This weeks Your Nerd Side Show:
Spider-Man has a complicated history with clones. One of his greatest foes, the Jackal, turned the Web-Slinger's life upside down by using his genetic data to create multiple copies of him. The most notable of these is Ben Reilly, the former Scarlet Spider who briefly replaced Spider-Man and now goes by the villainous moniker Chasm after having his memory erased. There's also Peter's scarred, failed clone Kaine, who began as a villain but then reformed to become the second Scarlet Spider. Many readers, however, may be unaware of Peter Parker's third clone, an experiment known as Spidercide, who possesses the ability to manipulate his molecular structure to achieve any shape or form. While long believed dead, he is now confirmed to return in the new upcoming series Spine-Tingling Spider-Man (by Saladin Ahmed and Juan Ferreyra). Whether Spidercide will emerge as friend or foe, and what this return means for Spider-Man remains to be seen.
Spidercide debuted in Spectacular Spider-Man (vol 1.) #222 (Tom DeFalco, Sal Buscema, Bill Sienkiewicz, Clem Robins), as yet another Peter Parker clone released by the Jackal to sow chaos in Spidey's world. At the time, it was unclear whether Peter or his double, Ben Reilly, was the true "Peter Parker" and suddenly another clone burst into their lives, claiming he was the real deal. This quickly proved false when a genetic trigger warped Spidercide into a shapeshifting monster. Retreating to the Jackal's lair, he received his own costume and distinguished himself by experimenting with his unique molecular powers. These powers were so advanced that Spidercide could warp his body into any weapon or form. At the end of the "Maximum Clonage" storyline in which Peter, Ben, and Kaine fought against the Jackal, Spidercide was presumed killed and wouldn't appear in a Spider-Man comic again for almost three decades.
Spidercide Symbolized 1990s Excess In Comics
Spidercide's long absence could be attributed to how emblematic he was of that era in comics. The 1990s had a reputation for extreme storylines, and both Spidercide's ridiculous name and his role in the maligned "Clone Saga" contributed to his obscurity. However, nostalgic readers have reevaluated this era in recent years. Since the Spider-Man books have revisited Peter's other clones, such as Ben Reilly and Kaine, it seems natural for Spidercide to make his grand comeback. He finally reappeared in last year's Ben Reilly: Spider-Man miniseries (J.M. DeMatteis, David Baldeon, Israel Silva, VC’s Joe Caramagna), as the main antagonist. The miniseries presented an untold tale of Ben Reilly's days as Spider-Man and showed him coming to terms with his need for human companionship. All the while, Ben was being stalked by Spidercide, a creature that didn't understand the mysterious concept of humanity.
Spidercide's lack of understanding of humanity serves as a poignant reflection of his own origin. He was created in a laboratory by the Jackal, and not only is he aware he's not the real Parker, but he never even had the chance to create an alternate identity and life like his fellow clone Ben Reilly did. Spidercide's unstable molecular nature affects his thought patterns and emotions, and he vents his rage at Ben even as he tries to understand what humanity is and whether he possesses any. As Spidercide pursues Ben Reilly, it becomes clear that his quest for understanding is intertwined with his desire to find a place in a world he feels disconnected from.
Spidercide Is Different From His Fellow Clones
Spidercide almost operates on a higher plane than his fellow clones. He tells Reilly that he's "always been different from father's other creations" and was "born with the ability to evolve." Unlike Reilly and Kaine, Spidercide doesn't desire Peter Parker's life. Instead, he uses his abilities to explore his own humanity and emulate the personal connections that come so easily to others. In order to fulfill his desire to "be human and feel the unique connection everyone shares," he goes on a dating site with the goal of luring in victims for him to absorb. These victims are also lonely and yearning for connection, and Spidercide uses their deaths to further his understanding of humanity. In the end, Spidercide witnesses Ben Reilly's heroism firsthand and it inspires him to sacrifice himself to save his "brother." Ben can sense Spidercide's pain and emotions even as he dies.
Spidercide believes he lacks a soul, but his selfless act to save Ben Reilly's life proves otherwise. His self-awareness of his inherent differences and his desire to evolve beyond his initial purpose help distinguish him as a unique player in the world of clones. And his transformation into a shapeshifting killer, driven by a misguided attempt to bridge the gap between himself and humanity, adds layers of tragedy to this formerly one-dimensional character. In his quest to feel the "unique connection everyone shares," Spidercide's actions become a twisted reflection of the human condition itself — the desire for belonging and understanding but perverted through murderous actions.
Spidercide Will Return in Spine-Tingling Spider-Man
Spidercide's evolution from a one-dimensional antagonist symbolic of 90s excess into a multifaceted character with depth and nuance bodes well for his upcoming return. Still, it raises questions about what he wants. His aspiration to understand and connect with humanity, coupled with his brutal methods of doing so, may present a unique challenge to Spider-Man, who is currently dealing with a series of setbacks. Spider-Man has had his own trouble with human connections, losing the love of his life Mary Jane, and struggling with his guilt over Ms. Marvel’s recent death. Spidercide might be drawn to Peter due to their familial bond. However, the preview art of their clash hints that their reunion will be a violent one.
Spidercide will return in the Spine-Tingling Spider-Man series, which will release its first issue in September. The series will either cement Spidercide's place as a tragic foe or as a new ally in search of redemption. While created from Peter Parker's DNA, he stands apart from both Ben Reilly and Kaine, demonstrating that clones can form their own unique identities and aren't just copies of the original person. Spidercide's complicated journey also mirrors Peter Parker's own struggles with identity, morality, and connection. Time will tell whether Spider-Man is in the mood for such an emotionally challenging family reunion.