The Clone Conspiracy has been the next big event that Dan Slott has been building towards following the events of Spider-Verse. Slowly over the course of this latest volume of Amazing Spider-Man we have seen Jackal’s latest clone-centric plot take shape. Now all that build up is ready to come together to deliver Spider-Man’s greatest challenge to date. Will this latest clone event cause yet more controversy for our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man? Let’s find out with The Clone Conspiracy #1.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Jim Cheung (The Clone Conspiracy) and Ron Frenz (The Night I Died)
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: The issue opens up at Jay Jameson Sr’s funeral. As Peter listens to the eulogy he thinks back to everyone he has lost and how even though Jay died of natural causes his passing still hurts.
After the funeral service is over Peter consoles Aunt May. As May talks about how great everyday with Jay was Jonah approaches Peter. He blames Peter for his father’s death, yelling how Peter was the one who talked Jay out of the New U treatment.
John Jameson sees what Jonah is doing and tells his father that this isn’t the place to be placing blame on others. Peter tells Jonah he did what he thought was right. As he is being escorted away Jonah continues to yell at Peter, telling him it is his fault Jay died.
As all the funeral attendants leave MJ tells Peter that she will look after Aunt May.
Peter is soon left alone at Jay’s grave. After a short while Anna approaches Peter to see if he needs someone to talk to.
The two then take a walk through the graveyard where Peter explains how Jay’s doctors suggested they use treatment from New U technology that grow new organs from a patient’s cells. He goes on to say he was hesitant to use Jay as a guinea pig for New U, which Anna already knew. Peter reveals that Jay wasn’t the first time that a doctor approached him about using New U technology to save a patient’s life.
Peter goes on to explain that during the incident in Oklahoma a Parker Industries Plant employee, Jerry Salteres, was severely wounded. Because of that Peter ended up signing off on using New U technology on his Jerry’s to save his life. While the procedure ended up working when Peter went to see how Jerry was doing his spider-sense was triggered during the meeting.
Anna wonders if that ever happened. Peter says that it only happens when he is in danger. He goes on to say because of that experience he was against New U technology being used on Jay. Peter then says he blames himself as he couldn’t tell anyone it was his Spider-Man senses that caused him to make that decision. Anna tells Peter to do something about that feeling by going to pay Jerry a visit and investigate New U further.
Sometime later Peter and Anna visit Jerry Salteres home in Edmond, Oklahoma. Jerry’s wife Emma answers the door and tells Peter and Anna that Jerry can’t see anyone right now. Anna thinks something is wrong and as she is about to call for an ambulance Emma stops her. Emma says that if she does that “they” won’t give Jerry back. Peter wonders who “they” are and Emma lets him and Anna inside her house.
Inside her house Emma explains how after getting home she and Jerry decided to take some time alone by going camping. During the packing she forgot to pack the medication the doctors told Jerry to take. As they were already on their vacation Jerry thought it was okay. She then explains how Jerry ended up not feeling well. She goes on to say that some people from New U took Jerry away and deleted footage from the trip and what happened to Jerry from her Webware.
Peter takes a look at Emma’s Webware and after some adjustments he is able to recover the vacation footage. In the footage Peter and Anna see that Jerry ended up collapsing in pain.
After watching the footage Peter assures Emma that he will get Jerry back to her safe. As they get back to their car Anna thinks Peter is stupid for once again making promises like that. While they drive away someone watches them from the shadows.
Later that night Peter decides to take a trip to New U Headquarters in San Francisco. Though Peter knew he could get an inside look as the CEO of Parker Industries he decides to break in as Spider-Man.
While Spider-Man is breaking into New U Anna is at Horizon analyzing what was in Jerry’s medicine. Anna thinks that she will find out what Jerry’s medicine is before Spider-Man gets into New U but Spider-Man informs her he is already on Jerry’s trail. Spider-Man says he planted a spider-tracer on Jerry when his spider-sense went off at the hospital.
As he gets further into the New U building Spider-Man’s communication with Anna gets cut off. Spider-Man decides to continue anyways and soon finds a pod with Jerry’s eyeballs and veins inside. As Spider-Man notices that Jerry is still alive in that state Miles Warren (aka Jackal) walks into the room. Spotting Spider-Man, Miles makes a run for it.
