Alford Notes: Amazing Spider-Man #23


Zombies and clones and Gwens – Oh my! It’s everything you wanted to know about what happened with Gwen and Peter between panels in CC#4. If you’ve ever said, “Why are there so many fights in comics? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk to each other?”, then grab this issue!

This is a special STEREOPHONIC EDITION of the Alford Notes. Just play this video and let the music play softly in the background while you return to this tab and read the review.

The Devil in the Details

Story Title: “The Moment You Know”

Writer: Dan Slott and Christos Gage

Penciler: Guiseppe Camuncoli

Inker: Cam Smith

Colorist: Jason Keith

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga

Cover Artist: Alex Ross

Editor: Nick Lowe

Published: January 19, 2017

Remedial ASM 101

Just to catch you up, here is what has happened:

The Jackal is back, but he claims to be a good guy and is bringing people back to life, especially, but not limited to, people that Peter blames himself for their death, so pretty much everyone he ever knew that died – everyone except Uncle Ben (but they do have his rotting corpse in a box in the back of the car). Turns out the Jackal is not Miles Warren, but instead Ben Reilly back from the dead (*gasp!*). He is trying to convince Peter to go along with him (more for his business resources than out of respect and love), but as Peter believes that these are all clones and the fact that he knows this is will all end in the zombie apocalypse if he does, he is a little hesitant to jump in. That pretty much sums it up so far.

The Story – Pay Attention, This Will Be on the Test

At the new New U headquarters, Gwen tries to talk Peter into accepting this program as a good thing, but mostly she just tries to get him to accept her. Everything falls apart.

POP QUIZ

 

Who is this fantastic bad villain returned from the dead?

a. Mr. Hyde
b. Kangaroo
c. Fusion
d. Mindworm
e. Captain Power

Click the image to find the answer.

What Passed:

We see Peter and Gwen together again.

Peter doesn’t fall for Ben’s plans and Gwen’s emotional manipulations.

We get more depth to what is happening in the middle of Clone Conspiracy #4.

Slott does not bother rehashing the events of CC#4 and trusts that if we are this far into the story, we know what is happening.

 

OOTI

On a scale of 1 (POW) to 10 (BLRKBQRKPQRBLNB), this rates a 2.5. Slott usually goes wild with his onomatopoeias, but this is the only one in the entire book. To be fair, it continues the EEEEEEEE on the next page, so I added the .5 for that.

What Failed:

The Action – This issue is pretty much all talk. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves you feeling like nothing happened. Peter David says in his book Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels, “In a prose book, you can have two people in a room doing nothing but talking for pages at a time, and as long as the dialogue and characters are compelling, you’ve nothing to worry about … In a comic book, however, you always have to keep in mind how it is going to play visually. That’s not to say you can’t write compelling comics that consists of nothing more than two people talking, but you’d better have an artist who is ready and willing to execute what you want him to.” Well, I didn’t find this particularly compelling enough to carry the whole issue and the art sure didn’t help out.

Of course, this is an issue that MUST wedge into Clone Conspiracy #4, so it really limits it and to force an extra action sequence in here would be silly. Be that as it may, don’t expect to see this issue appear on Friday Night Fights anytime soon.

The Art – Lately Camuncoli’s art has been, well not growing on me as much as not bothering me. I’ll let resident artist Negative Neil go into more detail (I don’t really know what I’m talking about when it comes to art – I just know if I like it or not), but this issue hit all the old problems I’ve had with his work, mostly human faces (primarily female faces), and added some new ones as well, such as this shoulderless Spider-Man:

It looks like the Uncle Ben meme Spider-Man finally made it into canon.

Everyone looks flat, even when they are supposed to be moving. The kiss panel is very flat and that should have been anything but.

The Inks – I may be putting this on the wrong guy. Either Camuncoli failed to put the Spider lines on the costume or Smith forgot to draw them on.

When I first saw this, I thought it looked like the time where Spider-Man made a rubber suit to fight Electro and conveniently found enough red and blue rubber to make the suit match. I tried to find the issue number for this, but I couldn’t and now I am doubting myself on the existence of that issue. Anyone else remember it? I think he cut up a rubber boat or something.

The Color – I think I would enjoy this issue as a Marvel Essentials better. The colors seem flat and dull to me. Maybe that is a result of reading it online through Comixology, but I feel more that it is what the colorist was going for.

