Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility
October 22, 2012
The beginning of the saga that rocked the Spiderverse, the Clone Saga! And by that I mean it pelted it with rocks. In this episode, Linkara celebrates his fourth anniversary and looks at the first story from the Clone Saga!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, (throws out his arms excitedly) WHERE IT'S OUR FOUR-YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!
(The Super Smash Bros. Brawl theme song plays, set to fireworks, while text appears saying "HAPPY FOURTH ANNIVERSARY" with the Atop the Fourth Wall logo below it)
Linkara: Ah, it's been four years since I started this happy little show, a show that has brought be nothing but joy.
(Cut to a montage of BAD stuff that has happened to Linkara, starting with him trying to cut his wrists with his magic gun during his meltdown at the end of his review of "Amazons Attack #5" and "#6"...)
Linkara: (audio from review) Why doesn't it work?!
(Next, cut to him screaming in frustration just before his breakdown in "Maximum Clonage" while throwing the comic in the air. Then cut to the closing bit after his EPIC rant on Lian Harper's death towards the end of his review of "Justice League: Cry for Justice #5" through "#7")
Linkara: (audio from review) THIS... EXPLOITIVE [sic]... BADLY WRITTEN TRASH!!!
(Then cut to him yelling in frustration over the sheer amount of satire in "The Dark Knight Strikes Again Part 3")
Linkara: (audio from review) WHY ARE THEY MAKING ME REVIEW THIS?! (lunges at the camera) WHY?!? SOMEBODY SEND HELP!!!
(Next, cut to him summing up his thoughts of the "JLA: Act of God" miniseries...)
Linkara: (audio from review) THESE... COMICS... SUCK!!!
(Then cut to him summing up his thoughts of the "Silent Hill: Dead/Alive" miniseries and the Silent Hill comics in general...)
Linkara: (audio from review; holds up comic angrily) THIS PIECE OF CRAP SUCKS!!!!
(Finally, cut to his thoughts on "Spider-Man: One More Day")
Linkara: (audio from review, slams comic on the floor angrily) OF COURSE IT ISN'T! THIS COMIC SUCKS!!!
(Cut back to present-day Linkara, gnashing his teeth in frustration)
Linkara: Why the hell am I still doing this?!
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of "Spider-Man: The Triumph of the Jackal")
Linkara (v/o): Because by teaching all of you how something is bad, you learn how something is good, and that if you are creative types yourselves, these are tips on how not to create something horrible.
Linkara: As per usual, in honor of the anniversary, we're looking at a Clone Saga story: "Power and Responsibility".
(Cut to a shot of the cover of an Ultimate Spider-Man story by that name)
Linkara (v/o): No, not that one! Haven't I made it abundantly clear by now that I do not care about the Ultimate Universe?!
(Cut to a shot of the comic, "Avengers Arena: Murder World")
Linkara (v/o): I have a hard enough time getting invested in the regular Marvel Universe when they spend all the damn time either killing their characters in pointless Hunger Games ripoffs...
(Cut to a shot of another Marvel comic, "Avengers vs. X-Men")
Linkara (v/o): ...or having their characters fight and kill each other in their big event comics.
(Cut to a shot of the DC comic, "Crisis on Infinite Earths")
Linkara (v/o): Say what you will about DC's events; at least they tried to have their big crossover events be about villains.
(Cut to a shot of Superboy-Prime)
Linkara (v/o): That doesn't count!
(Cut to a shot of the cover of an issue of "Ultimatum")
Linkara (v/o): My point is that even if I did care about the Ultimate Universe, I think any enthusiasm I might have had for it would have died alongside half the characters in "Ultimatum".
(Cut to a shot of today's comic: the Spider-Man comic "Power and Responsibility")
Linkara (v/o): No, we're talking about the mainstream universe: the Clone Saga's "Power and Responsibility".
Linkara: (irritably) And seriously, Spider-Man writers, buy a friggin' thesaurus! It feels like half the titles of all Spider-Man stories revolve around the friggin' Mono!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, today's comic is "Power and Responsibility", the start of the Clone Saga. Well, okay, it technically started in the 1970s, but you know what I mean. You're probably wondering why we're going all the way back to the beginning of the Clone Saga epic, when we've tackled lots and lots of stories much farther down the line. It might be especially confusing because I've stated before that the early Clone Saga stuff showed lots of promise and there were plenty of good stories. Well, that is still true, and in the end, the story is not the worst that the Clone Saga had to offer. However, it is not a perfect story. Its good elements come about more in concept than execution, aside from a few moments of genuine, fist-pumping-in-the-air awesome. The primary reason, however, is because there are a few Clone Saga stories I want to talk about that involve another character we haven't gotten to yet, and one character who we've only scratched the surface on... mostly because there isn't much else to him but surface.