As Spider-Man chases Miles some New U security confront him. Rhino and the new Electro (who is Max Dillon’s girlfriend, Francine Frye, who was brought back with a mix of Max’s DNA with her’s) attack Spider-Man. While Spider-Man tries to reason with Rhino about Jackal’s cloning experiments Rhino doesn’t want to hear it as Jackal brought his wife back to life. Electro soon joins in and forces Spider-Man to play defense. As Spider-Man evades all the attacks he is able to find a water pipe and use it to cause Electro to overload, knocking both Rhino and Electro out.
Spider-Man enters a new room believing Miles to be there but is surprised to find Gwen Stacy (who does not set off his spider-sense). Before Spider-Man can fully react to Gwen’s appearance he is attacked by a newly brought back Doctor Otto Octavius. End of main story.
In a back-up story we go back to when the Green Goblin broke into Peter’s place to find Gwen Stacy alone. Gwen freaks out and tries to get Green Goblin away from her. Green Goblin was expecting to find Peter but gladly knocks Gwen out with stun gas in order to use her as a pawn to draw out Spider-Man.
Sometime later Gwen wakes up to find herself on top of the George Washington Bridge with Spider-Man arriving to confront Green Goblin. Though she is unable to move she does hear Green Goblin address Spider-Man as “Mister Parker.” She suddenly puts it together as Spider-Man being Peter Parker. This fact breaks her heart given his role in her father’s death. As Spider-Man fights Green Goblin she doesn’t understand why this is happening to her and ends up falling off the bridge. Though Spider-Man tries to save her Gwen dies from the fall
Years later Gwen Stacy wakes up in a pod. She exits the pod with Jackal in the room welcoming her to San Francisco. Gwen is shocked to find herself in San Francisco. Jackal explains how several years have passed and that he is the one that brought her back to life again. Gwen wonders what Jackal means by this.
Jackal explains that after dying during the Spider-Man and Green Goblin fight Dr. Miles Warren tried to bring her back to life as a clone several times. Gwen wonders if this means she is another clone. Jackal says that is not the case as she is actually a reanimation not from blood samples but from DNA directly from her remains, with all her previous memories leading up to her death.
Jackal then explains that this is her second chance at life and all she needs to do is take a pill he has to ensure she doesn’t die again. He then says he wants to show her something before she makes a decision. Gwen wonders what will happen if she doesn’t play Jackal’s game. Jackal says nothing as he only wants her to be his partner.
Gwen decides to follow Jackal and they enter a New U laboratory. Jackal explains how he is trying to create a better world but needs Gwen’s help as she is a good person to help guide things along. Gwen isn’t sure what to do. Jackal calls someone into the room to convince her. The person walks in and it is Captain George Stacy. George and Gwen happily reunite and hug one another. George convinces Gwen that what New U is doing is a good thing. Gwen decides to take the pill she was offered earlier, much Jackal’s delight. End of issue.
The Good: The Clone Conspiracy #1 is a better start to the latest Spider-Man event than I was expecting. The issue isn’t without its flaws but it delivers something that already has Spider-Man up against a wall. This issue also establishes the fact that unlike Spider-Island and Spider-Verse where Spider-Man is more or less on his own without super-powered allies by his side.
Opening The Clone Conspiracy #1 with Jay Jameson’s funeral was a nice way to give fans a punch to the gut with characters in an emotional state. While it is a shame to lose a character that added a positive influence in Peter’s life it does put the character back in position many fans like to see. Because as different as it has been to see Peter run his own company and expands Spider-Man’s reach he is at his best when dealing with a personal conflict. And with Jay’s death Dan Slott is able to add a personal stake to this latest clone story outside of Peter having to deal with people being brought back from his past.
Seeing Jonah lay blame on Peter for Jay’s death added weight to how personal this part of the story felt. It is already in Peter’s nature to blame himself but to get it from a now family member in Jonah was a powerful emotion to play into. The scene is made harder to watch with Aunt May standing next to Peter while Jonah yelled at him. There was just an uncomfortable feeling to it with Aunt May there as both a reader and fan.
