Channel Awesome
Spider-Man: Virtual Mortality

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October 26th, 2015
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Maybe these comics would be good if you viewed them in virtual reality... but I doubt it.

(Open on Linkara's futon, but Linkara is not seated there. Then we hear Linkara yawning as he gets up from the floor, presumably sleeping, and sits down in his usual spot on the futon, groaning as he does so. He squints his eyes sleepily and rubs his forehead.)

Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. (yawns again) Did I just review "Marville"? (rubs forehead again) Feel like I haven't slept in days. What day is it? (beat, then he realizes as he becomes wide-eyed) Holy crap! It's October 26th! (throws arms out excitedly) IT'S OUR SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY!

(To triumphal music and a heavenly choir, fireworks are shown, along with a message reading "HAPPY SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY – ATOP THE FOURTH WALL".)

Linkara: Hell, yeah, people! It is seven years to the day that Atop the Fourth Wall premiered in video form on the old BlogSpot that is now radically out of date because it still has Blippin' bits on it and people still commenting on it on occasion, even though I've been, like, directing people to my site for over a year now. (shrugs)

(Past footage of the show's early days is shown, in which a younger, skinnier Linkara begins to read "Spider-Man #56".)

Linkara (v/o): Yes, a mere seven years ago, I decided to finally tackle the Spider-Man Clone Saga, in the storyline that really got it to start sucking: "Smoke and Mirrors". Half my face was in the shadow, I still lived with my parents, and I weighed, like, forty pounds less. Good times.

(Cut to a montage of shots of past issues of the Clone Saga, which Linkara had looked at.)

Linkara (v/o): For the last few years, we've been focusing on the pointless and idiotic character, Judas Traveller, which distracted us from the reason we're all here: the Clone Saga, the fight over who was the real Spider-Man, how many ways the story can get derailed, repeating the same points over and over about identity and personhood long after those questions were resolved, and everyone stopped caring about them.

Linkara: Yes, Judas Traveller and his navel-gazing really distracted us from the Clones and their navel-gazing.

Linkara (v/o): But even the creative team realized it was time to move away from that nonsense and actually advance something, so celebration, people! We're finally moving forward in the Clone Saga instead of jumping around to various stories! This takes place right after "The Greatest Responsibility", which I reviewed back in 2010. Peter has finally, officially quit being Spider-Man so he can raise his coming baby and live life in retirement. Happy ending for the guy, the readers have been following for years, while Ben Reilly, who was confirmed at the end of last year's comic to be the real Peter, could now create a new status quo, new supporting characters, and be single again, because apparently, we only read Spider-Man to see his romantic life fail or something. I dunno, whatever some writers think about the marriage.

Linkara: And honestly, nowadays, I really wish they had stuck with that. Sure, it's a bit off-putting knowing that Peter's been a clone this whole time, but (waves dismissively) screw it, we've had forty-plus years of science fiction literature about cloning that illustrates how they're people, too, dammit! Let Peter have a happy ending, and Ben can be the new hotness!

Linkara (v/o): And the creative team was excited as all hell for this. Recall that the Clone Saga was supposed to have been done with months prior. "Maximum Clonage" was one such ending, then we had the "Time Bomb" two-parter I glanced over, and now, finally, "The Greatest Responsibility" finally allowed Peter to pass the torch over to Ben and let him be the new Spider-Man; a big promotional push, something to excite readers and see a new era before them!

Linkara: Aaand if you've seen SF Debris' video series "The Rise and Fall of the Comic Empire", you should know that nothing that simple could happen over at Marvel during this time. As I have said before, the marketing department was in charge of things now, and I am reminded of an old "Dilbert" comic strip where the company's marketing department had a two-drink minimum.

Linkara (v/o): Let's go back a bit to talk about "Maximum Clonage". The reason that storyline was structured the way it was, with the foil covers and the "Alpha" and "Omega" issues was because of the massive success the "Age of Apocalypse" event had had for the X-Men books. Buuut another aspect of "Age of Apocalypse" was that all the X-Men books were put on hold, with new X-Men titles that lasted for four months. And of course, since they were trying to mirror that success, the marketing department wanted four months of four new Scarlet Spider-Man books, since this would be their last time to take advantage of the Scarlet Spider "brand", as it were, before he became Spider-Man. Now, Ben as the new Spider-Man had already been procrastinated on, so the creative team fought back, arguing for only one month of new titles, if they had to, but eventually, they compromised in the most bizarre manner: three of the titles would last for two months, and the fourth, "Web of Scarlet Spider", would be four issues, even though, after those first two months, THERE WOULDN'T BE A SCARLET SPIDER ANYMORE!!

