Clone Conspiracy #5 Mega-Review

Hi”It’s never easy, is it?”

Hi Crawlspacers! Between this issue and the last, all of our reviewers died terribly of laughing too hard at Ben Reilly’s new costume. Luckily our friends over at New U were able to help us out and we’re all back for this issue! The conspiracy runs deeper than you think…

Here’s our thoughts on Clone Conspiracy #5!

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Jim Cheung

Inkers: John Dell, Jay Leisten, Jim Cheung

Colours: Justin Ponsor

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Editors: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis

Clone-Story: As of last issue’s cliff-hanger, all of the clones are dying and are spreading the Carrion Virus across the world.  So it’s fair to say, Spidey’s in a bit of a pickle. Benackal is acting suitably campy evil, declaring this everyone’s new birthday (it’s going to be really hard to buy a card that week). As Peter and Prowler fight their way through their dying villains, we see that Lizard has a plan to keep his family safe. But unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to everyone, as Rhino clutches his dying Oksana in his hands. Captain Stacy dies, with his final wish being that Gwen should protect Peter. To do so, she follows Peter on his mission to save the day. Meanwhile Kaine is having trouble fighting Benackal and, just before he is thrown out of window, he discovers that his new foes is his brother, Ben (Don’t worry Kaine, we couldn’t quite believe it either). Spider-Gwen leaps after them, but these web warriors are pursued by Electro, with orders from Benackal to kill them. Meanwhile again, clone-Gwen helps Peter by sacrificing herself to the Goblins, buying him enough time to go and save the world. Peter finds his way to the main room, where Doc Ock is locked in combat with Benackal, hoping to avenge what happened to Anna Maria. Ock is the second person to sacrifice himself, allowing Peter and Anna to get to the computer centre, where Silk is waiting for them (Hi Silk! Are we supposed to not ask questions about her arrival? Yeah? Okay, cool!). Marla Jameson dies in Jonah’s arms and he begs Spidey to not tell Peter that he was right all along. Peter reverse-engineers the thingymagig, reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, allowing the technobabble to…okay, he just uses the Webware to save the day. Some live, some die, those who died probably did live (I’m looking at you Ock, Ben and Gwen). In the end, Dr. Clarkson tells Spidey and co that some clones are defrosting downstairs, including Hobie, who’s off to go have solo adventures in the next few arcs of Prowler (hahahahaha, they thought it was getting renewed, hahaahahahahah!).  Another survivor is Jerry, who Spidey promises he will take home. The end-ish.

Clone-Thoughts: Well, I’ve been a very outspoken critic of The Clone Conspiracy, for its mad ideas, bad execution and poor characterisation. So with the final issue, I really expected to hate this. Like, Suicide Squad levels of anger. And to be honest, I didn’t mind this issue.

Let’s start off with the usual positive – Jim Cheung’s art is a delight and it’ll be a shame we won’t be seeing him do Spidey for a while. He managed to brilliantly capture the convoluted chaos of this series in a way that was quite simple to understand.

But the best part of this issue isn’t as simple as art. It’s the little scenes dotted throughout. Because when Slott gets a scene right in this issue, he actually gets it really right. Captain Stacey’s final scene had beautifully depressing symmetry to his initial death, with him pleading for Gwen to look after Peter rather than vice versa. This culminated in Gwen’s death scene, which really did something with the initial concept of Gwen knowing how she died. Instead of being a damsel who dies unconscious at the hands of the Green Goblin, she uses her final moments of life to save Peter and fight the Goblins. This sort of solved my problem with the original Gwen, which was that she was too passive. This gave some more depth to her character. Ock’s redemption was another well done scene (but for a guy who sees the Spider-Marriage as a ‘been there, done that’ story, Slott sure does love his Ock redemptions). Bringing back Jerry, and Pete’s acceptance that ‘no one dies’ is impossible, brought the story full circle. So, whilst I expect a lot of my fellow reviewers to not like this issue, I found there were some good things in it.

But of course, there were negatives. A lot of them. For a start, how is that Ben Reilly? I believe it as much as I believe Jared Leto is the Joker (two Suicide Squad jibes in one review, not bad!). His opening monologue is cheesily evil, which I would expect from the actual Jackal but not Ben. The next out of character moment came when Spidey was swinging past Rhino, who was cradling the dead body of his beloved, and he chipped up “Yeah, I’m not going near that.” This felt way too nonchalant for a hero was witnessing his enemy mourning. It’s becoming far too frequent that I find Peter being the worst part of any Spider-Man issue. The last of the niggling nit-picks is the complete lack of continuity of Silk just popping up out of nowhere. I’m behind on Silk, so a little context would have been nice!

