Dark Web #1

Issue Date: 
February 2023
Story Title: 
All the Real Boys and Girls

Zeb Welks (writer), Adam Kubert (artist), Frank Martin (colorist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Adam Kubert & Alejandro Sanchez (cover artists), Federico Vicentini, Ryan Stegman, David Baldeon, Carlos Gomet, Bobby Hernandez (alternate covers), Adam Del re (senior designer) Kaden McGahey (assistant editor), Albert Banazak (editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief),
Spider-Man created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Brief Description: 

Madelyne Pryor, the new queen of Limbo, has made a deal with Spider-Man’s clone, Ben Reilly aka Chasm, that they will help out each other, as they both want something back from their “donors.” Maddie has given Ben’s girlfriend Janine powers and now she recruits Venom for her purpose to break into the Krakoan embassy and steal something for her. In the meantime, Peter Parker and friends gather at their old college haunt, the Coffee Bean, to remember their late friend Harry Osborn. The party is paid for by a regretful Norman Osborn, and Peter has a talk with Norman, assuring him that the clone of Harry they are grieving loved him. The X-Men, in the meantime, are Christmas-shopping in Manhattan. When Madelyne casts her spell, objects in Manhattan turn demonically alive again, as they did years ago during Inferno. Spider-Man and the X-Men try to help, with the X-Men realizing that Madelyne has to be behind this. In the meantime, Ben Reilly attacks Norman Osborn in revenge, and Venom decides he wants to eat Spider-Man’s brains.

Full Summary: 

Somewhere, somewhen:
A snowy evening in Manhattan:
Ben Reilly and his girlfriend Janine are window-shopping. She warns him they can’t afford this. Ben reminds her that it’s Christmas. But he’s not Santa Claus! she shoots back. He doesn’t know… red suits… rooftops… She tells him to keep going. He gives in. He is not Santa Claus. Christmas is cancelled.

Ben Reilly! a voice shouts, and to his shock he sees the man he was cloned from – Peter Parker, and his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson. Laughing, Peter tells Ben he hates to do this on Christmas, but he needs his stuff back. What stuff? a confused Ben asks. Peter and Mary Jane laugh more and more, as they tell him, all of it.

Peter grabs Ben’s hair and pulls it off like a wig. Just because Ben dyes it blond, it doesn’t mean it’s his. Then he throws it away. It isn’t real hair, he scoffs, just trash.

Ben tries to protest, but Peter peels off his mouth.

Janine tries to stop him, but MJ grabs her and puts her into the shop window where Janine turns into a mannequin. Peter in the meantime peels off Ben’s nose and eyes, but what he really wants is inside his head, the memories Ben copied off him.

A second mannequin appears in the window. And Peter tells him that is where he really belongs… a nothing person in a nowhere place…

Ben Reilly aka Chasm awakes from his nightmare, screaming. He is in Limbo. It is unpleasant, isn’t it? a voice asks him, to be confronted with all they have taken. That’s the last time he takes a nap down here, Ben groans.

Madelyne Pryor, the new queen of Limbo, steps forth. Emotion has power here, pain and regret are currency. She’s focused hers into the Scythe of Sorrows, by which she commands the demons of Limbo. To work the magic above, she needs to focus his hurt into energy. So, tell her, does he feel energized? If pain is energy, he is full of it, he replies. Good, Madelyne announces. Everything was stolen from them – let’s go get it back!

The Coffee Bean, Manhattan, December 13th:
Several old friends have gathered to celebrate the late Harry Osborn’s birthday. Harry’s widow Liz tells Peter Parker it is good to see everyone. They needed this, he agrees. When they are all together, it is almost like Harry is here. Liz doubted the choice of location but Flash Thompson reminded her Harry loved it here.

Liz walks to Mary Jane Watson at the counter and asks about her new beau. MJ explains that the babysitter fell through, so Paul stayed at home? Kids? Liz asks confused. A long story, Carlie interjects. Liz wants to know more.

J. Jonah Jameson criticizes Randy Robertson for sniffing around Tombstone’s daughter, after the man bullied him for years. Randy points out they are engaged now. That will teach him, Jonah decides.

