October 24, 2016
This storyline has a character named "Joystick" in it, yet that has nothing to do with the virtual reality at the center of the plot.
(Open on Linkara sitting in a chair and talking on his cell phone)
Linkara: (sighs) So, after that, it appeared in a mirror with kinda... bleeding eyes and saying, "I didn't know what true power was."
Eliza the Lizard: Quasi... What?
Pollo: Quasi-Demonic Intergalactic Force of Evil.
Pollo (vo): About five years ago, the Nostalgia Chick's best friend, Nella, was killed by a falling ladder.
(Cut back to Eliza)
Eliza: I could see how that would happen.
(Cut back to the flashback)
Pollo (vo): Her body was then possessed by some kind of... thing that identified itself as a quasi-demonic intergalactic force of evil. She became Dark Nella and set about wrecking devastation and terror throughout the country, making sure in particular to torment the Nostalgia Chick.
Eliza: Internet reviewers lead really weird lives.
Pollo: Oh, that's nothing. It turns out she may not have been dead at all; it was just a clone. (Eliza stares) Well, don't ask me how it works! I used to be a water heater, and you're a living foam toy. Neither of us are in a position to question logic.
(Cut back to Linkara, still on the phone)
Linkara: So, when I saw the symbol and realized what it was, I gave you a call.
(We hear the voice of the person he's talking to: Nella)
Nella: (over the phone) This is some heavy stuff, Linkara.
(Cut to Nella on the phone with Linkara; the next little alternates back and forth between them)
Nella: But here's the good news: I don't think it's this force itself. It probably would have possessed one of you by now.
Linkara: We really should have followed up on this more after Dark Nella was defeated.
Nella: Well... you were busy rebuilding America's monuments, I was busy writing fanfiction... It happens. Things just get put off.
Linkara: It's been five years. I know you didn't remember much right after it happened, but do you remember anything now?
Nella: (sighs in shame) ...Yes... and... no... I just remember images...
(We cut to a flashback of Dark Nella)
Nella (v/o): I remember... attacking people, destroying things.
Nella: I remember hatred. Bitterness. A world universes away and this grand experiment to bring all the minds of that world together as one. I remember them all dying. I remember anger. And this sour, awful taste, a feeling of superiority, a resentment, an aggression against anything that didn't agree with them.
(We then have another flashback of Dark Nella)
Nella (v/o): With... With me. As if all the worst parts of an entire world were... siphoned into a single... force. I remember leaving that... dead planet and...
Nella: ...I remember soaring... through space and realities... unifying and being molded by those experiences. I remember... Some of them were awful. Alien and indescribable. And then I remember coming here...
(Cut to yet another flashback of Dark Nella and the Nostalgia Chick)
Nella (v/o): ...to this... universe, to this Earth. I remember it finding me.
Nella: Just luck of the draw, I guess. Someone dying, so full of beleaguered resentments. And we were... perfect. And beautiful. And terrible.
(Cue another flashback before cutting back again to Nella, who laughs)
Nella: I remember it leaving. I remember it being gone and... being alive, and I was so... happy. (sighs) Look, I don't know if it's dead or alive, but it's gone.
Linkara: But if it isn't the force itself, what else could it possibly be?
Nella: Look, there's something else that I remember: Dark Nella had fans. No, not like "Oh, yay! Fan art! Let's write 30,000 words about a coffee shop! Yay, you!" No, I mean... followers. Worshipers.
(Another flashback is shown, this one of some of Dark Nella's followers)
Nella (v/o): People just... as full of anger and hatred as she was.
Nella: You said you think your house is haunted. Maybe you should be asking who it is that would be haunting you.
Linkara: (nods) Okay. Thanks, Nella. Is there anything else you can tell me?
Nella: Only this: Don't give in to the same kind of anger it tried to bring out in me. Remember how it was defeated: joy, merriment, laughter, unbridled fangirling. Linkara, don't forget to squee.
Linkara: Okay, thanks again. I'll keep that in mind.
Nella: Aw, you're welcome. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Hamilton tonight. You know, the musical that's taken over America, not the actual historical, you know, person, though wouldn't that be great? (beat) Well, let's just say I've got a lot of squeeing to do.
Linkara: Gotcha. Talk to you later.
Nella: (points) See you when I see you.
(Linkara hangs up)
Eliza: So what do we do now?
Linkara: I don't know. I need to ponder this a bit. Unfortunately, I don't have much to offer in the way of "squee" right now, because today's review (frowns) is the Clone Saga.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "I'll Be There For You" (the theme from Friends) by The Rembrandts playing in the background)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, (spreads arms out excitedly) WHERE IT'S OUR EIGHT-YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!
