Comics : Dead No More: Clone Conspiracy #5

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This review was first published on: 20 Feb 2017.

Background...

Two issues ago, this mini-series was as good as it gets. We learned Ben Reilly was the Jackal and that he planned to reanimate Uncle Ben. We still had a sense that the “reanimates” were somehow different from clones, perhaps in a way that would justify some of them sticking around as the “real” character. Spider-Man was caught in a bind. Would he help Ben and eventually unleash the Carrion virus; the same virus that has wiped out entire worlds? Stakes were high, everything was running “like a fine-tuned machine” as somebody said recently. Then last issue came out and it all fell apart. It turned out that harmonics were the key to turning the clones into Carrions and that this somehow would infect the rest of the world. Peter was suddenly no longer needed. Doc Ock decided to commit suicide by broadcasting the frequency that would destroy all the clones (including himself) because Ben dissed Anna Maria. Ben then decided to broadcast the signal to the world because…who knows why? In the review of that issue, I said, “Slott has his work cut out for him in issue #5.” So, how did he do?

In Detail...

Dead No More: Clone Conspiracy #5
Apr 2017 : SM Title
Editor:  Nick Lowe
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Jim Cheung
Inker:  Jay Leisten, Jim Cheung, John Dell
Cover Art:  Gabriele Dell'Otto
Colorist:  Justin Ponsor
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Review

The sound goes out around the world and people start turning into Carrion zombies. Apparently the sound alone does this without anyone being infected by a clone. Now the sound is the cause of the virus? Ben refers to “first-timers infected by their touch,” which implies that the touch of an infected clone is still needed but it sure doesn’t look like it. I’m already confused.

Spidey is still down with the clones who are all turning into Carrions. A cry for help from Anna Maria via the Jackal’s broadcast makes him realize he has to get to the Jackal’s lab. He leaves clone-control in the hands of the Prowler and Jean De Wolff. “I need you guys to contain this!” he tells them, “They’re all contagious! If they leave the building…” But, again, page one shows people turning into Carrions due solely to the signal.

Spidey needs someone to show him the way to the lab and he spies Gwen who is comforting her disintegrating father. George tells Gwen, “We were on the wrong side of this one, Gwendy,” adding that “Peter’s a good man and h-he needs your help. Promise you’ll keep him safe.” A nice little reversal on George’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #90 in which he asked Peter to keep Gwen safe. Gwen agrees to lead Spidey to the lab but the Green Goblin, the Hobgoblin and Jack O’Lantern are on their tails.

There is mayhem in the lab. Kaine fights with the Jackal (and finally realizes that the Jackal is Ben). Ock fights with the Warren clones. Spider-Gwen fights with Electro. Anna Maria tries to reverse the process. Jackal tosses Kaine out a window. Spider-Gwen follows to rescue him but Jackal sends Electro out to kill her. That’s when Doc Ock goes after Ben.

Spidey carries Gwen, who is starting to show the effects of the virus, up through a stairwell. Apparently, the stairwell has a big picture window because they see Kaine fall past with Spider-Gwen following. Gwen is surprised that her counterpart has spider-powers. “Guess there is a better version of me out there,” she says. “Hey, look at me,” replies Spidey, “There’s only one Gwen Stacy and I’d know her anywhere.” A nice moment. “There’s something I need to tell you,” Spidey says but we never learn what it is because Gwen informs him that the lab is “right through there” and, once Spidey passes an archway, she closes a thick-glass door, trapping herself on the wrong side. She tells Spidey that “Every person on this whole stupid planet is counting on you, Peter Parker. Promise me. Do your job. Make me proud.” Spidey goes on. Gwen waits to confront the Goblins and Jack. “Is this how you want to spend your last moments on Earth?” asks the Green Goblin as he throws a pumpkin bomb at Gwen. She catches the bomb and says, “This time? Going out fighting? Helping to save the world? You bet!”

Kaine and Spider-Gwen end up on the ground floor where all of the clones are fighting. Kaine fears that the clones will get out and infect the world. He jumps in to help Prowler and Jean. Electro arrives and threatens to kill Prowler again. Meanwhile, the Lizard slips away with Martha and Billy Connors. He tells them, “I can fixss thisss. But there’sss only enough for usss.” implying that Martha and Billy will survive all of this.

Spidey arrives in the lab to join Doc Ock in his battle with the Jackal. Anna Maria tells him she has worked out the inverse frequency but she needs “Peter Parker’s brain” to help her figure out how to get it out to the world. Spidey joins Anna Maria, asking Ock to keep the Jackal busy. To Ben, this teaming of Spidey with Ock proves that he, not Spidey, is the hero. Otto is willing to die “even a second time” for Anna Maria. Still creeped out by it all, Anna Maria asks Spidey to “please, get me out of here.”

Spidey takes Anna Maria to the Fact Channel remote studio elsewhere in the building. (“Oh, Pete, if we survive this, we’re all going to need therapy, aren’t we?” she says; a nice line.) Silk is there and she tells them that they cannot broadcast from there anymore because Marla Madison Jameson has used “the codes” to “shut everything down.” Marla dies in Jonah’s arms, telling him that the Jackal can still bring them all back. JJJ has seen the error of his ways. He tells Spidey, “Don’t tell Parker he was right.”

