The finale to Marvel’s Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy is now in stores — or is it? Yes, the event that began with Before Dead No More has technically ended, but there are so many questions left unanswered that readers will now be forced to buy Clone Conspiracy Omega #1 for some semblance of closure.
Months ago I jokingly predicted that Marvel would come up with After Dead No More and Dead No More — No More, and it looks like readers will essentially get just that because “Omega” sounds edgy and cool…but I digress.
Anyway, the one question that fans of The Amazing Spider-Man should ask themselves right now is this: Was it worth it?
Was DNM: CC worth turning ASM proper into supplementary reading material? Was it worth creatively monopolizing the tie-in books? Was it worth digging up the memories of the original Clone Saga? Was it worth the sheer amount of effort expended by Marvel to try and convince people to care about “reanimates” as much as the original characters?
Do humans have souls, or are we deluding ourselves into thinking free will exists thanks to a complex series of chemical reactions that take place in our body every moment of every day?
Are humans somewhat like a computer, where the “you” that defines your being can be boiled down to biological code that began running (how fortunate!) with the Big Bang?
These are questions you should ask yourself as you read Marvel’s latest event, The Clone Conspiracy, and its tie-ins to Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. If you haven’t pondered these questions up until now, then take a few moments to watch my latest YouTube review of ASM #22.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d like to hear what you have to say.
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.
Fans of The Amazing Spider-Man have had a rough couple of years. Peter Parker was “killed” for an extended amount of time and replaced with Doctor Octopus as Superior Spider-Man. The book was relaunched, but multiple issues seemed to focus on the arrival of a new character, Silk. Spider-Verse lumped Peter Parker in with an army of spider-powered heroes. Then the title was relaunched again with Peter Parker as a poor man’s Tony Stark. Lately, Prowler and Doctor Octopus essentially monopolized entire issues, and Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, for all intents and purposes, renders ASM the supplementary reading for a Spider-Man tale.
ASM #21 continues Dan Slott’s frustrating habit of sidelining Peter Parker in his own book, this time in favor of Scartlet Spider, aka Kaine.
Here is what you need to know for ASM #21:
Kaine did not die during the events of Spider-Verse, but “The Other” that kept him healthy did.
Karn (now Master Weaver), shows Kaine the “dreaded fate” of multiple words as seen through the Web of Life and Destiny.
Through Kaine’s investigations into the zombie-plagued worlds he finds out that Parker Industries is tied to every outbreak.
Kaine eventually teams up with Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman of Earth-65.
Gwen and Kaine figure out that Peter Parker has teamed up with Jackal in multiple worlds, which inevitably triggers a zombie apocalypse.
Karn tells Kaine that the Web of Destiny tells him there is a secret being kept from him. Kaine admits that his cellular degeneration is far advanced and that he will likely die soon. He hopes to save his home world before that happens. Karn agrees not to tell Gwen.
Reviewing an issue like ASM #21 is a tricky task, because Marvel wants readers to look at it within the broader context of DNM, but at the same time readers demand to know how it ranks as a standaline issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. The company has needlessly created a kind of psychological tension in fans who want compelling stories, but at the same time expect (logically) an issue of ASM to highlight Peter Parker.
If one were to review ASM #21 solely within the framework of Dan Slott’s ongoing Clone Conspiracy tale, then there is nothing particularly wrong with the book. In fact, Kaine is a cool character and would probably be a much easier sell than Prowler for an ongoing series (and that is not a knock on Sean Ryan, who seems to be doing the best he can in a bad situation).
If, however, one reviews ASM #21 in terms of its ability to showcase Peter Parker, then the book is once again off the mark. The title regularly feels like writer Dan Slott gets bored with his Peter Parker “toy,” and then attempts to alleviate that condition by rummaging through his “toy box.” The result is that Peter Parker is nominally the hero of his own book.
My suggestion for Peter Parker fans who are tired of him getting the shaft in his own book would be to pick up Gerry Conway’s and Ryan Stegman’s Renew Your Vows. There is nothing inherently wrong with DNM, but at this point it just feels like another instance where the team’s starting quarterback is weirdly relegated to a shared role with back-up players.
The Amazing Spider-Man #20 has arrived, which means readers get the return of Doctor Octopus in his original body and the “death” of Peter Parker — again. Yes, you read that right, Dan Slott has essentially “killed” Peter Parker for a third time.
Here is what you need to know for ASM#20:
Otto (inside his Octobot form the future) and AI Anna Maria Marconi visit his grave and find it empty.
An investigation reveals that someone has stolen Otto’s corpse from a cemetery that serves as a resting place for many super villains. There is a black market for dead super villains.
Otto and AI Anna go into the internet and use their digital “minds” to deceive New U into placing a bid for Otto’s corpse.
Otto heads to New U and realizes that his corpse contains the brain waves of none other than…Peter Parker!
A fight ensues (again), and Otto makes short work of everyone’s favorite hero. It turns out (and readers should assume this will change at least one more time) that the original Peter Parker died while only a memory “fragment” made it into the ASM #700 Peter Parker body. Jackal even applauds Otto while saying, “You killed the heck out of it.”
