Greetings, Crawlspacers! There has come a day like three before where earth’s mightiest Spidey reviewers are united against a common threat! And on this day, they’ve become the Reviewers- to critique Slott comics that no critic alone could review!
It’s time to take a look at Dan Slott’s Clone Conspiracy #4!
The Clone Conspiracy #4
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Jim Cheung
Inks: John Dell and Cory Smith
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Cover: Gabriele Dell’Otto
Editors: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis
In the New U labs, Kaine is gagged and restrained as Doctor Octopus, Lizard, and several Miles Warrens tamper with him and She-Lectro. Lizard screws off just as another Miles enters the room. Ock examines the Web Warrior Communicator, remembering it just as the Miles from earlier brings in Anna Maria, with whom Otto tries to reconcile. We then cut to Peter in the passenger seat (A fitting allegory for his role in this book and his solo series) as he and Benackal drive to New U’s second site, the Transamerica Pyramid. We then shift over to CloneGwen as she joins up with Prowler and CloneGeorge and a shipment of cloned supervillains, prepping them to join the normal people in their area. (Um… isn’t that a type of
segregation you had them in? That’s not exactly ethical when you think about it.) Spider-Gwen spies on them, trying to raise Kaine with no such luck.
Meanwhile, Peter and Benackal enter the same area, Haven, a 1960’s paradise for those he’s resurrected. Peter mingles in the crowd for a bit before coming up to George and Gwen, who says she forgives him, a story that is covered in ASM #23. Back at the lab, Anna Maria and Otto argue for a bit about him coming back and her not wanting anything to do with him, when Ock notices that the shielding of the building that prevents her from communicating on the outside could be used to isolate the bad cells and fix the cellular degeneration. (It’s science. I’m not very good at it.
In Haven, Peter notes that Ben hasn’t brought back Uncle Ben because he’d tell him he was wrong for doing all of this. Ben responds by taking the next logical step: ordering all of the resurrected supervillains to kill him. (Clearly that’s the next logical step! Genius!) Prowler sort of switches sides again, citing that people trying to kill Spider-Man are clearly bad guys. Ben heads to the lab, where Anna Maria reveals that she has solved the degeneration problem, to which Ben decides to reward with her with a proto-clone. Anna Maria refuses, saying she’s already perfect, and Ock attacks, accidentally revealing Ben as the Jackal. In retaliation, Ock decides to off everybody in Haven using a certain frequency and turning them into Carrions. As Anna Maria tries to escape, she starts Carrioning too, and Kaine realizes they’re all contagious. And, for some reason, the Jackal thinks it’s a good idea to expand that to every New U patient, declaring they’re entering a “New U” era.
(That last part made absolutely no sense.)
Wow, this was a hard one to look at.
This issue is so compressed and hard to read because so much is happening at once that it’s hard to keep track of all the things happening at once. Jim Cheung’s hectic art really doesn’t help things, and while it’s well-pencilled, that still doesn’t excuse how much is happening and how it is to keep track of everything.I suppose it’s not really his fault. While I wouldn’t refer to Dan Slott as the sole problem behind this mini event, he shares a large portion of the blame. The dialogue at times (“And just so you know, I’m very disappointed in you!”) feels really forced, and is really hard to take seriously. (“I already am perfect!”) Some twists come out of absolutely nowhere as far as I can tell, like Anna Maria having already solved the degeneration problem yet conveniently failing to tell anybody until the absolute last possible second. The only moment I really liked one was when Peter called Ben out on not resurrecting Uncle Ben because he was worried he’d be called out on it. The other, while I made fun of the dialogue, is the scene where Anna Maria rejects the perfect clone because she already does love herself. She continues to be one of Slott’s best-written characters and there is a
There is also, of course, the flustercuck that is the last few pages. So much happens in the last seven pages that it’s an absolute nightmare to keep up with. I actually had to re-read those pages just to make sure that I was reading it correctly, and it still hurt. Ben’s order to kill Peter is a huge hell turn that left me confused, and Spider-Gwen just leaping into the fray after only a few panels of screen time felt really weird to me.
