Amazing Spider-Man has surprisingly been a very good extension of The Clone Conspiracy event. The series has done exactly what tie-in comic books should be as Amazing Spider-Man has added depth for some of the smaller plot details for super fans to learn more about. And as someone that has enjoyed the majority of Dan Slott’s Spider-Man run these tie-in issues have been nice additions. This latest issue has the potential to be the best out of the tie-in comics as it delves into something that The Clone Conspiracy #4 did not: a one-on-one conversation between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. It was one plot element that I wish was in the main mini-series so I have high hopes for how an entire issue dedicated to this interaction turns out. So let’s not waste any more time and get right into Amazing Spider-Man #23.
Writer: Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Jason Keith
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: While holding his hand Gwen Stacy tells Spider-Man she forgives him and requests he help them.
Spider-Man can’t believe how peaceful things are in Haven. Jackal (Ben Reilly) says that it is all real with the people Spider-Man couldn’t save alive and happy.
Gwen senses Spider-Man still doesn’t believe any of this and says he still thinks none of them are real. Jackal suggests they continue to give Spider-Man the tour of Haven.
Ned Leeds approaches Spider-Man and asks him to convince Jackal to let them out of Haven so he can see Betty Brant. George Stacy takes Ned to the side and promises that Jackal will let them out so he can see Betty again soon.
Gwen suggest they go to her place which Jackal agrees is a good idea.
As they walk to the Stacy household Spider-Man questions George on how he could work with Jackal. George reminds Spider-Man he bent the rules for him all the time. Spider-Man wonders if George knows who Jackal really is but George instead lets Gwen spend some time alone with Spider-Man in their house.
Inside the house Peter takes of his Spider-Man mask and begins to cry a bit as everything going on is a lot to take in for him in one day. Gwen realizes that Peter’s tears of him grieving for the people he has seen again even though this should all be a happy moment for him.
Gwen then wonders why Peter didn’t react to her return in the same way. Peter admits that he has seen other versions of Gwen since she died including an alternate version of her from another universe. Gwen still can’t believe Peter doesn’t want to do anything with her.
Gwen changes the subject to how everyone could believe that the alternate version of herself (Spider-Gwen) was able to passed for her. Peter mentions that they have a lot of similarities, though Spider-Gwen is in a band in her universe, which they share a laugh about.
Gwen then goes back to how Peter still doesn’t believe she is really back. He once again brings up how he has seen clones of Gwen before. Gwen gets angry because she believes she isn’t a clone. Peter mentions he doesn’t have anything against clones, he even has friends that are clones (Kaine), but she is not his Gwen.
Gwen can’t believe what she is hearing and reminds Peter that she remembers everything including the fight with Green Goblin and the moment she found out he was Spider-Man. Peter wonders if that means she died hating her. Gwen says she still died loving him but did feel betrayed.
Gwen then admits that since then she has had time to understand why Peter kept his secret and wonders how many people he has seen suffer her same fate. Peter says “enough” but even with her death it was too many. Gwen then reveals she knows all about Peter moving on with MJ, though Peter mentions he is not with her anymore.
Gwen believes that Peter isn’t letting himself be happy because of his life as Spider-Man and that is why he is not accepting them all as being back for real. He defends himself that he does not need her to accept that he doesn’t believe Gwen and the others are back because he knows from past experience with clones like Kaine that she isn’t his Gwen.
Gwen then reveals that she already knows who Jackal really is much to Peter’s surprise. Gwen goes on to say that while Ben Reilly isn’t Peter she knows he is doing everything for the right reasons, which she and her dad agree with. Peter mentions that Gwen is making his point for her about clones not being the real deal.
Gwen stands silently for a second and then suddenly kisses Peter. Peter breaks the kiss and Gwen guess that means Peter has his answer.
Peter puts his Spider-Man mask back on after the kiss. Gwen opens the door to her house and says he doesn’t wear the mask to protect his identity and love ones.
They both step outside and see Jackal passing things out to the citizens of Haven. Gwen reveals Jackal is giving everyone their medication so their bodies don’t break down. Gwen mentions that Jackal is trying to show Spider-Man that he can reform those brought back so he can help them. Spider-Man does not agree and heads over to talk to Jackal. (The full confrontation with the Jackal is in The Clone Conspiracy #4.)
George Stacy approaches his daughter. Gwen admits she couldn’t convince Peter that they are the real deal. George hugs his daughter and reassures her that she is real to him.
While George is walking away Gwen gets his attention to point out that Spider-Man is now battling all of his returning villains while Jackal walk away. Gwen tries to go help Spider-Man but is stopped by her dad.
As Spider-Man’s fight intensifies an alert sounds throughout Haven. George suddenly collapses in front of Gwen. Before Gwen can help her dad she also collapses in a similar manner. Gwen gets up and sees that her body is starting to break down.