A spy for Kingpin monitors everything that happens in New U.
Otto and the Jackal team up to try and figure out a way to keep “reanimated” bodies from decomposing without a pill.
The issue ends right where Dead No More: Clone Conspiracy #1 finished.
Just to make sure that everyone understands what is going on, Peter Parker “died” in ASM #700, he was “killed” again for all intents and purposes during Superior Spider-Man #9, and now “executed” in ASM #20. But — and this is a big but — it could very well turn out that this “real” Peter Parker was in fact a “memory fragment” left behind by the “real” Peter Parker as he returned to his body in ASM #700.
Confused? Don’t feel bad about it.
The problem with the original Clone Saga was that it broke one of the most common sense rules for storytellers — don’t break your readers’ trust. That doesn’t mean that authors can’t have twists and turns; it means that readers should never feel duped or misled.
No one wants to believe that the Peter Parker (i.e., hero) they’ve been reading about for days, weeks, months, or years is just a “memory fragment” or a “clone” or a “reanimation.” People sink a lot of money and time into a character, so it becomes bothersome if a writer does the equivalent of, “And then I woke up” on his audience. That is something that high school creative writing classes teach, so it is bizarre that Marvel writer Dan Slott would mine that “reanimation” well throughout Clone Conspiracy.
So who is the “real” Peter Parker? Who is the fake? Are any of them real? Readers are supposed to be thrilled with the prospect that the last couple of years have really just been one big fake-out, but human nature does not work that way.
People do not like to be lied to. It’s one thing to play games with supporting characters, but it is a whole different “can of clones” when the protagonist is disrespectfully jerked around.
There is much more to say, but in this instance I think I’ll cut it short and ask you to share your thoughts in the comments section below. And please make sure to watch my latest YouTube video on ASM #20 and subscribe for regular comic book reviews.
Marvel’s release of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy this week brought with it an obligatory round of promotional interviews. Therefore, it was reasonable to conclude that writer Dan Slott of The Amazing Spider-Man would say something to prove how he fundamentally misunderstands Peter Parker. A recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter was all it took, as he said his favorite Spider-Man “villain” is, in fact, Peter Parker.
THR’s Graeme McMillan and Mr. Slott had the following exchange:
Graeme McMillan:You have fans complaining that you don’t “know” Spider-Man.
Dan Slott:Despite the fact that I’ve written one out of every five issues of Amazing Spider-Man, which is kind of scary. But, to me, the fun of it is, at his basic core, even if you strip away ‘with great power must come great responsibility,’ what makes Peter Parker this character that resonates with all of us is that he’s really the first character who’s you. He’s the guy you know. He’s not a wealthy billionaire playboy, he’s not an alien from another planet, he’s not a god from a pantheon. He’s the guy down the block who trips and falls, who screws up in every way that you screw up. All the self-destructive traits that you have, and your friends have, he has. People say to me, ‘Who’s your favorite Spider-Man villain?’ and my answer is Peter Parker, because no-one can mess up Spider-Man’s life like Peter Parker can.
Words mean something. The words we use have consequences. There is great power in words, and with that comes great responsibility. Therefore, it stands to reason that being imprecise or flippant with a word like ‘villain’ can lead to terrible results — even if we have good intentions.
Mr. Slott says “no-one can mess up Spider-Man’s life like Peter can,” but we know that his rogue’s gallery is filled with homicidal monsters, megalomaniacs with a desire for genocide, at at least one literal demon who successfully severed the bond between he and his soulmate, Mary Jane.
Question: Why on earth would a writer pretend that “villain” is synonymous with “fallible human being”?
Answer: Because a writer like Dan Slott is the kind of person who publicly admits he wants a hero like Peter Parker making deals with a devil. Heroes do not consciously make deals with devils — villains do. If Peter Parker is described as a guy who tries his best but isn’t perfect, then Mr. Slott’s vision cannot be realized. The language needs to change. Readers need to be convinced that their hero is simultaneously a villain, and that it’s acceptable.
That is perverse. That is sick. That is naked moral relativism, and it is propagated by a man who mistakes writing a character for a long time with doing it well (i.e., Saying, “I’ve written one of every five issues of Amazing Spider-Man,” in response to charges of not knowing Peter Parker).
Let us return to his THR interview:
Dan Slott: The Jackal has expanded his science. He’s not getting it from a blood sample, he’s getting it from a corpse. It’s all the memories, all the way up to your death —
Graeme McMillan: So they’re complete copies.
Dan Slott: Yes! They remember everything, all the way up to that last moment. It’s less a clone — I wanted to brand them, and the Jackal brands them, ‘re-animates.’ It’s different than a clone, it’s better than a clone. And in that moment, the Jackal becomes the ultimate devil you can make a deal with. He becomes the person who says, ‘If you’ve lost anyone, I can give them back to you. Whatever person you’ve loved or lost, or maybe someone who tormented you and lost, I can bring them back to you.’
Ignore the fact that clones would know that they are clones and immediately branch off into a completely different life-path than his or her progenitor. What matters here is that Mr. Slott a.) attaches a very specific word — ‘villain’ — to the hero, and b.) admits that he wants said hero/villain making deals with an “ultimate devil.”
