As The Clone Conspiracy continues it has become hard to predict where Dan Slott is taking everything. The latest reveal of Ben Reilly being the person responsible for the creation of New U and the return of so many people from Peter Parker’s past was a big wrench to throw into the middle of this event. Now as we get to this fourth chapter of The Clone Conspiracy the question of what Peter will decide to do, side with Ben and New U or stop a zombie apocalypse, has become even more important as the tease of an Uncle Ben return has popped up. Will our hero succumb to his own desires or will he be what leads to the end of the Marvel Universe? Let’s find out with The Clone Conspiracy #4.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inkers: John Dell and Cory Smith
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: In the Jackal’s Laboratory, Electro is complaining about the tests Lizard, Doctor Octopus and Miles Warren are having her sit through. Doctor Octopus tells Electro to be patient as they need time to make sure the cellular decay isn’t the same as it was for her and Kaine, who is being held captive in a special machine.
Lizard believes they can stop the cellular decay by improving the natural regenerative abilities of the people that have returned. Doctor Octopus doesn’t agree as he thinks Lizard’s technique would turn them into one of his reptiles.
Lizard quickly grows tired of Doctor Octopus’ comments and says he is late for his family dinner. Doctor Octopus believes that Lizard’s connection to his family only make him weaker. Lizard storms off even more pissed off.
Now alone, Doctor Octopus admits to the imprisoned Kaine that his body is far sturdier than those like himself and Electro. As he looks through Kaine’s gear Doctor Octopus finds the “Web Warrior” communicator.
Before he can do anything with the communicator one of the Miles clones walks in with Anna Maria. Doctor Octopus tries to get Anna to understand him but Anna says she will not work with him.
Elsewhere Jackal (Ben Reilly) is driving Spider-Man to New U’s second base of operations. Spider-Man still can’t believe that Jackal can bring Uncle Ben back. Jackal says he is positive he can bring back Uncle Ben back. He then jokes that he could even bring the burglar that killed Uncle Ben back so Spider-Man can punch him. Spider-Man hesitates for a second but says they should not do that.
Spider-Man then asks Jackal how he pulled off everything from growing New U to getting FDA approval. Jackal reveals that he simply showed government officials, police offers, medical institutions and others that he could bring back their “Uncle Bens” with New U’s technology. Spider-Man thinks that Jackal is just using emotional blackmail. Jackal defends it as saying he is only using the power of love and with Parker Industries they can make what he’s created global.
They soon get to the Transamerica Pyramid, the location of New U’s newest facility, fitting in nicely with Jackal’s Egyptian theme.
At the New U’s facility Gwen Stacy welcomes her father and the members of New U back. George Stacy is happy to see his daughter again and gives her the pill she needs to calm her cellular decay. Gwen asks her father if she thinks Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy Earth-65) knows about the new facility.
As they talk Spider-Woman is outside the building watching them from the shadows. Spider-Woman tries to contact Kaine but is unsuccessful.
A little later Jackal walks Spider-Man through the New U facility. Spider-Man still has a hard time wrapping his mind around New U’s process and Ben Reilly’s return as Jackal. Jackal assures Spider-Man that what he is doing with New U is good.
Jackal then takes Spider-Man to a location in the New U facility he calls “Haven,” a place where all the people he brought back can interact with each other safely. Spider-Man is shocked to see so many people he has seen pass away, from ally to villain, interacting with each other without a conflict.
Jackal knows Spider-Man thinks “maybe I can work my way inside. Uncover his evil plot. Save the day.” Jackal tells Spider-Man that he has no evil scheme as doing something wonderful.
Gwen and George Stacy approach Spider-Man and back-up everything Jackal is saying. Gwen even says that she forgives Spider-Man.
Back at Jackal’s Laboratory, Anna continues to tell Doctor Octopus that he doesn’t want anything to do with him. Doctor Octopus says he came back for Anna and that if his current form is the problem he can get a clone body of Spider-Man to put his mind in. Anna tries to call for help on her Web-Ware but Doctor Octopus says it won’t work in the building.
Doctor Octopus suddenly gets an idea from this as he believes the New U facility is shielding them all from a detrimental radiation or frequency that speeds up the cellular decay. Anna understands what Doctor Octopus is saying, believing they can find the cause. She then compliments Doctor Octopus on his amazing mind, though she still finds him repugnant.
