Spidember: Dead No More, The Clone Conspiracy Review

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Variant Cover to The Clone Conspiracy #1. Art by Jim Cheung, image from the Marvel Wikia.

Spider-man has been no stranger to clones over the years.

After the tragic death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121, writer Gerry Conway found himself put under a lot of pressure by the Spider-man fan-base, harassed in public for her demise. Yes, even in the 1970’s, fans were just as rabid as those currently hounding Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi. Change is never accepted willingly, but the backlash was so strong that even Stan Lee waded into the fray. Apparently, Lee had been busy packing for a trip to Europe when approached by the idea from Conway and his editor about killing Gwen and had said yes without really thinking, just wanting to finish packing. He requested Conway find a way to bring back Gwen. Conway, however, hated the idea, mainly because he believed that bringing Gwen Stacy back from the dead would be unrealistic and completely take away any suspense from the story (boy, I’d love to hear Conway’s opinion on a lot of recent comic developments). In the end, Conway folded to peer pressure and agreed to bring back Gwen, only if he was allowed to write the character out of the story as soon as possible. His trick? The revival of Gwen Stacy wasn’t a revival at all.

It would be a clone of her.

In Amazing Spider-man #144, Conway had recent Spider-man villain Miles Warren, the Jackal, release a clone of Gwen Stacy into his war with the web-head. Warren was a former teacher of Peter’s and had fallen in love with Gwen, blaming Spider-man for her death. Of course, the natural extension of this led to the arrival of a Spider-man clone in Spider-man #149. Warren was defeated, the clone Gwen left New York to find a new life and one of the Spider-men stumbled out of the fight victorious, with no confirmation on whether the real one had survived or the clone.

This was the eventual basis for the Clone Wars saga in the 1990’s, where not only did the Spider-man clone return as Ben Reilly, he also claimed that he was the true Spider-man whilst Peter was the clone. To sum about two years of convoluted plot threads about five other Spider clones and really awkward editorial decisions, Miles Warren returned, cloned a whole bunch of Spider-men and Gwen Stacys and caused chaos, all because of Norman Osborn, who was brought back from his iconic death, surprisingly not as a clone.

Now, as you can tell, this story-line didn’t go over well. Long-time fans of the series hated how it brought back big name characters that never should have returned after being killed off and the saga overdid the cloning so much it became synonymous with Spider-man as a bad idea for bad story-lines.

And yet, as always, Marvel and the comic-book industry never learn.

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Variant cover of The Clone Conspiracy #1. Art by Mark Bagley. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

In 2014, two years in the wake of the Spider-Verse crossover, we received a new Spider-man ‘event’: The Clone Conspiracy. Written by then current Spider-man writer Dan Slott, the event focused on bringing back big name characters that had been killed off and repeating the use of cloning. Almost mocking the decriers, the Clone Conspiracy proudly bore a second name: Dead No More.

This is the first modern Spider-man comic I’ve bought in recent years. Most of my purchases since I started getting back into comics has seen me attempting to recollect the Ultimate Spider-man comic book series, which, to this day, still remains my favourite series for the character. Admittedly, I bought the Clone Conspiracy on a whim. I am slightly ashamed to say this but the cover looked really cool. I blame the excellent cover illustrations of Gabrielle Dell’Otto and the superb artwork for the main penciller, Jim Cheung, throughout the actual book. In addition, I also had a sort of morbid fascination with reading a clone-based story-line. After all, I started Spider-man long after the final issue of the Clone Saga, and I was curious how such a similar themed story-line would play out in modern times.

And so today, for Spidember, I’m going to be taking a look at Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy. To start off, I’ll give a brief overview in a spoiler free review before diving in-depth for a look at every comic in the trade paperback of Dead No More, studying each individual issue and story-line before looking at the event as a whole. The order in the actual trade is mixed at best, focusing on singular story-lines running concurrently before backtracking to previous stories. In my personal opinion, the comics aren’t laid out great, but it is, admittedly, hard to organise event comics into any readable form when one considers the amount of side-issues that go into them. I’m going to try and review each issue in the trade in an order that is mostly chronologically sound, or in the story-line order they’re placed in the book for sake of ease. By the end of this review, we’ll see if this new Spider-man event ended up a successful copycat, or if it should remain buried like a large portion of its cast.

This is Amazing Spider-man, Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy.

The Spoiler Free Verdict

Simply put, The Clone Conspiracy is a bloated but decent event. For everything likeable and smart, it gets bogged down in a hollow mystery and missed chances with its main villain. On the plus-side, the tie-in issues are very good and manage to save the event from being a complete waste. I can’t really recommend it to any new Spider-man fans, and for most hardcore fans, there are definitely better events out there. All considered, however, if you like clones and want to see a not-too horrible take on them with some excellent side-stories, then Dead No More is a good place to start.

With that said, let’s jump in. Spoilers are abound from this point on. Get comfy everyone, this is going to be a long ride.

Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, The In-depth Review

Free Comic Book Day: Up and About

As this comic is meant as a prologue to Dead No More, I sadly need to also include a quick prologue here as well. The bottom line is Dead No More is not the best story for fresh readers of Spider-man. It’s trying to be an epic arc, playing on entire years of Spider-man history, bringing back noteworthy characters and exploring older relationships. If you fancy starting your Spider-man journey with this one, just be aware that you are jumping in at the deep-end.

Part of this complexity is also considering the most recent events during Dan Slott’s run on Spider-man and current developments in that story-line. Dead No More occurs right in the middle of another Slott story-line, World-wide. To cut several stories short and bring you as up date as I can, Peter started working at a place called Horizon Labs, then got his body stolen by Doctor Octopus, who then set up a new company called Parker industries, only for Peter to take his body back and make the company his own.

In the process of this, the Spider-man series has stopped and restarted several times, ending to become the Superior Spider-man, before going into a fresh run when Peter reclaimed his body back, then again after the Secret Wars event we touched on last time.

Thus, we finally dive into the first part of this story: Up and About, a comic released for free comic-book day to advertise the event.

Peter is visiting his mentor and old friend, Max Modell, in San Francisco. The meal goes about as well as you can imagine, with Peter spotting Oskana Sytesevich, the deceased wife of the Rhino, and ultimately getting dragged into a fight as Spider-man between Kingpin and Rhino. All the while, a mysterious figure watches the festivities, ultimately revealing himself to be The Jackal, old cloning enemy of Spider-man with a fresh new tuxedo and an anubis mask, instead of the furry green thing he looked like before (seriously, how did anyone think this is what a Jackal looked like?). And, to further hammer home the cloning event, Gwen Stacy stands beside him, his leading lady in charge.

Up and About is quick, but it’s supposed to be: a brief snapshot to get us excited for the event and a chance for newcomers to get engaged in a fresh adventure. It even manages it fairly well. It definitely got me interested in what was going on and, for a relative newcomer to Slott’s run, I was actually really interested in Peter’s friendship with Max Modell. I wanted to learn more about Max and see Spider-man’s new supporting cast.

