Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Complete Clone Saga 8: Players & Pawns and Amazing Spider-Man 400

Spectacular Spider-Man 222 starts the 2 part “Players and Pawns”. We get a bunch of mystery builders in this one with Kaine confronting Jackal and the Scrier, Kaine confronting Peter, and Jackal confronting the Scarlet Spider but no real forward saga momentum. This would become a recurring theme during parts of the Clone Saga as villain-of-the-month plots creep in heavily.

Web of Spider-Man 123 concludes “Players and Pawns” and the fights from the last issue while releasing a third Peter Parker (shown briefly in the previous chapter) on the world. Between this and the annoying imp-like clone sidekick the Jackal has, this issue proves rather atrocious. Thankfully the Terry Kavanagh-written disaster (which may be a redundancy after looking back at much of Kavanagh’s writing career) would soon be mercifully put out of its (and our) misery.

These two issues lead in to the first big turning point of the Clone Saga: Amazing Spider-Man 400 (which comes complete with embossed cover). The issue puts its primary focus on none other than Aunt May. While we do get the revelation that Aunt May isn’t an idiot, she has known that Peter is Spidey for quite some time. But when we get to the story’s end and Aunt May’s death, we get the first big insult of the clone saga. Peter is gone when she dies, leaving the Spider-clone to fill in at her bedside. After thirty years of history, Peter Parker can’t even show up for the death. It serves as a prime example of the bad storytelling that would quickly turn off fans for months and years to come. After the funeral, things get even worse, as Peter is arrested for murder. Ben introduces himself to Mary Jane as the issue ends.

Issue 400 does come with two back-ups. The first is by DeMatteis, Romita Jr., and Romita. (Is this the first time Romita inked Romita Jr?) “The Parker Legacy” picks up directly after the events of Amazing Spider-Man 149 and tells the tale of Ben Reilly’s life. The second back-up is by DeMatteis, scripter Stan Lee, and the art team of Tom Grummett and Al Milgrom. This may be Grummett’s first Marvel work. I don’t know if it is Milgrom’s inks or just an attempt to ape Bagley, but his usually fantastic art looks horrible here. The story is basically a retelling of why Peter never told Aunt May, a story which serves little purpose in this issue. It feels mostly like an add-on just to get Stan Lee’s name in the solicitation copy.

Next time we move in to the post-May era with “Aftershocks”.

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