Issue(s): Spider-Man #53
The Spider unloads his impact webbing on Venom, fully binding him.
Venom eventually breaks out, but the Scarlet Spider then uses the impact weapon to separate Eddie Brock from the symbiote.
With his face exposed, Scarlet Spider is able to knock him out.
The symbiote then tries to bond with the Scarlet Spider, but Reilly rejects it.
The idea that the Scarlet Spider has defeated Venom where "others" have failed is really hammered home.
It's a bit much, especially since Spider-Man has managed to do the same sort of thing several times. What neither Spider-Man nor the Scarlet Spider have been able to defeat is Venom's marketing power. And indeed Venom will return shortly after the end of this story in his current ongoing (series of mini-)series.
Adding to the influx of new faces, a detective in Utah named Jacob Raven hears that the killer he's pursuing has turned up in New York.
And a criminal named Gavin Thorpe takes an interest in Spider-Man.
And here's the son of Kraven, the Grim Hunter.
And we see more of Kaine, who watches the fight between the Scarlet Spider and Venom.
With all these new characters, it feels like the start of a new series. To which you may say, well, duh, it kind of is! But the main supposed appeal of replacing Spider-Man with a "fresh" one without as much "baggage" was theoretically to do a back-to-basics approach with Spider-Man's world. So i would have thought finding a way to integrate him into Spidey's supporting cast somehow and exposing him to Spidey's rogues gallery would have been the priority over introducing a bunch of totally new characters, many of whom seem a bit uninspired.
When it comes to Venom, in terms of delivering on that "fresh" perspective, i do think it's cool that the Scarlet Spider beat Venom without even stumbling onto his weaknesses to fire and sonics. More importantly, the idea of having Scarlet Spider not accept Peter Parker's truce with Venom was a great idea. It's kind of ironic, given the nature of the Clone Saga, that this event is used to criticize an equally marketing-driven decision (the truce was contrived to make way for Venom's solo series). But it was a bad decision on Peter Parker's part and having Ben Reilly not condone it is a great way to show that he's the true Spider-Man. Even if you know he's going to turn out to be the clone after all, it shows a clear demarcation from a guy who is still supposed to mostly have Silver/Early Bronze Age sensibilities vs. the one who went through the darker 80s and 90s.
All of that is separate from the idea that this Spider can more easily beat Venom in a fight, which is a totally different matter. That's pure pet character one-uppism, which Glenn Greenberg at Life of Reilly makes explicit:
It was specifically designed to show how cool a character Ben is, to get the readers to be impressed with him and really root for him. The point had to be made that he could go toe to toe with one of Peter's most dangerous enemies and not only hold his own, but also have a decisive victory.
It's lame to have your new character show up and beat up a big villain just to demonstrate how awesome he is. And as i said above, it doesn't prove anything yet. It's one thing to beat Venom. It's another thing entirely to keep him from coming back.
Still, taking the opportunity to criticize Spider-Man's bad deal with Venom is one of the best things to come out of the Clone Saga. I also think this crossover was much more effective in staying on target in terms of the Clone Saga itself compared to the concurrent Back From The Edge. This story gave us a clear distinction between Ben Reilly and Peter Parker and gave us a fight between a "fresh" Spider and an established member of Spidey's rogues gallery. Back From The Edge didn't even bring Spider-Man back from the edge, let alone advance the larger Clone Saga.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is the fourth and final part of The Exile Returns.
Crossover: The Exile Returns
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showDonna Diego (Scream), Eddie Brock (Venom), Gavin Thorpe, Grim Hunter, J. Jonah Jameson, Jacob Raven, Kaine, Ken Ellis, Scarlet Spider, Scream, Venom Symbiote
One thing that has always puzzled me: how did Ben manage to separate Venom from the symbiote without killing him? Has something happened in one of the Venom mini-series that made it possible?
Oh, and was it really Grim Hunter's first appearance? I thought he made an appearance before?
Posted by: Piotr W | April 10, 2018 7:30 PM
Oh, you're right about Grim Hunter. Thanks Piotr. Spider-Man #47 was his first appearance.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 10, 2018 7:41 PM
I actually quite like the Grim Hunter's first story with Hobgoblin and Demogoblin and stuff... shoot me.
Posted by: AF | April 10, 2018 8:08 PM
Piotr, I think the idea is it was the combination of the symbiote being weakened by the battle and then trying to merge with Ben and being rejected that enabled Ben to separate them. Agreed it shouldn't have worked.
Posted by: Michael | April 10, 2018 9:03 PM
While re-reading this story, I couldn't help but think Kavanagh and Mackie managed to make Venom even more irritatingly hypocritical. Probably because he bangs on and on about protecting innocents while wanting to kill the "impostor" Spider-Man. Obviously editorial didn't allow him any real character growth - namely admitting the Sin Eater reveal bust was all his fault - to keep a back-door in case he needed to be an outright villain again.