Then there’s the elephant in the room. This clearly isn’t the end to the story. A lot of characters ‘died’ off-screen but I feel like that’s just so Slott can bring them back for ‘shock’ cliff-hangers that will ‘change the Marvel Universe forever’. The issue just sort of fizzles out, with a quite neat and uncreative way of stopping the virus. It’s also waaaay too convenient that a lot of the characters weren’t dead, they were just in ice cubes below! So many things are just left hanging, that I feel if I want to see the actual end to this story, I’m going to have to read all the tie-ins. It’s not good when you finish a story and just feel unsatisfied.

So whilst this issue was one of the best for its character moments, some of the little things made me uncomfortable when reading it and I kind of feel like this isn’t the end of the story. So because of that, I’m giving this issue a


Event grade: D

At least the Uncle Ben plot went nowhere.

Now let’s check in with our first guest star – Neil Bogenrider, reviewer of ASM + Avengers  and writer of the brilliant Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man series.

What a load of crock.

Everybody saw this nosedive in quality coming. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Slott has this track record on numerous storylines under his penmanship. Spider-Verse especially. But this? This is an entirely new low, especially considering that this story has basically already been told twice before, just with a different label. If I had to make an analogy for this story, imagine… say, a house of cards. Dan Slott comes up to this house of cards and knocks it down, and cobbles it back together, with it only hanging together by luck. That’s the story in a nutshell.

Not only is there the incredibly convenient solution to the problem, but a lot of things just… come out of nowhere. For example, Silk. What the hell did she have to do with the story? Sure, she’s been here in her solo title, but there’s never been any mention of her in the main event until literally the last few pages. Ben’s insanity and Doc Ock’s miraculous switch over to the side of good, at least I think? They come out of nowhere as well. The whole ending and resolution to the conflict was so out of left field that I actually felt sucker-punched, and not in a good way. And that “Oh, they weren’t dead, we just put them in giant ice cube trays!” plot twist felt so cheap that I could have bought it at the dollar bin at Walmart. It was almost a bigger waste of time and money than that floundering Prowler series. (Though that’s not my problem, I didn’t waste my time with that. James is the only human being on the planet who actually bought it.)

Not only that, but this wasn’t even the conclusion! Nothing was actually resolved, it was just the illusion of a conclusion. There’s still a dozen or so plot threads still dangling, and they all have to be solved by the Omega issue, a feat I’m sure Slott has no chance of accomplishing. Even the TSA does its job better.

I’ve given Fs during my Crawlspacing career. Three of them. But they were either middle Fs or had a nice little plus mark. Not today. Today, I show Slott no mercy. The rest is silence. (I passed World Lit, Mark. I can use that quote now.)

Final Grade: F-

Clone Conspiracy Grade: D+

What does Shaun Martineau, resident reviewer of all things Spider-Women, thinks about the clone conclusion?

I Feel Like I’m Forgetting. Something: I mean another Dan Slott ending, the guy really does not know how to close. Still, there is some good here. Octavius becoming heroic once again is unsurprising, but I like the inversion of Ben Reilly and Otto in their fight scene and it cannot be coincidence that Ock becomes heroic right before Peter actually faces his true nemesis next arc. It happens to be my favorite scene, largely because those two are the only characters whose personalities even show in this issue. I also like giving Gwen’s death agency, although she was poorly handled during most of this event and is offed for the sake of the plot. Jimmy Cheung does a good job with tightly packed panels this issue, although the final act seems undone and hidden beneath an annoying red tint. A lot of the dialogue in this issue bothered the hell out of me. Jonah’s final lines are stupid. Gwen’s dialogue talking about a better version of herself out there is horrible. Spider-Man making a dick comment while avoiding Rhino? The worst of the bunch; I get that Spider-Man does not have time for that, but there is no need to make him a dick about it. And the biggest problem: there is no ending to this issue. Who the hell is Jerry Salteres and why does Slott think his story is a worthy cliffhanger to the conclusion of this five issue event (Omega is technically an epilogue.) Salteres has not be a character of note during this event at all. Why the hell would I want to shell out more money after a stunt like that? This event went off the rails after the halfway point and Slott delivered on very few of the concepts in it.