Analysis:

I thought the interaction between Peter and Gwen, while a bit long (I’d get rid of the joke about Spider-Gwen to speed up the scene a bit – that whole laughing panel was a tad awkward), was a bit intriguing and handled the complexity of the problem. Peter represents most of the readers who looks at her as just a clone, while Gwen makes Slott’s case that she is the real Gwen. The argument has been going on ever since the first preview image was released. So I am going to use my mighty authority as an official Crawlspace staffer to end this argument once and for all – they are NOT clones.

Allow me to explain – a clone is taking DNA and making a duplicate. You can have several clones running around at the same time. What Ben/Jackal (Benackal?) is doing is not making duplicates (OK, so he made some duplicates of Miles Warren), but rather reviving the corpse of the deceased characters. This is how Slott says that this is different from cloning. So this Gwen is every bit as much the real Gwen as Lazarus was still Lazarus after Jesus rose him from the dead. Slott’s been pushing the point that they still have their memories to prove his point, but to me, the real selling point is that he revives the corpse. That’s why he needed to steal the bodies from the grave yards in order to do this rather than just take genetic samples. If this is not the case, then the whole story falls apart. If it is just a clone of Gwen, then this scene:

has no emotional impact. Well, for me it had no emotional impact anyway, because I am not a fan of Gwen, but in CC#4, I feel bad for the Rhino and Lizard who are losing their real loved ones all over again. That also means that the Kingpin actual kills the real Vanessa and not a clone remake like he thinks (back in the FCBD issue). This is what the author intends to be the case, so I am willing to buy into it for the story’s sake. It is also what gives this scene a bit of a punch:

As far as the dialogue goes, Slott does an excellent job conveying (without over-explaining himself) having the conversation being awkward. Gwen is all over the emotional spectrum in this discussion. This makes sense since she is only 21-22 years old (having never graduated college) and having just been through a traumatic experience of dying a few months ago (in her time understanding). Peter, however, is much older. He is anywhere from 29-33 years old according to ComicsBackIssues.com (they go into great detail, but have two distinct ages on their page and I added a year for the eight months after Secret Wars). He has a full ten years (or so) of maturity on her. Add to that, he has seen various Gwens since then and has moved on (and moved on from that too). As a result, she’s laughing, in tears, angry, in love – all while Peter is pretty much trying to figure out how to get out of this crazy house. When she kisses him, he completely shuts her down.

Wait – wrong Spider-Man/Gwen kiss

This conversation really underscores the problem of trying to revive this relationship.

I was dreading Peter going down this road of wanting it all to be real, so he’ll blindly follow Benackal down the rabbit hole and was very glad to see that Slott doesn’t take us there after all. What this issue does give us is a reason for Peter to fight for their survival. Before it was all, “Nobody is going to die!” Now, after seeing Gwen, talking to her, rejecting her, and choosing to go against her wishes, when it all starts to fall apart, Peter is experiencing true turmoil. He doesn’t believe Gwen is real, but to watch a copy of her suffer is too much for him. So the next issue, when he is trying to find some way, any way, to save these people/copies/clones/resurrections, we can buy into it. This is the saving grace for this issue.

There is more to Captain Stacy than appears on the surface. He knows who Benackal is. He is pushing for this to happen. I feel that there are hints in this story that he is a bigger figure than I originally thought. I can buy his motivations so far as he is trying to find a way to save his little girl, and what father wouldn’t risk the zombie apocalypse to save his daughter? If it’s between you and my little girl, well, you’re out of luck. No hard feelings. Plus, this man can put on a guilt trip like nobody’s business. I feel like he should have been the one to convince Peter to join, not Gwen.

Extra Credit:

Give this image a Shed-worthy caption.

 

Final Grade:

Slott’s dialogue is the best thing about this issue, but that is just not enough to outweigh the art and the general problems I have with the arc as a whole. I’m not offended. I’m not a fan.

C-

Your Turn:

What grade do YOU give it?

 

What’s Next?

 

Amazing Spider-Man #24

  • Spider-Man has been through hell…
  • The Jackal has taken his best shot, but Spider-Man doesn’t need to face him alone.
  • Discover who is joining Spider-Man in his battle!

