Marvel’s fall Spider-Man event, Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, was such a sprawling story that it broke from the core book, The Amazing Spider-Man, and requires die-hard fans to also buy The Prowler. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it should raise red flags among potential customers that some issues will likely be stuffed to the brim with information to make the tale work.

DNM #3 is a perfect example of the logistical obstacles writer Dan Slott created for himself as he began to weave this story together. There is a lot — I repeat, a lot — going on, not to mention the big reveal at the issue’s end. My quick take is that he and artist Jim Cheung did a decent job juggling important tasks, but that a key character’s history is at risk of being tarnished by the time all is said and done.

Check out my latest YouTube review for a run-down events and some brief commentary on the return of a character from Peter’s past. I will probably do a more comprehensive analysis of these ASM-related developments in the near future, but until then I’d still like to hear your thoughts on DNM #3’s surprise ending.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

13 comments

  1. Good video. I hadn’t noticed there were additional editors on this before you pointed it out, and I like comparing them to hyper make-up artists, tightening the bolts and making the issue feel like it wasn’t losing your attention despite all of the exposition going on.

    Seems Peter is late to the party on everything. We’ve long since learned or worked out everything he’s learning here for the first time…thanks in part to focusing on Gwen and Kane as well as Doc Ock in those ASM issues, and of course with Prowler.

    I did enjoy the line where Peter tells Gwen that many people have said that he and this world are not what they know…that’s of course meta-commentary on people dissatisfied with the state of continuity both after Secret Wars and stretching back to OMD. Whether it’s just a joke from an all too knowing author or more misleading mind games over a possible reexamination of reality as we know it is really up to the whim of those in charge. We’ve had a lot of clues this year about this so I like to keep tabs on comments like this.

    As for Ben being the big bad….yeah, I can somewhat see some taking issue with the character here, but keep in mind, for all the bravado about these “reanimates”, they are just clones at the end of the day. I think it’d have been easier to have had Ben be revealed as the 90s clone saga baddie Spidercide instead, merely posing as Ben, as this seems more up his street.

    Apparently Marvel had been planning on bringing back Ben for a considerable time as well..but that the story was constantly left in development hell. My best guess for when they wanted to use him was back in 2009 when a few Ben-centric series came out such as a Spider-Man/X-Men team-up special set in his era and the “Real Clone Saga” story from DeFalco and Mackie. The Scarlet Spiders mini-series during Spider-Verse was also probably a way of testing to see if the market was still interested in Ben, and the reception of that series was genuinely positive.

    I’ll reserve judgement on Ben’s motivations until Slott can do his best to explain them…his ASM work lately has been pretty good, but again the fact the ASM issues have been tremendous have depended soley on the fact PETER IS BARELY IN THEM NOR IS DRIVING THE MAIN NARRATIVE. Perhaps Slott is best served on the fringes of Spider-Man after all. Clearly he thinks other characters are more interesting than the one he’s exhausted all options with the last nine years.

    1. “I hadn’t noticed there were additional editors on this before you pointed it out, and I like comparing them to hyper make-up artists, tightening the bolts and making the issue feel like it wasn’t losing your attention despite all of the exposition going on.”

      This issue shows how a good creative team can save a project that has a high probability of crashing and burning. If you were an artist looking at this script…it would have been a real challenge to make it work. Jim Cheung saved Dan Slott’s butt here. This should have been like an omelette that breaks in the pan and then is served to you looking like an absolute mess. Instead, we got an omelette that looks like it’s about to explode but at least it’s in one piece.

      “ASM work lately has been pretty good, but again the fact the ASM issues have been tremendous have depended soley on the fact PETER IS BARELY IN THEM NOR IS DRIVING THE MAIN NARRATIVE.”

      Yep. But, as we’ve discussed before, you almost have to issue two grades in that scenario. You need to let people know that it’s a good story if you were just reading something called The Amazing Spider-Verse, but rather insulting for a book billed as The Amazing Spider-Man.

  2. I was a kid in the 90’s during the clone saga. I read all that stuff with the Jackal and Spidercide and Scrier and Judas Traveller as it came out. As awful as a lot of the clone stuff got, I always really liked Ben Reilly. I really enjoyed the differences and appreciated how separate he was as they defined him. And man, did he have great last words: “Tell her about…her uncle Ben.” (Too bad Peter and MJ’s daughter disappeared and was never mentioned again.)

    It’s pretty insulting to undo his (great) death just to make him a lame villain in a stupid-looking mask. (Though of course the original is still dead.) And this entire thing still hinges on a false premise, i.e. that if you could make a copy of a dead loved one, that you’d want to do that, and that it would somehow represent the reversal of that person’s death.

