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Best Review of Sensational Spider-man (1996-1998) #1:
Most helpful customer reviews 0 of 0 people found the following review helpful. Despite being interrupted by filler story arcs, this is an entertaining start to Ben Reilly’s career as the new Spider-Man! By Dr. Rorschach Hound Welcome to part 11 of CLONE MADNESS folks, where we attempt to untangle the convoluted and distorted web that is, THE CLONE SAGA!What I find fascinating is that when THE CLONE SAGA first began, the premise behind it was a very simple three-act story: Peter’s clone from a 1970’s story would return and cause tension, it would be revealed that the clone was the original Spider-Man and that Peter was actually the clone, the clone would temporarily take over as Spider-Man, and then it would be revealed that Peter was actually the original all along and would triumphantly return. I was meant to be a simple story that would mirror the success of DC’s DEATH OF SUPERMAN and BATMAN: KNIGHTFALL events, help Marvel recover from it’s financial crisis in the 90’s, and revitalize Spidey’s mythos as a whole. However, those who have followed my reviews of the saga may have noticed how the story’s premise and narrative focus has drastically changed from what it was originally intended to be. Now instead of having Ben temporarily replace Peter, the writers were now intent with having Ben permanently become the new Spider-Man. According to THE LIFE OF REILLY essay, this was because of changes in the editorial staff, and the new team of editors felt that Peter had lost touch with readers, due to controversial decisions made before the saga, along with his marriage to Mary Jane (which is complete bullcrap in my opinion, but lets not turn this into a rant against ONE MORE DAY). As such, they felt that reintroducing Ben as the original Spider-Man would revitalize the character’s mythos and bring him back to his original roots. Unsurprisingly, fans at the time were not happy about the decision to permanently replace Peter, even though they loved Ben Reilly. Personally, while I too disagree with this decision, I did like it both conceptually and as a temporary solution. Nerveless, the writers still wanted to give this idea a chance, and I was definitely curious to see how it played out. As a whole, I have mixed feelings about the reboot with Ben Reilly, as most of the stories produced from it ranged from mediocre to average, there were a few stories that did stand out to me, and such is the case with MEDIA BLIZZARD, which marks the official start of Ben Reilly’s career as the new Spider-Man.But before I dig into MEDIA BLIZZARD, I should provide some details on what happened before this book, as well as for my thoughts on the reboot as a whole. Following THE GREATEST RESPONSIBILTY arc that I covered in my last CLONE SAGA review, the writers felt that since Peter had now left to live a happily-ever-after, they were now free to finally introduce Ben Reilly as not just the Scarlet Spider, but as the new Spider-Man. Unfortunately however, matters were complicated once again when the marketing department decided to produce several one-shots in each of the monthly Spider-Man books, but with titles replaced with “Scarlet Spider.” Not only was this a sign of how desperate the marketing department was becoming, but ended up delaying Ben’s introduction as Spidey even further. While none of these stories were bad in my opinion, most of them were completely irrelevant to the overall CLONE SAGA narrative (with the only exception being YOU SAY YOU WANT AN EVOLUTION, as it helped resolve continuity issues with the High Evolutionary stuff that took place before the saga; don’t ask, it’s a long story). The only relevant plot points that those one-shots conveyed were Ben’s attempts at reestablishing his life and finding a job, Dr. Seward Trainer entering a comma, and Ben discarding his Scarlet Spider identity. I wasn’t until the first part MEDIA BLIZZARD (which took place in SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #0), that Ben was finally able to take his place. While issue #0 of SENSATIONAL isn’t technically part of the MEDIA BLIZZARD arc, I still consider it to be as the events in it are immediately followed up on in MEDIA BLIZZARD, and it flows directly into the main story arc from a narrative perspective. Unfortunately though, there were several issues published in between SENSATIONAL #0 and MEDIA BLIZZARD that had nothing to do with the main story arc, which was made even worse by the way they were packaged in “The Complete Ben Reilly Epic” trades (as #0 is collected in the first volume, but MEDIA BLIZZARD is contained as the last arc in the second volume). I’ll get into this more in my analysis of the book, but this is a perfect example of my problems with the reboot as a whole, as most of the stories from it don’t form a cohesive narrative or continuity when put together, and the majority of them are filler and have little impact on the overall narrative of THE CLONE SAGA. While