My problems with the issue are that Oskana’s appearance makes little sense, especially when we learn that Jackal is trying to keep a tight hold on the number of cloned people running around. Sadly, the surprise of his reveal is also rather lacklustre. Despite lots of Rhino’s cryptic dialogue, there’s really no surprise here. Yes, of course, it’s the Jackal, it’s a Spider-man cloning event. Yes, of course, it’s a Gwen Stacy clone. What a surprise. Being an overplayed concept is the issue’s main sin (and a sin of the whole event really), but as a fluff piece, it works well and definitely gets you excited for the actual event.

Also, the Jackal just has a squad of jackals roaming around in his ancient Egyptian lair? Come on, how hammy can he get?

Up and About: 3/5

Amazing Spider-man #19: King’s Ransom

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Cover to Amazing Spider-man #19. Artwork by Alex Ross. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

King’s Ransom is a quick repeat of the free comic-book day issue, but told mainly from the P.O.V of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime. The Jackal arrives at the San Francisco base of Fisk Industries (damn, from Parker to Fisk, everyone’s just getting their own company) and reveals his new project to Kingpin with a ‘re-animated’ clone of his wife, Vanessa. Kingpin and Rhino ultimately end up in a fight, which spills out into the courtyard, just in time for Fisk to pick up his chopper and retreat to save face.

King’s Ransom is a bite-sized tale, but actually works much better as a story and a companion piece to Dead No More than Up and Above. For one, it dispenses with the actual faux mystery and reveals Jackal on the first page and secondly, it delves into new ground by establishing what’s fresh this time around. The new clones are considered to be dead bodies re-animated. Jackal has been screening the clones trying to make ‘perfect’ versions, and Fisk is outraged that Jackal would dare tamper with Vanessa’s grave, searching for her genetics.

Fisk really is the star of this issue and in a matter of four pages, the comic crafts a simple bitter sweet story and delivers a payoff. Fisk is relieved to see his beloved but when he learns about the process and clone Vanessa tries persuading him with emotional blackmail on their son, Fisk kills her with his bare hands, excuses himself of blame and attempts to kill Jackal. Even the fight with Rhino and his departure show Fisk to be cunning, in-control and just a really cool character. Whilst it’s still fluff, it’s good fluff and it sets Kingpin up for a great involvement in the story, even if he doesn’t really do much in the actual event.

King’s Ransom: 4/5

Amazing Spider-man #19: Change of Heart

Following his meeting with Rhino and Fisk in San Fransisco, Peter is back in New York and heading to the Mount Sinai hospital to be with his Aunt and her new husband. That’s right, Aunt May has found love yet again and this time, it’s not Uncle Ben or Doctor Octopus! (long story). May’s new husband is Jay Jonah Jameson…senior.

That’s right. In a fantastic twist of fate that actually makes me glad May is still around and even blinds me of my rage to the fact that she’s happily married whilst Spidey got retconned out of his, J.J and Peter are now, basically, step-brothers.

It’s a beautiful thing.

However, what isn’t beautiful is Jay’s current condition. He’s dying and Jonah is desperate to try a new procedure by up and coming company ‘New U Technologies’. Peter, however, is against the fact, mainly after using the procedure on one of his own employees and having a strong reaction with his Spider-sense. The issue follows Peter, Jonah and May ultimately confronting the inevitability of Jay’s mortality and Peter doing the dying man one last favour: bringing an old Jameson family heirloom to the hospital. The lingering conflict of the issue is the one between Peter and Jonah and the choice of whether or not to use New U’s surgery to save Jay.

Change of Heart is a really mixed bag of comic. The main problem with the issue is how blunt it is. The conflict between Jameson and Peter is undermined because we already know that New U is flawed in some way: the Jackal is involved and we know he’s cloning people, such as bringing back Jonah’s late wife, Marla, to manipulate him into promoting New U. It really undermines the drama of the situation when Jonah’s viewpoint has effectively been sabotaged. It makes it difficult to enjoy the issue when the mystery is, for the most part, already solved for us.

That being said, the latter half of the issue does carry the drama well. It’s wonderful watching Peter and Jonah play on each other, and Peter’s lack of total certainty on New U does lend a weight to his choices, especially when he frantically backpedals on his stance when things end up too late. Peter’s attempts to balance all the elements of his life come crashing down all around him in spectacular fashion (as usual for our hero). The issue concludes beautifully with Peter handing Jonah the now broken antique clock his father left him. The character’s faces all speak a thousand words of sadness and without a single word on the final page, we know the truth.

Jay is dead, Peter regrets his decision and Jonah will never forgive him for it.

If only the issue wasn’t held back by mysteries spoiled too soon, it could have had a greater impact.

Change of Heart: 3.5/5

The Clone Conspiracy #1: The Land of the Living

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Cover of The Clone Conspiracy #1. Art by Gabriele Dell’Otto. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

With Jay dead, Peter is starting to fall apart. Jonah hates him, May is traumatised and he can’t live with himself. He needs answers.

Linking up with new friend, Anna Maria Marconi, Peter resolves to get them. Pulled by his investigation first to the home of the worker New U experimented on and then, at last, to New U’s branch in New York itself, Spider-man quickly begins to unravel the mystery of the Clone Conspiracy, as old friends and old enemies alike surround on every side.

The first instalment for this event does a lot of good things straight off the bat. For one thing, as someone who knows very little of the recent Spider-man run, this is a great intro to Anna Maria, honestly I’m loving her here. She’s a great addition to the Spidey mythos, witty and strong all in the right ways. She’s cool, and I’m glad she’s here, mainly because she actually does the things that Peter in this story is too stupid to do, like advising him to go check on Jerry Salteres because he was what set off Peter’s spider sense (you’d think Peter would already think to do that). The steady reveal of what is actually going on at New U also works well, even though we technically already know the majority. Then, we have the excellent second half of the issue of Spidey breaking into New U. Brilliant action, great characterisation, fantastic dialogue and a pretty cool reveal to end part one. Peter sees the Clone Gwen and hesitates just long enough for a metal arm to attack.

That’s right, it’s Otto Octavius, back from the dead! Again!

Genuinely though, Otto’s reveal is actually pretty refreshing in an event that thus far hasn’t fared so well on the intrigue front.

If the issue has a problem, it’s that its weighed down heavily with exposition. Great for people who don’t know much about the Spidey universe or recent events, but it does tend to leave the pacing a bit poor, especially nearer the start. It’s also a massive problem that there seems to be a deliberate hollow centre to the story. We know the Jackal is Spidey’s enemy and we know that something’s wrong, but Slott spends too long dancing around the issue to really build up a proper sense of why there’s any conflict beyond the whole ‘cloning is bad’ kind of idea.