(A montage of comics leading up to today's story is shown)
Linkara (v/o): We'll get into him a bit later, but first, let's recap a bit. I've talked about this briefly before, but for a time in the Spider-Man books, Peter Parker's parents were supporting characters... sort of. Richard and Mary Parker had a backstory that explained that they were CIA agents, presumed either killed or missing in action from a plane crash. That backstory has always felt kind of iffy to me, since it kind of removes Peter's status as an everyman if it turned out his parents were super-spies. However, the two showed up one day, claiming to have been held captive in Algeria for the last twenty years. However, this all turned out to be an elaborate scheme by the Chameleon to find out Spider-Man's true identity and the two were actually androids. In turn, the Chameleon had been commissioned to do this by Harry Osborn, then the Green Goblin, as part of a very elaborate revenge scheme for the death of his father. Comic books are weird and kind of confusing. Needless to say, this incident, along with several others, including Aunt May falling ill for the hundredth time, and without Mephisto in sight to make a deal, pushed Spidey into becoming darker and edgier, even pretty much shunning his secret identity and going around talking about himself in the third person as... The Spider. Shock of all shocks, readership wasn't exactly on board with this idea. Along with some other creative decisions behind the scenes that weren't popular in some segments of fandom and the creative teams, including Peter's marriage to Mary Jane, there was a desire to create a storyline that would shake things up for the book in a similar way that the "Age of Apocalypse" storyline had done for the X-Men. The idea of bringing back the Clone was then conceived, and since they didn't have any better ideas, that's what they ran with. Unfortunately, there was the problem of Ron Perelman. You may recall him being briefly mentioned in the "Marville #1" review. He had purchased Marvel Comics in 1989 and helped to fuel the speculator boom in the early '90s, transforming comics into commodities to be valued instead of stories to be enjoyed. The name of the game was making money, and Marvel was restructured to reflect that, with the marketing department actually possessing veto power over the creative decisions. Thus, the Clone Saga was stretched out as long as it was, long past reader interest.
Linkara: But let's get back to how the story all began by digging into (holds up several Spidey comics at once) "Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility".
(AT4W title theme plays, followed by title card, which has "Something's Always Wrong" by Toad the Wet Sprocket playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the first comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Because we're covering four comics, we're gonna skip the covers. Not much to say, aside from some nice, shiny, pointless holograms on them that, of course, don't show up in the scans. It should also be noted that, like "Youngblood", the four-parter contains a flip book, wherein you can go to the back cover and read another story. In this case, it shows some of the early days of Ben Reilly. We've already got a lot to cover and we really don't need to see this stuff, so I'm skipping that, too. One thing I will say about the cover to "Web of Spider-Man #117", which is our official beginning, it has this quote: (reads dramatically) "Beginning the saga that will ROCK the Spiderverse!"
Linkara: Oh, my, yes. It rocks it, rolls it, ties it up, beats it up with baseball bats, then shoves it in a dumpster and tosses it off a pier!
Linkara (v/o): We open where the previous comic had left off, with Spider-Man on the rooftop of a hospital, discovering... Peter Parker.
Ben: Wait! This is a mistake...
Linkara: Oh, Benjy, like you would not believe.
Ben: ...I only wanted to see May and get out of here before--
Spider-Man: I don't care what kind of sick game you're up to, impostor! Doesn't matter if you're an other-dimensional doppelganger, a state-of-the-art replicoid, or the Chameleon himself...
Linkara: How weird is your life when those are the first rational explanations your mind goes to?
Spider-Man: ...you're not Peter Parker-- just an incredible simulation.
Linkara: Much like how I pretend that everything that's happened since "One More Day" has been a horrible, horrible dream! (smiles)
Linkara (v/o): Ben tries to get away, but he's rusty with his spider powers, while Spider-Man is, well, kind of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs right now. And you can't really blame him, considering all the crap he's gone through in recent times. Spider-Man kicks Ben into some kind of warehouse, both crashing inside of it, though Ben recovers first.
Spider-Man: Don't... call me that!
Linkara: (as Spider-Man) Call me Evelyn! (throws arm up)
Spider-Man: I hate-- Peter Parker!