Linkara: I'd say this kind of thing never happens anymore, but even now, when the final issues of event comics end up getting pushed back, the aftermath issues of those events end up being published before the event is over!

(Cut to a clip of Spaceballs)

Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner): (addressing Dark Helmet) Instant cassettes. They're out in stores before the movie is finished.

(Cut back to the comics)

Linkara (v/o): What makes it worse is that nobody but the marketing department wanted to do this. "Age of Apocalypse" was planned in advance. It was a storyline that the X-Men writers had been working on and enthusiastic about. This Scarlet Spider stunt was an idea forced on the creative teams by people who thought a book would be relevant two months after its title character no longer technically existed. And since this was forced on them, they had no idea what the hell the story was gonna be about. They just had to throw some crap together and hope it made sense. What's worse, because these were last-minute additions to things that nobody wanted to do anyway, it required additional artists who didn't regularly work on these characters to help the rushed, chaotic feel of all this.

Linkara: So, we have a bloated, rushed storyline with unenthusiastic creators on comics that nobody but noncreative people wanted as part of an effort to rip off a much more successful work in the latest in a long, increasingly frustrating endeavor that no longer even had anybody who had first envisioned it working on it. (beat) Seven years later, my friends. Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Let's dig into "Spider-Man"... or... (holds up today's comic) "Scarlet Spider: Virtual Mortality".

(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Suspended In Time" by Olivia Newton-John from Xanadu playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)

Linkara (v/o): We begin with "Web of Scarlet Spider #1". This is a four-part storyline, and I just spent all that time on a history lesson. Plus, I'm reading from a trade, so let's just skip the covers unless there's something of note.

(The comic opens to the first page)

Linkara (v/o): We open with... Krypton's red sun exploding. Huh, that's different.

Man: Oh, man, Skuds--look who's swinging down at us-- it's Spider-Man!

Linkara: (as this man) I'm gonna get his autograph after I stab this guy!

Linkara (v/o): I just noticed, the guy's shirt is open. Are they cutting off his shirt?

Linkara: (as this guy) Those shirt buttons are worth millions, man!

Linkara (v/o): And the Scarlet Spider arrives, making sure that his crotch is right dead center in the middle of this two-page spread. This also gives us a chance to show off Ben's new weapons that he created for the Scarlet Spider persona: knockout stingers he can fire, as well as the staple weapon of the Scarlet Spider: impact webbing. I friggin' love that about this. Both utilize Peter's scientific skills while creating weapons that still match with what Spidey is best known for. After all, Spidey has been able to craft stuff out of his webbing before. Impact webbing is just taking that concept to a new level, wherein it hits someone and then expands around a person and wraps them up. I'm actually surprised they didn't keep it around after the Clone Saga was over.

Scarlet Spider: (thinking) And they thought they were dealing with some amateur... Sorry, pal, but that's one story that's so convoluted... I'm not even sure that I believe it!

Linkara: Ben, just because you realize that the Clone Saga is stupid, doesn't make it any less stupid.

Linkara (v/o): His Spider Sense goes off, and he quickly hides, but isn't able to detect anything suspicious, aside from a helicopter flying nearby.

Narrator: And as the helicopter in question continues its descent into these canyons of steel and glass-- it soon becomes apparent that it has a decidedly specific agenda!

Linkara: (as Scarlet Spider) My God, they're hanging up a poster for another Paul Blart movie! This is serious!

Linkara (v/o): Actually, it's lowering a platform down with two guys in green... science suits? I dunno how to describe them, but basically henchmen gear with pouches and guns. They land on top of a van and start shooting down into it, but the Scarlet Spider swings in.

Scarlet Spider: Now this is just a guess on my part, but-- you guys aren't shooting the new Jackie Chan film, are you?

Linkara: Yes, my favorite Jackie Chan film: Rumble in the Clone Saga.

Linkara (v/o): He uses his impact webbing on the guys, but apparently, their suits are booby-trapped, setting off a smoke bomb if it's touched.

Linkara: Must be difficult getting these things dry-cleaned.

Linkara (v/o): While the two guys in the van run away, their dialogue suggesting they're criminals, Scarlet Spider decides to go after the helicopter, but in the smokescreen, it's escaped. The cops soon arrive and inspect the van, revealing that inside of it are boxes and boxes of experimental computer chips that had been stolen that morning.

Linkara: Of course! (points at camera) The true culprit stands revealed: MR. COMPUTER!

(Cut to a shot of the Human Computer)

Linkara (v/o): Or maybe that computer chip guy who was stopped by Hostess products. Really not that different in the end.