none of them were awful in my opinion, most of them ranged from mediocre to average. As a result, I found it difficult to get heavily invested in the reboot as while I found Ben’s exploits as the new Spider-Man to be intriguing, they lacked a cohesive narrative or established continuity in my opinion. Fortunately though, I did come across a couple of stories in the reboot that were above-average, such as FAMILY PLOT, which detailed Ben teaming up with the Punisher to combat Tombstone’s gang, and ALONG CAME A SPIDER, which showcased Venom attempting to reconcile with his ex-wife. While these two stories particularly stood out to me, MEDIA BLIZZARD was the only story of the reboot that I felt contributed to the overall narrative of THE CLONE SAGA. While the writing was a bit redundant at times and the narrative flow between SENSATIONAL #0 and the main story arc was interrupted by unnecessary filler stories, on it’s own, MEDIA BLIZZARD is actually a fairly entertaining story that would have sufficed as great opening arc for the Ben Reilly reboot.The story begins (at least in my opinion) in SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #0, where Ben Reilly is standing over Aunt May’s grave. Following the events of CYBERWARS, Seward Trainer is currently in a comatose state, Ben is now living in a sleazy hotel with no money or job, and is currently contemplating on abandoning his current identity as the Scarlet Spider, and become Spider-Man once again. But having been out of practice for the past five years, Ben is unsure of whether or not he is capable of taking Peter’s place as New York’s web-slinger. Still determined to give it a shot though, Ben soon creates a new formula for his webbing, sews a new costume that is similar yet different to Peter’s, acquires a new job at a campus dinner called “The Daily Grind,” and even takes steps to distinguish himself from his clone by dying his hair blonde. Now officially the new Spider-Man, Ben comes across his first case when he stumbles upon a high-tech robbery at Empire State University. The culprit behind the theft is Armada; an armored criminal accompanied by miniature flying robots, who Ben discovers is after a Digital Imagery Transmission chip, a device capable of projecting holographic images from one’s mind into the real world. Although Ben is able to defeat Armada and save the scientists responsible for the chip’s creation, one of the robots is able to escape with the chip and return it to Armada’s employer, who is revealed to be long-time Spidey villain Mysterio, the master of illusion! For three long months, Ben is unable to find any traces of the chip, and it isn’t until the Christmas season when he does. With one of the biggest blizzards in recent history about to hit the big apple, Mysterio see’s this as the perfect time to launch his plan. Since the blizzard will cause people to retreat into their homes, Mysterio plans to create his own television network, where he will use the chip to apply subliminal messages to the show’s content. Not only will this compel people to keep watching regardless of the show’s quality, but also it will finally force them to appreciate Mysterio’s “artistic genius,” as well as get his revenge on Spider-Man. With complete dominance over the media and any citizen of New York who owns a TV, will Ben Reilly be able to prove his worth as the new Spider-Man and shut down Mysterio’s network, or will he fall prey to what can only be described as the darkest nightmares of Hollywood!Out of all the stories I’ve read from the reboot, MEDIA BLIZZARD is quite easily the best of the bunch! This is primarily because it’s not only the only one of those stories that I feel contributed to the overall CLONE SAGA narrative, but is also a fairly entertaining story that feels like it belongs in the classic Spidey era, and explores some of the more benevolent aspects of Ben Reilly’s character. However, I hesitate to call it a great story. Believe it or not, the main problem that I have with MEDIA BLIZZARD does not necessarily have to do with the story itself, but rather its placement within the narrative of the reboot as a whole. As I stated previously, while SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #0 isn’t officially part of the story arc, I still consider it to be as it introduces plot elements such as Ben’s introduction as the new Spider-Man and Mysterio stealing the high-tech chip, which carry on into part 1 of MEDIA BLIZZARD. Essentially, while SENSATIONAL #0 isn’t part of MEDIA BLIZZARD, the narrative flow between the two is so intricately interwoven that I might as well consider it part of the larger story arc (not to mention that both of those issues are written by Dan Jurgens). I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with this if part 1 of MEDIA BLIZZARD was released immediately after issue 0, but not only were the two issues released three months apart from one another, but there were also several other story arcs that were published in between. None of these other stories