As the Carrion virus she calls out to Peter to help her. Spider-Man is still fighting off all his villains when he hears Gwen and he tries to reach out her. End of issue.
The Good: For many Spider-Man fans, including myself, Gwen Stacy is a sacred character, especially when it comes to her relationship with Peter Parker. Her death, much like Uncle Ben’s, is an important chapter in Peter’s life that has shape who he has become in and out of the Spider-Man mask. So there needed to be a very delicate balance as to how Gwen was treated in The Clone Conspiracy. Up till now that hasn’t happened as Gwen has been more of a minor character that has only been used to show us how far Ben Reilly has done with reviving deceased characters. It’s here that Amazing Spider-Man #23 finally steps in to put a proper spotlight on Gwen that mostly works.
Much like previous tie-in issues, Amazing Spider-Man #23 does a very good job in finding a way to use the timeline of events going on in The Clone Conspiracy to fit in its story. There was a very clear break in The Clone Conspiracy #4 between when Ben Reilly showed Spider-Man his Haven sanctuary and when Spider-Man confronted him leading to a big battle. It’s in this time period that Dan Slott and Christos Gage make room to show us how Peter came to the conclusions he did in The Clone Conspiracy #4.
The best thing about how Amazing Spider-Man #23 handles this is that it enhanced Peter’s thought process throughout The Clone Conspiracy #4. By going with this direction Slott and Gage are able to show us that Peter isn’t a naïve character. As much as Peter wants to have people he was close to like Gwen back in his life he knows everything Ben and New U are doing is not right. Referencing his experiences with clones in the past showed us that Peter has reached a point of maturity as Spider-Man that he won’t simply buy into things that are too good to be true.
With this mindset in place Slott and Gage are able to play the Peter and Gwen reunion in a way we really haven’t seen in the past. So instead of Peter become overcome with his emotions he plays the realist in this situation. Whether he believes Gwen was really brought back or not Peter knows that what is going in New U and Haven is not right. And this once again allows Peter to quickly switch back to hero mode that properly transitions into the confrontation he has with Ben Reilly in the second half of The Clone Conspiracy #4.
This maturity shown by Peter also works to make Gwen’s side of the story even more impactful. With each piece of dialogue Slott and Gage have Gwen speak we see that she really wants Peter to believe she is back. Because to her, like everyone else in Haven, she has really been brought back and has been given a second chance to live life possibly with Peter. This all makes the final desperate kiss she has with Peter and later asking her dad if she is real or just a clone depressing scenes to witness.
As has become standard with his work on Amazing Spider-Man, Giuseppe Camuncoli once again turned in a solid issue. Camuncoli continues to have a pleasant art style that is consistent from panel to panel and page to page. His artwork in Amazing Spider-Man #23 in particular was well executed to capture the artwork from when Gwen was a main character. The design looks like what we would get from Ditko and Romita but maintains Camuncoli’s style.
The Bad: While the story was good Amazing Spider-Man #23 does highlight how Gwen Stacy, like most characters brought back by Ben Reilly, is not very important to the story. Outside of the initial shock value her return provides to Peter she has done nothing of importance in The Clone Conspiracy story. Which is a shame as Gwen is one of the characters that should be playing a much bigger role in the overall story since she has been secretly been back for a while. This should’ve given her the opportunity to be a much more important member of Ben’s New U organization.
What makes Gwen’s return a greater miss opportunity is that Slott and Gage still portray her as a person ruled by her emotions. As understandable as it is that she would react in such a way when its Peter telling her how she is not the real deal we haven’t seen anything else from this Gwen. If we would’ve had more time delving into what this version of Gwen has been doing since Ben brought her back she would’ve had a better foundation to her character. That foundation would’ve made the interaction between Peter and Gwen much more impactful as it shows us how this relationship still affects the two in ways they don’t show other people. But instead we have a version of Gwen that is lacking in the development department needed to make this issue’s story stronger.
The same thing goes for Ned Leeds brief appearance in this issue. There wasn’t ever a build up to make this an important meeting for Peter since there have been only a handful of characters that have really been developed through the main series and tie-in issues. This is probably were we should have seen more of the life everyone else had in Haven to make Peter meeting them again impact him and the readers more than it did.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #23 is a solid extension of the events that took place in The Clone Conspiracy #4. Dan Slott and Christos Gage are able to deliver on the potential of what would happen if Peter Parker reunited with Gwen Stacy. At the same time, this issue highlights the weakness of The Clone Conspiracy not spotlighting other characters like Gwen enough during the course of the story. Gwen’s backstory, specifically, should’ve been a bigger focus in these tie-in issues to make her reunion with Peter would be a more impactful to the overall event. Because of that unless you are a die-hard Spider-Man fan who must buy everything related to The Clone Conspiracy, Amazing Spider-Man #23 is a passable tie-in issue.