(Cut back to the Scarlet Spider comic)

Linkara (v/o): However, Ben doesn't see it that way.

Scarlet Spider: (thinking) Oh, great! Not only do I not catch the bad guys-- but now it turns out I was protecting stolen property! Can I do anything right?

Linkara: Well, I'm quite fond of your costume. Maybe your true calling was in fashion.

Scarlet Spider: (thinking) This wouldn't have happened to Peter.

Linkara: You're right, of course. Peter would've found whole new ways to screw up.

Linkara (v/o): But yeah, an honest mistake that anybody would have made, given the circumstances, and suddenly he's all brooding. We then cut over to the female Doctor Octopus, who was behind the attempted robbery of those already-stolen materials. After consulting with her ally, known as the Master Programmer – long story there, and it also doesn't make much sense, so no need to go into it right now – she swears to get the computer chips back for her vague and unexplained plans. Hopefully, those plans involve standing in a way that doesn't make it look like she's hopping on one leg. We cut over to the apartment of Dr. Seward Trainer, where Ben is throwing a temper tantrum, hurling his bag on the floor and yelling about how much he sucks.

Ben: I tell you, Seward, I couldn't be any dumber if my last name was Gump!

Linkara: Well, stupid is as stupid does, comic.

Linkara (v/o): Ben wants to figure out what to do with his life, but appreciates crashing on Seward's couch in the meantime. We then cut over to the rival mob people who were stealing the experimental computer chips, where they berate their people for failures... aaand shoot one of them dead.

Mob boss: I never liked you, Vic-- you had poor taste in clothes.

Linkara: (confused) You're all wearing suits.

Linkara (v/o): Ben begins his job search, and of course fails at the various places he tries, including this buffet.

Man: Sorry, kid... We'd only need help if we had any business!

Linkara (v/o): Well, it might help if you had any food on display to sell. He also spots this place...

Ben: (thinking) The Club Noir, huh? I've heard about this place... Very trendy...

Linkara (v/o): Wow! They're so trendy they don't even need a sign with consistent lettering!

Ben: ...What do you mean "NO!"?! I've got plenty of waiting experience!

Linkara: (as Ben) For example, I've been waiting for months now to become Spider-Man, but no one will let me!

Linkara (v/o): However, despite that experience, he never bothered to get any references. And just look how trendy this place is, with its, like, four customers. Okay, that's only how many we can see, but somehow I doubt Club Noir is really the hottest attraction in the middle of the day. He manages to impress them by catching a tripping waitress and her tray and drink.

Proprietor [Joey]: Hey, that was amazing! Weren't you in that movie "Cocktail"?

Ben: Nah-- that was my cl...uh... twin brother!

Linkara: (confused) You were cloned from Tom Cruise??

Linkara (v/o): The waitress he saves says they should give him a job, and you should trust her and her head that's as large as her upper body. Later, Doctor Octopus' goons attack a police van carrying the computer chips, only this time grabbing onto it with a giant magnet.

Linkara: Doctor Octopus, Mistress of Magnet.

Linkara (v/o): The Scarlet Spider swings in because plot convenience, now equipped with a gas mask, thanks to Dr. Trainer. He manages to get into the helicopter and... Oh, geez, this artwork! Okay, first of all, his body has been compressed; he has no torso now, just goes from shoulder to hips; his feet are pointy, like elf shoes; and apparently, (a shot of Mt. Olympus from Xanadu is superimposed) he's entered Mt. Olympus from Xanadu. I eagerly await Ben Reilly singing "Suspended in Time". The goons manage to expel him from the helicopter and shake him away, allowing Ben to demonstrate what I described earlier: him managing to quickly put together a web hang glider. He lands in the water, much to his irritation.

Scarlet Spider: Blast! I'm gonna get those guys!

Linkara: (as Scarlet Spider, raising his fist) One day, I'm gonna get that filthy animal!

(Cut to a shot of a "The End" title card from The Geek, then back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): And so, the first part of the story ends with two very poorly drawn gangsters arriving at the Club Noir, (dramatically) revealing that they actually own the place!

(To a dramatic sting, Linkara looks up in open-mouthed shock, then cut to a shot of "Spider-Man: The Trial of Peter Parker")

Linkara (v/o): You remember how last year, Carnage said Peter Parker was "a whirlpool of death and madness that sucks in everything around him, a psychic magnet for tragedy"? Yeah, it's coincidences like this that really drive that point home.

(Cut to the cover of the second story in "Virtual Mortality")

Linkara (v/o): We continue into "The Amazing Scarlet Spider #1"...

