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Scarlet Spider

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Ah, the Clone Saga. Until Joe Quesada's gametophobic edicts led to the one-two punch of "One More Day"/"Brand New Day," the Clone Saga was the generally accepted nadir of the Spider-Man franchise. For a truly excellent diagnosis of what went wrong and why, we direct you to the superb Life of Reilly website, which will tell you everything you need to know about the tremendous cockup that was the mid-'90s Spider-Books. In short, what could have been a good, quick story, was stretched out way too far because it was selling well and the accountants wouldn't let them stop.

The most stable of Peter Parker's many clones, Ben Reilly wandered for years, living the life imposed upon him by false memories implanted by his creator - the Jackal. When the memories of the true Spider-Man began to reassemble in his head, he returned to New York only to find Peter Parker living the life that Reilly thought was his. Though both clone and original at first competed against one another, their shared goals and high moral standards eventually led to them becoming close friends. Reilly considered Parker his brother to the last, when he sacrificed himself to save his genetic twin from the deadly Green Goblin.

Now, technically, this figure isn't the Scarlet Spider. When he donned this costume, Ben also took up the "Spider-Man" name (and at the time, the writers intended the change to be permanent). The "Scarlet Spider" name belonged to the guy in the unitard and the hoodie, so when that name showed up on the lists for this Wal*Mart-exclusive series, that's what fans thought we'd be getting. Honestly, we can't blame them.

Spider-Ben uses the body Hasbro introduced for their Silver Surfer figure, which is a nice choice here. Although the art at the time was mostly over-inflated and ridiculously muscular, this body is appropriately slender. He gets new hands - a fist and a "fingers in" web-shooting pose - and a new head with fully sculpted weblines. But would you expect any less? Those are the only sculpted webs on the figure, but he still looks good.

The Scarlet Spider costume was designed by Mark Bagley - in fact, both the hoodie version and this updated Spider-Suit were designed by Bagley. The look is a good one, just a fairly minor tweak of the classic Spider-Man costume, rather than a complete overhaul. The big black spider logo on his torso lines up well over the joints, and his painted webs are clean and straight, even on the half-boots on his feet and the thumb and outside fingers. The two center fingers on his right hand, which should be blue, have been left red on my figure. Is that a common mistake or a rare one? Couldn't say. This series is just way too rare to make any paint comparisons.

One of the changes made to the costume are the webshooters. Since Ben wasn't spending all his time fighting lunatics over the streets of Manhattan like Peter was, he had time to make improvements on the originals. His fire with a twist of the wrist (which, incidentally, means the "firing" hand is redundant), and can make more than just straight lines, such as impact webbing: miniature balls that expand on contact, wrapping the target in a cocoon. The shooters on the toy are separate silver pieces that are held in place by the hands.

Articulation is very good, as it must be for any Spidey - even the ersatz version. He has balljoints at the neck, shoulders, wrists, hips and ankles, swivels at the biceps, waist and thighs, a hinged torso, and double-hinges at the elbows and knees. Honestly, this is the best layout of articulation in the industry today, and other companies would do well to pay attention. Plus, none of the joints were stuck, and nothing even came close to breaking. Imagine that.

Spidey (Scarley?) comes with the right arm of the Build-A-Figure Ares. Since the big guy's armor is asymmetrical, this arm doesn't have the layered protetion seen on Human Torch's BAF piece: instead, the arm is nearly bare, save for a thick studded leather bracer and a spike on the elbow. Of course, the guy is a god, so maybe his arm hair acts like armor. The arm has balljoints at the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

The Clone Saga could have been a good story, if it had been done the way it was intended. Ben Reilly wasn't an irredeemable character, and the costume update was really nice. So nice, in fact, that it was later used as the design for Peter and MJ's daughter in the alternate-future book Spider-Girl. (As a side note, that's why there's a picture of Spider-Girl on the Scarlet Spider's packaging [the other two are just plain pictures of Spider-Man].) This costume did show up on a 6" toy in 2004, on the figure that was later repainted as Spider-Man 2099, but that one had some problems. While it would still be nice to get a toy of Scarlet Spider in his blue hooded sweatshirt, the Ben Reilly Spider-Man is one we needed.

-- 02/02/09

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