The villain is seeking the Winkler Device, a brainwashing machine that he believes could help restore his memories. The problem is Ben has teamed up with Queen Goblin (not to be confused with Goblin Queen, who he’s also teamed up with in the past). Whatever Queen Goblin has planned, it’s most likely destructive.

The issue ends with a stand-off, with Spider-Man and Betty Brant on one side, and Chasm, Hallows’ Eve, and Queen Goblin on the other. Interestingly, Ben Reilly and Betty Brant were romantically involved before the character was killed in the ‘90s, but the connection isn’t mentioned here. Chasm doesn’t remember Betty due to his missing memories, and Betty is unaware that the villain she’s facing is Ben Reilly.

(This does lead to one of the issue’s more humorous moments, as Chasm calls her Betty Jane, due to his mixed up memories.)

This issue might be setting up the resolution to Ben Reilly’s storyline. During an exclusive interview with Popverse in 2023, Zeb Wells spoke about his intentions with Reilly. “I think that Ben is like at the midpoint of a very interesting arc. I would never leave the book without doing more with Ben Reilly or trying to bring that story to a close.”

Pay attention to Wells’ phrasing here. He mentions bringing the story to a close, and I don’t think he would use that terminology if Ben was going to remain a villain. This sounds like a writer who is trying to resolve something. Marvel previously teased a mini-series called Chasm: Curse of Kaine, which is set to reunite Ben Reilly with Kaine, another Spider-Clone. Perhaps Wells is returning Reilly to the side of heroes ahead of this series. Then again, the mini-series is still using the Chasm name. Would Ben really go by that name if he wasn’t a villain anymore. We’ll see how the rest of this arc plays out…

Sometimes even a superhero needs someone to save them. Could Zeb Wells be Ben Reilly’s hero? We’ll have to wait and see.

An advance copy of Amazing Spider-Man #47 was provided ahead of release by Marvel.

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“}]] The past few years have been rough for Spider-Man’s clone, but Zeb Wells might give the character some resolution.  Read More