(The comic opens to the first page)

Linkara (v/o): ...where the gangsters from last time have broken into some high-tech vault, killed a bunch of people with lasers, and have now broken into the safe.

Gangster: Success!! I've found it! The new experiment virtual reality visor!!

Linkara: (as gangster, clenches fist) Oculus Rift, your power is mine!

Gangster: Mr. Tso will be pleased...

Linkara: (as gangster) We shall corner the market on virtual chicken!

Linkara (v/o): Turns out that the place they're infiltrating is a base under the control of Doctor Octopus, whom the security forces inform of the break-in. Unfortunately, they've taken heavy losses and don't stand a chance against the gangsters, so Doctor Octopus decides to cut her losses and activates her base's self-destruct to keep the visor out of their hands. It's the supervillain equivalent of "rocks fall, everyone dies". The Scarlet Spider is swinging around the area because "word on the street is that the new Doctor Octopus has a hideout in this neighborhood."

Linkara: Oh, yeah, I can just imagine Ben Reilly running down his list of contacts to see if anybody knows about the high-tech laboratory set up by a supervillain. Here, let's get Huggy Bear on the line and see what he thinks.

Linkara (v/o): The explosion attracts his attention, and he finds one of Doctor Octopus' henchmen who managed to survive the explosion, but is of course a bit traumatized by the walls falling down around him, and starts shooting everywhere. Spidey manages to knock him out and gets hold of the virtual reality visor he was holding.

Scarlet Spider: (thinking) I wonder what this thing is? Some kinda ultra-mod sunglasses?

Linkara: (as Scarlet Spider) At last, my Back to the Future II cosplay is complete! (strokes chin) Pity it's after October 21st.

Linkara (v/o): He then heads to work, where his boss is yelling out the kitchen staff.

Joey: You call that a Bolognese sauce? Why not just use a jar of Ragu?!?

Linkara: Freddy vs. Gordon Ramsey. (beat) Yeah, I know we're done with Nightmare On Elm Street; I just like the (makes an "air quote") "Freddy vs." gag.

Linkara (v/o): After Doctor Octopus talks to her security chief about finding out who raided her lab, she orders him not to take action against the attackers since she wants to deal with that herself.

Chief: Not to worry, ma'am... I've always understood the importance of delayed gratification!

Linkara: (giving a thumbs-up) T.M.I., unnamed anonymous character! (smiles)

Linkara (v/o): The Master Programmer informs her that the visor is intact, and whoever activates it will allow them to track it down. What's more, he has another plan he's initiating. We cut to... uh, "Cut To". Okay, that's weird. Did they leave the script instructions in the actual comic? Erm, anyway, we cut over to The Vault, one of the Marvel Universe's prisoners for superpowered individuals. Here, a supervillain is about to released for time served, a minor villain Spidey fought a few times in the old days called The Looter. He was also called Meteor Man, but for some reason, in this comic, they decided to change his name back to The Looter.

(Cut to a shot of another comic from Marvel called "Meteor Man", a very different Meteor Man)

Linkara (v/o): Can't imagine why they would do that.

(Cut back to the Scarlet Spider comic)

Master Programmer: (narrating) You see, Carolyn, the Internet offers many perks to one such as I...

Linkara: (as Master Programmer) I can make and upload more Vines per minute than anyone thought possible!

Linkara (v/o): They decide to hire him because... why not hire someone who has a habit of failing multiple times before?

Master Programmer: (narrating) The reasons why will make themselves known soon enough.

Linkara: Spoilers: The reasons are that he has enhanced strength and experiences as a thief. And I remind you that he failed multiple times despite that.

Linkara (v/o): At work, Ben is hit on by his redheaded coworker.

Linkara: Because even though part of the idea with this whole thing was to have an unmarried Peter Parker again, they still wanted him to date a hot redhead.

Linkara (v/o): And I don't think we've even gotten her name yet. To save time, it's Rachel. But anyway, Ben spots the bald goon from the last issue going into the back room and recognizes him, wondering what he's up to. And what he is doing is dropping off some experimental computer chips that he did manage to retrieve from the raid – really crappy self-destruct, considering at least two guys survived the blast of an entire building with nary a scratch on either – to Mr. Tso, the crime boss who runs the Club Noir. And it seems Mr. Tso has his own super secret computer monitor guy working with him.

Linkara: Because that's what the Clone Saga needed: more mysterious characters with ambiguous backstories and motivations. I should just start numbering them for convenience sake.