(Cut briefly to a message reading, "HAPPY EIGHTH ANNIVERSARY – ATOP THE FOURTH WALL". Triumphant music plays while a fireworks display is shown in the background)
Linkara: Holy crap, you guys! I've been doing this for eight years! How many things have we gone through in that amount of time? So many comics, so many pop culture events, and it really doesn't matter at all, because we keep bringing things back that should've died off years ago. Like virtual reality!
(A PlayStation VR headset is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Yes, virtual reality is apparently a thing again, probably because we've finally begun to move on from '80s nostalgia and have moved into '90s nostalgia.
(Cut to a teaser poster for the then-upcoming 2017 Power Rangers movie)
Linkara (v/o): Old properties getting revived or new mainstream versions coming out to capitalize on them, with reboots and sequels to these properties; it's a thing. Hell, '90s nostalgia has gotten to the point where America might elect...
(Cut to a shot of Hillary Clinton, then-presidential candidate)
Linkara (v/o): ...a Clinton as President again.
Linkara: And no, I don't care if saying that at this point will date the episode. It's been eight years! When I started this show, George W. Bush was in his last months of presidency. In a few years, newcomers who watch through my videos are gonna wonder what the hell this (makes "finger quotes") "Blip" thing is that I keep mentioning. Times change! Or apparently they don't, because, again, VR is coming back!
(Shots of VR devices are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Sorry, but until we have fully programmable holodecks with full tactile feedback, the technology is cool and impressive, but I don't see it replacing current gaming technology. I'd actually love to see it developed more for movies, where you can walk around a room and experience a story from every possible angle; what characters are doing simultaneously...
(Cut to a shot of the title for VR Troopers)
Linkara (v/o): ...with lots of replay value of seeing the story in whole new ways.
Linkara: And as always, this is just my opinion. Until history unfolds, we don't know if I'll be eating my words in a few years or proclaiming, (makes "finger quotes") "Told you so!" In the meantime, though, at least people have a firmer understanding of what virtual reality is these days than they did in the '90s.
(Cut to the cover of the Spider-Man story "Virtual Mortality")
Linkara (v/o): And that brings us to how we normally celebrate this show's birthday: with a story from the Spider-Man Clone Saga.
Linkara: Which is also getting a sequel, because, again, '90s nostalgia is now in chic, even the crappy parts.
Linkara (v/o): When we last left the Clone Saga, the marketing department at Marvel was now dictating that the writers stretch out Ben Reilly's claiming of the Spider-Man name so that they could make some final bank on the Scarlet Spider name. This is despite the fact that the writers had no idea what the hell to do with this new extension. As such, they threw together some half-baked ideas and tried setting up some new status quo ideas for Ben in our last story, "Virtual Mortality". But whatever goofiness was present there is now ramped up to the extreme in today's four-parter across the Scarlet Spider books.
Linkara: So, fire up your Virtual Boys and put on a silly headset... and then take them off again because they have nothing to do with this story, and let's dig into "Spider-Man..." or rather, "Scarlet Spider: (holds up today's comic) Cyberwar".
(Cut to a closeup of the first issue's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Reading from a trade and we've got four issues to go through, so no time to look at the covers. They're not particularly impressive anyway and full of the same silliness you'll see inside of them, so let's just dive right into "Web of Scarlet Spider #2".
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with Seward Trainer still in a coma from "Virtual Mortality".
Narrator: He is an empty husk now-- an abandoned shell of a man, deserted some would say, by his "being"--
Linkara: (narrator voice) But enough about Ted Cruz.
Narrator: --Seward's mind was lost-- a casualty of a cybernetic trauma!
Linkara: This is why they tell you not to spend so much time on the Internet, kids.
Narrator: For all intents and purposes, Seward Trainer is brain-dead! But, it would seem, there is much more here-- than meets the eye!
Linkara: Best twist of the Clone Saga was that Seward Trainer was really a Transformer this whole time.
Linkara (v/o): In the realms of cyberspace, some kind of weird robotic eye thing is flying around, looking for Trainer, who has melted himself into a puddle of pink goo. Because this is how computers work. Hey, MST3K fans, check it out: I AM INTERFACE!
Trainer: (thinking) That's the third "eyescout" in ten minutes--
Linkara: Norton Eyescout was not a very successful antivirus program.
Trainer: (thinking) --I must have finally started irritating my mysterious foe with my presence in the system-- he's trying to find me--monitor me-- Well, two can play at that!
Linkara: He's gonna get into a staring contest with them?
