The Clone Conspiracy kicked off on a strong note last month. Both the main mini-series and Amazing Spider-Man tie-in delivered on what Dan Slott has been building towards up to this point. Jackal’s latest clone-related plot seems to be the biggest yet with the number of Spider-Man villains he has by his side. Even with everything that we know thus far there are still a lot of questions left unanswered such as learning what Jackal’s endgame is. Let see what we can learn from Dan Slott’s The Clone Conspiracy #2.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In San Francisco Kaine is running away from zombie-like creatures. Kaine’s partner wonders why he isn’t using his webs to escape but he says he only has a limited supply left. Kaine tells his partner to open up a portal for his escape. The mysterious partner is able to open a portal just as the zombie-like creatures reach out to grab Kaine.
Sometime later Kaine wakes up in a bed to the sounds of someone yelling at him that they need their fix. Kaine offers the person some food but they only want their meds.
Kaine contacts his partner to let them know their “guest” is freaking out. He then requests an update from his partner.
At Jackal’s Lab in the New U Headquarters Spider-Man is having a tough time fighting the returning Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock reveals he is the genuine article by calling Spider-Man “Dr. Parker.” Spider-Man still doesn’t believe Doc Ock is the real one as he probably learned his identity from Jackal. Doc Ock decides to show Spider-Man he is the real deal by going over his history as the Superior Spider-Man and their adventures during Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man tries to counter-attack with one of his specialty webs but Doc Ock easily blocks it. He then says that he is prepared for whatever Spider-Man has to throw at him, revealing how he was actually the Living Brain. As Doc Ock is chocking Spider-Man out Jackal yells at him to stop.
Jackal, with Rhino, Electro and other Miles Warren clones, reminds Doc Ock that they are all family. Doc Ock angrily reminds Jackal that he needs him. Jackal agrees but only in the lab not as a fighter. Jackal then has Electro and Rhino apologize for attacking Spider-Man earlier.
Spider-Man is confused but Gwen Stacy reminds him that he was the one that invaded their headquarters and Electro and Rhino where just doing their jobs as the place’s security.
Spider-Man wonders why Jackal isn’t attacking him since he is outnumbered. Jackal sends everyone outside to take a break and offers to give Spider-Man a tour of the facility.
Before walking with Jackal Spider-Man asks Gwen why she didn’t activate his spider-sense like the other clones did. Gwen responds by saying it’s because she is not a clone, leaving Spider-Man even more confused.
As Jackal gives him a tour of the facility Spider-Man asks about the New U being Jackal’s baby the whole time. Jackal says it has been and that he has taken it to a new level. Spider-Man then wonders why Jackal is now wearing an Egyptian mask. Jackal says that the Anubis mask is much more respectful than his previous Yoda appearance.
Jackal then explains that his new cloning process is focused on uploading psychic residue from human remains so that when the person is restored with a new body they have all of their memories.
He opens one of his labs to show Spider-Man the process only to shock the web-slinger with Lizard and Martha Connors working inside. Spider-Man gets pissed off and believes Jackal is insane for bringing Lizard’s family back to life. Jackal tells Spider-Man to calm down and orders Gwen to explain it to him. Gwen tells Spider-Man that their next stop will put his doubts of the good they are doing to rest.
As they head to the next room Spider-Man reminds Jackal what happened when Kingpin’s wife Vanessa was brought back. Jackal corrects Spider-Man by saying he only resurrected Vanessa but it was Kingpin who killed her.
Jackal then opens the door to another room filled with villains that died during Spider-Man’s career.
At another part of New U’s headquarters J. Jonah Jameson can’t help but be happy that his wife has returned. Marla once again tries to convince Jonah to work with New U. Jonah wonders what more he can do after he continuously promotes New U on his show at the Fact Channel. He then asks Marla why New U hasn’t brought his father back to life. Marla says that they are still having problems bringing Jay back without his disease.
Marla decides to give Jonah something he can be happy with by introducing him to a person waiting for them in another room. As soon as he spots the person Jonah can’t help but smile.
Back at the room with the resurrected villains Spider-Man prepares for everyone to attack him. Prowler, Captain Stacy, Jean Dewolff and Doctor Kafka suddenly appear to try to calm Spider-Man down. Spider-Man wonders why Prowler is with all the clones. Prowler explains that when he conducted his New U investigation he was killed but was brought back by the Jackal. He goes on to say that now that he is working with the Jackal they are able to give the villains a second chance.
Spider-Man is at a lost after Prowler’s speech. Jackal tries to explain how everyone was reborn to be a source for good. Spider-Man is not buying it as he believes Jackal is desecrating the memories of the people he loves. Everyone in the room explains to Spider-Man that none of the resurrected villains have committed a crime as they are working to reform them. Jackal then reveals that everyone he has brought back are being kept stable thanks to his formula which ensures that their bodies won’t fail them
Captain Stacy suddenly points his gun at Gwen, yelling at her because he knows it’s not his daughter. Captain Stacy orders the Gwen infront of him to hand over his daughter. Gwen attacks Captain Stacy, revelaing that she is actually Spider-Woman from Earth-65 (Spider-Gwen). Gwen leads Spider-Man to escape through the vents.
Jackal calls the Lizard to inform him of what happened. He then orders Lizard to chase after Spider-Man and Gwen since his powers give him the best chance to catch them.
