Friday, July 27, 2012
Clone Saga Revisited, Part Ten
The stories are less tightly connected than they have been, with only subplots tying the various comics together. In the early issues of this collection, Ben as Spider-Man fights a handful of old-timey villains like Dragon Man, the Will O'The Wisp and Dr. Jonas Harrow. He's also in the middle of an ongoing gang war between Hammerhead, the mysterious Fortunato, The Rose and the wacky Delilah, an assassin who speaks in large, multi-colored letters. It's weird. But what of Peter Parker, who collapsed at the end of the last volume and suffers from a mysterious ailment? He's rushed to the hospital and the doctors aren't sure what to do about his deteriorating physical state. Even Dr. Curt Connors flies in from Florida to lend a hand, but he's just as stumped.
One of these issues actually ends with Peter Parker flat-lining and apparently dead. This was brutal. Fans at the time thought, "it finally happened. Peter Parker is dead. Now Ben is Spider-Man and that's the end of it." A comic released one week later revealed that wasn't the case at all. Parker springs back to life almost immediately, and he has his Spidey powers back. So they weren't trying to get rid of Peter...they were undoing the revelation at the end of Spider-Man: The Final Adventure (mere months afterwards, by the way). Not long after that, The Lizard is sighted on a nearby rooftop. No surprise, right? After all, Dr. Connors was in town. But wait, Peter is talking with Dr. Connors at the same time Ben is battling with The Lizard outside! How is that possible?
It's a genuinely gripping cliffhanger, but it will be some time before it's resolved in this collection. There's a massive filler story where Spider-Man fights The Scorption with the help of Nick Cage and Iron Fist. Then there's a god-awful team-up with Spider-Man and the Avengers that involves a lot of time travel chicanery. It's very confusing and very dull. After that is a fun story pitting Spider-Man against The Looter, an egomaniac who has stolen equipment from various B-list villains like The Shocker, The Ringer and The Trapster, and made his own armor suit that uses all of them.
At the end of Onslaught, The Avengers and The Fantasic Four were all presumed dead. There's an issue devoted mostly to Spider-Man coming to terms with their deaths, but given that they were all resurrected not long after this, the whole thing rings a little hollow. The event also woke up a mass of evil bees named Swarm that Ben has to deal with for a couple of issues. Yeah, I don't know. Don't ask. Honestly, the Peter Parker subplots are far more interesting at this point. The Daily Bugle has a round of layoffs, meaning that Peter is demoted from his full-time position back to freelance. Not good when a baby's on the way. What follows is a beautiful scene where Mary Jane reveals she wants to name the baby May, after Peter's aunt. She also has a nice zinger - "This is the 90s. Job security is as dead as disco." You haven't seen ANYTHING yet, Parkers. What if I were to tell them that these days the 90s are regarded as a time of prosperity? Yeah, our standards have come down a bit.
So, remember that plotline about The Lizard? Next, we finally get back to it. The story shifts to the point of view of Dr. Connors, and we learn that this new Lizard was created during a botched attempt to cure the good doctor of this tendency to become evil and scaly every so often. The creature follows him all the way back to his home in Florida. To save his family, Connors willingly allows his lizard personality to regain control. Spidey arrives just in time to see the original Lizard curb stomb the new one. After an intense battle, Connors regains control. This story is flat-out excellent and a highlight of this particular volume.
In the midst of these somewhat standalone tales, we've seen glimpses of some of the most important players of the Clone Saga, such as Scrier, Judas Traveler (oy vey) and the mysterious Gaunt. Should be wrapping up soon, but this volume ends with an odd distraction - a tale set in Spider-Man's past featuring a lot of characters who are now dead - George and Gwen Stacy, Norman and Harry Osborn, Aunt May and Kraven the Hunter. The high point is the art, which was done in part by John Romita, Sr, who may be the definitive Spider-Man artist. Still, in a collection full of odd detours, this is the most random. Perhaps we'll get our resolution next time?