Linkara: That's funny, so do the Spider-Man writers.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Ravencroft Hospital, and now it's time to meet the main problem we're talking about with "Power and Responsibility". Two Spidey supporting characters, John Jameson and Dr. Kafka, have called in an expert in... science, I guess, but he has come along with his entourage. The entourage isn't our main focus, so let's just get them out of the way: mysterious Indian woman in hot pink, futuristic cyberpunk biker, Nick Charles from The Thin Man, and Death from Sandman. And then there's our main guy here: Judas Traveller. As I explained earlier, one of the goals of the Clone Saga was to shake up the book and get readers interested again. One of the ways they decided to do that was to introduce new villains and characters, and that's where Judas Traveller comes in. Allow me to give you a quote from Glenn Greenberg, a writer and editor who worked on the Clone Saga for a time.
(Cut to a message on the screen, which Linkara reads...)
Linkara (v/o): "The only thing I can really add is that no one – not the writers, not the editors – seemed to know who or what the hell Judas Traveller was. He was seemingly this immensely powerful, quasi-mystical being with amazing abilities, but what was the real deal with him? As I recall, J.M. DeMatteis really enjoyed writing him and had future plans with him."
Linkara: Said plans never materialized. DeMatteis left the Spider-Man stable of books during "The Greatest Responsibility" storyline I talked about a few years ago.
(The cover of "Spider-Man: The Greatest Responsibility" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Glenn Greenberg speculated it was because he was just too tired of all the weekly crossovers between the various Spider books, and the fact that Ben Reilly's introduction as Spider-Man and not just the Scarlet Spider kept getting pushed back.
Linkara: So, whatever plans that he may have had or hoped for with Judas Traveller were pretty much abandoned because nobody cared about this guy, whom Greenberg admits is just not a character that belongs in a Spider-Man book.
Linkara (v/o): If you look at the main Spider-Man stable of villains and the types of stories told in his book, they tend to be focused on "everyman" kind of situations, or the temptation to use power for selfish benefit or to feed an ever-growing megalomania. The villains themselves tend to be science-oriented in one way or another, mainly because Peter Parker is a science major!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series)
Kingpin: Spider-Man is a scientist?
(Cut back to the Spider-Man comics, emphasizing Venom, a non-science villain)
Linkara (v/o): And that doesn't mean Spidey can't ever encounter magic-based villains or otherworldly threats. Hell, my favorite villain for Spider-Man is Venom! An alien, for crying out loud!
(Cut back to Judas Traveller)
Linkara (v/o): It's just that some mysterious guy with nigh-impossible mystical power? That's not a Spider-Man villain. That's a Thor villain or a Silver Surfer villain or an Avengers villain.
(Cut to a shot of the Avengers battle various villains, with Spidey clearly joining the Avengers)
Linkara (v/o): And yes, I'm glad Spidey is a member of the Avengers. He long ago earned his spot as one of Earth's mightiest heroes. But that's a villain for a team, not Spidey on his own!
Linkara: So, where am I going with all this? Well, instead of the driving force of this story being about the return of Peter Parker's clone, it's about some asshole psychologist who's doing the things he's doing... because he's BORED! And nobody, not even the writers, knew what the hell his deal was!
(Cut to another clip of another episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series)
Spider-Man: This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!
Linkara: Well, that's because it is!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Dr. Kafka is hoping that Judas Traveller, who's apparently a well-known criminologist or something, can do something about her various patients, including such happy individuals like Carnage or Shriek. And yeah, she addresses him as "Dr. Judas Traveller"...
(Cut to a shot of Dr. Traveller on the cover of yet another Spider comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...because this guy looks like a doctor.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: (to a fellow female doctor) For the love of God, are you a real doctor, or a doctor like Dr. Pepper's a doctor?
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): While Colonel Jameson gives the entourage a tour, we cut back to Spidey beating up on Ben Reilly. He finally stops hitting him long enough to ask him who the hell he is, since his Spider-Sense isn't reacting to him. Ben finally admits that he's the clone.
Spider-Man: The Jackal's pawn--?!
Linkara: (as Ben) I was the Jackal's pawn – until I reached the other side of the board and got swapped out for a queen.
Linkara (v/o): Ben finally knocks Peter into a wall, and apparently into unconsciousness, promising that he'll be long gone by the time he wakes up. We cut back to Dr. Kafka and Judas Traveller. Kafka says that it was Traveller's research into the criminally insane that got the Ravencroft Institute started at all.
Dr. Kafka: Yet Ravencroft is a failed experiment so far.
Linkara: Well, what the hell did you expect? The Ravencroft Institute hadn't been opened for a YEAR in real time! That's maybe a month in comic time if you're lucky! Did she just expect to cure criminally-insane people in her first week?!