If you are a long-time reader of The Amazing Spider-Man, look at Mr. Slott’s track record and ask yourself if he was being glib or if he says what he means and means what he says. It is this blogger’s contention that when he says Peter Parker is a villain, he means it. And he gets away with it because many people who are repulsed by such a premise buy ASM out of their life-long love for the character.
Things will only change when enough readers vote with their wallet. (Exacerbating the problem are access-addicted comic book websites that are terrified of offering legitimate criticism, but I digress.)
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “villainous” Peter Parker and the writer behind his reign of terror. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Update: Dan Slott is now unblocking people on Twitter who discuss this blog post, and then trying to hide behind some weird excuse that Stan Lee would have called Peter Parker a “villain.” You can’t make this up. Classic! (Hat tip to reader JB for the catch.)
Your friendly neighborhood blogger said less than one month ago that Marvel writer Dan Slott’s setup for “Dead No More” was worth buying, but that all the warning signs were there “for another round of character assassination.” In lightening-fast speed that would make Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt blush, Mr. Slott managed to stab Peter Parker in the back and twist the knife in 21 days.
Years from now, The Amazing Spider-Man #17 will hopefully be used in a documentary titled The People vs. Dan Slott. The issue includes the moment in time when Peter Parker — the guy who took on corporate saboteur Ghost on multiple occasions — became the very same kind of criminal. Worse, he guilted a good friend with a criminal past into doing the dirty work for him — and the result was deadly.
For all those social-justice activists out there, let me put it to you in a way that you can understand: “White Privilege” is having Peter Parker resort to corporate espionage and convincing a black friend to die for his sins. Thanks, Dan Slott!
Here is what you need to know about ASM #17:
Peter Parker tells Hobie Brown that he needs him to break into New U and steal their intellectual property. He wants to use the company’s nascent technology on Jay Jameson, but requires access to its private data. (Yes Dan Slott, “taking pictures” of a company’s private research after breaking and entering is stealing.)
Hobie Brown tells Peter he can’t do that because “industrial espionage” is out of bounds. “I don’t do that anymore,” he says, which is met with a guilt trip about “FAMILY.”
Hobie reluctantly agrees and puts on his Prowler uniform. The once-reformed criminal, thanks to Dan Slott’s Peter Parker, becomes a recidivist offender. (The whole scene is more disgusting, given Spider-Man’s lecture to Clayton Cash in Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3.)
Miles Warren, aka The Jackal, tries to give Electro his powers back but the process does not work. Francine (the woman he killed with a kiss before she was resurrected) is nearby, which causes her “genetic mix” to attract Max Dillion’s latent powers. She kisses him to absorb his energy and ironically kills him.
Hobie gives up his position to stop Francine. He tries to flee after it is obvious that Dillion is dead, but the new Electro tracks him down and chars him to a crisp. “Told Parker I wasn’t cut out for this. I work best in the shadows…and I stay out…of the light,” he thinks before death overcomes him.
The Jackal revives Hobie and shows him secrets that prove his team consists of the real “good guys.” Hobie agrees. When Peter calls from Oklahoma to say New U scientists are going to perform a procedure on Jerry Salteres, he gives no indication that anything is wrong.
Miles Warren shows Hobie a pill and says he needs to take it on a daily basis.
Yes, you read that right, Peter Parker asked Hobie Brown to break the law, and then before his partner in crime got back to him with a full report he admits that he was going to approve New U’s procedure anyway (i.e., Thank for dying for nothing, sucker. Mr. Salteres is the perfect guinea pig to see if the surgery would be right for Jay Jameson).
If you’re wondering how on earth Spider-Man fans got to the point where their hero is no better than the goons who tried to steal Tony Stark’s technology over the years, then look no further than the flashback scene Dan Slott writes on the first page of the issue.
“Bad guys are just like the good guys…except they don’t hold back. They don’t follow any rules,” Francine says before kissing Electro.
Slott: [Otto is] trying his best to be a hero, but he’s doing it in a very Doc Ock way. And Doc Ock’s an egotistical, annoying sh*t. It makes him an interesting character. At his core, he’s someone we don’t really think of heroic. But is he any more annoying than [former villain] Hawkeye used to be? …
Also, when you look at Doc Ock, he was so much like Peter Parker. Peter Parker, if he didn’t know the lessons of power and responsibility, that teenage nerd would have grown up to be an Otto Octavius nerd, with the same kind of, “I’m going to make them pay.” This is the flip of that. …
Do you see Punisher as a hero? Do you see Wolverine as a hero? If these guys can be heroes, why can’t Doc Ock?
Dan Slott admits that he thinks Peter Parker is, for all intents and purposes, one step away from becoming Doctor Octopus.
That is why his Peter is so obsessed with death.
That is why his Peter is willing to exploit the trust of a reformed criminal for his own selfish purposes.
That is why his Peter’s moral compass aimlessly spins in circles — and that is why readers can expect more embarrassing behavior from their “hero” in the months to come.
ASM #17 is officially the issue where Hobie Brown died, but many Spider-Man fans should consider it the issue where Dan Slott assassinated Peter Parker.