On Bringing Back Ben Reilly

I’m ambivalent on the question of whether Ben Reilly should be resurrected. In superhero comics, there are ways to circumvent a character dissolving into dust. That’s not the problem. It could always be revealed that another clone, or an entity impersonating Ben Reilly for whatever reason, died in Spider-Man #75. Or Ben Reilly could discover that he also the powers of Sandman, which would further distinguish him from Peter Parker.

If the writers have no plans for bringing back Ben Reilly, I wouldn’t mandate it. If the writers and editors want to go in that direction, I wouldn’t stop them. At some point in the next ten years, I suspect Ben Reilly will return, as popular characters in comics rarely stay dead. The kids who grew up on the Clone Saga are going to be the next generation of Spider-Man writers, so it’s almost inevitable that someone will have an effective pitch.

Ed Brubaker had a good pitch, and now Bucky has his own title as Winter Soldier. If Chuck Austen had mismanaged Bucky’s resurrection when he was on Captain America, it likely would’ve prevented the good Bucky stories from being told.

Another recent example would be the return of Kraven in Grim Hunt. It’s something that was considered unlikely for a variety of reasons (the esteem Kraven’s Last Hunt was held in, the way Kraven was essentially replaced by his sons) but the writers had pitched a way to make Kraven’s return a big deal, while giving the character a new direction, so that his best storyline still mattered.

One question would be where the story of Ben Reilly’s resurrection should occur. Some have suggesting a Ben Reilly mini-series, akin to DC’s various Geoff Johns penned Rebirth volumes, but the problem is that the only audience for that would be people who are already fans of the Clone Saga, a number that may be increasing thanks to the trades and Scarlet Spider monthly. I think it’s better to reintroduce Ben Reilly in another book first, be it Amazing Spider-Man or something else.

The story in which Ben Reilly comes back and interacts with Spider-Man should be written by someone intimately familiar with the current comics. This way, it seems like part of the larger ongoing series, is less likely to be at odds with events in Amazing Spider-Man,  and doesn’t seem like a story which exists solely to bring back a controversial deceased character. If that’s a hit, a Ben Reilly monthly becomes a lot more likely, and it can be written by someone else.

One possibility is for Ben Reilly to be resurrected in one of the two spinoff Spider-Man monthlies: Venom or Scarlet Spider. It would provide those books a good chunk of attention, while giving the writers an opportunity to demonstrate to new readers that Ben Reilly’s a different character from Peter Parker. Perhaps the most recent Spider-Girl series would have lasted more than eight issues with Ben Reilly as an instructor.

In the Venom monthly, Ben Reilly can serve as a sort of mentor to Flash Thompson. They could have a somewhat complicated and interesting relationship, as towards the end of the Clone Saga, Ben was getting along well with Flash’s ex-girlfriend. Ben Reilly is also a plausible host for the suit, if there are problems between the symbiote and Flash Thompson. That could be a source of potential conflict.

Ben Reilly could also be introduced as the mysterious member of an ensemble, similar to Ronin in Bendis’s New Avengers. This way you could get fans to be interested in the character and encourage the skeptics to give him a chance, before revealing his identity, which would guarantee a boatload of controversy/ discussion on comic book websites. For example, he could be introduced as a witty masked superhero working for the Secret Avengers, with the writers slowly revealing his powers (amazing agility/ speed/ strength, tremendous intelligence, the ability to avoid danger, etc.) I’m under the assumption that the people who would buy a Ben Reilly monthly book would also buy whatever team book he appears in. Thus Marvel would increase the sales of a book they’re currently publishing (or a book they were going to publish anyway), while introducing Ben Reilly to some readers who weren’t around during the Clone Saga.


If Ben Reilly joining a team is a hit, Marvel could test the waters for a regular series with a one shot or a mini series. JM Dematteis is available for a solo book. You do need an artist who can handle both typical superhero stuff, and flashbacks to Ben Reilly’s days as a wanderer, but that’s manageable. A slower approach to reintroducing Ben Reilly would be effective to build up anticipation, and confirm that there’s a market for a new regular series, as it’s rare to see a new monthly succeeding.

One reason not to bring back Ben Reilly is that there have already been so many deaths and resurrections in the Spider-Man comics. If JM Dematteis hadn’t killed off Harry Osborn and Aunt May, those resurrections would not have been necessary. Fans might not be as cynical, which means that it would be easier to make the case for resurrecting Reilly.

Ben Reilly is arguably redundant when the original Spider-Man is still in the comics. There are elements of the Clone Saga arguably best left forgotten (Aunt May’s death, the pregnancy.) There’s no reason to presume that a few hundred fans on the internet translates to enough interest for a monthly. With Spider-Man being a bachelor again, Ben Reilly’s even more redundant.

There are still a few reasons to do more with the Clone Saga characters. It’ll appeal to some of the Spider-Man fans who left after OMD, and a few of those who remain on the fence with the current Amazing Spider-Man, the readers most likely to drop the book after a stretch of weak issues, or for reasons that seem trivial. JM Dematteis would probably agree to write it, and more Spider-Man related material from him is always a good thing. It gives an excuse to reference the clone saga, some of which was decent. While there are disadvantages to guiding readers to the Clone Saga trade paperbacks, it would probably result in some new sales.

There are some interesting possibilities. Personally, I think it would be fun to do an inversion of the clone saga. Now that Peter Parker’s a bachelor, why not do Ben Reilly as a married father? Ben Reilly could also remember the world as it was before One More Day (and had no idea what’s happened since his death.)

I don’t think it would work for a Ben Reilly title to supplement any shortcomings in the direction of the Spider-Man comics. If it’s better for the long-term prospects of the series for Peter Parker to be a bachelor, Ben Reilly shouldn’t be a proxy for a single Spider-Man, an option as ill-advised as bringing the comics to an end.

The Infinite Spider-Man is a series of mini-essays regarding Marvel’s options for the future of the best character in comics.


About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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