Still, all that said, when The Land of the Living is good, it’s really good, and sets this event off on the right foot.

The Land of the Living: 4/5

The Clone Conspiracy #1: The Night I Died.

Holy shit, this is depressing.

Like, really good. But so damn depressing.

In this event and also in his previous work, Slott has had a habit of covering a lot of events and story-lines that have been considered controversial among fans, Doctor Octopus taking over Peter Parker’s body being the major one. The Night I Died is a story arguably more taboo than even this: showing the events of Gwen Stacy’s death and resurrection from her perspective. Honestly, whilst it feels wrong for Slott to step on such hallowed ground, he does an excellent job really making us feel for Gwen and keeps the bitter theme of her death intact, especially her anger for Spider-man and her overall sorrow at learning Peter has been wearing the mask for so long.

The second half is even better with The Jackal meeting with Gwen after her resurrection, reassuring her and ultimately pulling her into his employ via the reveal of her father, Captain George Stacy, being alive again. It’s a really enjoyable segment, hammering home the differences between these clones and the previous ones and giving us an emotional payoff for Gwen’s return. The artwork is brilliant too. Props to Ron Frenz for his gorgeous pencilling and Edgar Delgado for the colouring style that at once blends the 70’s tone with a timeless affect that works in the flash-forward section.

However, there a few sticking points I have with the issue. One is that no matter how good of a writer Slott thinks he is, he’s completely unable to mesh the two writing styles of his own and Gerry Conway featured in the dialogue from the actual series. 70’s comic book scripts and modern day ones don’t fit together and it isn’t believably convincing together in the same universe. It’s not exactly any one writer’s fault but the main flaw with it is that there’s still a jarring sense between the two states and it really makes the issue troubling to read at points.

Another problem that comes up here and is explored a bit later on is that the ‘re-animated clones’ are really just clones, there’s no real change but a few genetic alterations to remove sickness and also harvesting remains to make clones with memories of the original (which I already thought was a thing in the earlier Clone Sagas but never mind). I appreciate Slott trying to put a new twist on things but, ultimately, there’s just nothing added here.

Despite that, the Night I Died is a really good set-up for Gwen’s involvement with the Jackal, surprisingly emotional and tragic, even if it seems to break a taboo on Spidey storytelling by giving us confirmation of Gwen’s final thoughts.

The Night I Died: 4/5

The Clone Conspiracy #2: Into the Gates of Hell

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Cover of The Clone Conspiracy #2. Art by Gabriele Dell’Otto. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Having been found by a revived Gwen Stacy and Doctor Octopus, the pair continue their epic battle and Otto reveals himself to have all his memories from his time as the Superior Spider-man, and that he’s been hiding in the Living Brain watching Peter’s technology evolve for the past few months.

Before the two can battle more, The Jackal soon enters, stops the fight, and brings Spider-man through his facility revealing his true mission. Seeking to eliminate death as a concept, Jackal has revived a whole army of Spider-man cast members, heroes and villains alike. It’s also at this point we start getting involved in the other series, with the cloned Gwen Stacy turning out to have been Spider-Gwen, breaking Spidey out of New U, whilst the New Scarlet Spider, Kaine (another clone of Peter from the Clone Saga), returns as well.

At the start of the issue, we get a flashback with him, before Kaine goes to Horizon Labs to provide Clone Gwen with the pills Peter confiscated from Jerry Saltires’ wife in Clone Conspiracy #1. Jackal says earlier on that the pills need to be taken daily, something that relates to the muscle corrosion in Jerry Saltiers clone when he didn’t take his. Whilst visiting Horizon Labs, Kaine talks to Anna Maria and explains that the reason he and Gwen have kept their presence a secret from Parker is that the Clone Conspiracy is happening throughout the multi-verse and the reason for that is that Peter Parker allies with New U and somehow destroys the world.

Into the Gates of Hell excels above the first part in a lot of areas. On the whole, it’s enjoyable and a fun time but sadly suffers from a few stumbling blocks along the way as well.

On the plus side, seeing Otto back as Doctor Octopus and having him beat Peter so thoroughly is brilliantly done, as is the return of so many Spider-man heroes and villains, the effect it clearly has on Spidey is really nice just to see from a simple glimpse through the art-work. The Jackal’s plan to put an end to Death and Murder itself is an interesting approach to a villain plan and does help paint the event as a bit more morally grey. As an entry into the Clone Conspiracy, it’s one of the stronger parts.

Honestly, the real flaw in my mind about the issue is how much Slott is trying to hammer home the fact that the Jackal’s plan isn’t evil, and yet we’re already aware, somehow, it’s going to become an evil plot or fall apart at the seams just from the fact that otherwise there’d be no conflict. Apart from this issue, there are a few nit-picks I have. The biggest one is that not only has Jackal cloned every villain that’s ever died, he’s also rearmed them with all their gear. For a guy trying to keep control of an army of dangerous psychopaths, it’s not the best move one can make. Another problem I have is, regarding these revived villains, wow, talk about having too many plots standing in the same room. We have a revived Green Goblin, Hobgoblin, Mysterio, Jack O’Lantern, and those are just the big names I recognise. Yet, throughout the entire story, no-one’s personal arc gets addressed really, besides Prowler, but that’s also because he got his own comic series. It’s understandable, but disappointing that we don’t really get much time for Spidey to interact with these revived clones, except for a great scene where he’s wanting to fight and everyone watching him is just incredibly confused.

Despite that, Into the Gates of Hell is a solid continuation, probably one of the most enjoyable issues in the event and sets up some good plot elements and the ultimate goal of our main antagonist.

Into the Gates of Hell: 4/5

Amazing Spider-man #20: Spider-man’s Superior

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Cover to Amazing Spider-man #20. Artwork by Alex Ross. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Let’s talk tie-ins. Tie in issues usually coincide with big event releases and focus on either fleshing out unseen events or developing things in a minor scale.

For this issue of Amazing Spider-man, Slott decided to focus on explaining Doctor Octopus’ return. After all, since Peter Parker technically died in Otto’s own body and Otto has been the Living Brain for weeks at a time, how is Otto suddenly in his new clone body? The result of this story is actually pretty engaging. Honestly, it’s simply around for continuity explaining but this story is actually one of my favourite parts of Dead No More.

Having escaped from Parker Industries, we follow Doc Ock on a road trip, explaining how he saved himself from death due to the help of some pillaged technology from the Spider-Verse event, before travelling to New U to retrieve his old corpse and build himself a new vessel. The issue ends with a spectacular mental battle between Peter’s psyche and Doc Ock’s, a fantastic sequel piece to their mental battle at the end of the Dying Wish story-line, with Otto ultimately coming out with the victory (boy, Peter is not having any luck with his mental battles). Revived, Doc Ock learns of the pills stopping his cellular degeneration and agrees to help the Jackal discover a way to stop it, becoming his new partner.

