For the first time, I will CLONE MYSELF. Okay. Not really. This is a jam edition of the reviews, starring our friends James, Neil, Shaun and Mark along with some schmuck that wormed his way into this. So how will this work exactly? Well each issue of the event, someone will do the bulk of the review, with all of us giving our thoughts toward the end of the review. We will give out grades and thoughts on this event book. Since according to Dan Slott via Twitter, Twit Longer, Clickbait sites such as CBR, Comicbook.com and Mainstream media, the only book you need to read for you main ASM story is this event and the ASM books are just filling in gaps, we will not be jam reviewing the ASM book for the event. Make sense? Good. Now please leave a comment! We like feedback!
THE CLONE CONSPIRACY #1 (of 5) MAIN STORY CREDITS:
DEAD NO MORE PART ONE: “The Land of the Living”
WRITTEN BY: Dan Slott
ART BY: Jim Cheung
INKS BY: John Dell
COLORS BY: Justin Ponsor
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caranagna
BACKUP STORY CREDITS:
“The Night I Died”
WRITTEN BY: Dan Slott
ART BY: Ron Frenz
INKS BY: John Dell
COLORS BY: Edgar Delgado
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caranagna
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita, and Tony Mortellado (Otherwise known as the creative team of Amazing Spider-Man (Vol I) 121)
MAIN COVER BY: Gabriele Dell’Otto
VARIANT COVER GROUP: Jim Cheung and Jason Keith, Mark Bagley, John Dell and Richard Isanove; Alexander Lozano and Morry Hollowell
TITLE PAGE DESIGN: Anthony Gambino
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Axel Alonzo
CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER: Joe Quesada
PUBLISHER: Dan Buckley
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Alan Fine
SPIDER-MAN Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE DEAD NO MORE:
Jackal has conquered death. And he claims that he is the ‘good guy’ this time.He’s brought back the Connors family, along with Rhinos wife, Electro’s girlfriend (who killed him and is the new Electro), with Gwen coming along for the ride too. (For the third time. Who’s counting? Oh. Me) and Marla Jameson (who created Spider-Slayers. What?) They have all been resurrected to manipulate Spider-Man in various ways. Doc Ock killed the Living Brain after using his brainwaves to control it and he’s hunting a new body. Prowler was brought in and killed to set up his new series. One of Peter’s employees was nearly killed in Oklahoma and Peter used the New U to save his life seemingly, but strangely his Spider-Sense was triggered when he followed up with him. JJJ Sr. is dying of Unknowns Disease, and there are two options on the table: A) New U, which is what “Marla” is pressuring Jonah into using for Jackal’s plans or B) the “Conventional” route which no one is shown how to cure Unknown’s Disease. Apparently it didn’t work because he died last issue of Amazing.
Which of course it where we pick up the story.
The story begins days later at the funeral of J. Jonah Jameson Sr. He is beloved by all who knew him, even Jonah who at one time wanted nothing to do with his dad, but became close during Peter’s Jaunt with the Fantastic Four that glossed over a bunch of character development for plot reasons. Aunt May, John, Robbie and Randy, Jonah MJ and of course Peter are near the front. It’s a simple graveside service that ends. Peter is swirling in floating heads of guilt with people like: Ezekiel, Uncle Ben, George Stacy, Gwen, Ned Leeds (Complete with Hobgoblin gear), Marla, Silver Sable, and a couple who I have no idea who they are but I assume they mean something. Peter consoles Aunt May and May laments how she will miss him so. Jonah then angrily yells at Peter that this is on his head. He could’ve saved his father, but didn’t. Aunt May tries to get him to calm down, but John comes in and gets JJJ away from Peter. It’s not the right time. MJ, in what may be the best panel and scene that Slott has written with her, tells Peter that she will look after May. I’ll discuss this later. Peter is left to himself and Anna Maria is there to play the role of MJ that was done when he was married to him: Exposition about what happened. After Peter’s recap, they travel to Edmond Oklahoma where they find out that Jerry has went missing and is suffering from Cellular Degeneration. (Or, better yet, CLONE Degeneration) We then cut to the San Fran HQ of New U where Peter breaks in into the building using his new tech. While he’s doing that, Anna is back as his old stomping grounds at Horizon University, formerly Horizon labs, where Peter reveals that he snagged Jerry with a tracer and is tracking him. (How she knew of the tracers, I don’t know or remember if Ock mentioned them or not) The signal cuts out, and Peter discovers a bundle of Nerves and eyes. When, of all people, Miles Warren walks in! This sets Peter off, as it should, and Miles alerts the big guns: The New Electro and Rhino; who attack Spidey. Rhino explains that he has his wife, while Peter tries to convince him that she’s not real. New Electro reveals that she is a new model and that enables Peter to defeat the duo by water. Peter then attempts to locate Miles when Gwen Stacy, alive and in the flesh, stops him in his tracks. No Spider-Sense. But it kicks in to warn him of… Doctor Otto Octavius… back in the flesh. REBORN… AGAIN… for the… third… time.