Linkara (v/o): He removes a portion of his own consciousness somehow and sends it out to gather intel on his daughter, the female Doctor Octopus, and on the person who's been sending the eyescouts out. And naturally, a part of his own consciousness... is a pink spiky ball.
Trainer: (thinking) This is incredible! I'm alive, I'm fresh!
(Cut to a clip of a Massengill commercial)
Girl: Sure, that's why I douche.
(Cut back to the comic)
Trainer: (thinking) I'm part of the game!
Linkara: (as Trainer) I am Overwatch!
Linkara (v/o): We cut to outside the computer, where Ben Reilly is trying to track down Seward himself... while wearing... that (...a VR headset).
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching The Undead)
Mike: (as a character in the movie, dressed as a knight) There, sure glad I don't look stupid in this.
(Back to the comic again)
Ben: C'mon, Seward-- this isn't a game!
Linkara: That's true. I'd probably be having fun if that were the case.
Linkara (v/o): Unable to find Seward, Ben walks off and muses about how things aren't going so well for him: losing Seward to the Internet, working as a bodyguard for a gang leader who's fighting a supervillain over some experimental computer chips...
Linkara: You know, all those things that make Spider-Man so relatable to people.
Linkara (v/o): We cut over to the Club Noir, where we had that battle last time. The place has been wrecked, and the gang leader, Jason Tso, is talking with Spidey supervillain Alistair Smythe about how they should retaliate against Doctor Octopus now that they have the computer chips, but he says just to come down to his lab and take a look at what he has in mind. Reporters from the Bugle, including Ken Ellis and Angela Yin, are there to ask questions about the attack on the club, and so his right-hand man has to talk to them. However, as Ben Reilly arrives, Angela Yin recognizes Ben as Peter and pulls him aside, figuring he must be working some kind of undercover story. Unfortunately, while he doesn't overhear them, the right-hand man sees that Yin clearly knows him. And I guess Ben just can't tell her, "I'm not Peter Parker, I'm his cousin," or something like that. Hell, he already looks weirdly un-Peter-like just with the stubble. We cut over to Smythe's headquarters, where he's kept so waiting in the lobby.
Tso: You had me come down here, promising me that I would have the opportunity to exact my revenge-- and then you leave me here in the lobby...
Linkara: (as Smythe) Well, it's not my fault you forgot your ID badge. The security guard is just doing his job.
Linkara (v/o): Smythe shows off what he's been working on: new forms of his robotic Spider Slayers called Cyber Slayers. And they look absolutely ridiculous. They're big, hunched-over, monster-looking things with blades and teeth and... Yeah, it really does make you appreciate just giant mechanical spiders.
Linkara: I mean, there is a reason why (holds up a Spider-Man Tri-Spider Slayer toy, in its box) I still love this toy, even though I haven't opened it yet.
Linkara (v/o): Smythe starts expounding upon his backstory: working to follow in his father's footsteps after building the original Spider Slayers, how he swore to destroy Spider-Man, altered his body to more effectively combat Spidey, and yet all I can think of is, okay, I get all that, but did mutating your body also include a permanently-affixed Speedo? Or do you just have a color-coordinated one for your monster legs? Anyway, he plans to sell the Cyber Slayers on the black market, but he'll field-test them out on an attack on Doc Ock. Speaking of, she's in the middle of engaging in that all-time favorite activity of villains, destroying their own stuff because they're pissed off. You know, Doc, I'm sure those computers you're ramming your tentacles into were really expensive. Anyway, she's reaming out the three criminals from "Virtual Mortality" for their failure to obtain the chips, but then suddenly gets a call from Tso, who wants to arrange a meeting to end their conflict. It's obviously a trap, of course, but enough about that. Orlando, Tso's right-hand man, is doing a background check on Ben Reilly, which is intercepted by Seward Trainer, or should I say Shodan, given this image at the bottom. Since Ben has no real history or records, a sign that he might be a cop or the like, he quickly starts assembling some fake records for him.
Linkara: It's nice when your boss can make a fake ID for you.
Linkara (v/o): Doctor Octopus knows it's a trap, but the Master Programmer, AKA the big, giant head on the screen, says this might be a good opportunity to steal back the computer chips. Seward manages to put together the fake records for Ben Reilly, depicted here via Mondrian squares and a bunch of blank computer terminals, all with a green gradient screen, a man accessing the Internet and creating false records.
Narrator: ...Tapping into the computer systems of Social Security and the DMV-- the IRS, high schools and colleges-- creating in a handful of milliseconds-- a life for the questionable Ben Reilly!
Linkara: What was his embarrassing nickname from middle school? What are his most frequent porn searches? What derogatory names does he call people on Xbox Live?