Event Grade: C+  

Let’s catch up with ASM Review No.2 and writer of Cobwebs, Mark Alford, and what he thinks of the grand finale…

“The worst is Death, and death will have his day.”  By this point in the review, you already have the plot of the story and several of my fellow reviewers opinions on it.  I hope someone enjoyed the story’s somewhat concluding finale, but my gut tells me that it will be fairly universally panned.  So I have decided to find a bright point here.  A silver lining, if you will.  The best I can come up with is the rushed ending.  Sure, many will be upset over the rushed ending, but from my perspective, why beat this horse any more than necessary? Plus, any missing bits of information will just be rehashed in the next ASM when we get more of the same story.  So, allow me to address a few things that may not be hit my my distinguished colleagues:  1. Al, you were right and I was wrong.  The whole premise of the reanimated characters is that there can be only one.  It is a resurrection of the body. However, with Prowler et al coming out of the freezers at the end, it is conclusive that this was nothing more than cloning with better memory options.  It is the second mistake I have eve made in my life and I admit it freely.  2. Evan – it sure would have been nice if the inverse frequency resulted in a slightly different onomatopoeia.  3. Shakespeare’s worst play ends with the “Some will be pardon’d, some will be punished” monologue by the prince and I feel that applies to this comic as well.  Some of the clones survived, some did not.  Some had original bodies that never died and survived the thawing process and some will just thaw out only to buy the pine condo.  But who are they?  I would like to have an accounting of which clones/frozen originals died and which will continue to appear, otherwise, this will serve as a jumping off point for any character any author wants to bring back in the future (Twenty years from nowwe’ll get the return of the Kangaroo.  Yeah, he survived and has been hiding out in Utah for that last several years…).  I assume the sonic process somehow cured all the clones so that if they did survive the carrion virus, then they will be able to continue to live and not infect everyone? 4. No bodies means no death.  Unless they show this in ASM, there is no proof that one or both Benackle and Doc Ock died, just dust that could be floor dust or could be clone flour – hard to tell with the lack of coloring in that scene.  Plus, all we have is a mask and mechanical arms, but not the rest of their clothing.  Gwen’s jacket is proof that she is gone?  Where is her flour and other clothes?  We’re not done with this, people.  They will keep coming back.  My only hope is that I have to wait twenty more years for that to happen.

My grade?  Am I offended by it?  Not as much as Amazing Grace, but I am greatly saddened by the amount of money I have spent on this story so far.  It just was not a fun issue to read, and since this was a event-level storytelling, it should have been more.  


And now, a moment of silence for poor Jerry Salteres, who, when he seemed about to recover, suddenly felt the icy hand of death upon him….

And finally here is our clone master himself, Zach Joiner, to tell us his thoughts…

It’s not that I wanted to hate this issue. I didn’t go into this thinking “What do I want to spend my time doing? Oh, I know, I’m going to hate on an issue of Spider-Man”. Perhaps I shouldn’t take this too seriously. But dammit this is my favorite character and I wanted to F–king love this. I did. And this issue did nothing for me. They should have just bit the damn bullet and said “hey, we need one more issue” but no. This is a textbook example of something that Slott doesn’t do very well and that’s pace himself on an event like this. Unlike Spider-Verse and #SpiderIsland, Slott never got into a groove with the pace of the plot in this story. JR pointed out in issue one on the Podcast that it was essentially a re-hash of the build up to the story, and very little moved along. In fact, while I enjoyed that first issue and gave it an A+, he was right. From there, we got 5 issues of ASM that either served as Backstory (Kaine and Ben Reilly) or ‘Extended scenes’ that either A) contradicted the story we saw in the main book, or B) were so pointless that you could have 86’d the whole thing. Only 40% of the ASM issue were absolutely needed and therefore could’ve been used to make the story more complete. Instead, we are stuck with a final issue that wasn’t, and need to read ASM and Omega to get the whole story.

By the way, Omega just confirms suckage and needs to never be used as a issue device again. Ever. It also supports my theory that this whole thing was Dan Slott thinking “I can polish a turd like Maximum Cloneage and make it sparkle.”  No Dan. You couldn’t. No one could. Not even Rodger Stern or better yet, Peter David could make that work. God knows Tom DeFalco couldn’t, which is why they made Poor Todd DeZago script over basic plots for four of the first six issues.