THOUGHTS: I was approached this week to write up something for this week for the start of this year’s Mega Event THE CLONE CONSPIRACY. I mean, why wouldn’t someone want me to give a review of a clone story? I’ve only make my online living (for nothing) talking about Clones. I don’t have an entire website devoted to my favorite characters of that era or anything…. Nope. I have no idea why I volunteered for this. HA! I felt I must give my review of this issue this week to kick us off. And while I normally do not comment on current issues, due to the fact I am a member of the podcast, this is a different animal. This is a story about Clones. This is my wheelhouse. This is my strike zone. I owed it to the long time followers of Crawl Space, and of me (all three of you. Hi Dad!). And WHEW. This is a really REALLY great opening issue. It’s beautifully drawn, it moves at a crisp pace, and it does its job incredibly well. Miles, Ock, Rhino and Electro are all well utilized in their roles and everyone behaves in-character. This my friends, this is a Spider-Man Story. For far too long, we’ve been going through the motions with various plots to build up to this story. While I understand the nature of the plots threads and crumbs that Slott leaves behind, it is finally to see answers to questions and movement towards the resolving some of this story. For the first time in three years I feel that I am reading my old friend again. The fact is, Peter has been completely reactive to the plot and for the first time he finally feels like the star. The opening pages are great. They are compelling because the supporting cast is there! MJ actually serves more than just eye candy, and her level of understanding of Peter and how he is as a person is handled with subtlety that Slott has quite frankly lacked in the Bombastic nature of his run for the last eight years. Now, I know the argument is going to be that Anna is serving the role that MJ once was by being the sounding board off Peter. It’s effective because of the nature of the event, and because she knows his secret. It’s profoundly effective because she also can be proactive in the story in her developing the cure for this situation. The battle was brief, but effective and the exposition is not clunky as it normally would be. Gwen showing up causes the reaction you expect and the thought bubbles nail it. Warren being seen is also how Spider-Man frankly should’ve reacted to things such as #Spiderisland. On the plus side we only have to wait a week to find out the rest of the Ock Story. Also, Jonah is in character here. I might’ve made fun of that issue, but in reality he really liked his dad. It just felt forced at the time and I wanted to make fun of it.
In terms of build-up and intrigue, Slott has nailed it for me.
Grade: I give this part an A+
Back Up Story:
Now, what about that back up story? Well…
The Night I died is a retelling or enhanced telling of the story of what happened the Night Gwen Stacy Died. It opens with Norman taking her hostage and told entirely from the perspective of Gwen. Now, in the original story, it is implied that Gwen was knocked out at the very least when he was at the top of the bridge. She learns that Peter is Spider-Man and reacts the way that you would expect Gwen to act, by crying about it. Her thoughts race before her and Peter tries to save her. She dies surrounded by her own floating heads of guilt. But, she is reanimated and brought to the present day. She meets the Anubis-Jackal, and he fills her in on what is going on. Gwen is unsure, but is reassured when she is reintroduced to…. Captain George Stacy. He convinces her that yes, he is real, and yes, she better take the damn pill. (Oh god what have I done.)
THOUGHTS: Well, if you’re going to do a Clone Story, you need a Gwen. You need a Jackal, and because of the 90s you need a Goblin. I get that there is rage online that SLOTT BROKE CONTINUITY BRO CODE. But let’s face it: since that story has been told, however, we’ve seen this altered. (Oh, I am going there.) In ASM 500, Peter was forced to relive the life he led and when it got to Gwen, it showed her awake during this event. Also JMS retconned the motivation of Goblin to cover up the Twins in Sin’s Past. This was completely contradictory to the original story and some people raged about it in both cases then. However, I will postulate my own theory in regards to what is addressed here: Gwen was dead as we knew it. But, when Peter went back through the years, slight alterations where created in the timeline, such as Gwen. You could argue that JMS may have been setting up One More Day all the way back here, but that is purely my own conjecture. Again, Slott doesn’t do anything to contradict the intent of the story, he merely adds a wrinkle. Remember that wrinkle that was added to the Clone Saga that the Shea Stadium fight didn’t kill the clone? Same thing here. Like it or not, it is comics.