Linkara (v/o): He manages to plant the records in time for Orlando to discover, showing him as basically an okay guy, but that's equally suspicious. Why does a straight shooter want to work for Tso?
Linkara: Well, there is the very real possibility that he doesn't know he's a criminal. After all, I hadn't heard of Tso until these comics.
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of, Tso arranges for the ambush on Doctor Octopus to be at a children's zoo. You know, the place where there's plenty of potential for civilian casualties. This couldn't possibly backfire and get more attention from the police and reporters or anything. Anyway, Seward was able to intercept the message about the meeting and lets Ben know about it, who shows up as the Scarlet Spider.
Scarlet Spider: (thinking) There! That's gotta be Ock!
Linkara: (as Scarlet Spider) My God! A woman in a trenchcoat?! It must be a supervillain!
Linkara (v/o): However, it turns out to be Aura, one of the three goons hired by Doc Ock. The others attack, and he tries to lure the three away from innocent bystanders, but there are simply too many around every corner. However, it seems they're not the only ones engaged in the fight, as Tso and Smythe are controlling the arriving Cyber Slayers... via these goggles.
Tso: My God, Alistair! I never dreamed--
Linkara: (as Tso) Mario Tennis is more incredible than I could have imagined!
Smythe: (narrating) The cyberneural indicators make you one with the Slayer! Its senses are your senses--
Linkara: (as Smythe) Their need to pee is your need to pee.
Smythe: (narrating) --your thoughts turned into actions-- instantaneously!
Linkara: (as Smythe) If you feel itchy, they will scratch themselves.
Linkara (v/o): As I've stated before, neural interfaces are one of those things that sound cool, but from a practicality standpoint, they just don't work. Even if the act of them getting damaged wouldn't cause pain for the user, any passing thought or random sensation can be passed onto the thing you're controlling and cause problems. There are a lot of involuntary things that happen with our bodies that can screw this up, and given the fact that it's tied into your own body, it seems like it'd be easier and more efficient to just use a damn joystick. Hell, it requires a lot less energy, since if it's a full-body interface, you need to be physically fit, or else you'll get exhausted in the process. Let's not even get into ease of changing out a user. I imagine a neural interface requires time to properly calibrate and set up and train to use the most efficiently, but anyone can just operate some controls. In any case, the Cyber Slayers fight Doc Ock's men, Tso proposing that they temporarily ally with the Scarlet Spider since Doc Ock thinks he's working for Tso anyway. He also starts thinking that he might be able to gain control of them away from Smythe and kill him, which is kind of a bad idea when you're sitting three feet away from the guy with pointy stingers on his shoulders. And so they fight, constantly exchanging blows with Spidey in the middle until the police show up. Ock's goons are taken away and all of Tso's men, plus the Cyber Slayers, flee. Scarlet Spider makes a hasty exit as well.
Scarlet Spider: (thinking) Man, that's my life story! Ock and Tso set up a meeting--they both double-cross each other-- and I get caught in the middle! I hate this! I need a vacation!
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang watching Warrior of the Lost World)
Servo: Whiny man!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): While Tso continues thinking about betraying Smythe, Doc Ock declares that this is Scarlet Spider's fault and swears to finish him off, ending the first part.
Linkara: Yeah, it was totally Scarlet Spider's fault, what with the... two robots that did more damage to your goons than he did. (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): We continue into "The Amazing Scarlet Spider #2", opening in Paris. A man sits at a cafe before greeted by... a small knife being thrown into a tree.
Man: Ah... Joystick!
Linkara: Because when I think a supervillain who tosses throwing knives, I think (makes "finger quote") "Joystick". Her partner, Directional Pad, uses machine guns.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, she calls herself Joystick because she participates in something she refers to as "The Great Game", and the guy she's meeting with is a referee of it. From what brief information I could find, it was some sort of thing going on between uber-rich rivals, and it was a storyline that existed between a few titles, but damn if I can barely find any info on it. Congratulations, Issue 2 of this four-part storyline deals with something that's barely a footnote in the history of Marvel. What I could find indicated that it was inspired by the WWF, wanting to try to bring the intrigue of professional wrestling into the stories, because truly we needed more of this in comics.
(Cut to a clip of the Ultimate Warrior)
Ultimate Warrior: Load the spaceship with the rocket fuel! Load it with the worst!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Joystick is being dispatched to kill the Scarlet Spider. Speaking of, Spidey is in the middle of webbing up some gangs who are about to shoot each other over some territory.
Scarlet Spider: (thinking) Terrific! These gang-bangers go to war over a few lousy slices of pizza, and I respond-- by bashing their ever-lovin' heads together!
