Friday, December 23, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #118 - November 1994

The Exile Returns Part One - Memories
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steven Butler (penciler), Randy Emberlin (inker), Steve Dutro (letterer), Kevin Tinsley (colorist)

The Plot: Ben Reilly visits a museum on his way out of New York City. After wandering the city and reflecting on his life as Peter Parker, Ben decides that he can’t leave while Aunt May is dying. When he overhears a news report about Venom on the radio, he returns to the museum to buy a spider-themed sweatshirt he saw earlier. Combining the sweatshirt with a leotard, he creates a new Spider-Man costume.

The Subplots: Betty Brant visits Anna Watson in Aunt May’s hospital room. Meanwhile, Venom tours the city and reflects on his past.

Web of Continuity: If you’re curious to see what exactly is happening in the other Spider-titles during this era, the Life of Reilly site has extensive recaps and behind the scenes commentary by many of the creators involved.

*See _________ For Details: Following the events of the “Power and Responsibility” crossover, Venom returned to New York to ensure that Carnage would not escape Ravencroft.

I Love the ‘90s: The local news station monitoring Venom calls their coverage “Venomwatch ’94.”

Review: And here’s where the hard sell for Ben Reilly begins. The plan was already in place for Ben to replace Peter as the “true” Spider-Man, and even if the creators didn’t quite understand just how badly fandom would reject the idea, they at least knew that they had to put some work into selling it. Unfortunately, they went the predictable route of lessening Peter in order to make Ben look more appealing by comparison. Peter was already a raving lunatic in the preceding storylines, so Ben was automatically depicted as the sensible, more sympathetic Spider-Man in his initial appearances. Over the ensuing months, Peter remains unhinged while Ben is portrayed as a virtual saint. Perhaps the final straw in tearing Peter down was the infamous Spectacular Spider-Man issue that had him slapping Mary Jane, but apparently this scene was perceived differently than the creators intended, so maybe that (horrific) incident wasn’t a part of a concentrated effort to make Peter look bad.

Pitting Ben Reilly against Venom, though, is a clear example of elevating Ben at Peter’s expense. Heck, the last line of dialogue in the issue is “Okay, Venom -- Here’s one Spider-Man who’s not gonna let you run wild!” Get it? Because editorial/marketing concerns had Spider-Man reluctantly form a truce with Venom in Amazing Spider-Man #375, that obviously means that the character of Peter Parker is deeply flawed and deserves to be replaced. Preferably by his “real” self, seeing as how he’s been a clone since 1975 and all. That’s perhaps an exaggeration of the creative team’s intent, but I don’t think it’s much of one. Peter = loser who let Venom go. Ben = true hero who’s going to correct that foolish mistake. The fans will clearly see the logic behind this. They’ll be even more excited to see Ben take over the mantle of Spider-Man…right?

1 comment:

Matt said...

I love that the cover informs us that Ben is wearing a "dynamic new costume". I might not have figured it out otherwise.

I agree with your points about Marvel elevating Ben by knocking Peter down, but in all honesty, Peter's deal with Venom was awful and inappropriate, and I didn't know at the time that marketing was behind the deal; I just knew that Peter Parker had acted ridiculously out of character in ASM #375 -- so it was nice to see someone in the pages of the comic react to it and "fix" it.

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