The cover looks intriguing enough, but it will be after the main title of Clone Conspiracy ends, so I’m assuming a wrap up issue. I read the last line as Discover who will save Spider-Man in his on book this time!

 

‘Nuff Said! 

(25) Comments

  1. Al

    I know Alford...that is why this story sucks. It’s trying to make you care by virtue of saying these are resurrected people but they are literally not. It’s like trying to make you care that a character has lost a million dollars when the hard evidence in the story is clearly proving they only lost like $100. I don’t think it’s a matter of interpretation. This isn’t like Gwen Stacy’s death as originally depicted where you could argue either way as to whether Peter killed her or not. Or the ending of Killing Joke where Batman strangles Joker or seems to. The story are presented, especially in the context of the older stories it is directly referencing, is showing us clearly that these people are clones. It is essentially showing us the 1+1=2 facts of the matter. The only way they could be reanimates is if Warren/Ben is literally pulling their souls from the afterlife and transferring them into these new bodies he is creating. But he isn’t doing that and he shouldn’t be able to regardless. Remember even in Spider-Man stories alone (ignoring the wider Marvel Universe) we’ve seen resurrections in action. We’ve seen Doc Ock and Spider-Man himself resurrected and even seen Aunt May’s soul transitioning to the afterlife when she’s been near to death. It is a fact of the reality that Spider-Man inhabits. I mean Ben Reilly and Kaine’s mere presence in this story as independent individuals is hard proof that these people are not resurrections but simply clones. If these were the real people there couldn’t be more than one of them but the same processes and scientific methods which created these guys also created Kaine and Ben who’re obviously distinct individuals from Peter and had their own souls/minds, whatever you want to call it. Therefore the same scientific processes used to create these people in Clone Conspiracy cannot restore someone’s soul from the after life, merely create a new person. Its not dissimilar to how in Superior Stunner came back. She sacrificed her mind/soul sort of to resurrect Doc Ock. But when Otto died she came back and could only co-exist with Superior Spider-man because SpOck was merely a copy of Otto’s mind, not the real Doc Ock. To be honest I don’t know what Slott truly intends the reader to think. I’m not sure he himself knows what he wants the reader to think because he kind of wants these people to be resurrections but to also not be. As for Gwen, it’s pretty hard ball that this isn’t the real gwen. If you wanna expand it to the wider Marvel universe, Gwen had multiple clones alive simultaneously at one point when we also saw her soul in the afterlife in one X-Men story. It wasn’t an illusion or anything, it was literally Gwen’s soul in the literal afterlife. So cloning Gwen didn’t bring her soul back to those new bodies at all. Working hard to make the story work is a urefire sign that the story isn’t very good.

  2. Mark Alford

    OK, while I hold that the author's intent is an important consideration, I've never thought it was being well executed. I'm willing to agree with you, Al, and say that while they believe that they are resurrected, in reality, they are merely cloned using a different technique. However, that interpretation takes away any emotional impact this arc has and destroys any reason for even having this story. What if we read the story as questionable - meaning that both clone and reanimates are a possibility, so there is a possibility that this really is the real character, but we will assume that Slot intends the reader to be unsure. We may or may not be seeing the real Gwen dying again. That may keep some of the impact, but also explain why there are so many holes in the story science. I hate having to work hard at making the story work.

  3. Jack

    Actually resurrecting these people (by some dark, Fringe way that left them troubled versions of themselves), instead of cloning-with-a-fresh-coat-of-paint, would have made this story carry a lot more pow. This is essentially a horror story, but it's been played as a half-jokey episode of some 1980s sci-fi TV show. Also, Slott teased the concept of how might loved ones react to such a thing, as if this was going to be a Spider-Man version of "The Returned" -- and then it never happened. You don't see Curt Connors wracked with shame, or Macendale feverishly trying to figure out how not to foul up again. You see Curt Connors playing soccer, and Macendale playing glider-tag. The nearest you saw was Wilson Fisk executing his "wife", and sweating to destroy the Jackal (and whatever happened to that?)