Linkara (v/o): While Dr. Kafka walks off to do paperwork, Judas Traveller decides to take a walk through the walls. Yeah, he can walk through walls, but I'm still blindsided by the way he looks. I mean, he just looks like the most accredited doctor, doesn't he? What with his Mr. T jewelry he's got hanging all over his Dracula cape? Anyway, what does this mysterious new villain do to make us fear him? He goes into the cells of the Chameleon, Shriek and Carnage and I guess reads their minds so he can get ready for his "ultimate experiment".
Linkara: Well, thank goodness for that. For a second there, I was worried he might do something try to make him seem intimidating.
(Suddenly, there is static on the screen and we cut to a character (played by Phelous) who is dressed rather like Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat (albeit with a suit and tie rather than a ninja outfit))
Stranger: Greetings, you foolish fool!
Linkara: Who the hell are you?
Stranger: I am a mysterious new enemy for you. You may call me... Mysterior!
Linkara: Why are you my enemy?
Mysterior: Oh, I could tell that, but it's much fun for everybody if you just figure it out on your own.
Linkara: No, it isn't.
Mysterior: Yes, it is, for it is a mystery, and you need to solve the mystery of why I hate you, because it is better to solve the mystery! Look. (puts on a pair of blue sunglasses with flashing lights on it) I have mysterious glasses.
Linkara: If you have a good reason for not telling me or you just don't care or think I'll understand, that's fine, but you can't just say it's (waves hand in the air mockingly) "for fun"!
Mysterior: (no longer wearing sunglasses) Foolish, fooling fool! It ruins the mystery if I give all the answers, and I am far too mysterious for that. For I am... (clenches fist) MYSTERIOR!
Linkara: The mystery doesn't matter if nobody gives a damn about it, and so far, you're not giving me any reason why I should care.
Mysterior: I am far too mysterious to waste any more time on you. I am going to be mysterious... (points offscreen) OVER THERE! (runs off) MYSTERIOR!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, after reading the minds of the criminals, he [Traveller] sees that the common link between them is an obsessive hatred of Spider-Man. And thus, he commands his entourage to begin taking over Ravencroft with their own super-duper powers. By the way, you want to know how utterly pointless and ill-conceived that the Judas Traveller stuff is? These four entourage characters? I don't think we ever see them again after this four-parter. It's not that they die or get captured or anything, they just... disappear, and nobody ever brings them up. And really, when Traveller is supposed to be nigh-omnipotent anyway, why the hell would he have four other people doing his dirty work? Anyway, after one of Dr. Kafka's nurses expresses some concern over Judas Traveller and his group, Kafka says there's absolutely nothing to worry about. And then Traveller teleports all of the hospital staff outside the building.
Linkara: (giving a thumbs-up) Bang-up job you doing, Dr. Kafka! You invite some weirdo who thinks the Fu Manchu look is still in to watch over your patients, and he promptly teleports everybody but him and the maniacs in the asylum out of the building! I'm starting to see why you felt like your institute was a colossal failure. Probably because it was being run by a colossal failure.
Linkara (v/o): We cut back to Spidey, who awakens with a start. Ben is gone, of course, and he wonders how Ben could be his clone when he saw him die back in the original storyline. But enough of answering legitimate questions; it's time for bullcrap. One of Traveller's group can send an astro projection out, and she speaks to him.
Entourage member: Dr. Judas Traveller has a challenge for you. He has taken control of Ravencroft and he will kill it's [sic] inmates--unless you stop him. Of course--if you defeat him... the inmates will go free to menace the world.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand she just vanishes.
Spider-Man: (thinking) --Gone already, as quickly as she came.
Linkara: So... don't want to bother asking who the hell Judas Traveller is? Who she is? And why you're being challenged? I'm just saying, you seem to be taking this all rather well, Petey.
Spider-Man: It's a no-win situation.
(Cut to a clip of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
James T. Kirk (William Shatner): (to Saavik) A no-win situation is the possibility every commander may face. Has that never occurred to you?
(Back to the comic again)
Linakra (v/o): Peter, gullible moron that he is, questions nothing and just swings off to confront the challenge because of what could happen if the inmates at Ravencroft got loose. However, it turns out Ben Reilly wasn't too far away when this happened and overheard it, realizing that Peter has little chance on his own, especially when he's kind of nuts right now. As such, he begins to consider whether he should put on his own Spider-Man costume again. After a brief interlude with Mary Jane and her aunt, Anna, who have gone to see May at the hospital, Spidey arrives outside Ravencroft, where a SWAT team has also arrived. Traveller walks out... And it just occurred to me, what asshole parents name their kid "Judas"? That's like naming your kid "Brutus" or "Benedict Arnold" or something. What's wrong with you? ...and says he's heard a lot about Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: You've got a rep, too, doc. But not as a terrorist--!