It turns out that Spidey never expected to use the Fact Channel studio. He only wanted to go there because it is where New U’s shielding is the weakest. Anna Maria has loaded the inverse frequency into the “webware;” the Parker Industries device that is their “signature tech.” Spidey hacks into the webware emergency signal and switches it on “for every Parker Industries device on the planet. Even ones in the off setting.” He then sends the inverse frequency signal out. It does the trick and everyone returns to normal except those, like the Prowler, who have already turned to dust. Up in the lab, Ock deliberately destroys Ben’s webware device so that they will both die. “You almost cost my Anna her life!” he says, “Melt with me!” (Hah! Great line!)

Back at the lab, Spidey and Anna Maria find that Ben and Ock have turned to dust. But Anna Maria notices that the Ultimate Template is gone. Does that mean Ben has moved his mind into it? Or Ock has?

Spidey and Anna Maria go to the corridor where Gwen took her stand. He finds her clothes with nobody inside them. (No evidence of the Goblins.) “You deserved better than this, Gwen Stacy,” he says. They then join JJJ, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Kaine and a grieving Rhino (his wife has dissolved into dust) at the site of the big battle. It’s unclear who has survived. “Some bad guys dissolved. Some I webbed up. Some got away,” says Spider-Gwen. Dr. Rita Clarkson appears. (Remember Rita? I didn’t. She was the one who tried to talk JJJ and Peter into using New U. to save Jay Jameson, JJJ’s dad. She appeared in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #16 and Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #19.) “They’re defrosting downstairs and they need help,” she says.

It seems that there is a sub-basement in which are frozen “All the New U patients…who are still alive, or rather, still dying.” Apparently, some of them were “partially cured” which “helped with the cloning process.” With the freezers shutting down, some will die but “some our procedures could restore,” says Rita. Spidey and crew enter the room to find the Prowler, Hobie Brown, among the living. Also Jerry Salteres, the Parker Industry employee that got Peter involved with New U to begin with. Spidey promises to take Jerry home, though it’s unclear if Jerry is dying or not. “I – I promised I’d bring you home. That you’d be okay. But now…I have to keep as much of that promise as I can,” Spidey tells Jerry. “I understand. Do what you can. You’re only human,” Jerry says.

In General...

Huh? What? Hobie wasn’t dead? What kind of nonsense is that? Wasn’t he obliterated by Electro in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #17?

All right, I’ll try to be fair here. I received letters from two readers of my last review (Daniel and jmichaern) who answered some (but not all) of the questions I had about last issue. Some of these answers came from issues of ASM which, I admit, I did not reread for my review. So, let’s look at ASM #17 right now. Yes, it appears that the only real proof we have that Hobie is dead is that the Jackal tells him “You died. And I brought you back.” Still, he should be pretty scorched by Electro’s blast, shouldn’t he? (And he looks perfectly normal.) What does “partially cured” mean when you’ve been struck by lightning? And, I’m sorry, I don’t buy that “partially curing” someone (whatever that means) would help with the cloning process.

I also can’t get my mind around the whole New U technique, the Carrion virus, and what the point of it all was. After all the mystery, it seems that the reanimates were just clones that had the immediate memories of their originals. The Carrion virus seemed surprisingly easy to stop and reverse considering it wiped out the entire populations of alternate worlds. And after all the excitement about possibly bringing some important characters back from the dead, it seems that none of the biggies managed to survive. Did Slott do all this to bring back Martha and Billy Connors? The Prowler, who wasn’t dead when this whole thing started anyway? Some stray villains? Uncle Ben was never even taken out of the coffin. Whatever happened to Uncle Ben’s coffin, by the way?

Mostly I’m disappointed that I fell for another mega-event mini-series that seemed to promise interesting changes but, instead, came to nothing.

No, that’s not true. Mostly I’m disappointed that Gwen Stacy died yet again, albeit as a hero this time. So, what is it that Spidey needs to tell Gwen? We’ll never know. Unless… Gwen and the Goblins did not dissolve after all. After all, Ben Reilly is slated for a new series and he seems to be dead again. Or did he take the Ultimate Template? And what about Doc Ock? Did Slott go to all the trouble to bring him back only to kill him off again? That seems unlikely. And are we to assume that the inverse frequency cured the clones of the need for the Jackal’s daily pills? In which case, there will be a whole slew of dead villains returning to torment Spider-Man. But which ones? Who made it and who did not?

So, I guess I’m not quite as disappointed as I thought I was. Maybe there will be some changes, after all. Maybe some of them will be answered in the Omega issue. Maybe they won’t.

Overall Rating...

I haven’t turned completely around on this but there were quite a few things I liked. I liked the moments between Gwen and Spidey, I liked George Stacy’s death scene, I liked Spidey’s relationship with Anna Maria. I appreciate the continuing mystery (as long as it doesn’t go on too long) and I’m still hoping that Gwen Stacy will return for good (c’mon, Dan, you know you want to!) but I also still have a lot of problems with the execution of it all. I don’t have any problem with Jim Cheung’s artwork (check out Gwen grabbing the pumpkin bomb on page 10 panel 4 and Spidey’s stunning punch to the side of Jackal’s head on page 12 panel 3) but I could have done with a lot less of Justin Ponsor’s red tint throughout the battle of the villains.

Sometimes a second careful read can make a big difference. When I first read this issue, I was ready to give it as low a grade as I could. But a reread and the issue #4 comments from Daniel and jmichaern settled me down. I’m surprised to say that I’m giving this two webs and a half.