*** (three of five stars)
Favorite Quote: "Y'know, normally I'd say that joke brought the house down, but I'm not really in a mood to screw around!" -- Ben Reilly to Kaine as, well, the house falls down
This arc is divided into two different stories. The first story, chronologically, is a flashback to the events that gave birth to the Raptor (aka Damon Ryder, who we first saw in Annual #36). Ben Reilly gets a job as a lab assistant for Ryder, a professor trying to prove the missing link between humans and dinosaurs (yup) by synthesizing said link. After having Ben to his house to meet his wife and kids for dinner, Ryder reveals that he's found the link. However, the next day, Ben discovers that Ryder found the link by injecting himself with the formula to create the hybrid. Ben confronts him about it at the lab, but Ryder escapes. Finding him at home, Ben is attacked by Ryder only to have Kaine join the fray. (Kaine believes Ryder can help him with his cellular degeneration.) During the brawl, Ryder escapes, but Kaine sets the house on fire accidentally, killing Ryder's wife and children. Ryder doesn't remember the fight and believes (as we know from the Annual) that Ben killed them.
In the present day, Ryder confronts Peter (whom, as we also know from the Annual, he believes to be Ben) at "Front Line." Ryder leaves when Ben Urich calls the cops, but not before showing everyone the police sketch of Ben as the principal suspect in his family's death. Peter shakes off Ben Urich's line of questioning and leaves the "Front Line" offices. He uses his Spider-Tracer to find Ryder's hide-out, where he encounters Kaine, who's still looking for Ryder. They fight, Kaine escape, and Spidey heads home, only to discover that Ryder has been there. Peter sends Michele to a hotel, only to discover that Ryder's holding the Reilly girls and Harry hostage at Aunt May's. Ryder has invited Kaine to join the fracas (with the promise of helping him). Kaine reveals Peter's identity to Ryder and encourages him to kill Peter, arguing that he's the same person as Ben. Peter manages to hold off both of them before the police come, causing everyone to scatter. Later, we see Ryder admitting he lied to Kaine about helping him and, in a rage, Kaine kills Ryder.
This arc is possibly the only good clone-related storyline ever written. Guggenheim actually raises the Clone Saga to a new level. It's a great coda, ten or so years later, when the hate and the rage have died down a bit.
1) Kaine! Holy crap. I honestly didn't see that coming. I'm not sure where we left Kaine, though. Wasn't he dead already?
2) Yay, someone finally comments on the weirdness of Peter Parker and Ben Reilly both occupying the same space! The Clone Saga always went to great (and increasingly unbelievable) lengths to avoid addressing it, so I was thrilled when Peter had to explain why a guy who looks just like him burned down a house. Similarly...
3) ...yay, they killed Ryder! One of my main complaints since Spidey's secret identity has been re-secret-ed has been the lengths to which the writers have gone to keep his identity a secret. They've used plot devices to make it seem like his identity is going to be revealed, but then they don't follow it to its inevitable conclusion, using some crazy excuse to avoid it. (I'm looking at you, "American Son." You, too, "Kraven's First Hunt.") Here, it's pretty clear that Guggenheim can't allow Ryder to live AND know Spidey's identity (or, at lest, who he thinks Spidey is, Ben Reilly), because Ryder would definitely expose him or at least use it to his advantage. So, Guggenheim has Kaine kill him. It was really the only conclusion that allowed Guggenheim to avoid the aforementioned "crazy excuse," and I applaud him for taking it. Combined with addressing the Parker/Reilly duality, Guggenheim really grounds this story firmly in reality, and it makes it a better arc story for it.
1) Peter monologues that "Ryder doesn't know that Spider-Man unmasked him as the guy who attacked Peter Parker in Boston." Um, of course he knows. He was, by definition, there. Peter Parker doesn't necessarily know that Spider-Man unmasked Rider as the guy who attacked him, but Ryder does.
2) I don't understand why Ryder "wakes up" confused about Ben killing his family. He seemed to be in charge, more or less, of his faculties during the fight, but then suddenly seems disoriented...just in time to see his dead family.
3) Luke Ross & Rick Magyar's art is a little rough in this arc. It was difficult, particularly in issue #610, to tell the different between Damon Ryder and Ben Reilly, making it obviously difficult to follow the fight. Given that you were dealing with three different artists, it more or less comes with the territory that the art isn't going to be too coherent. But, it's a shame, because I felt like the art occasionally distracted from the story Guggenheim was trying to tell.
4) Speaking of the art, the cover to issue #610 is terrible. You'd think Spidey was fighting Sabretooth. Maybe they wanted you to believe it to boost sales. Regardless, it looks nothing like Kaine.