Linkara (v/o): After Ben goes back to Seward's apartment, the creative team must have thought, "Hey, did we introduce a hot redhead yet to be a love interest for Ben? Because if we haven't, we should." And thus, we're introduced to a broker named Carrie Bradley. And I really think that is honestly what happened, that they forgot they already introduced Rachel earlier as the hot redhead. Why? Because in two issues more into the storyline, Carrie suddenly becomes blonde. But anyway, Ben gives Seward the VR visor, which he recognizes as one immediately, albeit more advanced than the ones he played with back in "The Greatest Responsibility". And because he's an idiot, he immediately plugs it into his system and takes it for a test drive. And of course, the Master Programmer detects it.

Narrator: Moments later, Seward Trainer is standing amidst a strange new world... a reality completely made up of computer chips and imagination.

Linkara: (waves dismissively) Yeah, yeah, yeah, just show off Teleroboxing and Red Alarm already.

Linkara (v/o): Why is Dr. Trainer's virtual self in a purple skintight suit? Does he secretly want to be Catwoman? The Master Programmer sends some kind of virtual robot program or something to attack Seward. And somehow, with this virtual battle taking place, it manifests objects in the real world in front of him. Okay, I could buy that Doctor Octopus invented a device that allowed you to create objects purely with your own mind. It's loose sci-fi, suspension of disbelief that such a device could exist.

(Cut to a clip of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Linkara (v/o): But it's kind of like the Replicator technology in Star Trek, rearranging molecules to form new objects. It makes some sense, just not with the mind-reading part, but whatever.

(Back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): The problem is that they keep calling it virtual reality! I just don't get it. What is with writers in the '90s who did crap like this? What is it about the words "virtual reality" that made them think, "Oh, a fake reality, something manufactured? Well, obviously, that means the fake things can also exist in the real world!"

(Cut to a clip of another episode of Star Trek TNG)

Linkara (v/o): Going back to Star Trek, even they understood that. Sure, there's questions you could ask about holodecks. How do they move past the borders of the walls, for one. I think the floors are actually on a treadmill to give the illusion of movement. Or the occasional hiccup where an object does leave. Could be tied in with the Replicator in the case of water leaving. But the point is that if there's nothing projecting something fake, it's not gonna be able to leave the virtual setting! I mean, maybe you could argue that it's some kind of all-powerful being, some kind of creature manifested with godlike powers could bend the laws of physics to make such things happen... BUT DON'T CALL IT VIRTUAL REALITY!! To make a long story short...

(Cut to a clip of Clue)

Everyone: Too late!

(Cut back to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): Scarlet Spider enters the virtual realm, and the Programmer creates virtual enemies for him to fight, including virtual Venom and Carnage.

Linkara: And suddenly, this has become a remake of (the cover of the following is shown in the corner...) "Wild Thing #1".

Linkara (v/o): It also unleashes a virtual reality Spider-Man to screw with his head. I'm sure it's supposed to be symbolic of Ben overcoming his feelings of inadequacy compared to Peter, but it's rushed. Bear in mind, we're only at the halfway point of the story, and Peter's only been gone for two comics. It's not well thought out, and it's really not a good thing to have this in the comic when you're trying to sell readers on Ben Reilly being the one true Spider-Man, having him beat up an effigy of the guy everybody likes! Sure, he's complimenting Peter while he does so, but that might actually make it worse, since you're instead making readers think, "Yeah, why aren't I reading Peter Parker right now?"

(Cut to a clip of Spider-Man: The Animated Series)

Spider-Man: This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!

(Back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): He takes out the robot, but Trainer is pierced by digital Carnage, which sends him into a catatonic state in the real world.

Ben: (thinking) I shouldn't have left him alone! I should have stayed by his side! This is all my fault! ALL MY FAULT!!

Linkara: Well, there's your comparison to Peter Parker right there: you are just as good at needlessly guilt-tripping yourself.

(Cut to a closeup of the third story's cover)

Linkara (v/o): We continue into "Adjectiveless Scarlet Spider #1"...

(The comic opens to the first page)

Linkara (v/o): ...wherein we spend the first three pages recapping, while the Scarlet Spider drops Dr. Trainer off at a hospital. They say he's physically fine, but has no brain activity, something I also wonder about with this doctor, who apparently thinks the Scarlet Spider is hanging on top of the ceiling, given that she's looking completely away from him while talking to him. When she mentions that she had to contact the police about the unusual way Dr. Trainer was delivered here, Scarlet Spider quickly swings away. In the meantime, here's Walter White playing with a 3DS XL.

Linkara: Yeah, that's all I've got for that joke. I've never watched Breaking Bad.