Linkara: (holds up hand) Look, guys, the war between Domino's and Pizza Hut back then was vicious. Don't even get me started on what happened when Little Caesar's entered the mix.
Scarlet Spider: (thinking) Mr. Politically Correct, I ain't!
Linkara: (confused) Is... it like a... black gang versus a white gang...? Actually, even if it is, what the hell does anything about what you just said have to do with political correctness?!
Scarlet Spider: (thinking) There's gotta be a more effective, socially responsible way to handle a situation like this! To end the endless cycle of violence!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Steven Universe)
Greg: There will come a time in your life when you learn to accept all pizza.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): He webs them up and swings off, now late for work at the Club Noir and thinking about how much he can't get his own life in order. And despite the fact that he just admitted he was late to his job, once he gets there, he decides to call Carrie Bradley, the woman whom he wanted to go out on a date with, but had to cancel at the last minute. And she overreacted to it.
Carrie: Hey--Ben! I was just thinking about you! (thinking) And wondering why a go-getter like me wastes time on a scruffy, career-deficient, date-breaking dog!
Linkara: Yeah, (points at camera) how dare he actually tell you something's come up and needs to reschedule, instead of just leaving you hanging or something! (beat) Though she's right about you being scruffy, dude. Buy a damn razor.
Linkara (v/o): He manages to convince her to try for another date, and for some reason, the artist decided to add blond streaks to Ben's hair in a few panels. I don't know, maybe it was just a weird coloring thing or they were anticipating how, in the future, Ben would dye his hair, but it just comes out of nowhere. Also, despite the fact that they made her into a blonde during "Virtual Mortality", she is now a more light-haired redhead again. Speaking of redheads, Ben meets up with Rachel, the other redhead in his life that he met at the club. She's quitting, not just because she can't work while the club is being repaired, but because so is a major asshat.
Rachel: There's no future in this place, Ben! Maybe you should also opt out before you get stuck in a rut!
Linkara: Well, he could, but how else will he be able to afford those blond streaks?
Linkara (v/o): After another scene to remind us that Seward Trainer is in cyberspace, we cut to Doctor Octopus, who is running some kind of experiment. The Master Programmer is able to find Stunner, that lady you might recall from "The Trial of Peter Parker". Since she's really more of a hologram projection, this digital self is apparently accessible to the Master Programmer. She's been placed in a virtual reality realm. Trainer apparently locates some interesting files.
Trainer: (narrating) Talk about diabolical! Carolyn apparently possesses a new technology which employs virtual reality to physically enhance and mentally enslave her victims...
Linkara: (as Trainer) And yet, all she does with it is play Until Dawn: Rush of Blood!
Linkara (v/o): Back at the club, Tso is pissed off that the Bugle wrote up a story tying him into organized crime and decides to send Ben over to warn him off, even saying that if he fails to do so, he'll get the same treatment. Back over to the Joystick plot, she reasoned that Ken Ellis, being the one who's done the most reporting on the Scarlet Spider, is her best bet to get him. She runs into Phil Urich, AKA the heroic Green Goblin, but let's sidestep that for a second. Ben figures that he can get Ken Ellis to back off if he appears as the Scarlet Spider and promises an exclusive in exchange. However, before he can get a good opportunity to talk to him, he's attacked by Joystick. Ken witnesses the two fighting and... Good Lord, Joystick's outfit! I don't mind the weird yellow patterns and armor; it's more creative than a lot of '90s outfits, but what the hell is the point of the half-mask? It's not even like a "Phantom of the Opera cover-up-a-scar" kind of thing. What is that? Anyway, Ken Ellis spots this.
Ken: (thinking) Ken Ellis, it looks like you struck paydirt! This story could be big! Real BIG! We might even be talking Pulitzer!
Linkara: (as Ken) A superhero and supervillain fighting? In New York?! I AM THE GREATEST REPORTER WHO EVER LIVED!
Linkara (v/o): So, after a fight, including the addition of the heroic Green Goblin, who is a story for another day, Joystick gets away and Ben realizes he's late for his date. She's understandably upset about him being late, and looking more scruffy than usual, and not helped by when a purse snatcher runs by, she's the one who stops him.
Carrie: A maneuver like that only requires a little confidence, and a few dozen years of training!
Linkara (v/o): Yes, a maneuver like... holding your arm out... requires a few dozen years. So, you're, like, 36? 48? And it took you that long to learn how to hold out your arm? Erm, anyway, her point...
Carrie: It's a lot like life, Ben! There are those who prepare for the future, and take the necessary steps... and those who merely sit back, and get passed by!
