Players and Pawns Part Two - True Lies
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steven Butler (penciler), Randy Emberlin (inker), Steve Dutro (letterer), Kevin Tinsley (colorist)
The Plot: Flash Thompson and his students are targeted by the Jackal. Ben Reilly defeats him, unaware the Jackal wants to be placed in Ravencroft. As the Jackal is taken away, Jack hands Ben a disc that he claims proves Ben is the original Peter. A verbal command from the Jackal immediately causes Jack to deteriorate. Meanwhile, Kaine has handed Peter Parker documents that allegedly prove that he is the original. When Kaine refuses to answer all of Peter’s questions, Peter charges him. Kaine throws Peter off of a building and escapes. Later, Ben throws the disc into the river, confident in his own identity.
The Subplots: Aunt May awakens from her coma. Meanwhile, another clone travels to New York. Finally, Detective Trevane pursues an arrest warrant.
Web of Continuity: Flash Thompson is now a grade school gym teacher. The third Peter Parker is a needless distraction that only serves to pad the story out even longer. The arrest warrant is for Peter, of course, leading in to the OJ-inspired “Trial of Peter Parker” storyline.
*See _________ For Details: Peter and Ben shut down the Jackal’s lab in Spider-Man #56. Kaine presented Peter with his “evidence” in Spectacular Spider-Man #222; the same issue the mystery of the third Peter Parker began. Ben returns to the smokestack that allegedly incinerated him in Amazing Spider-Man #150 before throwing the disc away.
Creative Differences: Several added thought balloons establish that the Jackal is attacking Flash and his students in order to provoke Ben Reilly. Later, more added thought balloons have the Jackal boasting that he wants to go to Ravencroft because “something” there belongs to him.
Review: The clone storyline was originally supposed to end in Amazing Spider-Man #400, which went on sale the same month this issue was released. Clearly, this was not to be. The standard explanation from the creators is that Marvel’s marketing machine became enamored with the concept and pressured them to keep it going, requiring them to develop one inane plot twist after another to prevent the story from reaching its natural conclusion. Okay, maybe no one involved with the books ever used the phrase “inane plot twist” (in public, at least), but that’s clearly what’s happening by this point. Ben’s the real Peter! No, Peter is…Kaine says so! Who’s Kaine? We can’t say yet, but Peter’s going to fight him for no reason this issue! Wait, this third Peter is the real one…you can trust us now! Uh-oh…the Jackal’s plan is still in motion behind bars! By the way…we’re killing Aunt May next week, but Peter will be too busy digesting prison food to mourn his loss!
As exasperating as the overall storyline is by now, there are a few decent moments in this issue. Ben’s interaction with the original supporting cast has been interesting so far, so working in Flash and his students is a smart move on the creators’ part. Ben’s decision to throw away the evidence that “proves” he’s not a clone is reminiscent of Peter’s choice to throw his test results away in ASM #151, which is a clever callback. Ben’s just as confident in his own identity now as Peter was back then, which is ironic given that Ben’s so adamant that he isn’t Peter anymore. Finally, Steven Butler returns with full pencils, producing the best-looking issue in a while. Unfortunately, he’s still stuck drawing the horrific Scarlet Spider costume, which is several months away from retirement. Yet another reason why this story needs to move on.