This week’s issue of Amazing Spider-Man started to wrap up the long, clone-tacular events of Spidey’s latest event series, The Clone Conspiracy—which has already given us the return of Ben Reilly as the Scarlet Spider. But now we’ve got confirmation of at least one major thorn in Peter Parker’s side perishing... and another making a grand return.
Amazing Spider-Man #24, by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Jason Keith, and Joe Caramagna, pretty much picks up during the final issue of the Clone Conspiracy miniseries, as the cloning virus unleashed by the Jackal—née new cloned version of Ben Reilly—threatens to wreak havoc across the world. As Peter Parker races to stop that from happening in that issue, we get to see the fallout of events from Ben’s perspective this week.
As all the other clones around him start disintegrating around him, Ben finds himself brawling with Doctor Octavius—as the two attempt to transfer their minds in the the ultimate clone template Ben and Octavius developed after a lengthy series of horrendous cloning experiments on Ben by Miles Warren, the original Jackal. Considering we knew Ben would make it out of the series alive to return to his role as the Scarlet Spider, many assumed that he would get the body... but he doesn’t.
Doc Ock does, meaning that one of Peter Parker’s oldest foes is back for good. This is particularly the end of a long road for Octavius—who’s technically been dead since 2012, when he swapped his mind with Peter Parker’s in his dying breath in the infamous Spider-Man #700. Long story short: Otto spent several months in Peter’s body pretending to be a harsher Spider-Man, eventually got kicked out of Peter’s body by the lingering remnants of Peter’s subconscious, secretly transferred his mind into the body of Peter’s former robot assistant the Living Brain (yes, that Living Brain!), and then was eventually re-born in a clone body during Clone Conspiracy at the Jackal’s hands. Comic books, am I right?
Sure, Otto has swapped one clone body for another—but the ultimate template, unlike any other clone Warren has created over his years as a supervillain, has no defects. Unlike Ben’s original body, or the clones created throughout Clone Conspiracy, it does not slowly but surely degrade. For all intents and purposes, Otto Octavius has been reborn: his original mind, in a brand new (and permanent) body.
After suffering that setback, Ben actually rather conveniently manages to stabilize his own decaying clone body, thanks to the magic plot device soundwave Peter helped release in Clone Conspiracy #5 to stop all the cloned individuals around the world from turning into piles of dust and/or flesh-craving zombie clones. This whole storyline has been crazy. That’s not Ben’s only problem, however; the death of most of the Clones he created—among them a whole army of clones of Warren—as the new Jackal leaves the original Miles Warren alive and well.
Infuriated by the torture Ben put him through, he promptly dons his original Jackal uniform and goes after his prized clone for vengeance... and then promptly gets killed by Ben, who lets the burning debris of his former safehouse collapse on Warren, seemingly killing off his creator for good.
I say seemingly because a) this is a comic book and no one ever dies for good, really, and b) we don’t actually see Miles perish, it’s just heavily implied. But while Ben Reilly is now back, he’s not the only major twist to Spider-Man that Clone Conspiracy has ultimately given us. One of Spider-Man’s oldest villains now has a new leash on life, and another has seemingly fallen.
That is, until a Spider-Man creative team decides that a cloning storyline is a great idea again. Where clone stories go, Miles Warren follows, so it’s likely we’ve not seen the last of him yet, despite Ben’s best efforts.