  4. Al

    @Alfrod: Sure. But putting aside how Slott bypassed us giving him the benefit of the doubt a long time ago because of his track record on his run, this story even when taken in isolation became too egregious to ignore awhile back. Surely it becomes too egregious to ignore as soon as you hit the insistence that these clones equate to resurrections when cold logic presented even in the story itself showcases that that isn’t true? I respect you don’t like the clone-based stories as I do. But I mean, is our personal tastes really relevant to that? I get that you prefer the story if they were resurrections but again, that is literally not what they are. I mean I would’ve preferred every Spider-Man story since Civil War 2006 better if Spider-Man and Mary Jane and Aunt May and everyone have been clones, LMDs or something to that effect, but factually they aren’t. I mean at that point aren’t we just essentially writing side story fanfiction in order to facilitate the canon stories be enjoyable for us? I agree comic book science can do anything and that includes resurrection. Reed Richards resurrected ben Grimm in Mark Waid’s FF run. But it’s not so much what can the science do that I am objecting to, so much as this particular brand of science and scientific process as it has been explained on the page in the comic isn’t equivalent to resurrection. It is essentially insisting that cloning someone is like resurrecting them when it simply isn’t, anymore than claiming that punching someone is equivalent to killing them. You have thing A and thing B but the story is insisting that thing B IS thing A. But it isn’t. It’s thing B. It isn’t really about giving the author the benefit of the doubt so much as…what is on the page. Well…what’s on the page is people saying cloning = resurrection. But cloning when the process is explained and shown here and in other stories objectively isn’t. At which point it becomes a case of the character/author being either ignorant and in denial.

  5. Mark Alford

    @ Jack - I'm sure that it could be written as a Norman Osborn trick. It would fit into his character. Not only is he going to kill the woman Peter loves, but then tramp all over her memory as well. I like that angle of the story much better than she had a weak moment and he stole children from her. @ Al - Well, I think we give the author the benefit of the doubt until it is too egregious to ignore. For you, the clone thing has passed that point. For me, it hasn't. I don't like clone stories and the '90s run made me quit comics for quite a while. So, for me, these stakes are meh at best for me. I like the story better with the resurrection idea instead of the clone, so I'll go with it. That said, I agree with you that we shouldn't have to work at the story to make it make sense. I agree. I don't like this current run. Ive been grading most of these clone stories in the D range. This one got slightly better because there were some good dialogue moments and I was very happy to see that Peter was not going to go along with the Uncle Ben and let's save all these people. He clearly thinks that they are clones. The ending was crazy and awful and I have a feeling that all of my forgiveness has been used up. But for now, I'll still go with the premise that these are the real deals because I believe that comic book science can do anything. As for Captain Stacy, I'm not so sure he does have good will toward Peter. He did rationalize the kill order on Peter to Gwen. I'll be disappointed if Slott doesn't have something up Stacy's sleeve.

  6. Al

    @Alford But Alford isn’t that like walking into a movie deciding your going to like it no matter what? Shouldn’t the movie/comic be good (by making sense) to earn our goodwill? I mean I get that we can figure out the author’s intentions and what they want to do, but doesn’t the story break in spite of that if there is a massive dissonance between what the author is trying to say and what’s on the final page? E.g. Superman IV: the Quest for Peace wanted to make the point that nuclear weapons are inherently bad but the final movie messes up that point royally? But Alford...it’s George’s kid. I mean if you knew someone you trusted greviously injured your child are you gonna be all that chill with them?

  7. Jack

    Behind OMD at #1, "Sins Past" is the next-worst ASM story in the series' history. I bet Marvel would like everyone to forget that "Sins Past" ever happened. Rabbit-trail: Was there ever any strict *objective* proof that the Gwen/Norman thing ever really happened in the real world? What I mean is, could there be a halfway-reasonable "out", where it happened in Norman's sick mind, and the twins were genetically-altered victims? (or something)

  8. Mark Alford

    What I wish I had said in my review was after Gwen said she was disappointed to her that Peter was Spider-Man, he should have said, "Well, then now you know what I felt like when I found you had been screwing my best friend's dad while in Europe." That would have made that discussion a bit spicier.