The artwork is awesome. I’d have loved to see Sal do the inks, but I will enjoy anytime Ron Frenz draws Spider-Man. Good on you Ron. Glad you’re back for a few pages. Also shout out to Mohammed of our site for getting the Image from ASM 64 in color and for Donovan Morgan Grant for drawing my attention to it.
Grade on this section is a B+.
OVERALL GRADE: A
I will lower it slightly, but I highly enjoyed this issue, and am looking forward to the event and like I discussed at the beginning of this review, I was recruited by the titanic team of: Shaun Martineau, Mark Alford, James Hynes, and Neil Bogenrieder.
We will start with Shaun’s Review of the issue:
Only If You Obsess Over It: Oh boy, I finally get a crack at Dan Slott. And while I was expecting storytelling carnage, what I get to review is actually… pretty good? First off, Peter Parker is front and center in this story for now. And we see Peter at his best here, both as Parker and Spider-Man. We see him taking on the burden of the dead once more, but he is proactive about it. Slott uses Anna Marconi well, both as a way to drop exposition and provide a foil for Peter. She puts out the unnatural amount of responsibility Peter takes for events around him, providing him insight he does not seem to have in his actions. Peter’s superhero complex need to save people is one of his best traits and we see it on full display. He investigates into New U, using both his tech and his brain. We see him plan ahead and recognize straight away that clones are in play. He is effective in battle and his interior monologues are actually pretty funny. I like Peter trying to figure out the new Electro in his constant dialogue during fights, as if he is thinking aloud while fighting. I like that he takes Electro and Rhino down no problem even more.
Jimmy Cheung is an excellent choice of artist for this series. He draws characters in super distinctive ways; there is like three different old men in this issue and they all have their own look. His characters are also super emotive and inker John Dell helps give a wide variety of emotional depth to faces. This is a somber issue with some creepy artwork at times. Colorist Justin Ponsor does a great job creating the mood, probably from his love affair with the color blue; it appears all over the issue, in clothing, bottles, emotions, skies, and suits. Cheung draws Anna Marconi like no other artist. He nails the body posture, expression, and the contrast of seeing Marconi up close and from afar. Cheung’s action scenes are also pretty good. His Rhino is great, his Spider-Man fluid, and his Doctor Octopus menacing.
Unfortunately, Cheung’s hits do not hit like they should. When Spider-Man kicks Rhino in the face, the blow does not seem to land on panel despite making an impact noise. But this is a minor complaint. We also get some Slotty dialogue like “Anna Maria Marconi, I really don’t deserve a friend like you. Do I?” but it is not ever-present and I think the relationships between characters shine through. The big complaint is Gwen Stacy. I get what Slott is trying to do with her but he does not write her well. Also, the first and last panel of the backup seem to hint at the true identity of the man in red.
Shaun’s Grade: B+
Shaun has done a ton of work in the past for us, including Silk, Venom and Spider-Woman currently and a billion books previously. Check out his work here.
And here is James Hynes thoughts:
It’s finally here – The Clone Saga Strike 3! Dan Slott has been building this up for months, with plots that have been brewing for years. And in the end, after all of this build up, what reaction does the final product inspire in me?
Let’s start with the positives – Jim Cheung. Ever since I discovered this guy’s work with ‘The Children’s Crusade’ I’ve always sought out anything he’s working on. To see him draw Spider-Man and his rogues is absolutely outstanding. The story opens with a solid scene, proving some heavy emotions with some standard Parker-pity. This definitely feels like the real Peter, not Tony Stark Diet that we’ve been fed since Secret Wars. It is when Pete bombards Anna, and in turn the reader, with exposition on what’s been going on in ASM that the noticeable problem in the issue creeps in – pacing. This issue just runs through the motions, introducing stuff we’ve known for months is coming, in a similar fashion to a standard Spider-Man story. It just doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ an event needs. Say what you want about Spider-Verse and Spider Island, they felt like events. This, however, doesn’t. With it only being a five-issue miniseries, this series really needs to get a move on otherwise an event that we expected to hit us with twists and turns could fade away, forgotten.
On the plus side, the back-up ‘The Night I Died’ really surprised me. The insight into Gwen’s final moments was truly heart-breaking, raising points that I had never considered before. It added a whole new layer to one of the most iconic comics of all time. If only it had ended in the past – Slott continues, tying it into the main story, lessening the impact of the tear-jerking first half. This is definitely a scenario were less is more.
All in all, I give the Clone Conspiracy a C+.
So where can you find James? He’s our reviewer of that Universe-Spanning Web Warriors. You can find that, and more here!
