Jay Jameson Sr. is dead. Peter Parker is devastated. He’s lost so many people in his life, and now, he’s by Aunt May’s side as she once again has to cope with the loss of yet another husband. Jay’s son, J. Jonah Jameson, blames Peter for the death of his father. He angrily confronts the young man, and Peter is forced to admit to himself that his former employer is right. Even now, as a CEO of a successful, multinational corporation, Parker didn’t save the life of a man he cared about.
After the funeral, Peter’s friend Anna Maria asks why Jameson was so upset. Peter explains that when Jay got sick, a possible treatment was offered by a mysterious company called New U Technologies. Peter was reluctant to use an experimental treatment on somebody he cared so much about, but then a unique opportunity came along. An accident at a Parker Industries Plant left a worker named Jerry badly injured and precariously close to death. So Peter paid for that man to get the experimental treatment. It was expensive, but it seemed worth it. That treatment worked, but when Peter shook Jerry’s hand, his Spider-Sense went off. Concerned about this, Peter recommended to Jay and Aunt May that they decline the treatment, and they accepted his judgement. But, really, now he’s gone, and Peter isn’t sure if he did the right thing.
Peter asks Anna what he should do, and she tells him they should find some answers. Peter agrees and the two head out to Oklahoma, where Jerry is recovering. When they go to his house, the worker’s wife says that he isn’t home, but the two and tell she’s lying. Nervously, she let’s them inside, and explains that part of Jerry’s treatment was that he had to take regular medication. When they went away on a camping trip, he forgot his medicine and got sick. When they got back home, New U officials appeared, took Jerry away, confiscated Jerry’s things, and told the wife to stay quiet. Jerry hasn’t been heard from since.
Concerned, they take Jerry’s medicine and develop a plan. Peter goes to infiltrate New U headquarters while Anna Maria sees what she can learn from the medication. Inside New U, Peter sees a sprawling lab with suspicious tech, and notes that his communication technology is being blocked. Peter finds a chamber containing a strange exoskeleton, and Peter’s Spider-Sense once again sounds off. Peter comes to a horrible realization – the strange cluster of nerves and eyes is actually Jerry, and they’re still moving. He’s still alive.
Suddenly, Miles Warren, the villain known as The Jackal, enters the room, and Peter realizes that his old enemy is behind this. The doctor flees and calls in his security. Peter is surprised to see his old enemy… and a new one actually, in the form of a female Electro. Rhino explains that the Jackal is making the world right again, and that the doctor brought the Rhino’s deceased wife back from the dead. Peter argues that she’s just a clone, which the female Electro finds insulting, as she is a clone, too. She was killed by the original Electro, and when Miles resurrected her, she gained the villain’s powers. However, a nice thing about a new villain they fall for all the old tricks.
With the villains incapacitated, Peter takes off to find Miles, only to run into a very familiar face. Gwen Stacy greets Spider-Man, saying that it’s been a while. Peter stares in disbelief at first, before reminding himself that she’s got to be a clone. Except all the new clones have been setting off Peter’s Spider-Sense… and Gwen isn’t. As Peter contemplates the possibility that she’s real, he’s suddenly hit by something metal… it seems Doctor Octavius has returned.
Gwen remembers being kidnapped by the Green Goblin. She remembers him revealing that Peter Parker, the man she loves, is Spider-Man. She remembers crying because that means he never told her that he was the man that helped kill her dad. She remembers being knocked off that bridge. She remembers dying.
Then, she woke up, in a strange lab. A masked figure explains that she died many years ago, on that bridge. But she’s not a clone – no, that’s happened more than once already. This Gwen Stacy is very real: A reanimation, based not on an old blood sample, but Gwen’s remains. Unlike the other clones, this Gwen remembers everything. But, well, that’s no longer important. She has a new life now, a new opportunity. And all she has to do is take a pill to live. Gwen is reluctant to trust this stranger, which he understands. So he brings her to see someone – her father – also returned to life. Happy to see one another, father and daughter embrace, and, with her father’s reassurances, Gwen agrees to take the pill. The masked figure smiles!
I didn’t want to review this comic. As I’ve said quite recently, the latest direction for Spider-Man has kind of left me largely uninterested. But when I heard what goes down in this issue, well, I just couldn’t pass it up.
In light of the bombshell dropping here and based of the direction this review is going, I will make a special effort to try and be fair. I’m going to do my best not to review this as a fan of Spider-Man, but as a honest critic. But let’s make no mistake, I am a fan of Spider-Man. More than any other character I’ve read a huge chunk of Spider-Man’s many publications over the years. I know this character well. I know what he stands for, how and where he works best, and I know his story like the back of my hand. But I’m going to try and set all that aside and review this comic fairly and with consideration to both sides of the fence – those who like this comic… and, well, you’ll see.
