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Spider-Man: The Complete Clone Saga Epic Book 1 Paperback – October 18, 2016
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One smart thing that the editors of this collection did was to include all of the backstory first. The collection begins with backup stories detailing the origin of the clone character Ben Reilly (which were all published as back-up stories in various Spidey titles) and the Lost Years miniseries, which continues to detail Reilly's backstory. Placing these stories first helps to flesh out Ben Reillty (not to mention Kaine) a great deal before their initial appearances, which probably makes for a better reading experience than it was in 1994. The second half of the collection contains Ben Reilly's true first appearance, the Power and Responsibility storyline, which features Judas Traveller, a truly 90s supervillain. He claims to be a world-renowned psychologist, dresses like a pirate, has henchmen named Chakra and Mister Nacht, and takes over a mental hospital to study: EVIL! The second arc, The Exiles Returns, actually has Ben Reilly adopting his Scarlet Spider persona and taking on Venom.
There's little of what readers think of as the Clone Saga in this volume (Kaine only appears briefly, Seward Trainer is only mentioned, the true Spiderman appears less than Reilly, and Reilly is definitely written as a clone), but there is a ton of soul-searching. Ben Reilly has more soliloquies than Hamlet and Macbeth having a drinking contest, and he's joined by all the other characters, from Mary Jane to Venom. Emotional torment has always been a staple of Spiderman comics (as well as 1990s comics), but it's a bit overdone here. However, there is at least an attempt to keep the Scarlet Spider from being the typical all-moody, all-the-time 90s superhero.
Its Marvels Answer to the Death/Rebirth of Superman
minor Spoiler Warning just in case
At the time the the story was dragged out and across multiple titles which made it hard to follow and cost prohibitive to some (me included). Then there was the thought of the spider-man we have read for years was not the true spider-man but a clone who was going to be replaced by a different Spider-man, one who did not have the history we all have read about was appalling. Now years later and the Arc over and the knowledge that is not how the story will truly end its a Great Super Hero Soap Opera that spans close to if not over 100 issues. Complete with Major Character Deaths (like those last I know) Event Crossovers, Twist and Turns (some good some bad) and the introduction of new Characters i.e. Ben Riley the Scarlet Spider and Kain. Could the Story have been shorter? Yes and Recently they did basically a "what if" on. but for me I like the length. It Gave the Webspinner a huge Story where his role changed a few time and what happened before had a direct impact on what was coming. something that now a days is rare as every 6 months there is a new Direction or new Creative team on titles and nothing that came before is to important. (except the current Dan slott Spider-man Arc Called Big time)
Art Wise its a mixed bag for the entire Series. you get no less than 9 different artist. and this is due to it being a crossover event that took place in different titles. so the Art from Issue to issue will jump drastically. You need to know that going in. but with people like Tom Lyle, Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, John Romita Jr. and Ron Lim in this first trade you can can't go wrong
to round out the art team you even have Phil Gosier, Tom Palmer, Steven Butler , and Liam Sharp.
The Writing will feel a little dated, but with the exception of Howard Mackie the writing team is solid. A great read for Spider-man Fans. Th whole series will be little pricy at 7 + Trades to get the whole story. DARN you marvel!! Definitely worth a look