Back in Haven, Spider-Man is amazed that everyone there is living together without some conflict. Jackal says that this peacefulness can reach across the world with New U and Parker Industries partnership.
J. Jonah Jameson approaches Jackal and asks about his father being brought back to life. Jackal says that Jonah still needs to make more broadcasts promoting New U and then they could talk.
As they talk, Marla Jameson tells Spider-Man she is honored he vowed not to let anyone die after her death. Spider-Man says that her death was the last straw but he realized it was an unrealistic vow to make.
Jonah tells Marla he has to do his show and they kiss. As Jonah is leaving he tells Spider-Man not to judge him as he knows what he is doing.
Spider-Man then confronts Jackal about not bringing Uncle Ben back. Jackal asks Spider-Man if he is uncomfortable with two of Aunt May’s husbands being brought back. Spider-Man says that if Jackal wanted to he could’ve brought Uncle Ben back already.
Jackal tries to defend himself but Spider-Man cuts him off. Spider-Man says that if Uncle Ben was brought back he would tell Jackal he was wrong for what he has done with New U.
Jackal has enough of Spider-Man and orders all the villains in Haven to attack Spider-Man. As Spider-Man fights all of his returning villains he talks about how disappointed in Jackal he is.
Prowler suddenly jumps into the fight and helps Spider-Man fight the villains.
Jackal enters his lab and tells Doctor Octopus he is ready to take things to the next level. Doctor Octopus says they’ve had a new development.
Electro tells Jackal about the drama between Doctor Octopus and Anna. Jackal mentions that Electro will have her TV taken away.
Doctor Octopus shows Jackal data that shows information on a frequency that is causing the cellular decay to crystallize and become a Carrion. He goes on to say they’ve isolated the frequency but need a clone, possibly one of the Miles Warren clones, to test the solution. One of the Miles clones thinks they should use Kaine.
As they talk Spider-Woman is listening in from the vents.
Anna speaks up and says she won’t stand for human test subjects as she can stop the cellular decay all together. Jackal thinks Anna is bluffing. Doctor Octopus defends Anna, talking about how brilliant she is.
Jackal is impressed and offers Anna a new body that is perfect. Anna takes offense to this and says she is perfect as she is. Doctor Octopus doesn’t appreciate Jackal’s comments either and attacks him.
Spider-Woman uses this distraction to make her move. Before she can free Kaine, Electro attacks her.
With things becoming even more chaotic Doctor Octopus breaks away and uses his computer to amplify the frequency causing the cellular decay to destroy Jackal’s plans. Jackal tries to stop him but is too late.
In Haven Spider-Man continues to fend off his villains. Suddenly everyone in Haven starts suffering from severe cellular decay.
Spider-Man can only stand around as everyone in Haven is suffering horribly. Jackal comes on his speaker and promises everyone that he will be able to bring them back alive.
As Spider-Woman holds off Electro, the cellular decay starts for Doctor Octopus. Due to Anna’s close proximity she starts suffering from the contagious effect of Carrion.
Spider-Man yells at Jackal that they need to work together to contain the Carrion from spreading. Jackal says that he needs to isolate the frequency signal from his lab.
Just as Jonah starts his broadcast Jackal hijacks it. Jackal generates the frequency signal through the broadcast, causing all of the U-Mans clones to suffer severe cellular degradation. Jackal assures everyone suffering that he will be able to bring everyone back and create a new world through New U. End of issue.
The Good: The Clone Conspiracy has reached the point where it is hard to see how everyone involved will leave in the aftermath. Even as we can see that Spider-Man and his allies can possibly stop Ben Reilly/Jackal, where they end up is anyone’s guess. That was never clearer than with how Dan Slott crafted the story with The Clone Conspiracy #4.
As much as The Clone Conspiracy continues to be about Spider-Man/Peter Parker this issue really hammers home how widespread of an effect this event will have. Not only has Ben Reilly brought people close to Peter back but also for people close to J. Jonah Jameson, Lizard, Rhino and more. Seeing how these characters are left mentally after The Clone Conspiracy is as interesting as what how Peter ends up when all is said and done.