Linkara (v/o): This guy is actually a character called "The Pro", an assassin with a rather ill-chosen name. See, it's supposed to be short for "The Professional", as in a professional assassin. According to commentary on this, it's a reference to a 1994 film called Leon the Professional, which was the big-screen debut of Natalie Portman and is also about a hitman. Now, the ill-chosen part is really more of an "in retrospect" thing, since I get the idea behind the name.

(Cut to a shot of another comic involving another character, a different one, also known as "The Pro")

Linkara (v/o): The problem is that there is a 2002 comic by Garth Ennis called "The Pro". It is about a prostitute with superpowers.

(Cut back to The Pro in the Scarlet Spider comic)

Linkara (v/o): So, every time this guy is called "The Pro", my mind flashes to wrong things in regards to what he's supposed to be doing here. Also, he's extending his pinkie out for some reason. What the hell?

Narrator: He consults his PDA...

Linkara (v/o): ...which the editor reminds us is a "Personal Digital Assistant".

Linkara: I love how the writers know what a PDA is, but none of them know what virtual reality is! (frowns)

Linkara (v/o): Anyway, The Pro breaks into this crime boss' office, kills all his assistants, and orders him to shut down his operation and leave the country. He says he's not gonna kill him unless he's paid to, but the threat is clear. And I'm just kinda bored by this because I'm not reading "Spider-Man" to see hitmen who aren't in goofy costumes. On things closer to actually relevant the plot, we cut over to Peter...

(Editor's note: "Ben, not Peter")

Linkara (v/o): ...where he meets up with Carrie again, thinking she's under attack, but in reality, she's just carrying a padded suit for the self-defense class she teaches. She even invites him out for a date after her next one, so score one for Ben. Over to the Daily Bugle, where a reporter named Ken Ellis, who was the one who originally coined the name "Scarlet Spider" for the papers, is thinking about the wonders of technology.

Ken: (thinking) Now that I've got most of my sources on-line, all I've gotta do is sit back and let the information pour in.

Linkara: (as Ken) And let's see what information the Internet provides me today... (takes a piece of paper and looks at it, then becomes confused) "Jet fuel can't melt steel beams"?

Linkara (v/o): Actually, he learns there will be some big party at the Club Noir that night that'll have a bunch of known mobsters present, so he wants to make sure he'll be there.

Linkara: Oh, well, naturally, the place with all the known criminal connections will allow a reporter to hang out. (beat) You really do spend all your time on the Internet, don't you?

Linkara (v/o): We cut over to...

Narrator: Cyberspace. An electronic realm of infinite boundaries -- limited only by the programs which define it, it swims and swirls with potential and possibility!

Linkara: The capacity for pornography, cat videos and harassment is infinite!

Linkara (v/o): I mean, what'll they think of next? Idiots making videos about twenty-year-old comic book storylines? Anyway, the cyberspace meeting is Doctor Octopus talking to the Master Programmer.

Linkara: It was necessary for them to meet in cyberspace instead of just talking to each other over a monitor like they have in every other conversation they've had because... (stops himself and looks around shiftily as he tries to come up with an explanation, then suddenly looks and points to his right) Oh, hey, look, tumbler.

Linkara (v/o): Actually, the real reason we needed to do this was because Dr. Trainer's mind is stuck in cyberspace. Again, the poor and rushed plotting here. We're left in suspense about Dr. Trainer being effectively braindead earlier in the comic, but the reveal that his mind is alive and well in cyberspace has no fanfare or the like; it's just "Oh, hey, there he is!" Doctor Octopus and the Master Programmer are just expositing about their plans: Doctor Octopus hired The Pro to kill Mr. Tso, while the Master Programmer leaked the information to Ellis, so that when Tso is killed, the reporting on the story will send a message to anyone who tries to interfere with her plans. And Dr. Trainer's reaction?

Dr. Trainer: (thinking) Being stuck in cyberspace does have its advantages-- like being secretly able to spy on my daughter and find out what she's really up to.

Linkara: Aaand without the context for that statement, you really do come across like a terrible father, don't ya, Seward?

Linkara (v/o): Later, during the party, Ben accidentally spills some wine on Mr. Tso, which gets him fired. After The Pro starts working on breaking in by knocking out two guards outside, Ben gets ready to clear out his locker... and frankly, I can't help but feel he was gonna get fired anyway for wearing those pants (...which has purple stripes on it) with that tux. Another sign of rushed art: Ben's GIANT HANDS! He's contacted by Dr. Trainer on an ATM... that has huge buttons and a chair in front of it for some reason.

(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Design For Dreaming)

Crow: Just because it's futuristic doesn't mean it's practical.