MJ walks over to Peter. They didn’t talk before, due to their currently strained relationship, but MJ figures Harry’s birthday is a good reason for a ceasefire. Peter orders two cappuccinos for them but, when he wants to pay, he is told the money is all taken care of. By who? Peter asks. That guy! The barista nods to the shop window. Outside, a sad looking Norman Osborn is about to walk away.

Peter hurries after him and greets him. Norman explains that he didn’t want to bother anyone, but he thought… he trails off. Peter tells him it’s okay. Norman muses, everybody is gathered to remember a clone of his son who died in his arms. It’s hard not to feel it was a punishment for what Norman put Peter through… Peter’s clone died in his arms, didn’t he? Ben Reilly? And Norman orchestrated the whole thing…

Peter assures him he is a different man now, and that man loved his son very much. It is okay to be sad Harry’s gone. And he believes that? Norman asks. That it was Harry who gave his life for him? Even though it was a clone? Cautiously, Peter replies it was a different person than Harry. In his position, he has to believe that. But it was a real person, and that person was good… in the way Harry was good. And he loved Norman and needed love in the way Harry did.

Norman admits, he misses him. And it was nice to have him around… he knows that much. He leaves.

Chasm tells Madelyne he doesn’t like surprises. She chides him not to be like that. She has errands to run, while he goes about his work. She’ll need help. Isn’t that what Hallow’s Eve is for? Chasm asks, referring to his girlfriend Janine? Of course, Madelyne agrees. They are made from the same cloth: two women the world made a hobby of destroying. But what she wants is in Krakoa’s New York base. By agreement, Madelyne is forbidden to enter it with ill intent. And he doesn’t want his precious Janine going in alone, does he? He guesses not, but he isn’t planning on being quiet with her troops. The X-Men are gonna know she is behind this. Madelyne agrees, and how they react will author their story’s end.

They reach a door, leading to Madelyne’s surprise. Eddie, she greets Venom warmly. He just replies that she said she’d help find his son. Everything he needs is in New York up above, she replies, or sideways reality really, but it feels like they are down below, doesn’t it? His son, now! he demands curtly. They’ll both get what they want, as long as they help each other, Madelyne promises. She orders Ben to close the door and tells Venom his mind carries a great weight. Let’s lighten the load.

In the meantime, the X-Men have mingled with the crowd in the streets of Manhattan, doing their Christmas shopping. Cyclops enthusiastically announces Christmas in New York never gets old. Is she drinking this in? he asks his wife Jean, who grumpily replies if he means this sea of animosity. Everyone is silently cursing the crowd while refusing to admit they are part of the crowd. Like he said, Christmas in New York, Scott grins.

Further behind, Bobby Drake points out that Angelica Jones is no fun, because she is using her microwave power to keep warm. Can he get some of that? Alex Summers asks. He is freezing! She tells him to get closer.

Illyana Rasputin looks at the Christmas decoration in a shop window, pronouncing that Christmas %&#+ is weird. What is he supposed to be? Suddenly, the goblin looks at her, grins and states textus tenebrarum. Then he is inanimate again. What was that? she asks puzzled. Jean asks if she is okay. No problem here, Illyana replies. Probably.

Textus tenebrarum, Madelyne Pryor shouts and her demons echo as she casts her spell, while playing a kind of organ-lime structure.

Finished, she asks her witnesses Chasm and Hallow’s Eve if they like her song. Sounds great, Eve replies. Madelyne explains that the demon spirits are primed. Should she play on, their great work is begun and there is no turning back, so what do they say? Play on! both of them reply. She laughs and walks back to the organ.

Peter Parker is leaving the Coffee Bean. Suddenly, his spider-sense goes crazy.

The X-Men hear something strange too. She hates this song, Magik mutters, and everywhere in Manhattan inanimate objects become alive and decidedly demonic. At a romantic carriage ride, the carriage suddenly tries to swallows its passengers. A statue suddenly and rudely insults the people looking at it.

Peter changes into Spider-Man, then crawls up to a roof to get a better look at what’s going on and decide where to help. What he sees is several demons attacking. This is why he never goes to Rockefeller Center on Christmas, he sighs.