Getting to this issue, The colors nearly ruin great artwork. I’ve seen bad Inks ruin good art, See Sienkiewicz, Bill on Spectacular Spider-Man finishing Sal Bucemea’s artwork during the Clone Saga, but never have I seen colors that wash out the pencils and Inks. I’ve seen muted colors, but never like this. It’s a damn shame as Jim Chenug should draw more Spider-Man. I love his artwork. But nevertheless its not exceptional because of the colors.
Ben never redeems himself in this issue. That itself is terrible. But to die off freaking panel? SEE ASM for the FULL STORY. No. That’s not how this works Dan.

F. Absolute failure. 

Event Grade: C-. Only due to the strong start. But from Issue 4 on, it failed on all fronts.
Makes me sick. 🙁





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(7) Comments

  1. Christopher Andre

    The only think I like about this series is that it gives me a glimmer of hope that slotted is leaving the book soon and is putting back to toys in the toy chest for other writers to play with. With this story, everyone that slotted killed can pretty much be brought back. Next is Osborn. Hopefully they will regoblin juice him and bring him back to basics. Venom is coming back as a brock/symbiote duo. The end of the tunnel is near my friend. P.s. I just wish they didn't have to assassinate Ben Reilly to achieve that tho :(

  2. Jack

    Only Marvel's current regime would revive a popular character from the 1990s, decide to spend the money to create a new series for him, and then empty out every single attribute that caused people to like him in the first place.

  3. mrread7

    The story line was a mess, and while there were parts that could have been built on well or at least showed promise. It all fizzled and turned into utter crap, which Dan Slott has been doing for the last 2 and a half years. He still has to do his pump up of Otto even before his supposed: "dusting". After all, while Omega isn't out for a couple more days. It's pretty obvious that Scarlet Spider is going to be Superior Spider-Man II at this rate. I agree, what was the point of Jerry? So, Hobbie wasn't really dead to begin with, or he was and this yet another clone. We have the female Electro or not? It's just a huge mess.

  4. Jack

    I have always felt that Dan Slott as a writer was inconsistent. When he was "on", he was really on. He had chronic, recognizable writer-faults, but everyone does, and he could still write some very good stories. But over the past two years, his strengths have receded and those flaws are sticking out like boulders sticking out of the water as the tide recedes. Because he doesn't write for the characters, he continually needs to come up with one more zany "What If?" plot after another. There are still some trickles of inspiration, but the dry river-bed is showing through.

  5. Evan

    Poor plotting and narrative and characterization aside, I just wonder why Doctor Octopus was supposedly killed off so easily after the circuitous route and complicated series of events it's taken for him to be resurrected -- or rather, cloned. Why would Peter tell Otto "You're not all bad" after everything that's happened? He wanted to be the next Pol Pot, and committed murder as the Superior Spider-man. Why would Peter give him of all people the benefit of the doubt, but then coldly dismiss Rhino's grief? I don't get it. @Mark -- What a missed opportunity for some good onomatopoeia. It would have been like the scene in Dr. Strange when the music plays in reverse as Strange reverses time to rebuild the city. I love these mega-reviews. Thank you to you all.

  6. Hub Pie

    So we can all agree that Clone Conspiracy was nothing more than Slott showing his increasing ineptitude on the main book, right? Spider-Man and clones have a bad stigma, and stories like this are an example as to why that stigma exists. Clone Conspiracy could have been pulled off well, but to see it fall apart extremely quickly was just pathetic. The whole panel of Peter telling Ben "Tell me more," after Ben just told Peter that he was tortured by the Jackal made me rage, and I don't rage very often. If anything, Peter should have just told Ben "If you do this, you'll end up no better than him." Seeing Slott take the human aspect out of Spider-Man in favor for crazy plot twists is maddening. Clone Conspiracy may not be as bad as the atrocity that is Amazing Grace (quite possibly the worst Spider-Man story in the past few years), but it's up there for being one of the worst Spidey stories in recent memory. I'm so glad Renew Your Vows exists, because I'd rather be reading about a superhero family team with a mature Spider-Man over this sorry excuse for a main book. Screw Clone Conspiracy, and screw Dan Slott's poor excuse for writing that destroyed this event.

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