A month has passed since we left Peter and Gwen in a ‘crawlspace’, so I think it is time to vent. In this issue, the shocking identity of the Jackal is flushed out and you ‘Kaine’ not believe how this issue ends. Join the Conspiracy as we fight amongst ourselves over grading.
THE CLONE CONSPIRACY #3: The Pete, The Petey, and The Peter
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Jimmy Cheung
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
C. Artist: Gabrielle Dell’Otto
Titles: Anthony Gambino
Editors: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis & Allison Stock
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
At Horizon Labs, Kaine reveals his deterioration, explaining that if the new clones do the same, they will become an unstoppable contagion. Anna Marconi realizes the solution might be in Kaine’s blood, but The Rhino and Electro arrive to retake Gwen. They take down Kaine and the Horizon team, but Anna explains how Kaine might solve New U’s problems, insisting they take them along. Peter and Gwen-65 arrive too late to save them. Gwen-65 explains to Peter how numerous worlds have fallen because Peter Parker always joins up with New U. The Kingpin finds Spider-Man at Horizon, offering him Jackal’s location and a partnership on one condition. Spider-Man tells the Kingpin there is no conditions, that taking down The Jackal does Kingpin a favor not the other away around. Kingpin relents and Peter races off to stop The Jackal while Spider-Gwen is sent to save Kaine and Anna.
Spider-Man confronts the Jackal, who reveals himself to be Ben Reilly. The issue ends with Ben, now in possession of Uncle Ben’s body, offering to resurrect him for Peter.
People Say That About Me And This World: Welcome back Crawlspacers, ’tis my turn at the helm and I have lots to say. Jumping right in, this story features an aggressive Peter Parker, something I have been a fan of; clones and symbiotes bring out the worst in Peter. There is lots going on that would make Peter be on edge. His backup (Prowler) died and came back playing for the other team. His first love is back from the dead. Gwen-65 and Kaine are mucking around in HIS LIFE, without consulting because of another Peter’s actions. The man who stole his life is back from the dead, in a high ranking position within New U. People in Peter’s life rally behind New U while people from Spider-Man’s life rally against it. Peter is reasonably on edge, seen in the meaner-than-usual quips and the fact he is not taking any crap; he directs Gwen-65 around and controls the terms of the Kingpin deal. This is the best Peter Parker, Dan Slott has ever written. Peter was on his A game in the first issue, but as we cross into the event’s second half, Peter begins to fall down the rabbit hole.
Slott writes an even more (verbally)aggressive Peter in Ben Reilly. Is it a lazy reveal? Yeah, but Slott handles the reveal well, building naturally towards it instead of dropping it like a bombshell on the reader. A regular criticism of Slott is his tendency to retell old stories, but this feels like an original story. Slott is telling a story about The Id, The Ego, and The Superego using Peter, Ben, and Kaine to fill the roles (I once wrote a similar story using Shaun, Shawn, and Sean.) The Id is the impulsive infantile-like part of the mind that is fantasy oriented and has no comprehension of objective reality; wishfully selfish in nature. This is Ben, whose idea of reviving super-villains is super illogical unless you see him trying to ease the conscience of Peter/himself. The Ego is reasonable, its operations based off reality but through selfish means. This is Slott’s Peter Parker, who is shown to have reason but not be defined by it. Which leaves Kaine to fill the Superego, the person able to see behind himself and look at what the world needs. Lowe and Slott have referred to Kaine as the antagonist of this series, so I imagine Peter joining New U in the final issues.
Peter and the Spider-Family are the Bat-Family: Peter is Bruce Wayne (billionaire in charge), Jessica is Dick Grayson (the most experienced member holding the team together), Venom is Jason Todd (the wayward son), Miguel is Tim Drake (the tech geniuses), Miles is Damian Wayne (the newcomer with the best claim to the title), Silk is Barbara Gordon (the fun character trying to do her own thing), and Gwen is Stephanie Brown (the newcomer operating with the same moniker as another family member). I think this event is going to push Peter to become more distant, like Bruce, to the Spider-Family; his dialogue plants the seeds, showing how the distance the others are showing him hurts him. And if we take Ben’s death away from him, the thing that defines Peter’s sense of responsibility, what does he become?
Highlights from previous issues have been how certain characters (Anna in #1, Otto in #2) have been highlighted, often through interactions with Peter that keeps him from being sidelined. In this issue, Gwen Stacy is up but it is the wrong Gwen (65) and Slott writes a poor Gwen Stacy from either world. In a five issue series space matters, so the abduction of Gwen Stacy only to have her regained without any significance to the story is a huge waste. She lacks agency as does Gwen-65, who is a sounding board for Peter this issue.
I am going to let the others delve deeper on the art, but lets praise one scene. Horizon Labs calls a Chief Anderson, and as the last Crawlspace Podcast shows I am not well-versed in Spider-Man history, so I had no clue who that is. But through Jimmy Cheung’s art the reader sees she is a clone, her backstory in the background of the last panel of her scene. Slott is notorious for spelling everything out, so I love this was the art team telling the story.
I think graphic novels have tremendous educational value, because of the complexity you can put in with the division of the two levels telling the story; you might miss details in the art the first time, but the more you know the more you see.
ZACH (is the original Clone-lover, but will his love match my own for the event?): TBD
NEIL (has the joint misfortune of being our ASM reviewer, which will hopefully help his own writing): Between tie-ins and personal stuff, this issue sailed over my head. I guess that encapsulated my feelings about this issue; I did not really feel anything. Chess pieces were set up, tombstones were pushed aside again, but nothing felt like it was of consequence. The only thing that caught my attention was the twist at the end, but most of us called it early on in some capacity, so its impact was lessened severely. They also revealed that Bella Fishbach’s full name is Arabella; who knew?