Let’s start with what’s good about this comic. What works in this comic works very well. I love Peter’s fight with Rhino and Electro – that’s classic Spider-Man right there. He banters with them, jumps around a bunch, and uses the environment around him to win the fight in a rather clever way. This is the sort of combat Spider-Man is famous for and it was just great. I also like the friendship between Peter and Anna Maria. Anna is easily on Peter’s level in terms of intellect, so they make a lot of sense as friends and it works. I also get why, given how Anna fell in love with Otto in Peter’s body, that this hasn’t blossomed into a romance. Again, I approve. This is a healthy relationship based more on shared respect than passion, and it works well.
The art in both the main and back-up story is also perfect. Jim Cheung, Ron Frenz, and everyone else on the art team do great work here. Really, it’s the best part of the comic. What’s left of Jerry looks all creepy and terrifying, you get a great sense of emotion in the faces, and the action was well drawn and telegraphed. The art team as a whole deserves a lot of praise for their work here, especially in the back up story, which not only nicely emulates the Silver Age comics that it is referring too, but also gives it a solid modern feel as well.
I just wish they were drawing something better. Because… well, the writing… alright… let’s let’s move on to the cons. Those are all the nice things I have to say about this comic, and, yes, there are great aspects to this issue. But, and I really need you to pay attention to this part… Are you listening? Are you ready? Okay, good… F**K. THIS. COMIC. GOD DAMMIT, DO I HATE THIS THING. I don’t even know where to begin.
So, they’re doing another clone story. Personally, that’s already the first in a long line of terrible ideas being rolled out here. Yes, it is possible, in spite of the relative mess the original Clone Saga kind of eventually became; it is possible to make a good clone story. I’ve seen it done before. But… look, Dan Slott can be a good writer. He’s done some good stuff in the past, like Big Time, Spider-Island, Superior Spider-Man, and, my personal favourite out of his writing, Renew Your Vows. However, and I don’t mean to offend, but there’s no way around it – I don’t think he’s nearly good enough to pull this off. He doesn’t have the chops to overcome people’s expectations, especially if you’re going to do something big and controversial like bringing back Gwen Stacy. Knowing his writing, I just don’t think he’s up to the task.
Now some of you are definitely going to assume that part of my big problem with this comic is that I think the death Gwen Stacy is the most importantest story in the world and how dare they ruin her memory. No, let’s be real for a second. Gwen was already a pretty boring character – she was a romantic interest created in the early days of Spider-Man to make sure everyone knew that this young man running around in the colourful tights had a very serious case of the not-being-gay. The only real moment her character retrospectively gained any value was when somebody not only decided to kill her off, but to do it in a way that cemented the Green Goblin as Spider-Man’s enemy and affirmed everything that Spider-Man stood for. The guilt, to this day, and both weighed on Peter’s conscience heavily and also been important with how Peter deals with his greatest enemy.
All that being said, The Death of Gwen Stacy is a monumentally important moment in Spider-Man history and the best, smartest thing to do would be to just leave the poor girl alone. But that ship has sailed a long, long time ago. Gwen Stacy’s memory was “ruined,” if you can call it that, way before this story was ever even conceived. So bringing her back, even after having the balls to retcon her into hating Peter’s guts right before she died, which I understand if this upsets you, but it’s really a drop in the bucket when you think about all the clone business that’s happened already and how Gwen slept with Norman Osborne at some point… I think and yeah, when you get right down to it, that aspect of the story could be a lot worse.
No, that’s not why I hate this comic, although, believe me, I understand if that’s why you hate it. No I hate this comic for like, a host of smaller problems lying under the hood of this story that coalesce in a big pile of turd. So, we kick things off with a funeral, and that’s supposed to be tragic. But in a story about clones that very much pose a real, potentially permanent cure for death – an idea that could work if handled properly, by the way, well that really makes the various deaths in Peter’s life seem kind of pointless. Now I do like this idea, in part. It means that people like the Rhino are firmly going to be on the Jackal’s side, and this was a very useful way of getting Doctor Octavius back into the mix after all the Superior Spider-Man stuff. It’s also kind of an interesting idea as a whole – using clones as medical treatment.
It’s the back-up story that really has me worried, the part that I find in particular really unravels this whole story, which is why I actually included it in the recap. Yes, it basically retcons the Death of Gwen Stacy, that’s stupid, but it also goes out of it’s way to say, “No, no, Gwen isn’t a clone, she’s a reanimation.” Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. What difference is that? How is a preserved blood sample meaningfully different than a person’s remains? It isn’t. That makes no sense. It’s all DNA, guys. And at least the blood was taken from Gwen when she was alive! It just comes across as an incredibly pathetic and desperate way to not only distinguish yourself from the multiple occasions that Gwen Stacy has already been cloned, but so that they can argue, “no, no, she’s not a clone, she’s a reanimation.” But let’s make no mistake. There is no difference. There is no basis in science or reality for this point, and it is just so stupid. Look, I get that we have to use suspension of disbelief in a story with a guy who has spider powers and crazy magical web fluid, but this way too far. This is using science to make a major point in the plot, that the very science you are referring to doesn’t support whatsoever. That’s ridiculous on a level I just can’t accept.
