Stillanerd Reviews: Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1


The latest Spider-Man event finally–and mercifully–ends for real with this one-shot special. But as Peter Parker himself asks, “Was it worth it?”

When Marvel Comics first announced there would be an “Omega” issue for Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy, I wasn’t all that surprised. After all, Marvel also extended their last two high-profile comic book events, Secret Wars and Civil War II, so continuing this practice with Clone Conspiracy can be regarded as being business as usual. Considering how this latest crossover, aside from its main five-part miniseries, has had four “Before Dead No More” prologues, five tie-in interludes in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, and two separate tie-in series, both of which already appear to have been cancelled, having one more chapter in a story that’s already way too many chapters too long doesn’t feel like overkill since it’s already well reached that point. Just be thankful this wasn’t anywhere near as prolonged as the previous Clone Saga from the 1990s. And it turns out that Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1 isn’t just Marvel siphoning the crossover well dry again, it reads like an issue which was created out of necessity.

Thus the first story in this oversized one-shot, “Collateral Damage,” acts as Clone Conspiracy‘s revised and extended ending, perhaps the one Dan Slott envisioned all along but still needed fellow writer Christos Gage’s help in order to pull off. It even begins by using similar but amended dialogue lifted from Clone Conspiracy #5. And you can tell Gage wrote the script based off of Slott’s plot outline (Slott has admitted he writes using Stan Lee’s “Marvel Method, remember) because the tone is very different–and a lot more consistent–than what we saw from the crossover’s supposed official ending. From the start, it establishes that although Spider-Man and his allies saved the world from the Carrion virus outbreak, there’s was a Pyrrhic victory. New U patients like Parker Industries employee, Jerry Salteres, kept alive in cryogenic storage, are still in critical condition since they, having been replaced by their own clones, never received proper medical treatment. Characters such as The Rhino and J. Jonah Jameson, duped into believing their loved ones were brought back from beyond the grave, are mourning their deaths all over again. S.H.I.E.L.D. and Horizon Labs get involved in wanting to test the surviving clones and those in direct contact with them that they aren’t still be carrying the Carrion virus. Parker Industries’ Webware devices, which Spider-Man used to stop the outbreak, are still on the fritz (although there isn’t any scenes which show them malfunctioning). And “Ben Reilly,” although believed to have perished, is still alive and at-large. And who does everyone start pointing fingers at? Why, at Peter Parker, of course!

Credit: Cory Smith and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics); from Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1

in the broader narrative context of The Clone Conspiracy, Peter’s sense of loss [over the Gwen Stacy’s clone’s death] doesn’t fit so smoothly into this epilogue as Slott and Gage would like.

Yes, it just wouldn’t be a Spider-Man story if the web-slinger wasn’t improbably branded as the scapegoat, or if he didn’t somehow blame himself. His guilt is also given an added level of angst due to his failure to prevent “Gwen Stacy” from dying a second time. It’s what fuels his anger towards Kaine and Spider-Gwen over them not informing him about New U’s real intentions and the infected clones beforehand. But it also gives him an understanding when it comes to the Rhino, and when the villain goes on a grief-stricken rampage, Spider-Man is better able to reach through to him, and perhaps even redeem him. Sure, Spidey telling the Rhino how he must get past his pain by “moving forward” like his namesake is painfully on the nose, but still makes for a genuinely poignant moment between them.

Unfortunately, in the broader narrative context of The Clone Conspiracy, Peter’s sense of loss doesn’t fit so smoothly into this epilogue as Slott and Gage would like. Both writers themselves established that Peter, in Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #23, recognized this Gwen as just the latest in a long series of Gwen clones he’s met over the years, even though this Gwen clone, unlike the others, had all of original’s memories up to the time of her death. Yet as Spider-Gwen observes in this issue, Peter still treats the Gwen clone’s supposed demise as though she had been the real Gwen. Granted, this is consistent with Clone Conspiracy #5, where we see him giving her words of comfort and reassurance that she was “the one and only [Gwen Stacy]” back from the dead. But what exactly made him change his mind about her? Was it just because Gwen’s clone looked like her and had her memories? Was it because “Gwen” was dying in front of him and he, once more, was powerless to stop it? If that’s the inference, then his change of heart certainly wasn’t made as clear as it should have been.