Spider-man’s Superior is a really good issue. Yes, it’s existence is only for sheer continuity, but it’s a great ride and, honestly, it makes me want to go back and read Superior Spider-man.

I’m dead serious, Otto should not be THIS compelling as a lead character, but the man has a gravitas and strange charisma that outweighs any minor hiccups.

Spider-man’s Superior is, well and truly, Superior.

Spiderman’s Superior: 5/5

Amazing Spider-man #21: Live Another Day

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Cover to Amazing Spider-man #21. Artwork by Alex Ross. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Continuing our talk on tie-ins, Amazing Spider-man #21 finally explains what’s Rgoing on with Kaine’s inclusion.

For those up to date, Kaine died in the Spider-verse crossover performing one desperate last act of heroism. I’ll avoid the details for spoilers on that crossover (even I haven’t read it yet and Kaine’s death himself is probably one big spoiler), but this issue deals with Kaine’s resurrection and an explanation on what is going on from his angle.

Revived after the events of Spider-verse, Kaine is found by Karn, the new ‘Master Weaver’. Cryptic mumbo jumbo aside, when Kaine’s skin begins to corrode, Karn realises he might be infected with the carrion virus. Long story short, the Carrion virus is a new term for an old problem. See, back in the Clone Saga, where Kaine first appeared, he was suffering from massive cellular degeneration that made him mentally and physically unstable. Kaine is suffering from this once again and so is tasked by Karn to go investigate worlds across the multiverse that are falling due to an evolved form of the Carrion Virus.

Kaine spends the next few weeks exploring worlds searching for a cure, ultimately pulling Spider-Gwen into the action. Finally, the two retrieve a different universe version of Kaine after learning Parker Industries is behind the outbreak and Kaine learns the truth: he’s not a contagious carrier of the disease, but his cellular regeneration is still harming him and soon, he’ll be dead. There’s just enough time for one more battle, an attempt to stop another Carrion Outbreak on Kaine’s home-world, leading him and Gwen into the events of the Clone Conspiracy.

Live Another Day is just another great story. It works because it’s quick. It doesn’t dwell on the moment but still has some great characterisation and interactions. Kaine is a really good character too here, and following his tragic story is compelling. For a creature of the 90’s edge phase, Kaine has done well to readjust into a modern setting. Spider-Gwen is pretty cool in her own right and she has great chemistry with Kaine, the two coming off as really close friends, and it’s a nice dynamic. Gwen puts it best when Kaine says they can’t trust anyone but themselves, “Y’know what? We’re all we need.”

The tie-in has an element of tragedy to it but it makes the Clone Conspiracy feel big and epic, arguably more so than it really should. My only real complaint is that Slott is clearly not the best fit for Spider-Gwen as a writer. Gwen falls flat in a few scenes, and some of her jokes, even if they are entertaining, sound a little off.

Also, she says ‘Tiger’ like she’s M.J? Spider-Gwen fans, is that normal?

Live Another Day: 4.5/5

The Clone Conspiracy #3: The Devil You Know

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Cover of The Clone Conspiracy #3. Art by Gabriele Dell’Otto. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

The Devil You Know resumes the main story of the Clone Conspiracy: Spider-man and Spider-Gwen escape from the Lizard, sneak away from a group of clones hunting them down and head to meet up with Kaine.

Kaine, meanwhile, explains the situation to our current Spidey supporting cast, who realise Kaine could be the key to a cure. Jackal, meanwhile, is up to business: dealing with the media, moving everyone to a second location to avoid detection and sending Rhino and the new Electro to go and retrieve Gwen after a lead from one of his agents. Otto confronts Jackal on this and asks why he doesn’t just kill Spider-Gwen and Peter and turn them into cloned slaves as he has the rest of them. Jackal, however, replies he doesn’t want Peter as a slave but to join willingly, and, with the right motivation, he might just do it.

Spidey arrives back at Horizon Labs just too late: Gwen, Kaine and Anna are gone and Max Modell warns him of the far-reaching Clone Conspiracy, even the cops might be in on it. It’s then when Kingpin returns to give Spidey some critical info on Warren’s hideout. Spidey realises Fisk is trying to manipulate him and forces Fisk to admit that by taking out Jackal, stopping him messing with Fisk’s family, Fisk owes Spider-man a favour. Fisk agrees and Spider-man abandons Gwen to go and chase down the Jackal. Jackal has just finished meeting with a group of grave robbers, Burke and Hare (because ha, historical references), when Spidey arrives and the two start fighting.

It’s here where we get the big reveal of the event.

Now, even going into this knowing the twist, it is easy to see that the ‘Miles Warren’ under the Jackal mask, is clearly not Miles Warren. His build is clearly different from the Doppel-Warrens and he talks nothing like the other Warrens. He’s witty, jokey, forward and confident. There’s only one man in the Spider-man mythos who freely cracks wise so much: Peter Parker.

Luckily for Slott, Peter Parker has also been cloned numerous times with only one named clone really sticking in the Spider-man mythos besides Kaine.

Yep, the big twist is that The Jackal, this time around, is none other than one-time Spider-man, Ben Reilly, returned from the dead.

And that’s not all.

To finish the issue, Ben announces his plan to Peter: to create a world where everyone lives, including Uncle Ben. With Peter’s help, Ben can go worldwide and bring back everyone.

The Devil You Know is another true highlight of the Clone Conspiracy. It benefits from a tight pace and yet gets a lot of stuff done, from the character inclusion to the general plotting with even a decent bit of action.

Also, really quick, Max Modell is awesome for fighting off Electro with a fire extinguisher, and Anna Maria is brilliant for concluding Kaine is the secret to stable clones and actually giving a logical reason for contacting the authorities BEFORE the big carrion zombie thing. True, both efforts fail but they try and it’s a cool moment for both characters.

The reveal of Ben Reilly is also decent. It still feels a bit strange to suddenly happen, but the signs were there it wasn’t Warren. Fans have wanted Reilly back for ages, and Slott has granted their wish, even if he has turned Reilly into the event’s main villain.

Overall, it’s a good issue with great pacing and pushes forwards into vaguely new territory, returning Ben Reilly to prominence and finally giving us the first convincing evidence that his evil plan is actually not an evil plan. Ben is legitimately trying to save lives, just not thinking of what his efforts mean on a more moral level. After all, controlling life and death is a serious issue and over-population is definitely a factor in the world, and yet here’s Ben waving his magic wands and reviving people willy nilly. Granted, the revival of super-villains with their powers/giving them suits does seem to defeat the point, but Ben is also clearly more than a little crazy at the moment.

If the issue does have any failings, it’s probably a bit too quick for its own good, the inclusion of the Spider-cycle is just kinda weird, and, worst of all, the Ben Reilly twist itself. For the fans who don’t like Ben or weren’t wanting Ben back, this is a disappointment and, in a way, a massive twist that comes relatively out of nowhere with hardly any prior hinting.