I’ve seen other reviewers whose judgment I am seriously calling into question right now calling this story daring and bold. You’re going to have to explain to me how a story too afraid to call a clone a clone, because of the very real, deserved fan backlash they will get for this totally unoriginal idea, is somehow “daring.” It is the opposite of daring. It is weak and small.
God dammit I hate this. Meanwhile, we already have at least two other Gwen Stacy’s running around, one of which I really like. So what’s up with that? Why the hell would we possibly need three? Why is she so fucking important? Like, who cares about Gwen Stacy enough that they want her back, but not enough that they don’t care what they do to this character to bring her back? It is so bad of an idea at this point; I feel that bringing back Uncle Ben would have been more interesting. Think about it. That’s a slightly more original idea, and it would be really significant. Aunt May just lost her second husband, so her first one coming back would mean a major shift in the status quo. That could at least be interesting and emotionally real.
I assume more twists are on the way and maybe that can make this story more worthwhile, but I’ll be honest, I see no way for this to end well. If this story ends tragically rather than with the permanent return of Gwen Stacy, all of this is going to culminate with more excuses for Peter Parker to act miserable, to be alone, and just generally have more of the fucking same boring nonsense we’ve been getting out of Spider-Man these days. Even the way Peter grieves in this comic for Jay feels very self-centred. He whines to himself about all these people he’s lost, and how hard it is for him to see Aunt May suffer. I really hate angst ridden Spider-Man for this reason. It’s always about him, and in this fabulous, amazing life that any of us would love to have, somehow nobody suffers more than Peter Parker.
However, I’ve heard of leaks that suggest this is actually the return of Gwen Stacy, and that’s way worse. Like I said, we’ve already got plenty of Gwen Stacys out there, and bringing her back feels like such a waste of time. It also invalidates everything about her death. Look, they already kind of did this once and her and Peter both agreed they kind of moved on and he’s a different person now. So I guess we are to just ignore this because, what, Gwen is popular on Tumblr now? I don’t care if you like Gwen Stacy. Here’s a great comic featuring her in the role of Spider-Man and Peter Parker is the tragic and dead love interest. It’s great, read that! Can we not derail Spider-Man to appease a small segment of the fan base? Like, really, we’re doing this now? Fuck that. Fuck this comic. Oh, and if you think this masked figure is something interesting – think again. See how Norman Osborne smiles at the beginning of this story? See how this masked figure smiles at the end?
Yep. I’m saying it here and now, that’s the Green Goblin. He’s behind all of this. Because of course he is. To do anything else would require ORIGINAL THOUGHT. Oh, I’m sorry Marvel, did I just figure out a big plot twist? That’s a shame, it’s too bad you dropped this subtle hint, because I had a feeling you were going to go for this anyways because, well, that would be super obvious, especially given what went down in the Clone Saga. Who else but Norman could possibly engineer something this convoluted and crazy? I hope I’m wrong about this, but I bet you I won’t be.
Because this comic feels soulless. I’m not sure how much of this is Dan Slott’s idea and how much Marvel is pushing to bring Gwen Stacy back, but I have a feeling like it’s the latter. My impression is that this is a cold, calculated manoeuvre to make some waves, sell some comics, and bring back a character gaining popularity lately in spite of the disastrous long term implications of doing this and lack of a proper, creative idea behind this story other than “let’s bring back Gwen.”
So, that’ my review. As you can tell, being clam, measured, and fair kind of went out the window at some point, but I just can’t. This comic feels right up there in the increasingly long line of disastrous Spider-Man comics that are well made but fundamentally flawed. There are good aspects to this comic, but the more I look into it, the less I like this fucking thing. And we’re only one issue in! I will probably cover this whole mess. Not because I liked or recommend this, quite the opposite. It’s because I want to take this mother down.
I’ve seen reviewers give this thing a 10/10. I feel there will be some people commenting on this video who say they liked this comic. It get where you guys are coming from, I really do. There are some good ideas here and potential for a good story. But I hated it. And looking at other reviews and fan reactions, well, I’m not alone in hating this, but I do feel like I’m in the minority. So I’m sure people will write all of this off as the rantings of a disgruntled fanboy. It may very well be true, though I’d like to point out traditionally I seem to resist those urges if you look at say, how I saw the whole HYDRA Cap thing. I think this story is making some giant mistakes and it isn’t going to end well. I know it is derivative of past, better stories, and I have a feeling things are only going to get worse from here. God, I hope I’m wrong. Because right now, I’m looking back at the Clone Saga with a lot more affection than I used to. I cannot think of a worse insult regarding Clone Conspiracy.
So I hoped you like my review! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I throw this metaphorical stick of dynamite into the Spider-Man fan base and run away to a safe distance, eager to see what the reaction will be. I’m sorry for the rant. I knew it was coming the second I heard about the retcon. Hopefully you guys liked it, and stay tuned for more issues of Clone Conspiracy, as I gradually suffer and complete and utter mental breakdown.