While she hasn’t been a big part of this series for a while now it was a good to see MJ make an appearance. MJ will always have be important part in the Spider-Man franchise even as she has shifted over to the Iron Man franchise. So her taking the responsibility of watching over Aunt May after the funeral was a nice nod to how she is still an important part in Peter’s life.
Slott did well in transition the attention from the funeral to New U by having Peter explain to Anna why he didn’t sign off on Jay being treated by its technology. Learning that Peter had actually signed off on using New U technology to save one of his employees clarified why he was so hesitant when Jay’s doctors came to him about it. It not only adds to Peter’s guilt, as he let his Spider-Man side dictate his decision, but also builds on the mystery behind what New U is doing.
Anna calling Peter out was again another great use of her character. Out of all the new characters that Slott has added to Peter’s supporting cast Anna has been the most refreshing addition. She is someone willing to call Peter out on his BS and this issue was no exception. Using her as the catalyst for why Peter takes action goes to further show how important she is to Spider-Man’s cast.
Now while I have never been a fan of the clone-related stories in Spider-Man’s catalogue I did find it interesting to see how Slott is trying to make things different. Learning that Jackal’s latest plot is more of a reanimation rather than directly cloning people is an interesting wrinkle. Because unlike his clones that were more of a blank slate we see with Gwen Stacy, Francine Frye and Doctor Octavius these New U “reanimations” have their memories leading up to their deaths.
The Gwen Stacy back-up was an interesting new recon for “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” story. Seeing things from Gwen’s perspective isn’t something I remember reading and Slott going back to show us this was interesting. This could easily end up being something that Jackal manipulated when bringing Gwen back given his obsession with her but interested to see if it’s an actual memory. Because if it is that adds something completely different to the story as Gwen never learning that Peter and Spider-Man were one and the same has been previously mentioned.
For his part Jim Cheung did a fantastic job on the art side of things. I forgot how much I missed seeing Cheung’s artwork and he definitely made the entire story feel like a big event. He does a great job making the action between Spider-Man, Rhino and Electro feel fluid and intense. He is able to draw on the strong emotions various characters display throughout The Clone Conspiracy #1. From Jonah yelling at Peter to Spider-Man immediate rage-filled reaction when spotting Miles Warren it was all effectively done.
Ron Frenz does a good job replicating John Romita Sr.’s art style for the Gwen Stacy back-up story. While it’s not a 100% replication as the coloring was more in line with the main story it was nice to see this style being used. He does a good job matching the dialogue with the artwork as Gwen’s heart was breaking with each thought she was having during Spider-Man and Green Goblin.
The Bad: Though The Clone Conspiracy story has been given its own mini-series away from Amazing Spider-Man this is not made for new readers to jump in. As much as I liked the opening of the issue it was only because I have the knowledge of what happened with Peter’s decision and his personal relationship with Jay that it hit me as a fan. But if you don’t come into it with that knowledge of what has happened you won’t feel that same impact or understand why Jonah’s words hurt so badly.
Similarly, referencing a lot of characters backstories throughout Peter’s investigation makes it feel like you are missing out on a lot of the story. From the Oklahoma incident to the new Electro there is a lot of baggage that comes with the series out of the gate. It is something that could’ve been avoided by slowly introducing these characters over the course of the event. Instead we are bombarded by all this backstory that leaves you wondering if you have to read back issues to get the full story.
This wouldn’t have been a problem if The Clone Conspiracy was taking place in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man as it would’ve been understood that there is some backstory to the event. But now since it has been spun out to its own mini-series there is a sense that it should be new reader friendly at least for its opening issue. That is not fully accomplished with The Clone Conspiracy #1.
Overall: The Clone Conspiracy #1 doesn’t knock it out of the park with its first at-bat. It is more of a productive double that continues the momentum established with previous issues of Amazing Spider-Man post-Superior era. This may not be for everyone but for fans of what Dan Slott has been doing with his run on Spider-Man it is a must-read as Jackal’s plot comes to forefront. The addition of Jim Cheung’s artwork makes this an even better purchase for Spider-Man fans. But for those that haven’t been reading Slott’s Spider-Man run, particularly Amazing Spider-Man post-Secret Wars, than you should not get this title. It’s not for you unfortunately.