Marc Guggenheim concludes his tenure as one of the writers of “Amazing Spider-Man” with the end of the three-part “Who is Ben Reilly?” story that is a bit of a mess. Based around an old acquaintance of Peter Parker’s clone, Ben Reilly, returning to seek revenge on Reilly over the murder of his family, the story gets more complicated by the involvement of Kaine, Screwball, and the action all taking place at Aunt May’s house while she’s out of town.
Moving back and forth between two timelines, the present and years ago when Reilly worked with Damon Ryder, we finally get the end of this story and see how Ryder’s family died after he used his genetic research to turn himself into a human/dinosaur hybrid. In the present, he and Kaine work together to defeat Spider-Man in front of his friends and possibly expose his identity to the world thanks to Screwball’s constant webcam feed.
The resolution to this story is just too busy, cramped with characters of conflicting motivations, all vying for attention. There’s a stigma to bringing back characters from the Clone Saga, because it leads to over-complicated messes and this issue doesn’t prove that point wrong. The action in the past is clear and concise, but the present is a mess with Spider-Man outgunned in a situation where his entire life could be ruined — but isn’t, of course, for reasons that don’t quite add up.
On the art front, dividing the art duties between the two timelines is a smart move, but does give that usual downside of one period looking much better than the other. Unlike the story, the present is visually superior to the past. Luke Ross’ work is clean and fluid, but does look like a throwback to the ’90s. Maybe that was the point, but it’s not a art style many should mimic on purpose when possibly. Marco Checchetto’s art is crisper and more compelling, but it gets bogged down by the overly cramped environment he has to draw. With so many characters in such a small setting, he never has the room to really show his stuff.
As a fan of Ben Reilly and the Clone Saga, I had high hopes for “Who is Ben Reilly?” but it’s a go-nowhere story that collapses under its own overly complicated plot, much like the original Clone Saga. Marc Guggenheim has done some good work on “Amazing Spider-Man” over the past 20 months and it’s a shame that this is how he leaves the book.