have any connection to the plot points of SENSATIONAL #0 and MEDIA BLIZZARD, and as a result, they not only interrupt the narrative flow of the story, but also come across as unnecessary filler (made worse by the order the stories are packaged in THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY trades). And while none of these filler stories were terrible in my opinion, the writers should have waited and finished the plot of MEDIA BLIZZARD before publishing them, since MEDIA BLIZZARD was the story that was meant to fully establish Ben Reilly’s status quo as the new Spider-Man. Instead of being a self-contained story, it’s brought to an abrupt stop in order to suffice for other stories being published at the time. The decision to interrupt the narrative flow of MEDIA BLIZZARD with unnecessary filler arcs not only forces the events of its first issue to take place three months after SENSATIONAL #0, but also forced me to go back and reread that issue in order to understand what was going on in the story (which is definitely not a good way of keeping me invested).Despite the narrative flow being interrupted by other books, on it’s own, MEDIA BLIZZARD is actually a fairly decent story arc and would have sufficed as a great beginning for Ben Reilly’s career as the new Spider-Man. The main reason that I feel this story stands superior to the others produced during the reboot (with SPIDER-MAN | PUNISHER: FAMILY PLOT and VENOM: ALONG CAME A SPIDER being close competition) is that it not only advances the ongoing plot of THE CLONE SAGA, but also features quintessential elements from Spidey’s mythos that I feel have been absent for awhile in the comics. One of the most prominent of these elements is the usage of a villain from Spidey’s classic rouges gallery, in this case Mysterio, as the main antagonist of the story. Aside from the pointless filler story arcs, one of my other major problems with the reboot was the lack of compelling villains. In my opinion, one of the most important roles of an antagonist is to not only establish a conflict for the hero to overcome, but for the villains themselves to make a memorable impression on the reader. I never got that impression with most of the villains featured in the reboot, as most of them were stock new villains that I had never seen before (such as the female Dr. Octopus from THE GREATEST RESPONSIBILITY, super-powered players of an evil game show, and cliched gangsters). While none of these villains were bad, they were just bland and forgettable, not leaving the lasting impact on the story or reader that I feel a villain should have. In the case of MEDIA BLIZZARD however, the villain is Mysterio, who is one of Spidey’s most well recognized enemies. As a result, this not only felt like a refreshing change of pace from the other stories of the reboot, but also felt like a trip back to the classic elements of Spidey’s mythos before THE CLONE SAGA (not to mention that Mysterio also has a cool design in this story, with a ghost-like hologram for a head rather than his usual fishbowl). I also found Mysterio’s plans to of dominating the media with his own television network to be fascinating. One of the major elements of Mysterio’s backstory is that he used to be a special-effects artist for Hollywood named Quentin Beck. Because his skills were under-appreciated, he went on to make a name for himself by turning to crime. As such, Mysterio’s plans of forcing New York to watch his network felt made sense within the context of his character as it provided him an opportunity to finally force people to acknowledge his “artistic genius.” The insane nature of Mysterio’s plan also sets up an interesting conflict for Ben Reilly to overcome, as his crimes involve the use of illusions and special-effects to simulate magic or real-life matter, providing enough twists and turns to keep both Reilly and the readers on their toes! Overall, Mysterio’s role as an antagonist is not only a refreshing change of pace from the subpar villains in the other reboot stories, but also elevates the quality of MEDIA BLIZZARD to higher levels as well!The final aspect that I felt made MEDIA BLIZZARD an effective story was its character development for Ben Reilly as not just he new Spider-Man, but also for aspects of his personal life as well. Along with the filler stories and lack of compelling villains, the other major problem that I had with the reboot was its characterization of Ben. As I’ve stated throughout my reviews of THE CLONE SAGA, the most interesting traits about my Ben Reilly in my opinion are that while he’s a clone of Peter Parker and possesses all of his memories, Ben is also his own separate character as well. Because he knew he was a clone and not the original, he spent five years trying to forge his own identity, and ended up becoming a very different man from Peter, as he was more noble and optimistic because of the suffering he endured. But ever since it was revealed that Ben was actually the original and Peter the clone in THE TRIAL OF PETER PARKER, it