In just two issues Dan Slott has already crafted Marvel’s best event of this year with The Clone Conspiracy. The previous issue of the latest Spider-Man brought two big allies to the board with Spider-Gwen and Kaine’s sudden appearance. With all the characters from Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s past appearing in this event having Spider-Gwen and Kaine around was a welcome surprise. Now with allies to back him up can Spider-Man overcome the Jackal’s latest clone-related plot? Let’s find out with The Clone Conspiracy #3.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Jim Cheung
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Justin Ponsor
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the air ducts the New U Headquarters Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen are being chased by Lizard. Lizard tells the two he is only trying to get them to return to Jackal. Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen don’t believe him and perform a double dropkick and web Lizard up.
As they make their escape Spider-Man mentions that he knows Spider-Gwen comes to his universe all the time but doesn’t visit him.
Outside New U Headquarters Captain Stacy orders some of villains to find Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen. He tells the villains that if they don’t find them and return his Gwen to him they won’t get any pills.
While Prowler leads the search Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen find a hiding spot.
At Horizon University Anna and the others argue with Kaine about giving Gwen the pills she needs to be stable since they are running low on samples and don’t know what they do exactly. Anna asks Kaine about how bad the cell destabilizing is.
Kaine unmasks to show Anna and the Horizon staff his body that has decayed due to the Carrion Virus. He reveals that the original clone bodies are strong enough that the Carrion Virus is not infectious but that is not the case with Jackal’s “reanimated” models.
Anna and the others are quick to realize that Kaine may be the key to cure the Carrion Virus, something Kaine never thought about.
As they get to work on the cure Anna convinces the others to contact the police to get them prepared for a possible epidemic.
Anna calls the SFPD and gets a hold of Chief Anderson. Anna explains everything to Chief Anderson. Anderson asks Anna where she is and she says at Horizon. After hanging up the phone Anderson takes one of Jackal’s pills.
Over at New U Headquarters Jackal gets Gwen’s location from Chief Anderson. He orders Electro and Rhino to head over to Horizon Labs.
Jackal then enters a meeting with J. Jonah Jameson, military officials and business leaders. During the meeting Jackal explains how they are all going to help him sell New U’s technology to the public. Jonah asks Jackal about his promise. Jackal jokes about al of Jonah’s request and ends the meeting.
Jackal visits Doctor Octopus in his lab. Doctor Octopus informs Jackal that he has completed the new proto clone. He then wonders why they are suddenly moving the operation to a new location. Jackal explains how their operation at New U Headquarters has been compromised by Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen.
Doctor Octopus thinks they should capture and enslave the two by using Jackal’s pills on them. Jackal says he doesn’t need to do that since he will soon have the leveraged needed to get Spider-Man on their side.
Somewhere in San Francisco Spider-Gwen explains how she had to hide her gear in order to swap places with the clone of Gwen. Spider-Man hands Spider-Gwen an extra web-shooter.
Spider-Man mentions how easily they evaded all his villains and wonders if Prowler secretly helped them. Neither of them have a good idea of what happened.
Spider-Gwen decides to check on Kaine but when she does Kaine tells her that Horizon Labs is under attack. While Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen swing to the scene Spider-Man mentions he has a faster way to get there.
Over at Horizon Lab Rhino and Electro easily overwhelm Kaine and the Horizon Lab staff. Rhino and Electro set the building on fire and take clone Gwen with them.
Outside the building Anna tells Electro that she knows how to solve Jackal’s problem. Gwen contacts Jackal to tell him that they are heading back with some guests.
A few moments later Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen arrive to find Horizon Labs up in flames. Max tells Spider-Man that he and his staff are putting out the flames and will meet them soon.
While they wait Spider-Gwen changes into her costume. Spider-Man questions her about not finding him so they could work together to stop Jackal. Spider-Gwen reveals that in every world they’ve been to Peter ends up working with Jackal, something Peter can’t believe.
Max and the others soon meet with Spider-Man and Spider-Gween. Max informs them that Anna and Kaine have been taken by the New U.
Before they can come up with a plan Kingpin suddenly appears and offers his help. Kingpin reveals that ever since his last encounter with Jackal he has been tracking New U’s every move. He goes on to show Spider-Man a folder with information on Jackal’s next location.
Kingpin says he will only hand over the information if Spider-Man agrees to owe him a favor in return. Spider-Man doesn’t agree to Kingpin’s terms since Kingpin needs him just as much to get revenge on Jackal. Kingpin gives up and hands Spider-Man the information for no cost.
Spider-Man tells Spider-Gwen that he is going after Jackal while she goes to save Kaine and Ana. Spider-Gwen doesn’t think that is a good idea but Spider-Man tells her to trust him.
At a private airstrip Jackal meets with two people about his special shipment. Before they can finish their deal Spider-Man arrives ready for a fight.
While Spider-Man is able to web up the people Jackal was having a meeting with Jackal is able to evade all of his webs. Spider-Man goes in for close combat but Jackal is able easily block and evade all of the attacks.
Spider-Man can’t believe how fast Jackal is to counter his attacks. Jackal takes off his Anubis mask to reveal that he is really Ben Reilly.
Ben explains how New U’s process is much more advance than cloning and that they can bring anyone back. Ben then shocks Spider-Man by saying they can even bring Uncle Ben back. End of issue.
The Good: The Clone Conspiracy has not been light on its fun surprises for Spider-Man to combat. With The Clone Conspiracy #3 we got our biggest surprise yet with the big return of Ben Reilly. This return was something that was unexpected turn of events that is sure to have major ramifications for the rest of this event going forward.