Elsewhere in the vents, Gwen contacts Kaine to inform him that her cover has been blown. Spider-Man is surprised that Gwen is working with a revived Kaine and expresses his confusion in what is going on. Gwen slows Spider-Man down so she can deal with things one at a time. She continues to talk to Kaine and informs him she wasn’t able to get her hands on the medication. Spider-Man reveals that Horizon University has some of the medication Gwen and Kaine are looking for.
Sometime later Kaine arrives at Horizon University and is greeted by Anna and the others. Kaine then reveals that he has Gwen Stacy that Jackal brought back to life from this universe tied up in his car. Max Modell and the others express their discomfort with how Kaine brought Gwen to them. Max and the others leave with Gwen and head inside the lab.
Anna pulls Kaine to the side and says that while she understands why he is being cautious she doesn’t get why he didn’t go to Peter earlier. Kaine reveals that he knows all about the madness New U spread across dozens of worlds. He then reveals that while Miles Warren mad ideas lead to the hell in multiple worlds it was Peter Parker and Parker Industries that are responsible for destroy the world. End of issue.
The Good: A hallmark of Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man has been how he finds ways to elevate the importance of previous plotlines in his ongoing storylines. That trademark has been carried over to The Clone Conspiracy as we saw multiple storylines from previous volumes being used as the foundation for what we see in The Clone Conspiracy #2. Most importantly we see how the aftermath of Spider-Verse continues to reverberate in Spider-Man’s life.
Seeing how much Spider-Verse is helping push The Clone Conspiracy forward is rewarding as a fan that has read the majority of Slott’s Spider-Man run. One of the bigger things left dangling from Spider-Verse was the fate of Kaine after we saw his hand show life after being “killed.” While we don’t know exactly how he got to partner with Spider-Gwen to stop the apocalyptic future from happening it is great to see him involved. And with 3 issues left we still have plenty of time to fill in the holes like how Kaine, Spider-Gwen and possibly other Web Warriors got involved in Jackal’s plot to begin with.
The Clone Conspiracy #2 did a good job in establishing the feeling that the world is against Spider-Man. In many ways we got to experience the story unfolding alongside Spider-Man instead of him being our guide. Seeing how each turn Jackal and Spider-Gwen took Spider-Man through it’s clear he won’t be able to go on the offensive until the end of the story. This type of take helps The Clone Conspiracy standout from other events like Civil War II and Death of X where we are playing witnesses to the events the heroes are involved in.
This type of approach added to how outmatch Spider-Man is right now. The Doc Ock fight at the beginning of the issue did well in highlighting this. I enjoyed how Slott wasted no time in revealing to Spider-Man how Doc Ock orchestrated his return. It’s all information that as readers we’ve known since the latest volume of Amazing Spider-Man started but Peter Parker was still in dark. Now that this part of Doc Ock’s story is out of the way we have room to see more of how he will turn Jackal’s plan to his favor and take down Spider-Man at the same time.
What made The Clone Conspiracy #2 go from good to great is the ending. Learning that it’s not Jackal but Peter Parker and Parker Industries that’s responsible for destroying multiple Earths was a great turn. It’s a moment that reminds readers how naïve of a person Peter still is in running his own company that you can picture how if Spider-Gwen and Kaine didn’t interfere that is where he was headed. Because after Jay’s recent death Peter could’ve had every reason to partner up with New U. Luckily for him he now has information to keep himself from making that mistake. How he uses that information to not just bring down Jackal and New U but make himself a better business man is very intriguing.
As for Jackal’s side of the story, I have been impressed with how quickly Slott has made me come to favor the character. Out of all of Spider-Man’s villains Miles Warren/Jackal has been among my least favorite. I just never felt there was much depth to his character beyond being the guy responsible for all of the clones. But now with The Clone Conspiracy we are seeing more layers with the character as he is now seeing himself as a God that can not only bring people back to life but reform them. How honest he is with the reformation part is questionable, especially after seeing the Earth in the future, but it does make his real plot far more interesting whenever it is revealed.
While Dan Slott’s story was a highlight the real star of The Clone Conspiracy is Jim Cheung’s artwork. Cheung’s pencil work, along with John Dell’s inking and Justin Ponsor’s coloring, makes everything happening in each page and panel feel like a big event. Cheung has a great sense of how to transition from energetic action sequences to dramatic talking head scenes. The emotions he is able to get out of characters, even when they are wearing masks, is just fantastic. It makes me look forward to what happens next even more as I just want to see how he draws more Spider-Man action sequences.
The Bad: The one problem that The Clone Conspiracy #2 has is that it is not entirely new reader friendly. While Slott does his best to keep new readers informed on events like Spider-Verse there is a lot that will go over new readers’ heads. Things can get quickly confusing with how we now have two different Gwen Stacy’s running around and talk about how Kaine return from the dead. Some of these and other sub-plots can easily lose readers not familiar with Slott’s work.
Overall: The Clone Conspiracy #2 nailed how the story continues to evolve. Dan Slott did a great job introducing new players in the form of Spider-Gwen and Kaine into the conflict. At the same time we got plenty of development for Spider-Man and Jackal with a big hook ending that creates a lot of questions for the story moving forward. Add in Jim Cheung’s big event style artwork and there is really no reason for Spider-Man fans not to pick up The Clone Conspiracy. It’s easily Marvel’s best event going on right now.