feels as if there have been to many scenes of Ben whining about how he lost five years of his life. I hated this as I felt it went against the aspects that I loved about the character, as it not only went against the idea that he was both his own separate character and Peter Parker, but also contradicted his earlier statements of how he had come to terms with his identity. It felt as if the writers were now trying to turn Ben into a carbon copy of Peter, which was the exact opposite of what made his character compelling in my eyes. This was particularly evident to me in the reboot, as there were numerous scenes of Ben whining about believing that he was a clone littered throughout the individual story arcs. While MEDIA BLIZZARD does contain a few scenes like this (particularly in SENSATIONAL #0), this was one of the few stories of the reboot that I felt was more intent on progressing Ben’s individuality as a character rather than backtracking on it. Instead of simply filling in all of the exact areas of Peter’s life, emphasis is placed on Ben trying to distance himself from Peter and establish his own life in New York. This is conveyed through scenes such as when Ben dyes his hair blonde in order to make sure that no one would confuse him for Peter, and instead of working a prestigious job like Peter’s at the Daily Bugle; his is at a mundane college cafe called “The Daily Grind.” I also enjoyed how these new aspects of Ben’s life were different from Peter’s in not just atmosphere, but character as well. For instance, the staff at the “The Daily Grind” is very friendly and generous towards Ben, in contrast to Peter’s relationship with J. Jonah Jameson at the Bugle. Also unlike Peter, who is married, Ben has the opportunity to forge different relationships, which is conveyed through him dating Jessica, a college student with a peculiar obsession for Spider-Man. I enjoyed these new layers of development added to Ben’s personal life, as they kept true to the fact that while he is Peter Parker, he’s also his own individual person and not just a carbon-copy. The execution of Ben’s role as the new Spider-Man was also well done in this story, and showed me the amount of potential it held. A prominent feature of Ben’s behavior as Spider-Man that distinguished him from Peter’s incarnation in my opinion was how he was more open and willing to see the good within others. Whereas Peter was often times stubborn, and would easily view others with suspicion, I felt that Ben was less pessimistic when confronting criminals, as he would sometimes look past their surface and discover ways of helping them on an emotional and psychological level. I really loved this aspect of Ben’s version of Spidey, as it not only kept true to Ben’s noble nature, but also created an interesting angle for him as a superhero as he could stop criminals through other means than simply beating them up. He could connect to them on an emotional level, allowing them to acknowledge their sins, therefore providing them incentive to want to redeem themselves. This idea was portrayed well here through a scene where Ben helps convince a street-gang member that he can find a purpose in life despite losing hope, as Ben went through a similar dilemma himself. Overall, the characterization of Ben Reilly in MEDIA BLIZZARD not only felt like a progression of his individuality, but also helped convey the more noble aspects of his character that I felt provided him a version of Spider-Man that was unique from both Peter Parker and other superheroes!So while I wasn’t a fan of Marvel’s reboot of Ben Reilly as the new Spider-Man as a whole, MEDIA BLIZZARD was a sign to me of how it could have potentially worked! Despite the narrative flow between SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #0 and the first issue of MEDIA BLIZZARD being interrupted by unnecessary filler story lines, the story was successful in advancing CLONE SAGA narrative, and felt like a refreshing change of pace by utilizing a well-known Spidey villain like Mysterio, as well as introducing elements to Ben’ character that I felt helped distinguish him from Peter rather than turn him into a carbon-copy of him. I wish the other stories of the reboot could have shown the same levels of promise that this one did, and while some like FAMILY PLOT and ALONG CAME A SPIDER came close in my opinion, most of them felt like filler stories that were completely pointless in terms of the ongoing plot of THE CLONE SAGA. Even though I don’t agree with the decision to permanently replace Peter with Ben Reilly as Spider-Man, I am willing to give any story the benefit of the doubt before judging it, and stories like MEDIA BLIZZARD showed me that the writers were not only doing their best to give the reboot a try, but also the amount of potential that it held. And that, is something that I feel is worth giving them credit for…“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”-Pope John XXIII See all 1 customer reviews...
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