Hopefully, Slott can pull it together in the last issue and the Omega issue, but given how rushed this was, it wouldn’t surprise me if the next one was an utter train wreck too.
Final Grade: C-
But enough about me, it’s time for some guest stars! First up on stage is Mark Alford, my fellow reviewer of Amazing Spider-Man and writer of the Cobwebs series!
This issue presents another mixed bag for me. It was slow moving, yet packed quite a bit in. We had some rather nice cameos (I particularly liked seeing Sally Avril again and that shot with the Spider-Slayer just staring at the kid like he’s trying to figure out what a child is). However, once again it is Ock and Anna that really seem to be driving the story. Slott clearly likes them and I really wish Marvel would give him a Superior Ock book and let him go wild. He is great at writing Ock. The best line in the issue is when they are wanting to test out the frequency on a clone to see how quickly it will degenerate and some one suggests using the Miles Warren dupes. The Miles Warren dupe then says, “Or Kaine? Kaine would work.”
What really intrigued me most during this issue was the Rhino. He really seems to enjoy being “the good guy” and balks a bit when told to kill Spider-Man. You can see that his slow mind is trying to figure out if this is still a good guy thing to do. I started wondering if we might see a character turn for him similar to how the Sand Man turned good in the ’80s. But then Ben goes completely off the rails and after watching the woman he loves turn into a zombie, I think he’ll be turned off of the whole good guy shtick. I don’t know why Ben would make such a heel turn, but then again, I don’t know anyone who was murdered 27 times and so I’ll have to assume that this is how those kind of people react. We see Anna catch the disease, but not Rhino, Lizard, or Spidey. Are they immune somehow? Whatever the case, that sudden switch to I’m doing this for the good of all to let’s make the whole world a bunch a zombies seems to be completely out of the blue and I’m more curious how Peter David is going to salvage this character rather than how this story arc is going to conclude.
Grade: C –
Next up is Shaun Martineau, review of Spider-Woman and Silk, and formerly Venom: Spaceknight!
It’s Like The Worst Telenovela Ever; Little Person, Fat Guy, Metal Arms:
I think The Clone Conspiracy is some of Dan Slott’s strongest writing on a Spider-Man title. Things start to go off the rail here, but Slott still manages to keep most wheels on the track. And the art team of Jim Cheung, John Dell, and Justin Ponsor continue to kill it. Their cast is visually diverse and no aspect comes off half-assed when emotions start running rampant.
I think CC’s MVP is Anna Marconi. This issue makes her both the smartest person in the room, and also critical of Slottisms (she rips apart Otto every time he opens his mouth.) Francine is also great as comedic background noise, same with Spider-Gwen. Peter Parker has a strong epiphany here that I did not expect. My heart breaks for characters like Lizard and Rhino who once again lose loved ones. When one calls out for Spider-Man’s help, despite recently trying to kill him, it works.
Sadly, the plot of this comic does not. Ben’s heel turn is a bit extreme, agency is taken from Otto and given to Anna Marconi, Otto’s own heel turn feels forced, Cindy Moon’s presence is completely ignored despite close proximity, and Prowler shows up just for a heel turn of his own. And while it is necessity, having most of the supporting cast realize The Jackal is Ben Reilly chews up a lot of screen time and throws the pacing off. The stakes are supposed to feel huge by issue’s end, but they do not.
I never thought dialogue and characters would be the strongest aspect of a Slott script, but he puts a lot of great stuff in as the story weakens. This book is still definitely worth your time, but it is always the ending where Slott is weakest; Fingers crossed.
Having found work in reviewing the financially floundering Prowler series, our own James Hynes was kind enough to share his thoughts!
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t been the biggest fan of ‘The Clone Conspiracy’ up until now. But this issue surprised me in being good. And bad. I actually don’t know what to think here.
Let’s start with the positives. Jim Cheung provides, arguably, his best art of the series in the issue – my personal highlight being the unusual utopia where villain’s and victims live together in harmony. It’s a weird take on a 1950s Pleasantville kind of town and I liked it. The queue for the pill was another striking scene that made me chuckle whilst also in awe of how deep this goes into Spidey’s back catalogue of dead people. The new Electro was another aspect I continue to like with this series, with her jibes adding some well-timed levity to the story. I hope she doesn’t die with the rest of these clones.