  9. Mark Alford

    @ Mario - That's a good point about a motivation for Connors. My guess would be that he is so focused on having his wife and child back, that the need to be cured of his lizardness is secondary to the plot. He's going to go off the deep end here and any cure of his condition will just get in the way of that. @ Javi - Couldn't agree with you more. The poor quality of this art may be why they forced Amazing Grace on us. In comparison, it's not that bad. However, it is very noticeable when CC has better art than ASM. @ Jeff - Ah! Thanks for the issue number! I kept looking it up and all I could find were references to the first time he fought him where he wore rubber gloves and rubber boots. I started to doubt myself. @ Al - See, here you go applying logic and all to this. Well OF COURSE they are clones, but I am willing to view this as something different for the sake of the story. And yes - I shouldn't have to. And yes - it doesn't make sense. And yes - you are right. 100% right. However, the author behind the story is saying that it is this way, so I'll view it that way in order to get the spirit of the story. Now your point about why Captain Stacy is putting up with Peter? I guess he puts the blame on the Green Goblin and not Peter. He probably knew that it was risky for her to be with him and blames himself more for giving Peter his blessing than he is for Peter being responsible for the death. Since he didn't personally witness the death and live through that grief, he is probably isolated from it just enough to still have faith in him.

  10. Al

    Alford I gotta take MASSIVE issue with this for..so many so many reasons. First of all the original Gwen Clone acknowledged and recognized herself as not the real Gwen Stacy back in the 1970s which puts a lot of weight towards CC Gwen doing the same. Second of all the point of having a ‘debate’ played out between Peter and Gwen over the nature of clones is stupid because by every objective standard 100% they are clones. By the literal scientific definition of clones, by the standard of every clone in Spider-Man and the wider MU, by the fact that we’ve seen stories set in the afterlife where Gwen’s soul is present despite multiple clones of her existing on Earth and by the fact that memories are utterly irrelevant to rendering you a clone or not Gwen and everyone else is 100% a clone. She’s just in denial about it. Your explanation about ‘reviving the corpse’ is also inaccuarate. He isn’t doing that at all. He’s taking a DNA sample FROM a corpse from which he is then creating a new healthy body. That is cloning. We saw this when he cloned Doc Ock. It isn’t like he stuck Gwen’s corpse which had a broken neck in a test tube and glued her neck back together, reversed rigor mortis and grew new flesh and organs around her skeleton. He made a new body from scratch using the DNA from the corpse which is no different from doing the same thing if the person is alive. And he could do it multiple times to create multiple duplicates of people who’re just like CC Gwen. That is 100% cloning. We saw this with Ben as well. Jackal didn’t reconstruct him from the powdered remains of his body, he took a sample and from that grew a new entity. What happened to Kraven the Hunter or to Elektra or to Doc Ock in the 1990s. THAT is legitimate resurrection. Even what happened to Peter in the other is legitimate resurrection because even though he had a new body his mind and soul were transferred into it. And I agree the whole story falls apart and lacks emotional impact if these guys are not the real deal and if their bodies are not revivals of their corpses. But there lies the rub. Their bodies aren’t revivals, therefore they aren’t the real deals and therefore yes the story has no emotional weight and falls apart. Hence why this story is broken, just like many other outings by Slott. This is the same brand of illogic on Slott’s part which led to him building up a mystery about the Green Goblin’s identity only to then reveal it was Norman the person we all presumed it to be because Norman IS the Green Goblin. Its projecting an interpretation onto a story so it will make sense but the story itself has iron clad evidence in it disproving that interpretation. Simply put we cannot interpret these as the real deals for the story to make sense or have meaning when the explanations of the mechanics behind this story clearly contradict that. I.e. these are 100% clones. There is giving a story the benefit of the doubt and then there is ignoring hard evidence for the sake of making the story work. And when Ben Reilly/the Jackal is himself clearly NOT a revived corpse but a clone grown from a sample of a corpse (hence Peter still scattered his ashes). Moving on Gwen is actually 20 years old TOPS. Between ASM #122-ASM #144 2 years passed and since a college education is 4 years long and she started her education at age 18 at most she was 20 years old. Which makes her line about Spider-Gwen being so young asinine. As for Peter he is actually older than 33 when you actually do the math. I won’t go into it though but essentially factoring in the time skip from OMD to ASM #601, the year he spent as Doc Ock, the 16 months between the end of ASM v3 #18-ASM v4 #1 (due to Secret wars) and all the time before, since and in between he’d realistically be closer to 35-37. I also fail to see why this issue was necessary for Peter to care about these clones. He’s already risked his life to save clones and clones of Gwen specifically before. He regards them as real people. As for George why is be being civil tot he man who led to his little girl’s death.

