Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spider-Man: The Clone Saga #1 Review

While Green Lantern #46 surprised me with how good it ended up being and forced me to do a special review for it, my original plan was always to spotlight Spider-Man: The Clone Saga #1.  I liked a great many things about the original Clone Saga, particularly the back to basics approach, Ben Reilly and his supporting cast once he took over as Spider-Man (something Peter hadn't had in a long time), Kaine and, eventually, the brother-like relationship that developed between Peter and Ben throughout the saga.  It was by no means perfect and had its share of bad, oft times horrible, sections, but, unlike many of the detractors, I think the good outweighed the bad.

While I didn't see a point to revisiting the story, especially with how Ultimate Spider-Man already did an Ultimate version of the storyline, I wasn't going to pass up a remake of one of the earlier eras of my comic book reading days.  Hit the jump to find out what I thought of the newest iteration of the Clone Saga.

Written by Tom DeFalco & Howard Mackie
Art by Todd Nauck

As I've already prefaced this review with me being decidedly in the pro-original Clone Saga camps, I'm going to start by saying, bias aside, this was surprisingly good.  Even with my love of the original Clone Saga, I was expecting an unmitigated disaster of 90's storytelling here.  What we got was a solid, though equally rushed (in comparison to the years long saga) and decompressed, first issue.  

The "new" Clone Saga appears to take place around the time of Power & Responsibility, which is when Ben Reilly first returned to New York after Aunt May went into a coma.  Unlike P&R, this version of the Clone Saga has a much cooler and collected Spider-Man confronting his clone on top of the hospital roof to kick off the clone madness.  There's also no Judas Traveller or taking over of Ravencroft Institute and  it looks like that will be ignored moving forward, too.

 "Does my ass always look that big in costume?"

In regards to the confrontation on the rooftop, it played out roughly the same as the original saga with Ben and Peter fighting, but, as I said, the calmer Peter seems to dial it down a notch and talks it out with his clone instead of being insanely paranoid and over the edge like he was back in the original.  It was a bit sudden for me knowing what I know of the original Clone Saga, but without relying too heavily on that old baggage, it's not that far a stretch to see the two come to terms like this and is a quicker step towards the brotherly relationship I enjoyed in the original saga.

 "That word you use, I don't think it means what you think it means."

From there, Kaine, who, in the original saga, was a failed clone of Peter Parker whose powers were amped up due to the degeneration process, makes an appearance.  Instead of being the hidden guardian angel for his fellow clone in an attempt to give him the perfect life, it looks like Kaine is working for a mysterious benefactor in the version.  It's still implied he has a history with Ben Reilly, but he was shown speaking to who I'm guessing is Norman Osborn at the end of the issue and is apparently attempting to force Peter and Ben to bond together for some unknown reason.

 "Admit it, you loved Kaine and want to see him back.  Better than that Raptor guy anyways..."

Kaine carries out this plan hidden away from Peter and Ben (as a clone, he doesn't set off their spider-senses).  He does so by first throwing a car at the two, causing them to overlook their differences to help save some bystanders and, afterwards, uses some weird bio-bombs, which coat the two in some kind of goop that almost looks like webbing, and forces Ben to save Peter.  This leads to Kaine's conversation with the mystery villain.  They mention Harry Osborn a lot in the opening recap page, but never speak of Norman Osborn.  I'm curious if this will follow the original with Norman as the big bad or if they'll opt for someone different like Harry. As it's already a well known storyline, I'm surprised they are playing the cloaked, mystery man angle like this.

 "No, I have no idea what this #$%^ was either."

As for negatives with the issue, it's a very slow start for someone with intimate knowledge of the original Clone Saga, mostly setting up the premise with how Aunt May is in the hospital, Ben Reilly had to return to New York to see her one last time, MJ maybe being pregnant and so on.  Most of the action doesn't pick up until about three quarters of the way through the issue and mostly revolves around pedestrian acts like stopping a car from landing on people or dealing with some really odd bio-bomb things. I don't need action or fights in every comic I read, but with the recap oriented opening, I was hoping for it to kick up a notch to get the juices flowing.

"Norman?  Is that you?"

There's also the price of the comic, which is Marvel's new standard - $3.99.  I'm happy spending that much on this issue for my love of the original Clone Saga and desire to see the Scarlet Spider and Kaine again, but people with a morbid curiousity for the infamous Clone Saga may feel a bit disappointed with the content at that price.

Artwise, Todd Nuack does a fantastic job.  It's clean, does a good job telling the story and is easily some of his best work ever.  He's not a super star artist like a McNiven or Quitely, but I have no complaints about the art for this issue and was quite happy with what was on display. 