Dan Slott deserves a lot of credit for making the Ben Reilly reveal something that will come as a genuine surprise to readers. Given Marvel’s propensity to heavily promote these type of things days before the actual reveal happens during their comics this is even bigger. What made Ben’s turn even more effective is that Slott didn’t drive our attention to Jackal’s identity to be a big deal. Everything leading up to this moment made us believe that Miles Warren was under the Anubis mask.
And I will even admit that I was not expecting Ben to be revealed to be the big bad of The Clone Conspiracy. As I mentioned in my article breaking down everything leading up to The Clone Conspiracy, I thought that Jackal was actually Norman Osborn. There were a lot of little hints throughout the recent volume of Amazing Spider-Man that had me believing this. So with that thought in mind, the fact that it was Ben under the mask was a cool surprise, even though I do expect Norman to be involved somehow.
The build up to the Ben reveal was also well handled. Dan Slott crafted all the interactions we saw in The Clone Conspiracy to lead us to this point. The team-up between Spider-Man and Spider-Gwen was by far the most enjoyable. This is something we haven’t seen since Spider-Verse, even though Spider-Gwen has interacted with the rest of the Spider-Family except for Peter. Spider-Man also showing that he was slightly offended by this was some nice detail to the story that Slott inserted.
Spider-Gwen’s involvement in the story was also well handled to give readers some exposition of what is going on and act as a voice of reason for Peter. Learning that it hasn’t just been one universe were Peter’s partnership with New U led to the world’s destruction was a good motivator why Kaine and Spider-Gwen didn’t involve him right away. It shows us how methodical they are with stopping Peter from making such a massive mistake. The information also made Ben’s final offer much more interesting since now we know exactly what it all leads to if Peter accepts it.
Helping to justify Spider-Gwen and Kaine’s approach to dealing with New U’s plans circles back to what we know about Miles Warren’s clones and the Carrion Virus. This added fact gives Kaine an even bigger role to play in The Clone Cospiracy now. Since he is the only actual surviving clone with the Carrion Virus he is a valuable commodity. And I like that Anna and the Horizon staff are the one that make Kaine realize this as it goes to show how much in their own world he and Spider-Gwen were with stopping Jackal.
Adding the fact that Ben-Jackal is also looking to get some of the most influential people in the country on his side is a great villainous power move. This decision takes The Clone Conspiracy from just being Spider-Man event to a big Marvel event. Even though all the players we see involved in Jackal’s plan are related to Spider-Man it’s easy to see how whatever happens in The Clone Conspiracy can affect other Marvel comics.
One comic that The Clone Conspiracy can have a big effect on is Kingpin’s upcoming solo series. With Kingpin now becoming directly involved in the story Slott is able to once again show how important every issue of his Amazing Spider-Man run is. Just seeing Spider-Man and Kingpin interact in a way that creates an unlikely alliance between advisories was a joy. It’s subtle but this interaction shows us how far Peter has come as Spider-Man as he does not immediately accept Kingpin’s offer with conditions. It’s a move that in his younger days Peter would’ve accepted without question. But here we see that Peter knows Kingpin needs his help just as much as he needs Kingpin’s information.
Jim Cheung’s artwork once again elevated all of the scenes in The Clone Conspiracy #3 to feel like a big event. Even though Lizard didn’t have a killing intent Cheung added a nice horror element to the chase. This speaks to how well Cheung is able to get characters emotions out on screen as the majority of the issue was talking heads. His strength in drawing character interactions is only matched by his action sequences. Even though he only got to draw one, Cheung nailed the speed of Spider-Man’s clash with who turned out to be Ben Reilly. It was a nice clue into this Jackal not being Miles Warren before Slott revealed it through the dialogue.
The Bad: As much as I enjoyed the Ben Reilly twist of The Clone Conspiracy #3 Slott needs to start focusing in on the other characters also involved in the story. With characters like Doctor Octopus and Lizard running around Slott has not given these characters a lot of time to matter. We already know that Doc Ock has his own plans in mind and it would be good to get more clues of that. Instead all we get to see here is how Doc Ock is just some lackey for Jackal. The same goes for Lizard. If these two are to have bigger roles so far it is not believable that anyone outside of Doc Ock would turn on Jackal.
The other letdown of The Clone Conspiracy #3 was Ben’s offer to Peter being that he can bring Uncle Ben back to life. This is not only a predictable but something that is believable as an offer Peter would take Ben up on. While Uncle Ben’s death was extremely impactful for Peter it is something that he has come to terms with, just like Gwen Stacy’s death. For all the other world’s to be destroyed because Peter brought back Uncle Ben makes it feel like a betrayal to the character we’ve come to know.
It would’ve been better if Ben offered to bring Jay back for Aunt May. Not only is that a recent death but something Peter blames himself for right now. Even though Uncle Ben may have been with May for much longer as readers we were able to see how her relationship with Jay flourished. So because of that and Peter’s own emotions towards Jay’s death it would’ve been much more effective to go this route. Instead we get the predictable offer of bringing Uncle Ben back even though that happened over a decade ago in Peter’s life.
Overall: Dan Slott delivered the surprises with The Clone Conspiracy #3 as he brought Ben Reilly back to Spider-Man’s world. This along with Spider-Man’s interactions with Spider-Gwen and Kingpin as well as bringing in elements from the old Clone Saga also elevated the story to show how far back Slott’s plot goes. The issue does get marked down a bit with how predictable Jackal’s offer to Spider-Man was. But even with that slight disappointment Slott story teamed with Jim Cheung’s fantastic artwork delivered a strong third chapter to The Clone Conspiracy.