    It’s a pretty good villain plan, a false promise of returning your loved one to you when it’s really just a (slightly defective) copy. You could certainly get some people to do it if they’re still emotionally damaged or something, and maybe once situated in various positions you could use the clones to take over and keep replacing people or something.

    But as a thing that’s supposed to be genuinely tempting to people? I can’t remember the last time I read a story and just felt like the writer has no idea how people work. The premise of this being appealing to people is just bizarre. I can’t see anyone who isn’t horribly traumatized even considering something like this. In what possible way would it be tempting to bring back Uncle Ben? Uncle Ben would still be dead! A robber still killed him, and it’s still Peter’s fault!

    I mean, this wouldn’t even work with a pet or a car. People pay big bucks to have the original prop from a movie, or a football that Johnny Unitas really signed, not a new one that’s identical, because it’s not the same thing.

    Anyway, I just can’t get past how hollow this whole premise rings with me. I still can’t tell if Slott really doesn’t know that this isn’t how normal people would feel.

    I like the Spidercide idea though. He never actually died as far as we know. In fact, Spidercide feeling guilt and trying to really become Ben Reilly and do what he would have done would be a pretty cool way to bring Ben back if that’s what you wanted to do. Plus if you wanted to make him a new Scarlet Spider (or something else) then he could have very different powers than Peter and it would make sense. Ah well, another good idea down the drain.

    1. “But as a thing that’s supposed to be genuinely tempting to people? I can’t remember the last time I read a story and just felt like the writer has no idea how people work. The premise of this being appealing to people is just bizarre. I can’t see anyone who isn’t horribly traumatized even considering something like this. In what possible way would it be tempting to bring back Uncle Ben? Uncle Ben would still be dead! A robber still killed him, and it’s still Peter’s fault!

      I mean, this wouldn’t even work with a pet or a car. People pay big bucks to have the original prop from a movie, or a football that Johnny Unitas really signed, not a new one that’s identical, because it’s not the same thing.”

      I’m really glad that you and Jack are sharing your thoughts on this subject. I feel the same way. As you said, the story hinges on your acceptance that these glorified clones would been an acceptable replacement for the original. It’s disturbing to think the Peter Parker — Spider-Man — would give any credence to such an idea. Anyone who is remotely spiritual (and Peter has been throughout history), would balk at this idea.

      Perhaps now we know why Jose Molina tried to turn Peter Parker into The Amazing Spider-Atheist.

  3. I’ve mentioned this before, that Dan Slott is apparently a materialist (in a philosophic sense), so he might believe that if you bring back someone physically, including their memories, that actually is the person. Consequently, he assumes that the Jackal’s temptation would really appeal.

    Problem is, Marvel has shown before, many times, that souls — the non-material essence of a person — exist, and the spirit/soul of Uncle Ben is in heaven (or whatever that place is that represents “heaven” in the MU). Dr. Strange’s soul travels outside his body, so does Professor X’s, Mephisto’s hell is filled with condemned souls, etc. Ben Grimm in the afterlife met God. Peter has even talked with Uncle Ben, posthumously. This means the Jackal’s temptation wouldn’t be tempting, at least not to Peter.

    This is the crux of Stillanerd’s complaints against the series: because souls depart the body when the body dies, these are clones. That means they aren’t the original people.

    Regarding Ben Reilly, there will need to be a convincing explanation why Ben Reilly would fill a room full of Peter’s worst enemies, adopt the persona of the villain who tormented all of them (Kaine included), enslave people to a drug he controls, or how exactly Ben Reilly became a super-genius geneticist/biologist.

    1. “I’ve mentioned this before, that Dan Slott is apparently a materialist (in a philosophic sense), so he might believe that if you bring back someone physically, including their memories, that actually is the person. Consequently, he assumes that the Jackal’s temptation would really appeal.”

      I really want someone to ask him this question during a ComicCon panel because the issue keeps coming up. He’s doing stories where Peter Parker dies and is resurrected … where clones are created, etc., but human beings are created as nothing more than a glorified computer. If you have the right DNA sequence and the right memories, then “Ta-Da! it’s Uncle Ben!”

      That is gross.

      “Problem is, Marvel has shown before, many times, that souls — the non-material essence of a person — exist, and the spirit/soul of Uncle Ben is in heaven (or whatever that place is that represents “heaven” in the MU). Dr. Strange’s soul travels outside his body, so does Professor X’s, Mephisto’s hell is filled with condemned souls, etc. Ben Grimm in the afterlife met God. Peter has even talked with Uncle Ben, posthumously. This means the Jackal’s temptation wouldn’t be tempting, at least not to Peter.”

      Thank you! Exactly.

      “This is the crux of Stillanerd’s complaints against the series: because souls depart the body when the body dies, these are clones. That means they aren’t the original people.”

      Stillanerd is sort of like the Cal Ripken of comic book reviewers.