Linkara: (as Carrie) You have to be ready to karate-chop a guy in the throat, or else it'll never happen!
Linkara (v/o): And with that, she ends the potential date... and probably future dates at that. The story ends with a teaser for the Green Goblin comic for more of "the game", but since we don't care about that, let's advance into "Adjectiveless Scarlet Spider #2". There's been a subplot I've been neglecting to talk about, because it feels really unnecessary. There's an FBI agent undercover inside of Doctor Octopus' headquarters, trying to gather evidence against her, but now's the time when she finds him out. Once he gets inside of a top secret area, she grabs onto him and... uh, starts ripping up his clothes with her tentacles.
Linkara: (stunned) I'm gonna leave the innuendo on this to you guys. Even without it, this seems weird.
Linkara (v/o): She places him on a slab, where a bunch of scientists affix some goggles over his face. Oh, it's because she wanted him to go into virtual reality. Suddenly, everything makes sense now. You have to be in your underwear to use V.R. Meanwhile, Spidey hitched a ride on an airplane traveling overhead, told of how to get here, thanks to Seward Trainer. He drops down and uses his webbing to form a makeshift parachute. However, once he lands on the roof, he's by someone holding a gun.
Woman with gun: Don't even think of entering this facility!
Scarlet Spider: And you are...?
Woman: Special Agent Briggs of the F.B.I.
Linkara: (as Briggs) You're under arrest for parachuting without a license!
Linkara (v/o): Okay, here's where things stop making sense...
Linkara: Well, I mean, it's the Clone Saga, so it never made any sense, but here's where things really start to fall apart.
Linkara (v/o): Doctor Octopus starts using the equipment to upload files directly into the FBI agent's brain.
(Cut to a clip of The Matrix)
Neo (Keanu Reeves): I know kung fu.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): No, actually, she's uploading information about the Scarlet Spider, and they're going to use this data, and the agent's mind, to project a hologram of the Scarlet Spider to attack the city and ruin Spidey's reputation. Okay, somehow, they are able to project a hard-light hologram miles away from their facility. I'll buy that part, ridiculous as it is, but they for some reason needed the FBI agent to do this? Couldn't they have used anybody for this? And if that's the case, why use him? We'll see in a second that he's gonna constantly be trying to wrest control of the hologram away. Wouldn't you want to use someone who's loyal to you? What do these files contain that she put into his brain? It's not like they have a ton of info on him. He shoots webs, wears a ripped-up hoodie, and he might be working for Tso. That's it! In any event, somehow, this causes an explosion in the building, with the hologram Scarlet Spider swinging off... again, somehow, since Ben needed to parachute in to reach this place. Ben gives chase; the Master Programmer and Doc Ock exchanging no useful information, although we do see the Programmer playing with his balls; then another interlude where Smythe prepares to sell his Cyber Slayers off, while Tso wonders why Reilly is always late.
Linkara: (sarcastically) So glad this was four parts. You can't contain this much story in a smaller package.
Linkara (v/o): In the short time the hologram has been active, it proceeded to arrive at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, webbed up and destroyed cars, and pretty much the entire bridge, with people assuming Scarlet himself did it. Ben continues to give chase while the FBI agent has a brief conversation with Stunner, whose real body is also in a V.R. chamber, though she thinks he should give in, since the benefits of a virtual life outweigh the real one. It's actually an idea that might have had more merit in exploring, especially since Stunner is someone who's very dissatisfied with her body image, hence why Stunner looks like she does, ridiculous as her body proportions are.
Linkara: But then, if we explored something actually interesting, we wouldn't have superfluous scenes of Tso and Smythe exchanging no new information. (holds up index finger) And really, isn't that the reason why everybody was reading the Clone Saga at this point?
Linkara (v/o): The hologram has webbed up the streets of Manhattan, to the point where he's literally trying to pull down the Daily Bugle building. And naturally, J. Jonah Jameson has his priorities straight.
Jameson: Somebody had better be covering this for the paper... or heads are gonna roll!
Linkara: Pretty sure it's gonna more than just heads rolling when the building collapses.
Linkara (v/o): Spidey arrives in time to stop him, even webbing up the hologram, but none of the police officers saw both at the same time, so when the hologram vanishes, the Scarlet Spider is blamed for all of this, not helped by Jameson proclaiming that they have to crucify him over this, ending Part 3. And thus, "Cyberwar" comes to a conclusion in "Spectacular Scarlet Spider #2". And being a New Yorker, clearly, Ben has a proper theme song to describe his life.