Credit: Cory Smith and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics); from Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1

More from Spider-Man

By contrast, Spider-Man’s clone, Kaine, is brilliantly depicted as Peter’s behavioral opposite. He’s brutally honest and unapologetic about his actions, pointing out how the world was still saved. He’s willing to go after “Ben Reilly,” recognizing the danger he still poses, and berates Spider-Man naïvety over their brother being dead again. Yet when saying good-bye to Spider-Gwen, he, in the tradition of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Wolverine, shows a softer, more compassionate interior underneath his gruff, no-nonsense exterior. That Kaine didn’t have more to do during this crossover now looks like a gross missed opportunity in hindsight, though his mere presence also makes Spider-Man, other than his confrontation with the Rhino, look like a weak-willed, ineffective superhero by comparison. Which reminds me: whatever happened to the idea that Kaine, given that his body contained a non-infectious strain of the Carrion virus, also held the key to curing clones of their cellular degradation? Talk about Slott and Gage not following through on Clone Conspiracy‘s own plot developments and abandoning them altogether.

One thing the first story definitely has going for it in its favor is the art by Cory T. Smith. His inclusion proves an inspired choice since, aesthetically, his style is remarkably similar to Jim Cheung’s, so much so that you would swear the later was the illustrator if you didn’t look at the credits page. Both draw their panels and figures with plenty of detail, each one capable of creating naturalistic facial expressions and anatomical structures. Each artist, during the dialogue scenes, give just the right amount of visual information you need to see what characters are thinking and feeling behind their dialogue balloons. They also have a great eye on where to draw the reader’s attention with each and every panel. Only with Spider-Man’s battle with the Rhino can one spot the subtle differences between the two artists. Whereas Cheung has a tendency of fitting in far too much during action sequences, Smith give them far more breathing room, and doesn’t hold back in his using strong, predominant motion lines. In that respect, the points go to Smith.

Credit: Mark Bagley, John Dell, and Jason Keith (Marvel Comics); from Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1

…if anyone thinks Peter David will rescue “Ben Reilly” from his current fall from grace, you’re sorely mistaken…Still, if the point of the back-up is to show how much “Ben” has adopted the Jackal’s philosophy and Machiavellian tendencies, then David does a superb job.

As for the other stories in this comic, if anyone thinks Peter David will rescue “Ben Reilly” from his current fall from grace, you’re sorely mistaken. In fact, “Give Us A Wink” makes Ben27 even more despicable, as the once and future Scarlet Spider manipulates Dr. Rita Clarkson, his now disgraced New U colleague, into giving him her money, which includes possibly orchestrating a confrontation between two vengeful bar patrons. Still, if the point of the back-up is to show how much “Ben” has adopted the Jackal’s philosophy and Machiavellian tendencies, then David does a superb job, along with writing some excellent dialogue. Mark Bagley also continues showing why he’s considered one of best comic book artists in the business, especially with his depiction of “Ben’s” current physical state. His depicting Ben27 as essentially a walking corpse, with his pale skin rotting and flaking off his face, is a perfect visual metaphor in showing just how corrupted the Scarlet Spider has become.

Meanwhile, Dan Slott’s other story, “King’s Favor,” serves as a gloried promo for his next upcoming major story arc, starting with Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25, “The Osborn Identity.”  Here, it’s presented as Wilson Fisk wishing to return Spider-Man the favor in helping him find “The Jackal,” this time by providing the location of Norman Osborn. Except Slott having shoehorned the Kingpin back into the proceedings only proves just how little involvement and impact the character had during The Clone Conspiracy despite being built-up as someone who also had an ax to grind against “Ben Reilly.” And it continues propelling the notion that Spider-Man is somehow personally affected by having lost “Gwen” all over again and looking for any excuse alleviate his pain. Even the otherwise talented Stuart Immonen gets hamstrung by some spotty (and in Kingpin’s case, incomplete) inking from Wade Von Grawbadger, and Richard Isanove’s dull choice of colors.

Credit: Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Richard Isanove (Marvel Comics); from Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1

So does this make Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1 a better resolution than Clone Conspiracy #5? That’s an easy answer given how awful the later comic turned out. At the very least, Omega is more focused, and, perhaps because Gage was the co-writer on The Amazing Spider-Man tie-ins, better incorporates aspects from those comics into this one. But that Clone Conspiracy even needs an Omega issue is proof enough of just how poorly mishandled the crossover was both in storytelling and editorial oversight. Yet it doesn’t excuse the character and plot inconsistencies, the deliberate obfuscation between cloning and resurrection, the random introduction of new  developments with little foreshadowing while leading others towards dead ends, bringing back one of the few fan favorites from the Clone Saga only to turn him into a super villain, or Slott once again stumbling and falling at the finish line of yet another major story. Thankfully, it could be a very long time before Spider-Man ever tries tackling clones again.