      “Regarding Ben Reilly, there will need to be a convincing explanation why Ben Reilly would fill a room full of Peter’s worst enemies, adopt the persona of the villain who tormented all of them (Kaine included), enslave people to a drug he controls, or how exactly Ben Reilly became a super-genius geneticist/biologist.”

      Agreed.

  4. I never followed any of the Ben Reilly comics, although I did read the “Real Clone Saga” graphic novel, which featured him. Seemed like a decent guy, not villain material. So, I’m not a fan of the idea of him being the new Jackal.

    While it remains to be seen if the following issues give this Ben a good motivation to be playing Jackal or not, I’ve got a gut feeling that Slott made this plot twist for the sole purpose of shock value, not because it lends itself to a good story.

    (Interesting side note: according to Diamond’s comic sales measuring, “Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows” placed sixth within the top ten best-selling comics for November. “Clone Conspiracy” didn’t make the top-ten cut, although I can’t seem to find where it ended up.)

    1. The full Diamond charts and it’s final numbers won’t be available for a few more days, but it’s still very encouraging news. Both Conway and Stegman were very happy to be told the news. The message has definitely been sent to Marvel about the kind of Spider-Man we demand. The new Venom series also had a strong showing.

      It also seems DC’s Rebirth is starting to lose it’s shine as only Batman titles were included in the overall top ten for that month (which no doubt will tick some off, as Tom King’s run is apparently not very well liked by the hardcore fanbase, though I personally haven’t minded it all that much)

      Weblurker, if you’re looking for good Ben Reily material, I can recommend “The Lost Years” and “Redemption” both written by the seminal Spider-Man scribe J.D DeMatties.

  5. “The full Diamond charts and it’s final numbers won’t be available for a few more days, but it’s still very encouraging news. Both Conway and Stegman were very happy to be told the news. The message has definitely been sent to Marvel about the kind of Spider-Man we demand. The new Venom series also had a strong showing.”

    Nice to see the series started strong. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes long-term, esp. when ASM gets out of “Clone Conspiracy” and back to normal (or Slott’s normal, as the case may be).

    “It also seems DC’s Rebirth is starting to lose it’s shine as only Batman titles were included in the overall top ten for that month (which no doubt will tick some off, as Tom King’s run is apparently not very well liked by the hardcore fanbase, though I personally haven’t minded it all that much)”

    Isn’t it normal for a new series or publishing push to have higher sales initially and then for them to go down when things settle in and people decide if the new series and directions are for them or not? (That’s one reason why I’m holding off on declaring RYV a hit just yet. I want to see how it performs long term, as far as quality and sales go.)

    “Weblurker, if you’re looking for good Ben Reily material, I can recommend “The Lost Years” and “Redemption” both written by the seminal Spider-Man scribe J.D DeMatties.”

    I’ll keep that in mind, thanks. Are we taking trade paperbacks, story arcs, or what here?

    1. Manly the trades, I don’t know specifically which of the “Epic Clone Saga” and “Epic Ben Reilly Saga” trades contain those stories though, but a quick look at Amazon or somewhere listing their contents should be easy.

      As for the Diamond numbers, the remainder of the top 100 actually came out yesterday. Slott’s CC and ASM tie-ins are actually tanking hardcore, neither of them got into the top twenty at all, and were outsold by Superman (which also did not make the top twenty). RYV was the leading Peter Parker title for the whole month..I’m hoping that is’nt a one-time occurrence

  6. “As for the Diamond numbers, the remainder of the top 100 actually came out yesterday. Slott’s CC and ASM tie-ins are actually tanking hardcore, neither of them got into the top twenty at all, and were outsold by Superman”

    Yet Slott keeps pushing stores to order more copies. Someone wants to inflate sales again.

  7. “Yet Slott keeps pushing stores to order more copies. Someone wants to inflate sales again.”

    I’m very curious to see if the drop in sales is because of Slott’s storytelling in general (e.g. the fanbase at large is getting tired of his approach to the franchise), or if it’s just the clone story in and of itself (e.g. Slott turned out a weak story this time around that even the fans onboard with his vision for “Spider-Man” aren’t wild about), if that makes any sense.

    (I’m also curious if the Powers That Be at Marvel will comment on RYV outdoing ASM and what that will be; the official position of Marvel seems to be that married Spider-Man was all-around bad and Slott writes the best possible Spider-Man, and here, the situation seems reversed.)

    I’m also curious, assuming ASM continues to drop, what effect that’ll have on the RYV series and if it would be bad or not (e.g. to fix ASM, RYV and other satellite title(s) get canceled so the resources can be used on ASM, or something like that).

    Can’t wait until Mike McNulty publishes his article about the Nov. comic sales on the “Whatever a Spider Can” website. I find his commentary and theorizing about the results very interesting to read.

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