Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #223 (Story 1)

 Posted: 28 Jul 2022
 Staff: Dave Sippel (E-Mail)



Story 'Schemes And Dreams: For Future Screams'

At Ravencroft Asylum, Dr. Ashley Kafka was attempting therapy with the Jackal. He wasn't taking it seriously, or John Jameson's threats against him. Jackal was taken away and John apologized to Ashley for speaking out of turn. She reminded him that his job was to provide security and hers was to give therapy. They discussed the case of Frances Barrison, aka Shriek, whom had been infected with the "Carrion virus." In her deluded mind, she believed that virus to be a pregnancy and she looked forward to motherhood.

Meanwhile, the Scarlet Spider was meeting with Mary Jane. Ben was complaining about being called the Scarlet Spider by the Daily Bugle, then apologized for wasting her time while she had her own problems. She asked him to keep his mask on, because she didn't like seeing another man with her husband's face.

Robbie Robertson was meeting with Peter in jail, after he was arrested for murdering Louise Kennedy in Salt Lake City. (She was killed by Kaine.) Robbie tried to empathize with Peter, knowing that he was still mourning his aunt's death but he needed to focus on the situation. Robbie wanted to get Peter's side of the story for the Bugle but Peter refused to tell him what was happening.

In a hospital, Detective Jacob Raven was telling another officer that they put the wrong man behind bars. The officer said they would convict Peter on the finger prints alone but Det. Raven showed him his scared face. The killer left scared faces on all of his victims.

Another man was reading a copy of the Daily Bugle, featuring the trial of Peter Parker. The man didn't know Peter but was amazed that they looked alike. He didn't know his own name or past.

Mary Jane and Ben were still talking, and he was trying to convince her to see Seward Trainer, a scientist friend of his. There was a possibility that her baby could have complications due to Peter's powers. She still didn't trust him and wanted to know what he gained by helping her and Peter.

Alone in his prison cell, Peter pondered his situation. He was innocent of the murders in Salt Lake City and he was sure that Ben must be the real killer. All that he had to do would be to break out of his prison window, change to Spider-Man and go after the Scarlet Spider. He knew that he and Ben had the same powers and were evenly matched but didn't know if he shared the sense of morality. He didn't know much about Ben, but he knew they had to have the same finger prints. Still, if he did defeat Ben and turn him over to the police, it would be the end of his secret identity.

At Ravencroft, John was in the security room talking with a guard, commenting on how the Jackal was asleep but Carnage was feeling feisty. At that moment, the Jackal was walking past Carnage's cell and taunting him. Carnage was threatening to eat him and Jackal replied that his body had undergone so many scientific experiments that he would upset his stomach. Jackal accessed Dr. Kafka's office and searched her computer for the files on Malcolm Mc Bride.

The man without a past kept walking the streets, trying to find anything that might jog his memory and found an abandoned warehouse. He was watched by Scrier.

The Scarlet Spider explained to MJ that he had once competed with her husband for his life but he was over it. He accepted that he was a clone and not Peter Parker. He explained that clones don't live as long as average people, they had a degeneration factor. He knew that eventually it would kill him and he wanted at least one "Peter" to be happy. That's why he was so eager to help. MJ felt bad for him and told him to call her by name, instead of "Mrs. Parker."

At Ravencroft, John and the guard noticed that the camera for Shriek's cell had died. They ran to investigate as the Jackal attacked Shriek, telling her that she had something that belonged to him. He had created the "Carrion virus" years prior and wanted it back so that he could wipe out humanity and replace it with clones. (She had acquired the virus from Carrion, aka Malcolm McBride, who derived his powers from it.) She refused to let him hurt her "baby," but he knocked her out and took it from her anyway.

At a cemetery, the mystery man found the graves of May and Ben Parker. The memories came back to him: their love and the spider that bit him. He remembered that he was Peter Parker. Reading a paper later, he understood why Peter's name seemed familiar when he read about the murders. He assumed that the man in prison must be an imposter. Reading further, he saw that apparently he was married to Mary Jane and he needed to go find her. He feared she was in great danger.

As MJ leaves with Ben, they are watched by Kaine.

General Comments

This is one of the better stories that I've reviewed lately. Yes, it is still dark and angsty like the previous ones but the story is moving forward. The Jackal has shown up and made his play for the carrion virus, Ben Reilly is interacting with the Parkers, and we have the introductions of Spidercide and Kaine. Things are about to get messy and confusing but they are also about to get a lot more interesting.

"Dark" is the central theme here. The story doesn't have an ounce of humor and much of the story takes place at night and in the rain. It may be melodramatic, but I love the panel of Spidercide at Ben and May's graves thinking that he is Peter. The emotional horror in the scene is really well done.

Unfortunately, MJ is written as being overly sympathetic and naive toward Ben. He told her a sad story and suddenly she trusted him? She knows better than that, or should.

Overall Rating

If you don't care for the Clone Saga, or dark Spidey stories, I can tell you to avoid this one. It was definitely not a "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" issue but it accomplished what it set out to do and did it well.

 Posted: 28 Jul 2022
 Staff: Dave Sippel (E-Mail)