  11. Jeff Gutman

    Spidey used the rubber version of his suit to fight electro in Spectacular Spider-man #66. I vaguely remembered this too... But i still had to look it up!

  12. Mario

    @jack but anna was promised a normal body remember? so why wouldn't Connors who believes in New U make a new body for himself and be clones like his family?

  13. Mario

    i have a question. if the cloning process improves the person, why is curt connors not in human form with both arms?

  14. Mark Alford - Post author

    @ Evan - so is that "EEEEEEEE" a squeal of delight or an expression of kitten-phobia? You're right, I should have given credit to the hair tuft. :)

  15. Mark Alford - Post author

    @ Jack - That turn of Ben's in CC#4 was a complete turn off for me on that book. There seemed to be no rationale for him to just snap like that. That was his Rubicon and I, like you, do not know how we are going to reset him for the new series. If anyone can do it, Peter David can, but they'll need to leave him alone and let him go rather than constantly bringing him back into the next big Spider-event. As far as the art goes, I am not a good critic because I don't know words like "proscenium-arch", but I do that at one point, there used to be a Marvel way of art (there was even that book _How to Draw the Marvel Way_) and this way demanded different angles for the "camera" to provide a more dynamic feel. We seem to be in a phase at Marvel now (can't speak for the other companies) where the artist's individual style trumps any corporate mandate. I think that is one reason I enjoy artwork from the '80s so much. Despite it being more basic and certainly not as clean in the color department, you could almost always recognize characters by their faces and there was a connection between books. There is probably a way to compromise between the two modes of thoughts and maybe we'll get there in the next 20 years or so. Spackle - HA!

  16. Evan

    Here's my extra credit attempt: "NO, BILLLLLLLLY, HERE'SSSSS HOW TO DRIIIBBBBBLE! There may be no spider lines on Peter's costume in that one panel, but at least his tuft of hair is faithfully rendered. I like that you gave the OOTI a .5 for continuing onto the next page. Taken alone, that "EEEEEE" is the sound I make when I see a kitty cat.

  17. Jack

    (follow up question: considering what happens here, how is THIS guy going to be a Ben Reilly that readers will want to follow, for the new series?)

  18. Jack

    Comment on the art: I have noticed how many of the characters have tiny, receding chins (especially the females). Their heads look like tops, with the possible exception of Anna Maria. Also, how many of Camuncoli's panels depict scenes from a proscenium-arch pov? In other words, are most of the scenes centrally framed, semi-middle distance, as if you are watching a stage play? There are no bird's-eye views, or worm's-eye views, or roof-top views, no skewed angles, everything is ground-level and dead-on? Maybe that's part of why the art starts to feel a little monotonous. There doesn't sound like there has been any story set-up for Backal abruptly snapping from "misguided/PTSD" Ben to "Full-on villain" Ben, was there? This is like a reverse Chekov's Gun -- the "gun" of ben's turn goes off in the third act, but it hadn't even been introduced in the first or second acts. If Ben and Jackal are Backal, then if Ock took over Ben's body that would make him...Spackal? He does appear to be turning to paste.

  19. Mark Alford - Post author

    @ [rant] - I like Jacken too. Let's compromise - Benackal when he is not wearing the mask and Jacken when he is. @ RDMacQ - You've got a good point. I bet this is Slott's plot and Gage's dialogue. Well, kudos to whomever is responsible for the dialogue. @ [rant] and Neil - nice Lizard comments. I swear he looks like he's about to pounce on him. I bet when they degenerated, he felt like I do when I leave some left over pizza in the refrigerator and it goes bad before I can eat it.

  20. RDMacQ

    The problem is, I really wouldn't give credit to Slott for the dialogue on this one. Remember, this is "Co-Written" by Christos Gage, and he is far better at character work than Slott. Slott would likely have the characters speechifying at one another, not talking like real people but more like soundbites and dialogue that is mean to sound "clever" but just feels painful, forced and "comic-booky." Slott's Peter would just reject Gwen outright, make fun of her for not being real and calling her Mom a test tube, and his Gwen would just rail unnecessarily at Peter. But still try to have Peter "feel bad" for what happens next. That's why I think this is more due to Gage than to Slott, since he's actually better at writing people like people.

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