For the few, like me, who weren’t all that bothered by the Ben Reilly reveal, the last bit of mystery from The Clone Conspiracy is really gone at this point.

The Clone Conspiracy is a great blockbuster action comic, but it fails as a ‘conspiracy’, considering the mystery isn’t all that deep or complicated, just kind of confusing in simplicity.

Overall, though, the issue is fun time and so far, #2 and #3 make up the best part of the main event with tight pacing and solid character interaction.

The Devil You Know: 4/5

Amazing Spider-man #22: Seeing Red

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Cover to Amazing Spider-man #22. Artwork by Alex Ross. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Now, whilst Clone Conspiracy #2 and #3 are probably the best part of the main event, the tie-ins continue to be where all the best plots and character moments happen.

Seeing Red is devoted to Ben Reilly and it’s a really gut-wrenching heart-ache of a story. Amidst a fight between Peter and Ben, Ben gives a long detailed explanation, both on his life as Spider-man for those of us not caught up, and a story of his resurrection.

What we’re treated to is a dark reality, Ben revived and tortured and killed by Miles Warren over and over again to learn how to perfect his new ‘re-animation’ cloning process and fix the carrion virus at the base genetic level. It’s tragic and really hammers home why Ben has gone off the deep-end, reflecting on his tortured nature as a clone and his isolation from the Spidey-canon as a part of that. Of course, Ben escapes and beats Miles to a pulp, but it’s still effective, especially in the final pay-off.

In a bluff that actually is equal parts cool and kind of too stupid enough to work, Ben doesn’t kill Warren, but clones him and refuses to acknowledge who is the real article, forcing all of them to take pills, believing they might degenerate if they don’t. Having enslaved the Warrens to his will, Ben continues his work as the Jackal, ending the issue by encouraging Peter to want to hear more of the cloning process and his plan to save all those who the two have been unable to help.

Seeing Red is a fantastic story, really making us feel for Ben and connecting to his new quest on a close level.

It does, however, reveal a prime weakness of The Clone Conspiracy as a whole that I will address here.

Ben Reilly as The Jackal is a bad villain.

Not in that his motivation is flawed or his design isn’t cool, but as a character in the story, most of the conflict within the plot only occurs because Ben is, honestly, kinda stupid and also terribly insane. It’s understandable to a degree, Ben is not Warren and he’s not a cloning expert. However, literally every flaw of his plan is his own doing. Failing to cure the carrion virus but cloning everyone anyway, going public instead of perfecting the technology first.

It’s alright that characters makes mistakes but the way the arc is formed literally results in the central conflict lacking effective weight. Ben doesn’t mean to be evil, but causes suffering, in a way that, as a Spider-genius with a small army of Miles Warren, he should have been able to fix and sort. Cloning each new villain and hero was out of a need to perfect the carrion deformation without killing more clones, but there are now so many clones that even though Ben has a solid work staff of scientists, he is now unable to control the situation and that becomes clear very quickly.

It’s a good concept to run with, but it all falls apart a little when you realise there’s no real solid villain for The Clone Conspiracy, it’s just one big accident waiting to happen. This could have been really engaging, but the way Reilly is featured and the chaotic nature of the affair just leads us to lose a lot of respect for our antagonists.

In the end, the main villain turns out to be literally poor planning. It’s an interesting twist, I suppose, but personally, I found it made for a disappointing conclusion.

Still, whilst this fact brings down the event as a whole, Seeing Red is still a great issue and worth a read, even if you plan on skipping the whole event.

Seeing Red: 4.5/5

The Clone Conspiracy #4: A kind of Paradise

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Cover of The Clone Conspiracy #4. Art by Gabriele Dell’Otto. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

This is the point where The Clone Conspiracy begins crumbling down, both in story and in execution.

In A Kind of Paradise, Anna Maria arrives in the lab with Doc Ock and the two reunite in a tense circumstance, Otto hopelessly in love and Anna hopelessly not interested. The two are still forced into working together to solve the carrion virus, whilst Peter and Ben head to the place where the clones are currently shacked up, locked in the confines of New U in, as the title says, a kind of paradise.

Positives for this issue: the characterisation is still golden. There are some great moments here between Anna and Doc Ock, Jonah and Peter, and Peter and Ben, lots of strong moments, good development and stuff loyal to the characters and the mythos. Even little small moment features a heavy weight and really cement the reality of the situation. From Anna telling the Jackal that she doesn’t need a new body, that she’s already perfect, to Marla Jameson being grateful for Spider-man’s vow that no-one else will die upon his watch, to, the main crux of the issue, Spider-man stating the central argument for the theme in a way that only Spider-man can.

Ben isn’t going to bring Uncle Ben back to life, because he knows just what the man will say. Ben has all the technology to accomplish his goals, all the power, but wields none of the responsibility, and it’s a fair assessment as well. Ben’s reckless cloning and crazy conspiracy fail solely because he’s been acting rashly and wielding his cloning tech recklessly. Reilly’s reply to this is to simply order all of his cloned villains to kill Spider-man, completely losing any support Ben has with the audience, especially when he specifies he doesn’t plan on reviving Peter as a clone after his death.

It’s a horrible move in the story and a terrible step backwards, second only to Otto Octavius’ moment of petty revenge that not only dooms his own life, but the lives of every clone in the world. Upon suggesting Anna Maria can get a new full-grown body and her denying his offer, Otto begins to assault Ben with his arms, realising in the process that Jackal is a Spider-man clone. Otto uses his knowledge of the base to pipe through a frequency to cause every clone in the facility to succumb to the Carrion Virus, causing the villains and heroes in Haven to being turning into zombified versions of themselves. Ben then makes this worse by opening up the frequency to the world to warn them, in the process turning all the New U participants into decomposing zombies, spreading the plague further.

Whilst this was really needed to build up hype for the ending of the event, bloody hell was it poorly executed. All of Ben’s likeability is reduced in an instant and the pacing shoots from relaxed introspective to epic fast action without a proper moment to dwell or build up tension, the stakes just start shooting up to that of all of the people in America currently affected and started off a zombie apocalypse, an approach even more overdone than Spider-man cloning at this point. Its’s almost like the event is trying to make up for lost time, cramming in a big scale conflict at the last moment.

Even in its twist on the Clone formula, the Clone Conspiracy remains uninspired and badly done, this being the worst moment in the event for it. Characters being stupid because ‘the plot demands it’, and the epic final confrontation just coming off as a bit poor in execution. Hollow is the word and disappointment is the feeling. A Kind of Paradise is easily the worst part of the Clone Conspiracy. Even the great character moments can’t save a series from break-down, even when the break-down is actually part of the plot.