But by far the best things this story has going for it are the emotional moments that really took me by surprise. First off, we saw some really impressive growth for Peter as he finally realised that his ‘no one dies’ promise was unsustainable. This is followed by a humanising moment for Jonah, where he just stops short of admitting that he knows this is all wrong. This then leads to a superb moment where Peter confronts Ben about what he is doing as he knows that Uncle Ben would not approve. This is a great moment because it shows that YOU DON’T HAVE TO BRING BACK UNCLE BEN FOR HIS LEGACY TO STILL INFLUENCE OUR CHARACTERS (take notes Slott, don’t let me down here!). It’s also a good thing that nothing was done to undercut the importance of this scene (dramatic irony that will be built upon later…). A particularly sad moment comes over the final couple of pages, where we see Otto’s betrayal has led to so many clones dying – seeing the Lizard and Rhino desperately holding onto their loved ones is heart-breaking to say the least. Finally we have my favourite part of the issue – when Anna Maria is confronted by the idea of having a ‘perfect’ body and she rejects it. This truly illustrates the remarkable strength of a woman who’s grown to become one of my favourite Spider-characters over time. The idea of Otto turning against the Jackal as a result of this is one that’s true to his character development, even with the removal of Goblin Nation from his memories. He’s risking his life for the woman he loves, even if she doesn’t love him.
But of course we have the bad. And whilst the bad is less than the previous issues, it’s still bad. Gwen and Captain Stacey come across as two-dimensional and mostly unnecessary and the one half-arsed scene where they try to give them an arc comes across as…well, half-arsed! Spider-Gwen is another unwelcome addition, even with her one funny joke about needing to ‘vent’ (come on, that was pretty funny). Anna Maria calling Doc Ock’s mind ‘amazing’ made me feel uncomfortable, especially since she’d called him ‘repugnant’ only seconds earlier. But nothing p****s me off more than the moment I’d mentioned earlier that undercut the importance of a great scene (told you I’d bring that dramatic irony back). After being treated to a brilliant moral debate, in which we see the cracks in the Jackal’s argument, we see him as more fragile and ambiguously wrong than before. Emphasis on ambiguously. So when the Jackal, a self-dubbed ‘good guy’, tells his goons to kill Spider-Man without any hopes of him being brought back, it makes the whole argument more unbalanced than Civil War II! No longer am I unsure whose side I should be on, because Ben’s now one cat stroke away from being a Bond villain. Also they throw in a scene where Prowler switches sides – something you shouldn’t care about unless you’re reading Prowler, and even then, why are you still reading Prowler? I’m only reading it because I have to review it, what’s your excuse? Whilst you think these are only little problems, they chip away at the story until I honestly stop caring. I didn’t actually realise how annoyed I was until I started writing this paragraph and I seem to have run away with myself. Sorry about that.
So whilst this issue does have great art and some good moments, they are often undercut by the many flaws the story has. It’s because of that I’m giving this comic a
Go read Justice League vs Suicide Squad instead.
And finally, to cap out our little escapade, we have the OG clone fan Zach to share his thoughts:
The moment with Otto was earned and well deserved until Anna starts gushing about Otto’s intelligence. It got really close to writing a well rounded woman but then falls into the trope that Anna is perfect for Otto. Speaking about the word perfect, the conversation with Not-Ben is appalling. If you’re supposed to like this character (Ben) by the end, how can one conceivably be okay with this? It’s horribly executed.
Throughout this mini series, my hope for a compelling story has eroded to the point that I’m very upset. AnubiBen has now royally pissed me off. Let’s review:
-Ock gets the frequency operating to where the Clones Melt
-Ben uses this to wipe out everyone outside of Haven
Now, pop quiz everyone: what does Mass Murder mean?
Because that’s exactly what we got here. Ben committing mass murder by making everyone melt. It’s bad enough that Ben has the villains attack him, his brother that he sacrificed himself for, but to elevate the stakes by killing everyone off is absurd. It’s completely out of character and pisses me off.
F. I can’t support this blatant out of character behavior.