Linkara: I love how apparently everybody else knows about this guy except the people who created him.
Linkara (v/o): An officer tries to shoot him down because he's a little trigger-happy. Naturally, the bullets do nothing, and he invites Spider-Man inside.
Dr. Traveller: ...I did this all for you. And I intend to put every single one of the tortured souls inside out of their misery... unless you stop me. However, if you-- and they--do survive my gauntlet... the powerful wretches will then be released into the world at large!
Linkara: Or, you know, into the fifty or so cops outside with rifles and an eagerness to shoot anybody who walks out. So... yeah, end result seems to be the same result.
(Cut to Linkara putting on a blue coat; he looks to the camera with a startled look)
Linkara: Oh... You caught me in between costumes here... Uh, we'll be right back.
(He walks off as the AT4W logo appears, and we go to commercial; upon return, we see Linkara again taking off his blue coat and replacing it with a silver one)
Linkara: Uh... Qapla' or something. We're back. (the AT4W logo appears in the corner) I'm running out of costumes!
(We cut back to the Spider-Man comic as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): And so, Spider-Man walks in, ending part one. We continue in "Amazing Spider-Man #394", where we open on Ben Reilly standing on a roof and being angsty about how it sucks that he isn't the real Peter Parker.
(Cut to a panel of "Maximum Clonage")
Linkara (v/o): You'll recall that I was rather annoyed by Peter's whining about being a clone during "Maximum Clonage", but the reason for that is... well, right here.
(Cut back to "Power and Responsibility")
Linkara (v/o): When the story first started, of course we're gonna have to deal with Ben Reilly's fears that he's not a real boy and that he has someone else's memories. This was still fresh. By the time "Maximum Clonage" came around, we had already gone through that crap in spades, and it was just rehashing the same points, only much whinier. Ultimately, he decides not to go help Peter and instead spend his time with May, since even if he's not Peter Parker, he can't deny his emotions for her. Back at Ravencroft, Dr. Kafka expresses her confusion about all of this.
Dr. Kafka: Traveller's a psychologist... a philosopher-- not some super-powered criminal--!
Linkara: (incredulously) Philosopher?! HA! Oh, me, oh, my, let's talk about that for a second, shall we?
Linkara (v/o): This is, again, a problem with a villain like Judas Traveller. He's one of the types of all-powerful beings that want to use their super-duper, special chocolatey powers to explore the truth of human nature or some crap like that, especially the nature of evil. Now, me personally, I believe in objective good and objective evil. It comes with being a religious person. However, if this guy was really a philosopher, he'd realize how stupid this "experiment" is, especially if he was also a psychologist.
Linkara: Hey, Mr. Traveller, I got a frickin' minor in philosophy, but I don't even need that to tell you what you're full of it. You can't uncover the (makes a "finger quote") "nature of evil", because there isn't ONE SINGULAR ANSWER!!
Linkara (v/o): (sarcastically) What's this? A prison full of people who were all put here by Spider-Man all happen to have an obsessive hatred of Spider-Man?? What a shocking development! Hey, Jude! Here's a thought, and stop me if you heard this one, BUT PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS FOR VARIOUS REASONS! And probably most pertinent of all my questions concerning this goofy pseudo-philosopher, if this whole damn thing is about the study of evil, why the Funk and Wagnalls did you drag Spider-Man in this to test his nobility and heroism?! Anyway, we have a pointless scene where that nurse or assistant or whatever guy from last issue gets transformed into a villain called Vermin and is then turned back before being teleported outside while Traveller croons that evil is all about fear and stuff, forgetting, of course, that some people are just genuinely psychotic or sadistic or any other reason that discredits your nonsense! Anyway, Peter is leaping from wall to wall, while the narration captions tell us his motivations for coming here to save the inmates. Because it's not like this could be revealed in in dialogue! Oh, no, no; let's have it narrated to us!
Narrator: Spider-Man has witnessed Doctor Kafka's heroic struggles to restore sanity to broken psyches... seen the miracles simple human compassion can bring about. And he can't let her work be so cavalierly destroyed.
Linkara: (as narrator) But he really doesn't give a crap about all the lamps and furniture and stuff he's knocking around. I mean, yeah, I keep her work, but this place just looks damn tacky.