Scarlet Spider: (narrating) Well, no one told me life was gonna be this way! My job's a joke--as Ben Reilly I work as a bodyguard for Jason Tso...
Linkara: (annoyed) That's not how the song goes, Ben! (sighs) Man, you have been away from civilization too long. Did you even see the one with Monica and Chandler's wedding?
Linkara (v/o): Spidey is on the run from a bunch of very angry citizens – and police who are carrying guns that I'm pretty sure are not standard issue. Seriously, I'm fairly certain that guy on the left is holding a power drill.
Linkara: But then again, as we saw with "A Nightmare on Elm Street: Paranoid", that's probably supposed to be a shotgun.
Linkara (v/o): And what's worse, he's late for work again. As such, Tso fires him over the phone and instructs Napa here to throw Reilly out if he shows up. Smythe has also improved the Cyber Slayers to the point where he can control all four at once with a single visor. What's more, we also get reintroduced to The Pro, that assassin from last time. Don't remember him? Neither did I. That's because there are like 50 gajillion characters in these storylines and none are interesting. Hell, they'll introduce characters for one issue just to promote something else going on. Anyway, we cut over to Doctor Octopus' lab, where she is in her default emotion: pissed off. Despite the fact that her plan of making people hate the Scarlet Spider has been a rousing success, she's now unhappy that The Pro hasn't killed Tso, nor has she gotten her vaunted computer chips.
Doc Ock: Once I've acquired the chips, our virtual reality wave generator will be complete-- Reality and virtual reality will CONVERGE-- and you, Master Programmer, will be freed from the confines of cyberspace--free to walk in the world of men!
Linkara: You know, I mentioned Shonan earlier, but this really is just System Shock, but much dumber, isn't it?
Linkara (v/o): Like, even if this plan made any sense whatsoever... because let me remind you, virtual reality is not some other dimension, it's just a fake environment programmed into something... why not just build a friggin' robot body he could inhabit? It's not like you lack robotics technology, unless those tentacles are actually just holograms, too.
Linkara: Hey, wait a second! They've already proven they can project holograms that directly interact with the real world! Why can't the Master Programmer just project himself as a hologram?!
(Cut to a clip of a Spider-Man cartoon)
Spider-Man: This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Doctor Octopus heads out to deal with Tso herself, while the Master Programmer goes after Seward Trainer in cyberspace... except he doesn't. He says this and it's never brought up again. It's like they had a grab bag of plot points, and instead of throwing away the ones that didn't work, they just kept drawing from the bag. Back with Ben, the holographic Scarlet Spider has struck again, destroying Seward Trainer's apartment... which also happens to be Ben's home, so that doesn't help. He also finds his surprisingly intact answering machine.
Ben: (narrating) What else could go wrong...?!
Tso: (on answering machine) --message, Reilly--try this--you're FIRED! If you can't get your--
Ben: (narrating as he tosses answering machine aside) Disco!
Linkara: (confused) Grunge. (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): Trainer contacts him through his answering machine... somehow and lets him know about the plan to merge virtual reality and the real world.
Trainer: (on answering machine) I don't have to tell you, Ben-- The implications are enormous!
Linkara: (as Trainer) Soon, all reality will be Waterworld on Virtual Boy!
Linkara (v/o): Doctor Octopus confronts Smythe, and her forces battle the Cyber Slayers, until Tso turns on him with a control device of his own.
Tso: Don't look so surprised, Smythe! Once I'd appropriated the inductors for you, I realized I was no longer necessary to your plans-- It would only be a matter of time before you got rid of me...
Linkara: (as Tso) And I decided to betray you right before you dealt with the person I wanted revenge on because... Well, I'm not very well-written, as you may have noticed.
Linkara (v/o): He's severed the connection between him and the Slayers, allowing Doctor Octopus to attack, but Tso finds himself on the receiving end of a bullet end from The Pro. Doc Ock shoves Smythe away and steals the V.R. helmet he was using to control the Slayers, hacking into it and, well, merging cyberspace and reality. Cyberspace is apparently populated by dinosaurs, aliens with guns, and on the more Halloween side of things, some skeletons, a Frankenstein monster, and a mummy. The Master Programmer also emerges and hugs Doc Ock. All the virtual reality creatures begin attacking people in the streets, while the artist decides to be really lazy with the backgrounds, just having them be a gradient color with some random lines in it. Seward is able to contact Spidey directly, and if it seems like I'm rushing through this, it's only because I am. This story is stupid and doesn't understand what it's talking about.
Seward: It's not too late, Ben! The convergence has yet to coalesce! This hyper-reality isn't settled! It can be undone!
Linkara: (as Seward) Quick, hit CTRL-Z on the universe!