Verdict - Check It.  It's a remake of an infamous storyline from the 90's at a $3.99 pricepoint.  That's probably quite off putting for most people, but, if you have the extra cash on hand, it's not nearly as bad as most would expect and, my love of the Clone Saga aside, this is actually a very solid, well put together opening issue. 

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Kevin said...

Great review Kirk. I wish I could pick this up but will have to trade wait for this mini-series.

Like you I grew up with the Clone Saga being the era of my childhood and overall liked the stories during the time. The only problem I had with the Clone Saga was how it ended. I really liked Ben Reilly and thought he was awesome as Scarlett Spider. I always thought he was better as Scarlett Spider than he was as Spider-Man and wish they just let him keep his original identity. But that is just me.

Daryll B. said...

Well I have faith in Mackie, Nauck and DeFalco with it comes to the SpideyVerse Kirk. I like you loved the Clone Saga for the first two thirds of the story then towards the end it really felt like a cash grab...

(although I will say I enjoyed the uncapitalized upon idea of Scarlet Spider in the New Warriors. So much potential there wasted but now is being touched on a little by Spidey in New Avengers)

The full page shots that helped recap the past history was a nice touch and it cannot be understated how good the Nauck art looks.

A downer is that since I know most of the story, it plodded for a bit and the changes are quite noticeable.

However, I will give the guys credit if they let Aunt May die here for real. I think I can link my current dismay with Spidey all the way back to that moment on top of the Empire State Building that got betrayed. I actually cried a lil in my comic shop reading that scene.

Heck, if they could collect Maximum Carnage and the whole freaking Age of Apocalypse line (several times), Marvel could collect the original Clone Sage.

(O look, here come comic fans up my block with torches...gotta run!)

Kirk Warren said...

@Daryll B. - the New Warriors/Scarlet Spider team was actually kind of interesting. A different dynamic that the loner (at the time) Spider-Man would never be involved with.

Fun fact, but I actually quit comics due to the Final Chapter/return of Aunt May. Didn't evenfinish the story out. I wasnt collecting many books at the time, just Spider-Man after the X-titles went in the shitter around Zero Tolerance, and just quit when I saw her come back. ASM #400 is the best issue of Spider-Man since the Stern era (Kid Who Collects, nothing Stops Juggernaut, etc).

Another fun fact, there's a Clone Saga Omnibus in Europe. Don't ask me how they got it, but they do. I think it's a French volume, but there's probalby other language versions.

Darin said...

Fun fact, I liked the Clone Saga up until they 'revealed' Peter as the clone. That made me quit comics. Ha ha! I got back into comics after coming across a couple Disassembled and Ultimate Spider-man trades at a Universal Studios comic shop.

Eric Rupe said...

I'm still waiting for more Ben Reily as Spider-Man comics. I really loved his costume. Totally prefer it over the original.

Primewax said...

Even though it was Peter Parker and Norrin Radd that got me into comics originally, it was definitely Ben Reilly that kept me there. I actually broke out Spider-man #54 (the one where Ben and Betty hook up) and read it for old time's sake. I, like you Kirk, have mostly fond memories of the Clone Saga, so I only hope this one condenses rather than replaces.

Anonymous said...

My God! By admitting that you like the original Clone Saga, you just lost all of your credibility as a reviewer and your taste in comics in general is now suspect.

Matt Ampersand said...

Yeah, whatever you say, anonymous.

Kirk Warren said...

@Anonymous - Liking something doesn't mean I don't recognize its faults. There are many comics I rate as Avoid It or otherwise give bad reviews to but still buy and enjoy.

Daryll B. said...

"Anonymous said...My God! By admitting that you like the original Clone Saga, you just lost all of your credibility as a reviewer and your taste in comics in general is now suspect."

Harsh words by someone who couldn't even be bothered to sign it...

Taste like all things is subjective and *gasp* people can like different things. I know it shocking!


Mike-El said...

That's funny - the return of Aunt May was HANDS DOWN the lowest moments in comics for me. Seriously, that was around the time I stopped reading comics too.

I'm further pissed that Aunt May ONCE AGAIN doesn't know Peter is Spider-Man. But whatever. So we got this really beautiful reveal in ASM 400, an good but totally different reveal in the JMS run, and an almost parody reveal in USM. At this point, I can't imagine myself ever caring about Aunt May "discovering" Peter's secret again.

Eric Rupe said...

Mike-El - Aunt May's return was why I quit comics. Seriously, I was expecting the return of Baby May but Marvel resurrected that old hag instead. Totally gave up on the Spider-Man franchise, which were the only comics I was reading at the time.

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