Linkara (v/o): However, the narration tells us that "The Spider knows there's more to it than that," not that we're ever told what that "more" is. As he continues to walk the halls, we have more psychology narrated to us, but it works a little better since it goes away to explain what the hell's going on in Peter's mind. It's basically being told to us via a sledgehammer to our face instead of being creative with Peter slowly losing his mind and seeing the inmates as dark reflections, but hey, it works. Peter is falling apart mentally, and that's all there is to it. We have another interlude between Mary Jane and Aunt Anna, where we see that MJ is leaving town to try to make peace with her own family before she can be of any help to Peter and May. Next scene! Ben is at the hospital; drama about the crap he's going through, and then he meets a nice doctor lady who says he looks like he needs a friend. Next scene! Peter's still going nuts, and we see the arrival of Scrier! Hey, remember him? He's the other mysterious character introduced in the Clone Saga that we're supposed to give a damn about, who lasted longer than Traveller.
Linkara: Because that's what this storyline needed: some other mysterious asshole whose motivations are unclear and don't make any damn sense when they're finally explained!
(Suddenly, static cuts in again and again, a stranger who looks like Mysterior appears, once again played by Phelous, but this time with a yellow face mask instead of blue, making him look like Scorpion, also of Mortal Kombat fame)
Stranger: Greetings, Linkara.
Stranger: No! I am a totally new character, Mr. Enigma!
Linkara: What happened to Mysterior?
Mr. Enigma: He got bored of being mysterious and just kind of wandered off somewhere, but now I am the new mysterious character, full of new mysteries!
Linkara: And you're gonna be my enemy or something?
Mr. Enigma: Maybe, maybe not. You don't know either way. I am that mysterious! I have mysterious powers, (holds up a skull with wearing a baseball cap and glowing sunglasses) like pulling skulls from nowhere! Ooh, skull (?).
Linkara: Isn't that the skull that Phelous said belonged to the Nostalgia Critic?
Mr. Enigma: Maybe, maybe not. It's a mystery!
Linkara: Except, it really isn't, because the Nostalgia Critic merged with that Plot Hole and became a Muppet or something. I-I don't know. I was in a closet for a lot of that.
Mr. Enigma: It could be the Nostalgia Critic's skull. Maybe the Nostalgia Critic, who joined with the Plot Hole, was a clone! Maybe the skull is from a–
Linkara: That just sounds overly complicated and stupid!
Mr. Enigma: But it's so mysterious!
Linkara: You know, I'm currently trapped in my apartment, and I should really ask for your assistance, but I've got a feeling you wouldn't be much help anyway.
Mr. Enigma: I could be. You don't know. No one knows! MYSTERIOUS!
Linkara: (glares) Never call me again!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Peter keeps being paranoid and yelling until Judas Traveller reaches through a glass door for no reason and picks him up by the throat. He just holds him up, saying that all the people here are obsessed with him and want to understand him, so he in turn wants to understand him, blah, blah, blah. He reads Peter's mind and then starts laughing hysterically. Since Spidy's still wacko-jacko, he kicks Traveller and starts ranting.
Spider-Man: You can't do this to me! You don't have the right! I'm... I'm not some joke! I'm not some laboratory experiment! I'm a MAN!!
Linkara: (in his "I AM A MAN!" pose) I AM A MAN!
Linkara: (shocked) Oh, crap!
Vyce: Where am I?! What's going on?!
(Linkara hastily throws Vyce aside. Suddenly, there is a bright flash of light that gets Linkara's attention as he sits in awkward silence briefly)
Linkara: Well, uh... now you see why I don't do that joke as much anymore.
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, the "I AM A MAN!" punch is completely ineffective against Traveller. Oh, sure, it actually bruises him, shockingly enough, but Traveller doesn't even react to it. He just says that Spidey is a broken man. And Petey collapses and starts repeating words to himself, the narration informing us that his entire lifetime of crap has finally hit him. I actually expected this a lot sooner with Spidey. Surprised it took until the '90s for this to happen. Hell, I think the band Toad the Wet Sprocket was talking about Spider-Man with their song "Something's Always Wrong".
Narrator: In a world like this, he concludes (as his will dissolves, his very self implodes)... Madness is the only sane response.
Linkara: You know... that's actually a really good line. Kudos.
Linkara (v/o): Scrier appears and asks if he'll kill the inmates as promised. What happened to that gauntlet he promised? Or was Traveller it? Kind of a one-sided fight is all I'm saying. Traveller says the experiment is not over yet and states that he learned about the clone while reading Peter's mind, having the astro-projection woman summon Ben to the institute. Once again, Ben is tempted by a choice: he can reclaim the life that Peter has been living all this time or risk his life to save Peter. And that's a pretty damn good cliffhanger for part two, leading us into "Adjectiveless Spider-Man #51". Ben spends about four pages narrating to the comatose Aunt May his dilemma in a nice little soliloquy to catch up the readers and come to the very easy solution. Clone or not, he has Peter Parker's memories and experiences, so he might as well be Peter Parker, and Peter Parker would go out and save someone's life if they needed it. This is one of those times where I really wish Peter and MJ had just had their happy ending and be shuffled off to let Ben Reilly become the actual Spider-Man in the comics instead of flip-flopping on it. Honestly, Ben Reilly is a much better protagonist than Peter Parker has been many times. Because of the fact that he lost everything, he appreciates it all the more, and is written as a better person as a result. Anyway, back with Merlin Traveller, he continues talking about how he has to understand Spider-Man's "essence". Eww! He instructs his not-appearing-after-this students to go intercept Ben Reilly and to take lots of notes.