Out of all of them Jonah’s standing following The Clone Conspiracy will be most interesting. While Ben has been able to get many powerful people on his side to help New U’s growth, Jonah has become the poster child for the company. More so than anyone else, even Peter, Jonah has staked his entire reputation on being an advocate for New U. Now with the entire world learning the deadly effects of New U’s technology Jonah’s reputation is going to take a major hit. How Jonah’s character is handled in Amazing Spider-Man and other comics will be extremely interesting.
Jonah’s standing following The Clone Conspiracy applies to everyone else Slott has used for this event. Coming into this event I thought we would get some classic Spider-Man characters back into the ongoing series. Now I’m not sure who will actually make it out, even current supporting characters like Anna. Given that we still don’t have an actual cure for the Carrion virus Slott is cutting things close which increases the tension going into the final issue of this event.
Speaking of Anna, Slott did a very good job handling the reunion between Doctor Octopus and Anna. Up until Anna shows up in the lab we continued to see the jerk aspect of Doctor Octopus that feels above everyone, including his colleagues like Lizard. Seeing Doctor Octopus flip the switch of trying to act kind continues the development path Slott has placed his character on since beginning his run. At the same time, we see all of Doctor Octopus’ arrogance and villainous ways keep him from ever getting that relationship with Anna that he wants.
On the other side of the equation, Anna continues to receive some of the best character development. Slott waste no time in showing us how Anna is as smart, if not smarter, than Doctor Octopus and Lizard as she quickly figured out what causes the cellular decay with the information she was given. But an even bigger moment for Anna came from her telling off Ben for his offer of another body. The scene perfectly captures why Anna has been one of the strongest additions to Spider-Man’s modern day cast. It just further makes me hope that Anna continues to play a big supporting role in the Amazing Spider-Man comics as she has been a great character.
Anna turning Ben’s offer down also further showed the weakness in his plot with his new U-Man clones. After the Ben reveal, I was afraid that Slott would try too hard to appeal and make Ben out to be a hero. Thankfully Slott did not do this and continued to the path of Ben convincing himself that what he is doing is good but is still just a bad guy. Seeing how his plan completely unraveled because of his own arrogance is what he deserved for all he and New U did.
It was also good to see that Spider-Man did not actually join Ben in his plot. Even though we saw Peter think about it for a second he didn’t buy what Ben was selling. Peter’s comeback to Ben about why he hasn’t brought back Uncle Ben back yet was exactly what Peter needed to say. This once again shows us how all of his experiences has helped shape Peter’s career of Spider-Man and never forgetting what Uncle Ben taught him is what makes him strong.
With all the happened in The Clone Conspiracy #4 Jim Cheung did a fantastic job keeping everything in order with his artwork. There was never a confusion of who was talking or fighting. The art was crisp and highlighted how emotional characters like Doctor Octopus and Ben Reilly got during this issue. This was nicely balanced out by the energy he gave the short fight sequences we got to see play out. He also made sure to make the final pages of The Clone Conspiracy #4 feel like a big deal as the Carrion virus began to infect people. Cheung really captured how horrific this was to the people around the world as Jackal made his announcement.
The Bad: As much that goes down in The Clone Conspiracy #4 the event clearly has gotten bigger than even Slott thought. This is clear with the smaller role Spider-Gwen got in this issue. Even though her brief time on the pages of this issue was good it did not make her seem very important. Some of this lack of importance comes down to the fact that we don’t get to see her side of the story as much as Spider-Man and Ben Reilly’s. A little bit more screen time for Spider-Gwen would help her not look like a character that could be easily replaced by another Spider-related character like Silk or Jessica Drew.
The Clone Conspiracy #4 also has a big miss opportunity when it comes to the reunion between Peter and his Gwen Stacy. With how important of a character she is to the Spider-Man mythos, Slott should’ve found a way to give the reunion some time to be treated as a big moment. Unfortunately we don’t get that here and if you want to see that you have to shell out another $3.99 for this week’s Amazing Spider-Man. And because of that it makes Gwen’s return feel less impactful to the overall story’s narrative since we continue to get her story elsewhere.
Overall: The Clone Conspiracy #4 has made the cloud of mystery as to how this event will end even bigger. It’s clear that Dan Slott has some endgame in mind for the final issue. What that is will be anyone’s guess. What we do know is that the aftermath of The Clone Conspiracy won’t only affect Spider-Man’s life but everyone else that Jackal/Ben Reilly has involved in his plot, which is a lot of people. This all creates further excitement for the final issue that we will be getting next month.