Throughout his Amazing Spider-Man run, Dan Slott has made some bold storytelling decisions. All the citizens of New York getting Spider powers, Spider-Man swapping minds with Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man appearing to die in Doctor Octopus’ cancer ridden body, Doctor Octopus becoming a Superior Spider-Man, Peter Parker returning and subsequently becoming CEO of his own multi-million dollar company just to name a few. But none of these compare with his decision to revisit one of the most controversial Spider-Man stories of all time.
Revisiting a short story arc from 1975 that saw Spider-Man face off against a clone of himself created by his former college professor Miles Warren who had become a villain known as The Jackal, the 1994 Clone Saga saw the return of the Peter Parker clone now going by the name Ben Reilly and the Jackal into Spider-Man’s life. The story lasted for two years and was packed with memorable events including the death of Aunt May, Peter Parker accused of murder, Peter’s increasingly delicate mental state finally going off the deep end when it was revealed he was the clone and Ben was the real Peter Parker, Peter’s retirement and subsequent loss and retrieval of his spider powers, Ben Reilly taking up the mantle of Spider-Man and ending with the return of Norman Osborn (The original Green Goblin) – who revealed that Peter was in fact the original and he had been behind the entire scheme – and Ben’s death at his hands leading to Peter returning to the role of Spider-Man fulltime. Opinions of this story vary from those who liked the Ben Reilly character to those who were outraged at the idea that the Peter Parker they had been reading about for years was a clone. As someone who started reading the main Spider-Man books during this time, I found it very confusing that someone other than Peter Parker was Spider-Man, but I missed most of the controversial parts at the time.
Needless to say, the Clone Saga is a lightning rod for controversy so one must admire the guts of Dan Slott in revisiting it. The Clone Conspiracy details a new company that is promoting miracle cures and the ability to bring back the dead. But as Spider-Man digs deeper, he finds old friends and enemies returning along with some rather unpleasant surprises.
Peter has often found his moral code challenged by difficult circumstance, but in this story, he is presented with a way to return to life anyone who is close to him which leads to one of his greatest crisis of conscience as he struggles with his problems with the process. But the main highlights come from the returning characters – particularly Doctor Octopus (who Slott has always provided an excellent voice) and the discussed Ben Reilly (whose role will not only shock long-time fans, but also provide an intriguing new direction for the upcoming Scarlet Spider series).
Art is provided by Jim Cheung who, simply put, is one of the best artists working in superhero comics today. It’s rare these days to see him doing full interiors as most of his work is cover art. So it is a particular thrill to see him fully illustrating a Spider-Man title featuring some of his most memorable villains and supporting characters.
This is a must read for any Spider-Man fans and is a perfect set up for the Webhead’s upcoming 2017 adventures.
Spider-Man: Clone Conspiracy is published by Marvel on 27 April 2017 (Marvel, £62.50 , 560pp, h/b, 9781302903268)