Linkara: Hey, Judas Traveller may be all-powerful, but he does not grade on a curve, you know. You've got to show your work.
Linkara (v/o): Ben gets in and easily evades the two rejects from Camelot 3000. And here's where the story starts to lose itself. Ben had already made a pretty damn good speech about why he was doing what he was doing to Aunt May. But now, his thought balloons are undoing all of that development, making him think to himself that he's crazy to be doing this and it's only for Aunt May's sake. Long Hair McShades and Fishnet Cape find him once again and Ben realizes he has to fight them. Meanwhile, inside of Peter's head, we have that gauntlet Blues Traveller was talking about, with Spider-Man having to fight off all of his villains alongside Peter Parker. It's quick, but it does the job, with them remembering about the "With great whatever comes great M&M's" or something. Ben Reilly is thinking about it, too, and rehashing the character development he had at the beginning of the comic, and thus he punches the losers and moves on. Spidey breaks free of Traveller's restraints and Ben arrives to kick the dude. Ben orders Traveller to stand aside since he's taking Peter out of there, but the comic ends with Traveller saying that ain't gonna happen, yo. If it seems like I'm rushing through this, it's only because I am. How is it that a comic featuring character development and a psychological battle in Spider-Man's head somehow felt extraordinarily padded and repetitious? We conclude "Power and Responsibility" in "Spectacular Spider-Man #217".
Narrator: Rarely has the man known as Judas Traveller been so pleased with himself.
Linkara: I don't know, with the way the dude rambles on about nothing, I would have thought that (makes a "finger quote") "smug" was his default emotion.
Narrator: A world renowned philosopher and psychologist...
Linkara: (incredulously) Renowned by who?! If people really think this tripe is worthy of a claim, here, I've got a comic called "Marville #3" for ya! It'll blow your friggin' heads off!
Narrator: Thus, he has come to Ravencroft, an institution devoted to the criminally insane. He originally intended to study its super-powered inhabitants-- and then, to select an appropriate test subject which he could use in a controlled experiment.
Linkara (v/o): Didn't Dr. Kafka say that she started the institute based on his work? Hasn't he already arrived at some conclusions about this stuff?
Narrator: Another one of his endless explorations into the human potential for spiritual greatness.
(Linkara looks up at the camera, very much confused and not amused. Cut to a clip of an episode of Whose Line Is It, Anyway?)
Colin Mochrie: THIS SUCKS!
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, goody! In between comics, character positions have changed. Ben is no longer holding Peter up and defending him. In fact, the two are now standing away from each other and being more wary of the other instead of Traveller.
(Cut to Phelous with Linkara)
Phelous: (giving a double thumbs-up) Great continuity!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): We cut back outside to remind the reader that, yep, Kafka and the SWAT team members are still in this, before we then go back inside again. Oh, and I guess Traveller used his mind powers or whatever to knock the two out and shove them into the basement. Traveller tells his crew that he won't kill the inmates and instead just unleash them on the two Spider-Men. Peter, still a big ol' ball of crazy, hits upon the idea that Ben is actually working for Traveller and attacks him, quickly learning that his web shooters have been disabled. Ben points out that Peter has changed.
Linkara: (as Ben) You changed, man. You used to be cool.
Linkara (v/o): Nah, he means that Peter used to make jokes and banter, but now he's all rage and frustration, especially since he doesn't want to be called Parker, but "Spider-Man". However, the battle is interrupted by the arrival of the inmates, who swarm at the two. Peter is merciless and fights to hurt them savagely, but Ben reminds him of the lessons of May and Uncle Ben and says that they have to work together. Traveller and his group prepare to leave, making sure to leave a note behind in Kafka's office postmarked a week before that says he's not able to come due to a prior commitment in an effort to misdirect the authorities after they're gone. Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention, there's an energy barrier preventing the cops from entering this whole time. Traveller uses it to knock everyone outside unconscious. Yippee. There's a brief interlude with Mary Jane again as she regrets leaving, but then gets sick foreshadowing the fact that she's pregnant, as we've established in other parts of the Clone Saga. And here's where we get to probably the best part of the beginning of the Clone Saga and really where you see some hope there. The inmates have been contained and the two Spider-Men go up to confront Judas Traveller, but first encounter an inmate named Wild Whip, whom Ben says he faced on his travels. They dispatch him easily, but the true threat is next up: Carnage! The battle is brief, and when you really think about it, it doesn't make much sense, but what happens, Ben declares that nobody can defeat the two of them working together, and they both kick Carnage in the face and knock him out!