A Kind of Paradise: 2/5

Amazing Spider-man #23: The Moment You Know

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Cover to Amazing Spider-man #23. Artwork by Alex Ross. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Continuing the theme of ‘the tie-ins are better than the actual event’, The Moment you Know focuses on a very introspective moment. Cutting between two events from the previous issue of The Clone Conspiracy, we see Peter go to one side with Gwen and talk to her. The two reminisce but, mainly, get into the nitty gritty of the main issue at hand here: Gwen is back, but Peter thinks she’s a clone, and Gwen is trying to persuade him she’s not.

There are some great moments in here, Peter dwelling on past failures, Gwen confessing she always loved him, even when she learned who he was before she died, and ultimately, how Peter argues back that though he feels strongly for her, she’s not his Gwen, in the same way Ben and Kaine are not her Peter.

The argument doesn’t really have a chance to come to a proper conclusion as Gwen gives into her emotions and kisses Peter, only to have Peter reject her in a brilliant page where he dons his mask just so he doesn’t have to look her in the eye. Still not trusting and more sure than ever the Jackal is wrong, Peter goes to confront him, whilst Gwen and her father have a talk, before the events of A Kind of Paradise bring their haven crashing down around them.

The Moment You Know is a brilliant instalment, full of great character moments, good dialogue and ultimately, a tragic tone that suits Spidey.

The main problem is its stand-alone nature, you can clearly see the moments where Slott inserted this story but it has no real bearing on The Clone Conspiracy, considering the time-gap left in A Kind of Paradise portrays Peter’s segments as direct continuations of the same event, rather than a space where The Moment You Know could really occur.

Still, it is enjoyable and really taps into Peter’s conflicted emotions about Gwen and her clone.

The Moment You Know: 4/5

The Clone Conspiracy #5: The Fight of your Life

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Cover of The Clone Conspiracy #5. Art by Gabriele Dell’Otto. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

With Ben going literally crazy and the New U turning into a storm of chaos faster than Peter can say ‘I told you so’, Spidey and a corroding clone Gwen race to save the day as Ben battles Kaine, Spider-Gwen and Doctor Octopus for a chance at freedom.

With a heroic sacrifice from the clone Gwen and Doctor Octopus holding for a last stand against Ben, Spidey and Anna Maria race to the conference room, beaming out a signal that reverses the corrosion world-wide through Parker Industries’ ‘webware’.

Now, The Clone Conspiracy was a good idea in theory, a different type of Clone story about resurrection and life after death. However, it ended up ultimately stumbling its way to the finish line. As endings go, the ending to The Clone Conspiracy sucks pretty hard.

I think it’s the fact that Anna Maria of all people, genius though she may be, works out the solution to the Carrion disease where the combined knowledge of Ben Reilly, Doctor Octopus and about seven clones of Miles Warren failed. It’s just far too much of a pull, especially with the idea of sending out a frequency to stop the decaying. It ends up being, in all honesty, far too easy. With the tension of the event ended so quickly, I refuse to believe an entire multiverse was in danger from Ben’s experiments, even more so when combined with the question of the carrion infestation occurring in so many multi-verses so quickly and suddenly when I doubt that each universe would even have a Parker industries, let alone a Miles Warren or Ben Reilly to propagate it.

Either way, The Clone Conspiracy comes crashing to the finish line with an overall unremarkable finish. People get fixed, people die, but the worst thing is that nothing seems to have really changed from this event. The story happened, but it ultimately appears pointless near the end, save for bringing back a few characters as clones which aren’t even specified, here or in the follow-up issue.

There are some good moments scattered around: Gwen’s sacrifice to buy Spidey time (even though some of their dialogue completely ignores past events from The Moment You Know), Peter confessing to Doc Ock that he knew Doc would help him because there is good in him deep down and finally, Doctor Otto Octavius getting full bad-ass credentials by destroying Ben Reilly’s webware and commanding the clone to “MELT WITH ME!” as the two fight.

The Fight of your Life ends up not really being a fight of Spider-man’s life or anyone’s life, sadly enough, just a minor scuffle and an underwhelming end to what was, up until this point, at least a good event. The ending features some of New U’s original templates being found including Hobie Brown, The Prowler, and Jerry Salteres, who Spider-man promises he will help as much as he can, still aware that Jerry has only minutes left to live, a moment of surprising warmth in an other wise disappointing finale.

The Fight of your Life: 2.5/5

The Clone Conspiracy: Omega: Collateral Damage

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Cover of the Clone Conspiracy Omega #1 (and only). Art by James Harren. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Following on straight from Fight of your Life, we focus upon a series of much more personal resolutions.

Spider-man has Jerry Salteres taken to a hospital but his wife is distraught and says she’ll sue Peter for failing his promise of bringing Jerry home safe. Not that I don’t understand her pain, but Jerry’s wife comes across as the usual Marvel civilian in this issue: by which I mean an absolutely horrible person. Whilst Peter should really learn to stop making promises he can’t keep, Jerry’s wife saying she’ll sue Peter for, effectively, trying to save her husband doesn’t make us like her much, especially considering he paid for Jerry’s New U treatment and is still supporting her financially after this issue.

Kaine, Peter and Spider-Gwen also part ways, though sadly not on the best of terms. Resentful of Kaine’s aloof and gruff nature and dismissive of Gwen, Peter leaves them to their own devices, whilst Gwen and Kaine at least get a sentimental send-off, with Kaine explaining he’s going to hunt down Reilly and telling Gwen her counterpart from this universe would be proud to know her. Visiting Uncle Ben’s coffin, Peter has a brief moment alone, before springing back into the action as Rhino rampages at his clone wife’s death. Rhino and Spidey battle but the scene ends up with Spidey reasoning with Rhino and, ultimately, convincing him to hope and keep moving forward.

It’s a surprising turn and I didn’t expect to be bro-shipping Spider-man and Rhino by the end of this, but, yeah, that’s kind of exactly what happened.

Collateral Damage is a much better kind of ending to Clone Conspiracy than Fight of Your Life, introspective, thoughtful and dramatic, hitting enough high-points despite the context to ultimately bring something worth while to the ending of this drawn-out event and the characterisation is just what we need to remind us how good these characters are and how enjoyable their dynamics can be.

Collateral Damage: 4/5

Amazing Spider-man #24: The Night of Jackals

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Cover to Amazing Spider-man #24. Artwork by Alex Ross. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Continuing the theme of the tie-in issues being better than the actual event, The Night of Jackals serves as the best finale to The Clone Conspiracy.

It addresses a lot of stray plot-points from Fight of Your Life, starting with the proto-clone going missing. Spotted by Anna Maria, the clone’s disappearance turns out to have been Doc Ock, transferring his mind to the vessel to terrorise our dear Spidey another day.

As Kaine predicts, Ben Reilly fakes his death and flees, finding a web-ware just in time to keep his crumbling form together. To finish off, however, we have the return of Miles Warren to his role as the Jackal. Enraged at Reilly’s deception and keeping him as a slave, Miles burns down Ben’s home, his money, fake passports and medication, forcing Ben to a final fiery confrontation within the ruins of a house modelled on that of Peter’s original home.