Down below, Havok, Iceman and Firestar are battling the demons. Iceman remarks to Havok, he doesn’t want to insinuate anything, but has he heard from his girlfriend lately? Madelyne is not his girlfriend, is the tight-lipped reply.

Jean Grey tells her husband that, while the emotional energy is similar, she doesn’t sense Madelyne anywhere nearby. Cyclops replies that they are not in benefit of the doubt territory. Maybe giving a woman called Goblin Queen the keys to Limbo wasn’t the best idea, he continues pointedly. Magik insists that Maddie has changed. She adds somewhat disappointed, maybe not quite as much as she thought… Maddie, what did you do? she wonders.

In a nearby street, Madelyne gloats that they certainly know she’s the boss now. She asks Hallow’s Eve how it feels to be home. Like a punishment, the young woman replies sullenly. Madelyne suggests she meet their new friend and raise some hell. She orders Venom to get a move on and announces time is short. They need to be gone by the time Ben has finished his work.

Oscorp Building:
Norman Osborn sits in his office, listening to the news about the chaos in the city. He switches the computer off and thinks, then he looks at the wall, at the mask of his Gold Goblin outfit. What harm could it do? he wonders aloud. A lot. Trust him, comes a familiar voice from Chasm aka Ben Reilly aka clone of Peter Parker.

Norman observes he sounds like Peter. Chasm agrees, or Peter sounds like him, but he doesn’t want to get into that. Name’s Ben Reilly. Ring any bells? He knows it does, Osborn replies calmly. What does he want? That’s a tricky question, Ben laughs There is an answer. It’s just tricky, because some of his memories are his and some are Peter’s. He lost all of Peter’s, and Peter won’t give them back. Worse, Ben didn’t keep all of his memories. Most of those he has are bad. Turns out they make the biggest impressions… the pain… the betrayals… the beginning to think he was the real Spider-Man, only to have his identity yanked out from under him. And then, he thinks, he was incinerated. That part’s foggy. He guesses what he is trying to say to Norman is that he really, really remembers him!

Norman runs and shouts the command “golf glider voice key nine-five.” Chasm kicks him in the back. Everything gets settled tonight, he threatens, starting with Norman! Tonight’s bad for him, Norman retorts and presses a button on a small device. The gold glider flies past Chasm to Norman, who puts on the Gold Goblin helmet. He wants nothing more than to make amends for what he’s done. But Ben bruised his kidney and he thinks he means his friend harm. So now they dance.

Fantastic story, Chasm replies: he posed as Peter and got up in Norman’s gear. He presses a switch and the glider detonates. Let’s get back to the amends Norman was so hot on making… With each blow he counts: one amend, two amends…

Elsewhere, an impatient Madelyne announces that she has had enough of that. They had an agreement! That was before, Venom leers. Before they knew he was here. They will kill him! Finally, they will have their vengeance! Venom jumps past the two women and flees.

Concerned, Madelyne admits she and Ben tried to make him malleable, but they may have taken too much from him. Eve wryly agrees as Venom shouts they are going to eat Spider Man’s brains…

Characters Involved: 

Cyclops, Firestar, Havok, Iceman, Jean Gey, Magik (X-Men)

Norman Osborn
Liz Osborn, MaryJane Watson

Goblin Queen
Hallow’s Eve

Story Notes: 

This is the start of the Dark Web crossover. The X-Men plot continues in the Dark Web: X-Men limited series, while the Spider-Man plot continues in the Spider-titles.

Ben’s dream is inspired by the dream that led Madelyne down the road of becoming the Goblin Queen in Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #232.

Madelyne became ruler of Limbo in New Mutants (4th series) #28.

Clone Harry Osborn died in Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #875.

Madelyne promised Venom she’d help find his son in Venom #3.

Norman Osborn had his sins taken away some time ago and since then has tried to make amends and befriended Peter.

Osborn messed with Ben’s life making him believe he was the real Peter Parker and was responsible for his death (Spider-Man (1st series) #75), so Ben understandably has issues with him.

Ben got better but later lost his memories, for which he wrongly blames Peter Parker. [Amazing Spider-Man (5th series) #93]

Ben and his girlfriend Janine met Madelyne Pryor, which was also when Madelyne gave Janine her powers as Hallow’s Eve. [Amazing Spider-Man (6th series) #14]

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