(Back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): Dr. Trainer isn't around long enough to tell him anything, but it distracts him long enough for his Spider Sense to go off and notice not only Ellis approaching, but also the two guards that The Pro had previously knocked out. They now have mind control devices on them that are forcing them to bring grenades up to the place to kill Tso. Ben, noticing this, leaps in and knocks the grenades away. The woman with Ellis notices Ben briefly, thinking it's Peter Parker, but no time for that, as Ben ducks away to change outfits. The Pro shows up and knocks out the guard, calling up Doctor Octopus on the ATM so she can tell Tso why she's having him killed. Fortunately, the Scarlet Spider interrupts. Doctor Octopus changes the target to him, tripling his fee, but that just allows Scarlet Spider the opening to knock The Pro out a window, albeit with a webbed-up hand to keep him from falling to his death. The Pro then tosses a grenade into the window, because he's kind of an idiot, and it allows him a chance to escape... somehow, while also letting Scarlet Spider grab Ken Ellis and the woman to keep them from being killed by it. As the Scarlet Spider swings off, Ellis asks for an interview.

Scarlet Spider: To the guy who gave me that stupid, pathetic, lame NAME...? In your DREAMS, Ellis!

Linkara: Seriously, what is everyone's in-universe problem with that name? It's a perfectly fine name! (points at camera) And I've heard a lot worse! Looking at you, The Fixer!

Linkara (v/o): The issue ends with Ben cleaning out his locker, being offered a new job by Tso as a bodyguard, in thanks for saving his life earlier.

(Cut to a closeup of the fourth and final story's cover)

Linkara (v/o): We end the storyline on the first issue of "The Spectacular Scarlet Spider".

Linkara: See, Ben? That's why the name is so good! It's awesome alliteration!

Linkara (v/o): And we open with that Looter guy from earlier, and dear Lord, it already infected him with the '90s. You know, the original Looter costume wasn't great, a little generic, but it had a cool mask at least. So what do they do? Stick him in an ugly, olive green skinsuit and slap on cybernetic underwear.

(Cut to the MST3K gang watching The Undead)

Mike: (as a character in the movie, dressed like a knight) There, sure glad I don't look stupid in this.

(Cut back to the comic)

Linkara (v/o): But yeah, they've added cybernetic enhancements to him because everything is better with cyborgs, albeit generic, ugly-looking cyborgs. He's training with two other people: Aura, who can project force fields, and Override, who can access any pieces of mechanical equipment, like we see here.

(Dramatic music plays as Override has a battle in the comic with a forklift)

Linkara (v/o): (singing)

This is the song written for the Saga
The one with virtual reality
He tried to kill him with a forklift...

(spoken) So anyway, yeah, they fight for a bit until Doctor Octopus says they've done enough training for now. While they all get ready for a briefing, we learn that there's an undercover FBI agent there, reporting on what Doctor Octopus is up to. It amounts to nothing in this storyline. Over to Spidey, he quickly recaps what's happened so far, as you do, and then heads over to the hospital to check on Dr. Trainer in civilian form. I'll assume stuff happened off-panel that we're not privy to, concerning him just being able to visit him, since he's not family and a superhero dropped him off, but whatever. He talks to his unconscious body, but Dr. Trainer shows up on the hospital monitors to inform him of Doctor Octopus' plans to raid the Club Noir again that night with her new cybernetic agents.

Linkara: (stroking chin) And I just realized: unconscious person with their brain in cyberspace, and green faces saying things about nefarious activities. Was this story the inspiration for Ripper?

(Cut to a clip of Ripper)

Ripper: This guy, he's un-fucking-believable!

(Back to the comic again)

Linkara (v/o): And over to Carrie Bradley and her self-defense class, where, as I foretold, she apparently got a dye job between issues and is now a blonde. Ben informs her that with his new job, he's gonna have to take a raincheck on the date that night. She's actually a little pissed about it.

Carrie: You could have told me earlier, so I could've made other plans...

Linkara (v/o): How? You two only just met, like, a day ago. He doesn't have your phone number, and even if he did, I doubt you have a cell phone, and at best, he could've left a message on your answering machine. It's not like he's blowing you off completely. He just needs to reschedule because stuff happens! Geez, no wonder sitcoms always just use wacky hijinks instead of telling the truth, because apparently, if you do, the other person will be a jerk about it! Ben shows up for the new job and sees Tso pass off a briefcase to his goon that probably has the stolen computer chips inside of it. He wants to plant a spider tracer on him, but then Rachel shows up. And I should note that this, the final issue of the storyline, is where we finally learn her name*. She brings a martini to Tso, who throws it in her face because he's displeased with it. Ben is naturally pissed by this, but he can't do anything since he needs to be close to Tso for the raid. Speaking of, they attack, forcing a truck to drive into the club. Aura and Override are there to distract the guards while Looter goes to the vault. Ben saves Tso from falling rubble, but makes sure to keep himself on the other side of it so that he can change clothes, then provide an exit for the civilians in the club.