Apart from him, every character in here is unlikable in some way, including Ben due to his angsty whining.
Posted by: iLegion | April 10, 2018 10:32 PM
This early attempt at putting Ben over with a victory against Venom would be undermined by his losses to other Spider-Man villains, such as Lizard and Hobgoblin. Jason Macendale Hobgoblin.
Posted by: Mortificator | April 10, 2018 11:08 PM
Added the reference, thanks Michael.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 11, 2018 1:22 AM
Grim Hunter continues the trend of "grittifying" classic Spider-Man villain concepts, mostly by making them more homicidal and adding 90z XTreme buzzwords to their codenames. He's not Kraven the Hunter, he's the Grim Hunter! That isn't the Rose, it's Blood Rose! That's not the Hobgoblin or the Green Goblin, that's the Demogoblin! Not long after this, we'll also get "they're not Spider-Slayers, they're Cyber-Slayers!"
It would be harder to find a clearer symptom of the way the Spider-books in this period are little more than creative bankruptcy covered over by hype.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 11, 2018 6:26 AM
While yes, Ben beating Venom easily is probably too much of Look At My Cool New Character, you could argue he would fare better against Venom since he doesn't have the emotional baggage that Peter had (being bonded to the symbiote, being stalked and hunted by Venom, having Venom threaten family).
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | April 11, 2018 4:01 PM
how did Ben manage to separate Venom from the symbiote without killing him?
It doesn't seem like the exact relationship between the symbiote and the host is very well established. In Amazing 300 Peter surmised any attempt to kill the alien would also kill Brock since their bond was permanent. In 317 Venom is knocked out by shock when the alien costume tries to re-bond with Peter. But then in 333 it's shown the alien can be killed (yeah, right) with Brock remaining intact - he's not even physically damaged.
So even Michelinie wasn't very consistent in establishing the rules of bonding with Venom. Why would later writers be any different?
Posted by: iLegion | April 11, 2018 5:09 PM
Stupid question for anyone who has read this issue: does Venom trigger Ben Reilly's spider-sense?
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 11, 2018 10:13 PM
As shown in the first scan- yes, he does.
Posted by: Michael | April 11, 2018 11:14 PM
It's not too surprising that Reilly / Scarlet Spider did better against Venom here than Peter / Spider-Man ever did. Spider-Man had two major disadvantages when facing Venom, namely that Venom knew his secret identity, and Venom never triggered his spider-sense. Reilly doesn't have to worry about either of those major liabilities.
Of course, as fnord accurately points out, Spider-Man *did* defeat Venom more than once. The problem was that Venom would then escape from jail each time and go back after him. So it doesn't particularly matter if the Scarlet Spider had a less-difficult time stopping Venom, because in the end Venom is still going to be back in circulation very soon afterwards.
Anyway, reading fnord's overviews of these issues, I'm certainly grateful that he does not own every single chapter of the "Clone Saga" and will therefore be skipping over portions of it, because there's really so much underwhelming writing on display.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 15, 2018 6:53 PM
Of course, as fnord accurately points out, Spider-Man *did* defeat Venom more than once.
Except here Ben was able to defeat Venom in an outright offensive, whereas Peter always had to survive until Venom was beaten by either himself or a third-party. Just to list the examples from Amazing:
300 - Venom symbiote uses up its own substance making web fluid.
317 - Peter convinces the symbiote to try re-bonding with him, shocking Venom unconscious.
333 - Styx's "cancerous" touch temporarily kills the symbiote (probably, like in 300, it simply dissolved into an insubstantial form but was able to regenerate).
347 - Peter uses a skull to fool Venom into thinking he's dead.
363 - Reed Richards shows up with a sonic gun.
375 - *groan*
Also in "Trial of Venom" he has to be lured into a camouflaged Vault cell. So Ben does in fact establish his superiority (convincing or not) by creating a web fluid that can subdue Venom.
Posted by: iLegion | April 16, 2018 11:37 PM
Ben's reaction to Peter/Venom's truce was also bit of meta from the Spider-Man writers who didn't like the editorial mandated move to make Venom a hero. There was a lot of resistance to the idea and this section of the Clone Saga was them working through that bit of anger with fans/editorial for liking Venom.
Posted by: Jese Baker | June 13, 2018 3:33 PM
On the flipside of that, Venom's mission to kill Ben for imitating Peter clearly shows what they think of his "anti-hero" status. Venom's transition wasn't handled well on any level by anyone.
Posted by: iLegion | June 14, 2018 1:34 PM
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