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)

Credit: Cory Smith and Justin Ponsor (Marvel Comics); from Spider-Man: The Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1

Like I mentioned in the above review, if the “inverse frequency” messed up all the Webware devices, how are Peter and Mrs. Salteres’ still functioning enough to make a phone call?

  • “Tell your boss I’ll be suing him for all he’s got.” Shouldn’t you be filing a lawsuit against New U, Mrs. Salteres? Because Peter Parker or Parker Industries aren’t the ones guilty of making false medical claims, engaging in malpractice, kidnapping your husband, denying him proper treatment, and who placed a genetically-made imposter in his place. Not to mention Peter didn’t know at the time what New U was really doing when he asked them to treat your husband, although he really should have since they said they cloned organs for transplants.
  • “The world’s not overrun by Carrion zombies.” What Carrion zombies, Kaine?! Because I sure didn’t any of zombies, Carrion or otherwise, in Clone Conspiracy #5.
  • “We’ve arranged to take everyone back to Horizon for treatment.” Wouldn’t it better for you guys to quarantine the building they’re already in, Max Modell? Less chance of spreading the infection that way, don’t you think?

    So Ben27, when creating Haven, made it so like a typical suburb, he installed manhole covers accessing the public sewer system? Must’ve been The Lizard’s contribution.

    Oh hi, Silk! Nice to see you and contribute nothing to overall plot again. I hear J. Jonah Jameson was apparently fired from the Fact Channel in the latest issue of your series. Would’ve been great to see that acknowledged here, though.

    How does Dr. Clarkson even know the people on the patient list she provides S.H.I.E.L.D. haven’t dissolved yet? Does New U have GPS trackers in them or something?

  • Hold on? How is Kaine still dying from clone degeneration?! I thought Anna Maria’s “inverse frequency” cured all the clones of this. At least those within the sound of the frequency, anyway.
  • “I know it would’ve been wrong to let [Ben Reilly] clone you…” Like I said the “Preview Review,” and as shown in The Clone Conspiracy #4, Peter knew Ben27 was only bluffing, and that never planned on cloning Uncle Ben corpse even if Peter had said yes. It’s not like this was real moral dilemma, here.
  • “I lost people, too!” Yes, Spider-Man, you already told the Rhino that less than a minute ago.

    See? I told you Curt Connors would turn his cloned wife and cloned son into lizard people? Though, seeing how they can’t pour a glass water and think plates are edible, I guess he also made them very dumb as well very ugly.

    Shouldn’t Dr. Rita Clarkson still be in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody? Also, she lost a lot of weight and changed her hairstyle on her way to the local bar.

    Okay, Ben27. First you say that “God hasn’t been playing God for a long, long time,” and so you and New U “stepped in” to do His job. Then, when Rita lists off all “inhumane” things she and you did, you then say God’s also “inhumane.” Which suggests the way God, when “playing God,” is “inhumane.” But if He, according to your logic, “hasn’t been playing God for a long, long time,” wouldn’t that, also according to your logic, make God “humane?” Your grasp of theology sucks.

    Hey where did Ben27’s glasses temporarily wander off to?

  • So all of Ben27’s secret stash of getaway money really was kept in that one place that the Jackal burned up in Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #24? Guess he sucks at being a criminal mastermind, too.
  • “Figures.” Why? You only knew “Ben Reilly” as “The Jackal,” Rita. Which means you wouldn’t know about his penchant for hoodies. Come to think of it, how you not also “recognizing” him as “Peter Parker,” since Ben27 is his clone?

    Okay, and that random kiss between Ben27 and Rita is totally random.

    So, did Spider-Man kill the Kingpin’s bodyguards? No? Cause those guys he threw out the window into the truck sure look dead.

    “Those ‘malfunctions’ saved hundreds–thousands of lives!” Um, since you saved the  world again, Spidey, shouldn’t it be “billions?”

    “Admit it. You need a win.” So Spider-Man saving the entire world from a madman trying to turn everyone into baking powder doesn’t count as a “win,” Fisk? You wouldn’t even be enjoying your dumplings if it wasn’t for him.