The fight is really good and, in my opinion, this whole part of the issue is a much better final act setting than what we got in The Clone Conspiracy. Ben’s little plot-line is probably better than The Clone Conspiracy as a whole itself: cloned into being over and over making him realise he’s not like Peter Parker, trying to take over the Jackal’s place before realising he isn’t Warren’s equal and, finally, accepting his role as someone new, someone else, signified by his burning of his home and leaving the Jackal to burn inside.

Admittedly, this is a mixed new introduction to Ben for me. As the Jackal, Ben was careless and clearly insane and here, he’s not exactly stable. At least his relationship with Warren is shown to be what pushed him into the way of darkness. Though it doesn’t excuse his failings as a villain, character, or even the fact he had a safe-house with fake passports in, implying he wasn’t completely faithful in his clone endeavours anyway, it’s enough to make this issue enjoyable and tie up the last loose ends with the Jackal.

The Night of Jackals: 4/5

Give us a Wink

To finish off Ben Reilly’s plot-line completely for the event, we have this small comic drawn by the amazing Mark Bagley (I’d recognise the penciller of Ultimate Spider-man anywhere) and writer Peter David. Visiting Doctor Rita Clarkson, Reilly saves her life from a group of Mafia wannabes angry at New U (though it’s implied he hired them anyway) and ultimately, is rewarded with some money to get him stocked up enough to move on. Ben kisses Rita (ew, corpse lips) and tells a stunned Rita he’s planning on heading to Broadway.

Give us a Wink is concise and gives us a wrap-up for Ben going to start his new life. On one hand, doesn’t seem right that the man who almost caused the apocalypse is allowed to get a fresh start, but it’s enough to wrap up the story and hopefully, it’s a sign Ben will be able to come back in a more positive light after getting the crazy out of his system.

Give us a Wink: 3/5

Welp, with the main Spider-man stories all tied up, let’s take a quick gander through the last of the tie-ins, because I’ve realised, holy hell, the word-count on this is longer than intended by a long shot.

Silk #14-#17

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Cover of Silk #16. Art by Helen Chen. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

You know what I didn’t expect to say coming out of Clone Conspiracy: I really liked Silk. Like, really liked Silk.

Silk is cool, she can stay.

For the few of you reading this blog who have no idea what I’m talking about, guess what guys, time for some more backstory and a bit of a talk regarding Silk.

In 2014, Marvel had a big crossover event (because, seriously, when don’t they?) called Original Sin.

The part of that that’s important to us is that Spider-man learned he wasn’t the only person bitten by the radioactive spider that turned him into the Web-swinger.

Enter Cindy Moon, a Korean-American girl raised by an old man with Spider-powers, Ezekiel, and hidden in a vault for eight years to hide her from Spider-power hunting villain Morlun and his evil inheritors. I don’t know all the details of that event or Silk’s introduction, so I can’t really say much on the story-line, just my initial gut reaction from what I have heard from it. My opinion might change when I learn more but, honestly, I wasn’t big on the idea of Silk when she first appeared.

For one, though the design of her actual suit looked cool, she seemed like another edgy Spider-man copy in artwork (which we have a million of, including Mr Reilly now as of this event). This was also done at the time when Marvel was trying their whole new ‘diversity’ line, replacing old superheroes with new more politically correct faces and Cindy Moon really did feel just crammed in. Whilst the introduction of such fantastic characters as Miles Morales as Spider-Man, Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel and Jane Foster as Thor were all really cool to me (Thor, in particular, was known for changing faces frequently, he was a frog once), Silk never quite made an impact on me. Partly, this was because she seemed so added in so last minute, forced into the Spidey-mythos so late (fifty seven years and we’re only just now hearing about her?) and clearly made to cap on a trend, rather than to tell a compelling story about Peter relating with another spider-bitten person.

This could have been the route they went with but, instead, the story they chose to go with, and the second reason I wasn’t so keen on Silk, was because she immediately entered into an intense sexual relationship with Spider-man.

I can see what you’re thinking and I’ll take this chance to say despite my overwhelming love of Spider-man and Mary Jane, I’m not against Spider-man having other relationships. Black Cat is an iconic love interest for the web-slinger, and everyone forgets Peter tried to romance Betty Brant or Gwen Stacy before M.J, and they were all good.

My main issue with Silk was that her relationship with Spider-man could hardly be called a relationship.

For spider-genetic reasons (somehow), Cindy was just compelled to ‘mate’ with Peter. From her very first appearance, it was clear that Silk was an excuse to have a one-note sexy woman in a strange stripper webbing outfit running around, making out with Peter Parker and essentially being around for shameless fan-service and an excuse for the character to have hot casual affairs to further entertain the readers who place themselves in Peter’s shoes.

All that into account, I’m so glad I beat back that stigma I had for the character and just jumped in because now, I’m really eager to pick up her solo-series and see her in new books. It’s clear not that what Silk really needed was a chance to stand on her own: be her own person away from Spider-man and, preferably, get out of Slott’s hands.

Okay, that’s harsh.

I know a lot of people hate Slott as a writer, I’m personally mixed on his work, but the man does seem to have a weakness for writing some female characters. Anna Maria is exceptional, but other than that, Slott really doesn’t have the best track record. From what I know, there was Lily Hollister, who was the girlfriend of Harry Osborn and lover of his father, Norman Osborn, and part-time super-villain ‘Menace’. Following that, we now have Silk, who seemed to solely exist to do sexy poses and have sex with Peter.

Ideas like this don’t make for the most developed of female characters.

True, it’s unfair of me to judge Slott without reading all his work regarding Silk, but his portrayal doesn’t seem to be the best at first glance. In the Spider-verse crossover, Silk’s main plot was ‘gee, do I find any of the other Spider-men as attractive as Peter?’. I don’t want to spend the rest of this review going on about sexism in writing female characters (we’re here to talk Spider-man and honestly, there are a hundred better people out there to talk about this stuff than me) but we’ve really come so far in writing in comic-books and Silk feels like a step backwards. All the women still look like super models and we still have the occasional stripper outfit, but we also have a whole lot of awesome and well-developed female characters: Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel and literally any female X-Men character.

It’s just a shame that Silk was introduced in a way that basically made her a walking angsty sex doll for Peter. However, all that said, much like Spider-Gwen, Silk really got a proper identity once she got her own solo run.

Incredibly up-beat and immensely likeable, these tie-in issues are spectacular and without a doubt, are a tie from me with Spider-man’s Superior for the best damn part of this event.

Silk_Vol_2_15
Cover of Silk #15. Art by Helen Chen. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

Called in with Jonah to attend a press conference at the Jackal’s base, Cindy and her un-dead ex-boyfriend (I already love this comic) Hector, better known as Spectro (okay, I REALLY love this comic) come in to investigate New U, uncovering pieces of the Jackal’s plan and meeting with a cloned Mattie Franklin, the third Spider-Woman.

