Plenty happened last time. Peter and Anna Maria went to Oklahoma to check on Jerry Salteres, the PI employee whose life had been saved by New U, only to discover New U had taken him away. While Spidey infiltrated New U, Anna Maria went to Harmony University with a sampling of Jerry’s pills. At New U, Spidey met Miles Warren, the Rhino, the new Electro, Gwen Stacy, and…Doc Ock, who is preparing to kill him.
But first…Kaine, the Scarlet Spider, is racing through the streets of a San Francisco where everyone is a bloodthirsty zombie. He is in contact with someone who is going to create a portal through which he can escape. He is warned, “Don’t let them touch you,” but one grabs his ankle as he web-swings away.
He awakens in his bed on his own Earth. Someone in another room bangs on the door and demands their meds. Using his wrist-radio, Kaine tries to contact his mysterious partner.
And now we return to the moment we left last issue as Doc Ock brutalizes Spider-Man, revealing that he preserved his brain patterns after learning that he wouldn’t remain the Superior Spider-Man and hiding out in the Living Brain, as he’s been doing for a number of ASM issues. (His resurrection is all explained in ASM #20.) Before Ock can administer the killing blow, the Jackal stops him, reminding him that he revived him for his scientific knowledge, not to kill Spider-Man. He also has the Rhino and Electro apologize to Spidey for trying to kill him. Gwen tells Spidey that the villains are Security and were just doing their jobs. Jackal dismisses Otto, Rhino, and Electro. “Everyone without an “O” follow me, please,” he says. (Heh. Like that.) Spidey again notes that Gwen does not trigger his Spider-Sense. She tells him that’s because she’s not a clone.
Right. So, the Jackal takes Spidey on a tour. On the way, he says, “I was in a rut for a while. Cloning Gwen. You. Gwen. You. You. You. But I’ve taken it to the next level. I’ve evolved.” Which seems to imply that the Jackal is Miles Warren and that all of this stuff he’s doing is still cloning, no matter what he said to Gwen last issue. When Peter mentions the Anubis mask he now wears he says, “Tad melodramatic. But it gets more respect than fuzzy Yoda in a speedo.” (Like that, too.) He shows Spidey a lab in which the Lizard and Martha Connors are working. Martha says, “I’ll tell Billy, you said ‘hi’,” implying that the Jackal has brought Billy Connors back to life too.
Spidey is appalled at it all but he really gets a shock when the Jackal opens a door and reveals a double-page spread of previously-dead villains. They are Alastair Smythe (in bug form), Jack O’Lantern (presumably Jason Macendale), Mirage, the Big Man (Frederick Foswell?), Massacre (who was a Superior Spider-Man villain), Spencer Smythe (who graciously consented to create an original Spider-Slayer so it could stand right next to him), Ox (who none of us here at SpiderFan thought was dead), Montana, Stilt-Man, the Hobgoblin (Ned Leeds?), Tarantula, Eduardo Lobo, Mysterio (Danny Berkhart?), Hitman, Kangaroo, the Rose (Richard Fisk?), and the Green Goblin (Bart Hamilton?). This does not seem like a good idea.
Meanwhile, Jonah Jameson has been reunited with his previously dead wife Marla Madison. She now works for New U and pushes him to continue to plug the company. She also tells him that they can’t revive his dad yet because they are having trouble screening his disease out. She then takes him to see someone who appears to be Mattie Franklin, a previously-dead previous Spider-Woman.
Back in the lab, Spidey prepares for the villain attack that doesn’t come. Instead, the Prowler shows up, along with Captain Stacy, Jean DeWolff, and Ashley Kafka. The Prowler explains that he was recently killed and revived by the Jackal and the Jackal explains that he is doing this all for Peter so that he can rid himself of all that guilt. But then Captain Stacy pulls his gun on his daughter Gwen, declaring, “A man knows his own daughter! You are not my Gwen!” And he’s right. Because this is actually Spider-Gwen, the Gwen Stacy from Earth-65. Her cover blown, she escapes into the air vents and Spidey follows. (“I knew you weren’t a clone,” Spidey says.)
The Jackal contacts the Lizard and asks him to climb into the vents after Spidey and Spider-Gwen. Spider-Gwen contacts Kaine (revealing that she is the partner Kaine was contacting) and he tells her that their “guest” needs her clone meds. Spidey tells them that Horizon University has the supply that Anna Maria brought from the Salteres house. So, Kaine brings his “guest,” who is the Gwen Stacy that the Jackal revived, to Max Modell and the others at Horizon. (Nice to see Max and his crew again.) Kaine tells them “She is hours away from zombie-ing out, possibly infecting you all.” As they lead Gwen inside, Anna Maria stays behind. She tells Kaine she knows he is Peter’s clone and asks why he and Spider-Gwen didn’t include Peter in their plans. He reveals that he’s seen this whole New U thing go bad on a number of parallel Earths, “and everything goes to hell for the same reason. Because of Miles Warren’s mad ideas…and Parker Industries’ global tech. Peter Parker is the man who destroys the world.” And he holds up a newspaper with the headline, “Parker Industries & New U Usher in a New Tomorrow.”
So, it looks like the Spider-Verse has invaded our Clone Saga. This does not thrill me. The Spider-Verse is an idea that really needs to be retired. But there’s still some exciting stuff going on here and some interesting questions as well. What is the Jackal’s master plan? Is he on the level about ending Peter’s guilt so that the whole zombie world side-effect is unintended? He can’t have a reason for wanting a zombie world, can he? Is the Jackal actually Professor Warren? Spider-Gwen and Kaine seem to think so and they’ve dealt with this in multiple dimensions. But what with the goal being to rid Spidey of his guilt, perhaps the Jackal is actually Peter Parker; either a clone or an alternate world version. Also, what about Kaine being touched by one of the zombies? And what happened in between that moment and the moment he woke up in bed? That’s got to lead to something, right? Like maybe Kaine's clone-body chemistry being the antidote to zombie-fying without having to rely on the pills, thereby allowing some characters to live on with normal lives? I'm just winging it here.
But my main questions still go back to Dan Slott’s intent. First of all, is this storyline going to be the impetus to eliminate the whole Parker Industries angle or is that just wishful thinking on my part? And what about the previously-dead? So far we have had nearly three dozen characters brought back to life, including Doctor Octopus and the Prowler. Surely, Slott hasn’t gone to all this trouble to bring Doc Ock back only to have him succumb to cellular degeneration or zombie-dom. I also can’t believe that Marvel considered the Prowler strong enough to be given a mini-series in this story arc only to have him die as well. So, I assume that some of these characters will somehow remain alive after this story is done. Some of them but not all of them. So which ones will remain? Captain Stacy? Dr. Kafka? The Big Man? Mirage? Okay, okay, the one I’m really concerned about is Gwen. Is this finally the time, after 43 long years, that Gwen is returned to her rightful place in the cast? And if so, will she need to take those pills for the rest of her life? Does that make her a clone? Even though the Jackal told her she wasn’t a clone? I can’t wait to find out.
Three webs. The Spider-Verse stuff drags it down but I’m still locked in and ready for the next issue.