Linkara: (pointing to camera) That, is AWESOME! Like I said, it doesn't really make a lick of sense, but it's just badass! This, to me, was a sign of how the Clone Saga could be a good thing: a bitter, more experienced Spider-Man fighting alongside an out-of-practice, but more optimistic Spider-Man!
Linkara (v/o): And it doesn't even matter to me that we have to turn the page on its side in order to read it. It's just awesome! I honestly wish Ben Reilly was still alive and working with Peter. One could say it's character redundancy, but I think this shows how it could have honestly worked, especially if they truly wanted to have that youthful Spider-Man who could be dating and crap while also pleasing fans of the married Spider-Man. The problem that so many had with the Clone Saga was not just the fact that a lot of the stories were bad, it was the implication that the character they had been following for so long wasn't the real Spider-Man. You want to know how to resolve that? Don't answer the question! Always leave it ambiguous, which is the clone, and there's no way to tell. They're instantly both legitimate and you argue that it doesn't and never will matter, because they're both Spider-Man! But... ah, well, all in retrospect. The two return Carnage to his cell and then spot Traveller and his goons making their escape. They leap out after them, but the goons vanish and the car they were going into explodes, seemingly taking Ben with it, but of course, nobody buys that for a second. Traveller does his Ooga-Booga routine and disappears, everyone waking up, and even Spidey acknowledges that Carnage was taken down too easily and learns that all the inmates were returned to their cells. I'll pretend that I care. Speaking of Traveller, he talks with his entourage about how Spider-Man seems to be decent and noble, but also that...
Traveller: His genetic duplicate is also quite intriguing.
Linkara (v/o): ...laying the ambiguity that it may be Peter who was the clone the whole time. And so, our comic ends with Peter swinging off, not sure if the return of his clone was real or just another mind game by Traveller, especially when they don't find a body in the wreckage. However, we see he [Ben] was quite real as he realizes he has to choose whether to come home... or return to exile.
Linkara: (holds up comics) These comics... (hesitates) Yeah, they suck. I really hate to say it, but they suck.
Linkara (v/o): While it's not good, it does succeed in a lot of areas in spite of its setbacks. The problems with the story can be summed up in two words: Judas Traveller! The return of the Clone is a story in and of itself, which had lots of potential for exploration for Peter's own character. The only thing that Traveller's nonsense serves to do is get Ben in a position where he has to choose between taking Peter's life or being a noble person, which could have been done a lot of other ways without "goofy guy rambling about studying evil and studying Spider-Man" and coming to his idiotic conclusions. Though come to think of it, he didn't come to any conclusions. All he came to was that "yep, Spider-Man sure is a noble person." THAT ACCOMPLISHED A LOT! Ben Reilly is really the best part of the story and sadly just serves as a reminder of the better parts of Spider-Man's nature. And despite the illogic of it, it's just damn awesome to see both of them drop Carnage like they did. Remember, one of my favorite Spider-Man stories is "Maximum Carnage", where he almost feels like an unstoppable storm of death and chaos. But Ben's words of "There's nothing they can't do by working together" really hit home.
Linkara: (holds up index finger) And that's a lesson... (becomes upset) that I need to take to heart. I've got some friends out there who I need to put aside my mistrust with and–
(He is interrupted by a beeping sound)
Linkara: (massages his forehead in frustration) Oh, for the love of... Mysterior or whoever is calling. I guess I need to save my reconciliation with my friends for next time.
(He takes a remote control and pushes a button. Cut back to Mysterior)
(End credits roll)
So why the hell was this called "Power and Responsibility," exactly?
Also, "Traveller" is a misspelling of the word, but it's how it's spelled in all of the books. Because Poor Literacy is Kewl.
And no need to bring up the explanation for Arnold "Judas" Rimmer. I wrote the script for this video before I saw the episode of Red Dwarf.
(Stinger: A shot of Judas Traveller is shown)
Linkara (v/o): You know, Judas Traveller gets up every morning and decides, "Yes, I will wear all of these clothes and jewelry! And I will not be conspicuous at all!"