Seward: When I got wise to Carolyn's plan, I began working on my own chip-- It's a VR virus--and it can revert reality back to normal...
Linkara: How can you work on a physical microchip when you're stuck in cyberspace?!
Linkara (v/o): Spidey swings off to attach it to the virtual reality waveform generator... although, considering there isn't anything resembling the city around anymore if these backgrounds can be believed, I'm not sure how he knows where to go... and runs into Doc Ock and the Master Programmer. Somehow, he knows that the generator is attached to Doc Ock... I mean, how would he even know what it looks like? ...and manages to attach it, undoing this stupid dead end of a plot. All the virtual reality changes melt away, including the Master Programmer and Seward Trainer, although it isn't revealed whether it truly destroyed them or just sent them back into cyberspace, although the implication is indeed they're gone forever. Spidey's reputation is still trashed, though, so when the public spots him, they once again chase him off. And so, "Cyberwar" ends with Ben meeting with the comatose body of Seward, proclaiming that his life is in absolute ruins now: no job, no apartment, Tso is dead, and the reputation of the Scarlet Spider is completely in shambles. Because he was so new on the scene, it'd be nearly impossible to get people's trust back again, so there's only one thing for him to do: become Spider-Man.
Text: Don't miss--THE SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN #0--The Return of Spider-Man!! And be here in thirty as Spidey goes up against the power of D.K.! 'Nuff said!
Linkara: My God! Ben is taking on his greatest foe yet: DONKEY KONG! (closes comic and holds it up) These comics suck!
Linkara (v/o): This storyline is a mess, and even the creative team has admitted as much about it. While "Virtual Mortality" was also pretty crappy, it at least established a status quo for Ben that might be interesting to explore for the future. But all of that gets undone here. What's more, the four issues feel pretty disconnected from one another, while "Virtual Mortality" at least felt like one storyline. The only thing really connecting this all as one story is the titular Cyberwar between Doc Ock and Tso, but even then, it's still pretty weak, what with each issue focusing on stuff like Hologram Scarlet Spider or virtual reality merging with the real world, even though that makes no sense and only occurs in the last several pages of the issue. There are so many characters thrown in that will have no relevance down the line that there isn't enough time to make any of them compelling in their own right. But hey, at least it finally got Ben into a position where he would become Spider-Man and gave a rational explanation for why he would decide to don the suit finally, although the writers disagreed with the group editor Bob Budiansky about this, seeing that Peter got framed for stuff as Spider-Man all the time, there was already a rationale for him embracing the role when Peter gave up the identity to him, and that it seemed kind of dickish to the Scarlet Spider identity if Ben cared so little about trying to restore the reputation of it. Then again, I have this thought in my head that it's the creative team giving the middle finger to the marketing team, who still had two more months of a Scarlet Spider book going on, despite Ben becoming Spider-Man in the next damn comic. There's your brand value out of the name, marketing team! Not even Ben wants to keep it.
Linkara: Next time... Well, I'm not sure. Next week is Halloween, so I feel like we should be doing something special, but I've still got a haunted house to deal with that I–
(Suddenly, he is interrupted as his phone rings, the ringtone playing "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap. He answers it)
(We cut to who is calling him...)
Viga: (excited) Linkara! I'm at a dog party with some astronauts!
(The camera pulls over to the side to reveal some other partygoers whooping and hollering as they hold up some alcoholic beverages)
Linkara: Viga? You were able to get out of the house?
Viga: I just walked out.
Linkara: Oh. (he suddenly looks as a thought comes to him) Oh! Can you get back here? I need your help with something.
Viga: I can be back in an hour. Or booze o'clock. What do you need?
Linkara: Well, I don't suppose you happen to have a cyclotron and a particle condenser, do you?
Viga: Of course I have these things. I'm an (makes a "finger quote") "Internet reviewer".
Linkara: Good. We got some ghosts to deal with. (smiles) And I think I know just how we'll do it...
(End credits roll)
Got to love how the brief subplot with Orlando researching Ben Reilly went absolutely nowhere. Reilly wasn't even fired for being suspicious – just tardy.
So even with the undercover agent, what was the point of Briggs just standing on the roof of Doc Ock's lab?
(Stinger: Viga is talking to Linkara on the phone)
Viga: Linkara! I'm at a dog party with some astronauts!
(The camera shows some partygoers whooping and hollering as they hold up some alcoholic beverages. One of them accidentally hits himself with his drink and clutches at his face, to the amusement of the others)
Lewis Lovhaug: (holding the camera, also laughing) Okay... Okay, Fez? That was good, but we need to do another take.