  • NOTE: Her name really is Rachel, as a thought balloon by Ben reveals.

Linkara: What's sad is that after massive brawls and explosions and gunfire at this place (holds up two fingers) twice in one week, it's probably gonna be trendier than ever!

Linkara (v/o): Scarlet Spider manages to defeat both villains, using impact webbing and his stingers, but then the Looter comes in, informing his now-unconscious colleagues that the vault was empty. He sees the Scarlet Spider and thinks he's Spider-Man.

Looter: Time for the Looter to get a little payback!

Scarlet Spider: (thinking) ...Looter... the Looter...?

Linkara: (as Scarlet Spider) Wow! He looks really lame!

Linkara (v/o): So, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, fightfightfight. Looter manages to get away with the other two. Ben quickly changes back and meets up with Tso again, who congratulates him once more on saving him.

Ben: (thinking) Great! I'm doing excellent in a job that I hate--working for a guy I don't like-- and I don't even know where the chips--the reason I took the job in the first place-- are!

Linkara: Ben, you are really a Negative Nancy. At least your boss is giving you verbal encouragement. (points to camera) I don't think J. Jonah would've done that for you.

Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic – and this storyline – ends with Tso meeting up with his mysterious computer monitor ally, who stands revealed as Alistair Smythe, inventor of the Robotic Spider Slayers!

Linkara: Oh, hey, neat! I knew there was a reason (holds up a Spider-Man Tri-Spider Slayer toy) I bought this old Spider Slayer toy from my childhood. (becomes puzzled as he stares it) Although, it's been like a year or two now, and I still haven't opened it yet. Huh. (puts toy down) Anyway, seven years later, (holds up the "Virtual Mortality" comics) and these comics still suck.

Linkara (v/o): I'll admit, they're certainly better than a lot of other Clone Saga stories we've looked at over the last few years, but that's because they're too busy being boring and uninteresting. The stuff establishing a new status quo for Ben Reilly is fine: creating some new supporting characters, for instance, and trying to come up with a new job for him that's different from Peter. However, the plot itself is hardly the stuff of legend; it's two criminal factions trying to get their hands on some computer chip parts for reasons that have yet to be explained. And virtual reality is involved somehow. And Dr. Trainer has now become trapped in cyberspace, which I presume to be the reason why the storyline is called "Virtual Mortality", except, of course, it's not resolved, and there's nothing to suggest his life is currently in danger while in cyberspace, so it just feels like nothing was really accomplished for a four-issue storyline. And Ben spends most of it moping for stupid reasons.

Linkara: I do find it hilarious that the trade for this part of the Clone Saga is called (points to comic) "The Complete Ben Reilly Epic" when the most epic thing that happens so far is the Scarlet Spider crashing into some water. Next week, Secret Origins Month starts up again. Here's to the next seven years. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)

(End credits roll)

So by "track it down," the Master Programmer meant "send some program tokill [sic] the person who stole it."

If the Pro has mind control technology, why would he ever need to stop in to finish a job?

(Stinger: Linkara walks out into the living room, yawning. Suddenly, the room darkens, much to his confusion. Then he becomes startled as he hears evil cackling and spots what looks like Freddy Krueger silhouetted against a faint light coming from the floor. When he sees who it is, however, Linkara reacts casually)

Linkara: Hmph. (holds up magic gun) Welcome back from a low-budget space, Fred. (aims gun at him)

Freddy: Still a funny guy, I see.

Linkara: Ooh, I'm full of jokes. Ever heard the one about the asshole who got his head blown twice in one week?

Freddy: Oh, don't worry. I ain't here to do anything to ya.

Linkara: Oh, really? How am I even seeing you? The magic coin is far away, and I finally got some sleep.

Freddy: Good on that, by the way. Just came here to tell ya, it's your move.

Linkara: (confused) What?

Freddy: The game, Linkara! I made my move. Now it's your turn.

Linkara: What the hell are you talking about, Freddy?

Freddy: Freddy? (laughs) Now, whoever said I was Freddy? (Linkara is more confused than ever) The board has been set up, human. Now it's your turn.

(As he cackles again, "Freddy" fades away, and the lights return. Linkara looks around in confusion)

Linkara: Well, then, I'd better make sure I win.

(To a dramatic sting, the screen goes black)