Now, this was a nostalgia trip. Mattie was in the third Spider-man comic I ever bought, so it was brilliant to see her again, but also really depressing to learn she’d died (comic books are weird like that).

In the first issue, we get some great romance between Hector and Silk and some drama with her reunited family back at home reflecting on Silk’s distance from them. The second issue focuses on Silk, disguised as ‘Silk-worm’ fighting Mattie and Cindy coming back and meeting Jonah’s revived family with some great action and exceptional character writing for Jonah, the most sympathetic I’ve ever found him in comics. The third issue has Mattie and Cindy talking, hanging out and just getting along, before Cindy meets a newly revived Clone Hector for some romantic catch-up. The fourth is the dramatic finale with the clones breaking down and Silk, Mattie and Spectro rushing up to the top of New U to help Spider-man close down the quarantine with Mattie ultimately sacrificing herself to save them, leaving Jonah and Silk both broken by the experience.

The only flaw I can think of is a common one for event comic tie-ins, and it’s a flaw that doesn’t actually effect the quality of the story itself: Cindy has little to no reason to be involved in this crossover. Sure, she’s a member of the Spider family and the story told with her is so good and gives us insight into Jonah, but Silk herself doesn’t really do a whole lot for the event, despite looking cool and being low-key the best part of this story for its grounded characterisation, great dialogue and smart characters.

Seriously, Cindy comes off as really compelling from the first panel, pulling you into her world and genuinely reflecting Spider-man themes in a better way than this whole comic has really tried to do Spider-man. Mattie is also instantly more intelligent than Spider-man a lot of the time in this crossover. When she starts decomposing, she webs up her hand to avoid making direct contact with Silk when she pushes her out of the way. It’s small details of cleverness like that that Slott seems to want to pull off in Clone Conspiracy, but fails to (wow, I’m really harping on Slott in this segment).

But seriously, these comics are fantastic, well-placed, down to earth and isolated stories in the framing of the event that lead to some great dramatic moments. Honestly, it’s achieved the highest standard a comic can, which is making me want to read more on Silk. Complete praise goes to Robbie Thompson for his brilliant writing and Irene Strychalski for her softer art-work, that just looks a lot nicer for Silk and her aesthetic rather than other broody ‘sexy’ Silk artwork I’ve seen.

Silk Tie-ins: 5/5

Prowler #1-5

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Cover for Prowler #1. Art by Travel Foreman and Jason Keith. Image taken from the Marvel Wikia.

You know what else I didn’t expect to say coming out of the Clone Conspiracy?

A Prowler comic exists.

And you know what, for a Prowler comic, it’s a really GOOD comic.

Quickly, more backstory:

The Prowler is a Spider-man villain, turned Anti-Hero. Though many people have worn the outfit, Hobie Brown is the first and the current holder of the Epitaph. When investigating New U for Spider-man, Hobie was accidentally killed by Clone Electro, and thus cloned into a new body.

The five issues follow Clone Hobie working for Jackal, foiling crimes whilst serving a revived Cassandra ‘Madame’ Webb. Madame Webb gives Hobie a prediction about a threat to New U in San Francisco, a hacker. Hobie goes on the prowl and uncovers the hacker in Alcatraz: Julia Carpenter, the second Spider-Woman and the Second Madam Webb. In the second issue, the two talk, fight and eventually, the new Electro arrives to kill Hobie before he can die from degeneration. Issue #3 is the tense follow-up: Hobie trying to avoid being killed by Electro and ultimately escaping with some clever moves and help from Julia. Issue #4 links up with the Clone Conspiracy, following Hobie fighting with Spider-man, Julia meeting the old Madam Webb and ultimately, Julia knocking Hobie out and escaping. Issue #5 writes Hobie back into the conspiracy attack in the central room of haven, aiding Jean Dewolff in stopping the escaping super-villains, finally giving his life to protect Julia from Electro.

The Prowler is, honestly, better than it really should be. The sad thing about tie-ins is that they’re smaller scale stories by nature, overshadowed by the big event, and whilst Silk manages to incorporate itself well into the proceedings despite being superfluous, Prowler is clearly a mess of filler and ambitious ideas but with a really solid execution. Ignoring the plot, which sadly is not allowed to advance beyond the framework of Hobie working for the Jackal, writer Sean Ryan gives Hobie some fantastic inner monologues and artist Jamal Campbell’s work is truly brought to life with vivid colour that, honestly, makes it the best looking art in the whole event.

It’s sad that it doesn’t look like the comic continued far past this (it ended in issue #6, making it the second Prowler series to never even reach double digit issues), and even worse that the comic began trapped as an event tie-in, instead of allowing Hobie to have his own story. However, for what we got, the characters are all great, the dialogue enjoyable but its the glowing artwork and emotional internal monologue where these tie-ins shine.

Prowler Tie-ins: 4/5

And that, finally, is everything in The Clone Conspiracy broken up and reviewed. That’s how the individual parts click together, but how does the overall structure fare?

Sadly, the answer is bloated, and very confused. Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy is a mess of a crossover. Despite a solid, if generic, premise with an interesting attempted twist, the event ultimately lacks anything special that defines it as anything more among its contemporaries. Not enough is done with the revived villains, Ben Reilly quickly loses all likeability as the Jackal and ultimately, the whole thing feels almost a waste of the idea.

Clone Conspiracy isn’t terrible by any means and it has a few moments of sheer brilliance, but it is sub-par and definitely not the best work I’ve seen Dan Slott bring to the table for a crossover. However, there are gleaming gems trapped around this chaotic ball of an event: the Silk tie-in series and anything featuring Otto Octavious is highly recommended.

Overall, the event just feels over-played, over-done and tired with itself before the final page of the last issue. Big Spider-man fans, check it out mainly to complete your set or if you fancy seeing some old faces in modern art-styles, but other than that, The Clone Conspiracy isn’t going to give you anything new and most of the new things it posits fail to stick beyond the initial run. People new to Spidey, you’ll need a better place to get into Spider-man: I recommend the run on Ultimate Spider-man by Brian Michael Bendis. For those wanting to see some of Slott’s better writing for the character, give his arc ‘New Ways to Die’ a try. It is thoroughly enjoyable.

Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy: 3.5/5

Now this was a long one this week, I probably got too ambitious with this project.

For everyone who read this far, thank you so much and I hope you’ve enjoyed. I’ve been noticing a steady increase in my followers and it really puts a smile on my face. Thank you for your support.

Join me next week when we take one final stop of Spidecember to talk about the reason I started writing these Spider-man related blogs in the first place as I give another in-depth review of Insomniac’s new game: Spiderman, for the PS4.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t end up as long as this review, and I wish you all well. Take care of yourselves out there.

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