Now our two ASM Reviewers!
Mark Alford’s Review:
Alford Notes (Abridged Version) – Overall, I liked this issue.
I really like the art, some of the faces feel a little off, but all in all, I enjoyed it. Peter felt like Peter Parker to me. AGAIN. Wow. That’s two issues in a row. That counts as a good year for Spidey comics. The amount of Parker guilt is riding a bit high, but I think this story line calls for it. I liked seeing web head take care of She-lectra with ease and who doesn’t enjoy a good Rhino charge? Plus – Zrackzz – that’s a 9 on the OOTI scale.
Nothing much other than it is a Jackal story. Sorry, but those never really did anything for me and he remains one of my least favorite villains. Despite that, I’m left intrigued by what happened to Jerry for not taking the pill (is he the guy who is all nerves and eyeballs? Creepy!), the return of Ock, and is Gwen bad? She’s right there helping to distract Spidey so that Ock can blindside him. I feel that it may just be misdirection and for the moment, am excited to see where it goes. As far as the backup story goes, I’m OK with Gwen being somewhat conscious. The way Slott worked it in was clever and I fell doesn’t change anything in continuity. I know some people are going to be upset that Gwen dies upset with Peter, but in the end, it changed nothing in canon and added to it. I’m left wondering how many times did Jackal reanimate her only to have her choose not to continue on. I was expecting it to show a series of attempts until he finally convinces one to keep living (is it just me, or did it look like she pulled that knife up to stab herself or Jackal)
Mark’s Grade: I’m giving this a B+. I think it has potential, but it’s going to need a bit more to get me really excited for a Jackal and Gwen story.
Extra Credit –
Who can name all the dead people Peter is remembering?
(Zach Note: Yeah. Do that in the comments. Because I couldn’t remember them all)
Mark is not only one of two flagship reviewers, he is also the Bi-Weekly Author of Cobwebs, one of two introspective series of articles (the other being Thomas Mets’ Tangled Webs) here on the Crawl Space. Check out his work here.
And finally, our other resident ASM Reviewer, Neil Bogenrieder, gave his prospective on the issue:
Here’s the thing; I was born after the Clone Saga had finally ended, so I really have no way to say that I’ve truly experienced the drag that it was. But after reading Clone Conspiracy? It’s still crap, but I don’t really think Slott’s doing the idea of clones any real favors. Jim Cheung does a really nice job with the art, but the wrong colorist is used yet again. It was nice to see MJ and Peter act… nice to each other, without acting like total jerks or holding some kind of unidentifiable contempt, especially after the Power Play fiasco. I also did enjoy Peter using his smarts and old tactics, but… I just don’t care. I don’t care about Jerry, I don’t care about NuLectro, I don’t care about this new Doc Ock and I don’t care about Jackal. Slott has done absolutely nothing to get me excited, for better or worse, for Clone Conspiracy. At least with Spider-Verse, I was seething with rage and bewilderment, but here? He wrote a handful of stories that give some context, but not enough to make me care about what’s happening. Sure, we have a coherent narrative, but I’m constantly worrying that Slott is going to trip or try and rush to the ending; and that repeated pattern over three years is really hurting my ability to enjoy this mini.
I’m sick to death of Peter going “It’s all my fault” and just moping, not really trying to fix anything and just complaining that he could have done something… instead of doing something about it. And Slott-speak (You know, that cringey dialogue that makes you contemplate your existence and how in-your-face it is?) continues to plaque both Peter’s inner monologuing and the dialogue between characters.
I’m also not invested in Gwen Stacy’s second story. Bringing her back just feels… dirty. It’s kind of like bringing Uncle Ben back; there’s no reason to do so. While this new twist on her finding out Peter’s secret ID is pretty neat (I think?), once again, I can’t find any energy or reason to give investment. And that’s the core problem with this mini: I don’t care. And for an event comic that Slott wants to be his magnum opus, it just feels… harmless. And because making me angry at least gets my attention, mediocre and harmless (As well as recylcing the Clone Saga and slapping a new label on the cloning) is probably the worst thing Slott can do for this event.
Plus, we all know they’re clones. There’s no curveball like I predicted; if there is, I’m going to feel like a right fool.
Neil’s grade: C
That’s all from me this go around, be sure to follow the CrawlSpace on Facebook, Dan Slott on twitter for more info you didn’t get in the issue, and if you like Clones, Ron Frenz, and Spectacular Spidey there is a website I recommend called Spidey-Dude.com. It appears that it delves into those subjects quite extensively. We will see you next month on the event book, and check out Neil and Mark’s work on ASM! (and Shaun and James work too)