The following contains full spoilers for Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #15 by Peter David, Will Sliney and Rachelle Rosenberg.
Ben Reilly has had a rather eventful couple of weeks. He’s quite literally met Death a few times, and learned she’s responjsible for the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. He’s tangled with his fellow clone Kaine, and now going through one messed up redemption story. To make matters worse, he also happens to live in Las Vegas, which happens to be where Doctor Strange’s Damnation event is currently happening.
In the second issue of the event, we briefly saw the Scarlet Spider come to the aid of magical or damned heroes with a pair of assault rifles strapped to his back, his reasoning for showing up being a simple, “I live here.” The latest issue of Scarlet winds back the clock a bit, showing us just how Ben wound up in the state that we see him in, and it’s naturally the result of the classic Parker Luck.
For the past few issues, Ben has been struggling to do truly heroic deeds so as to help Death repair his fractured soul after he was killed multiple times during the Clone Conspiracy event. It hasn’t been an easy thing to do; he recently nearly beat a villain to death, but also let fellow Spider-Man villain live a regular life because he emphasized with the former illusionist’s desire to redeem himself. As this issue opens, walked inside the Mercury Towers casino and realizes that his friend, Aunt June, isn’t playing at the slots. Heading up to her room, Ben only finds a woman disguised as a little girl named Jezebel who says that she’s been waiting for him. Her employers have June, and the only way Ben will see his friend again is if she does exactly what he says. And as she’s going through all of this, Hotel Inferno is literally rising from the ground.
As a result of Ben’s many, many deaths, he’s placed in a unique situation. Everyone in Vegas who died during the events of Secret Empire and has committed a sin upon resurrection unknowingly surrenders their soul back to Mephisto. Ben is ideal to fight the demons that Mephisto has brought with him, thanks to the fact that his soul is both split so much to the point of uselessness, and he was already damned thanks to his turn as a villain in previous years. This is an environment where he can truly thrive, because no matter what, he ends up technically winning and saving his soul in the process.
Thanks to the seer within her organization, The Diogenes Initiative, Jezebel knows he’s the Scarlet Spider, that Strange’s attempts to save Vegas will bring literal Hell on Earth. All she asks of Ben is that he join the Midnight Sons–Wong’s assembly of damned and magical based heroes–when they arrive, help save the world, and June will be returned safe and sound. Ben acquiesces to her demand, but not before delivering a personal thank you to Jezebel for spurring him into committing a series of good deeds.
Though, punching someone who looks like a little girl? That may have hurt his soul a little bit.
It naturally doesn’t take too long for Ben to suit up and find someone to save from demons. Fortunately for him, the civilian also happens to run a military supply store, allowing Ben to embrace the right to bear arms before he goes toe to toe with some demonic forces. The store owner won’t take any money, given that the webslinger just saved his life moments ago. (A lucky break, since Ben’s also broke.) Now that he’s armed for a fight, the only thing left for him to do is to steal from Frank Castle’s playbook and make a hell of an entrance for the Midnight Sons. To wit, he hijacks a cement mixer from a demon to crash it into the Ghost Rider Avengers, bringing us full circle to where we first encounter the hero in the end of Damnation’s second issue.
Ben promises the Midnight Sons that they’ll be safe with him, but that may not exactly be true. All things considered, they’re just a means to an end for him to save his friend’s life. Nothing else matters but saving June, and if that means his soul also gets repaired in the process, that’s just an added benefit. But he’ll certainly have to work for it, since Mephisto has six Avengers turned into Ghost Riders hellbent on stopping the heroes from saving Las Vegas.
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