Jim Cheung continued to impress artistically. While I was not a fan of Spider-Man’s glowing or lens size, the former was not Cheung’s problem, lying more with the colorist, John Dell.
There were scenes where Peter was too far out of the loop to understand what was going on, so the supporting cast were the ones carrying the story. Peter, as per usual, was hidden in the background while his friends tried to save the day. There were few fight scenes and none of them register as a fight, since nobody was trying to hurt each other. There was also an air of mean-spiritedness in Peter that felt out of place when The Lizard, confirmed to be the Doctor Connors persona, tried to tell Spidey that they did not want to hurt anybody, and Peter and Spider-Gwen knocked him down. I do not think I can get behind that.
Then there was the twist of Ben Reilly being the Jackal. Said with no aplomb, because there was nothing major about this twist. We all saw it coming. Dan Slott was kind of predictable in that sense, making massive twists out of heroes so it was easy to predict where he was going when pointed in the slightest direction. Ben’s offer to resurrect Uncle Ben was just… silly. We knew that Peter knew he was cloning people (sorry, reanimating) so why would he accept an Uncle Ben clone when he has encountered Gwen Stacy clones for years? It was a weird move that I am sure Peter will accept because the plot demands it, making him and Gwen’s clone the new power couple.
Slott disappointed me again. Not enough to receive a failing grade, but enough that I was not happy I bought this issue.
JAMES (is currently between jobs after the cancelation of Web Warriors, but we still find scraps for him): Hey, did everyone enjoy the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer? Was it not great to see that struggling, relatable hero that we all know and love? In this issue, we get Diet Tony Stark, with added clones. Buckle up, because I have not been a fan of this series to date.
In all fairness, I enjoyed this issue more than the last one. Gwen felt more in character, even with the whole spy thing, and it was great to have Kaine back. This issue was not even that bad structure wise – Dan Slott balanced all the plots well and no character overstayed their welcome (apart from clone Gwen). The plot moved along at a steady pace, introducing a potential cure before it caught Peter up on how badly he will screw up. As always, Jim Cheung brought his A-game. So if this was all okay, why was I not a big fan?
First, and this was minor and petty, the Spider-Cycle is the worst. Every panel it was in made me hate it more. Why does Spidey need it? Why does it look like someone stuck wheels on the end of a magnet? It annoys me. Let us also talk about the ending; Uncle Ben could be coming back and the Jackal is Ben Reilly. Why? I understand it was a big reveal and loads of people will buy the ‘SPIDER-ISSUE THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING’ but I think we have all forgot that Ben and Ben came back in ‘Spider-Verse’. They were alternate versions but they were still those characters. We saw what a reunion between Peter and his deceased uncle looked like and it was satisfying. This does not need to be done again. The way the twist was delivered in this issue made me realize this was less about plot/emotion but about shock value. Yes, it was shocking. But is that going to carry this story? I do not think so.
There was one more positive – the scene between Spidey and the Kingpin was quite touching. It showed a more human side to Kingpin and a Peter willing to get justice without compromising his values. More of this would be good. All in all, a very mixed bag.
MARK ALFORD (has the joint misfortune of being our ASM reviewer, but also the joy of the Cobwebs article): I am someone who finds the positive in awful Spider-Man stories, but I must say I am a bit tapped out here.
What passed – Spider-Man standing up to the Kingpin and making Kingy owe him a favor. This sounds like the Spider-Man that beat the living crap out of Kingpin in Back in Black. Also glad that Ben Reilly is kind of back.
What failed? Ben Reilly is back in name only. Ben is supposed to be Peter: he looks like Peter, acts like Peter, and has Peter’s memories. He is, for all intents and purposes, Peter. And Peter would not do this whole Jackal thing. For the past several years I have not seen the real Peter in these books, but this is so far off the grid that the guy who liked Spider-Man jumping off of a satellite and landing in Paris, cannot enjoy it. The whole Ben Reilly reveal could have been great, if they did not not kill the enjoyment of the secret identity by marketing it as a mystery. Also, the art hints that it is a younger guy under the mask but Dan Slott and Christos Gage tell us repeatedly that this is Warren. They do this by having everyone know it is Warren. Kaine, who has been on several worlds, says it is Warren. The other world we visit with Gwen and Kaine clearly has Peter and Warren working together. But after all of that – surprise! It is not Warren! This left the reveal flat. It ends with the possibility Uncle Ben could be brought back. Uncle Ben’s was the first image released to build up hype so this is as much a cliffhanger as the sun disappearing behind the western horizon. Will it return? Will it be night forever? Oh no!
All in all, this issue suffers for the long game. Compress this story in half after having the writers look back at the original Hobgoblin mystery to see how that story works and I am in. Is there anyway to save this story for me? Maybe. If this is not really Ben Reilly, but Miles Warren in a cloned Peter Parker body. Rumor has it that Peter David is taking on a Scarlet Spider title after; that would also do it. But as of now, I guess you could say my enthusiasm has PETERed out.
Spider-Woman, Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man, We’re All On The Same Team: Dan Slott has been writing Amazing Spider-Man since I started comics and I am known to regularly shout profanities at Slott on my podcast and in my house. I wanted this gig for petty reasons, but I have got to say… This is the best Dan Slott has ever been on Spider-Man. This is not your everyday Peter Parker story, nor is it some grandiose event. This is an intimate story about Peter himself, exploring him through his clones as much as himself. Slott is notoriously bad at closing his stories though, so let us see where things go.
Thanks again for reading our thoughts on the issue, hit us with your own; if anything we’ve proven The Clone Conspiracy is divisive amongst Spider-Man fans.