Change is in the air and on the ground, if you know where to look. In this chapter of the series, our heroes are living in a pre-Onslaught world.
Our webbed idol isn't feeling like himself for this chapter as it takes place post-Clone Saga. Ben Reilly has taken over the role of Spider-Man1.
The X-Men have had a few fundamental changes as well. Angel now has blue skin, metallic wings, and goes by the code-name Archangel2. Wolverine now has bone claws since the adamantium was ripped from his body3.
Despite their differences, the one thing they have in common is Mr. Sinister, who has plans for a certain crimson-colored symbiote.
After their latest encounter with Mr. Sinister, the X-Men (Storm, Iceman, Cyclops, Wolverine, Archangel) discover a locked box containing some of Sinister's notes. After reading them, Cyclops decides that they need to call in a favor from their friend Spider-Man.
In New York, Spider-Man is trying to capture the Teflon-themed villain known as Slyde. While pursuing him, he sees Slyde duck down a dark alley and within a few seconds, surrender. Content with himself, Spider-Man realizes that he only gave up because the X-Men were waiting for him.
Spider-Man thanks them for the assist and tries to leave, but is called back by Storm. Wolverine's senses tell him something is wrong and begins to interrogate him. Reluctantly Spider-Man explains that years ago a crazed man named Miles Warren aka Jackal cloned him and then convinced him that he was his own clone. The clone then assumed his life. He left for many years, but has returned to pick up where he left off 4.
They leave to a more secluded place to continue their discussion. Eventually the X-Men are convinced they can trust this Spider-Man. They explain that Sinister had some notes detailing an exchange of data with Miles Warren which led to some cloning experiments. They soon discover recent entries indicating that Sinister wants a DNA sample from Cletus Kasady. Spider-Man explains that Kasady is better known as the mass-murdering Carnage5. Sinister thinks that the symbiote to which he is bonded may improve his clones. They make their way to Ravencroft to stop him.
Sinister arrives and mentally controls the employees of the facility, ordering them to lock themselves in the cafeteria. He then makes his way to Carnage's cell. He makes a simple offer: a sample of the symbiote in exchange for his freedom. Kasady quickly agrees. Before Sinister can complete his end of the bargain, the X-Men and Spider-Man arrive and attack them.
At one point, Sinister takes control of the X-Men's minds, but Spider-Man proves to be more difficult. Spider-Man opens his mind and allows Sinister to experience the pain of living the last few years of his life, causing some psychic feedback he had not anticipated. Sinister is incensed that this "mockery of life" would subject him to that. Not interested in continuing this battle since he completed his task, Sinister leaves the building.
With Sinister gone, the heroes are able to capture Carnage and put him back in his customized cell. Wolverine grumbles that he really needs his adamantium back6. Once Carnage is secure, Spider-Man voices some concern about being called a "mockery" since he was proven to be the real one. Wolverine reminds him that none of them would be alive if it weren't for him; he's Spider-Man in every way that counts. This gives the agitated hero the reassurance he needs.
Later in his lab, Sinister extracts the genetic adaptability of the symbiote from his sample. He notes that this is a step forward in his experiments to ensure the survival of the mutant species.
At the beginning of this review, I mentioned this was a pre-Onslaught Marvel Universe. This is an assumption because this clearly takes place after Reilly becomes Spider-Man and after the "Web of Carnage" arc. After the Onslaught crossover, there was very little time before the original Spider-Man returned. I'm not sure how this would fit in post-Onslaught. Without some other specific clues, this is the best I can offer.
So Sinister was in part responsible for the creation of the spider-clone. That fits into the convoluted history. From what I can remember, there were several attempts during the clone saga to retcon Warren's work. This was mostly to extend the storyline as much as possible. To some degree reducing the amount of work Warren did on his own would explain how he was able to achieve these breakthroughs. He had to have some help, either from the High Evolutionary or Mr. Sinister. Rather than untangle that mess created by the former, I'll go with Sinister.
3.5 webs. Slight let down from the last 2 issues, but still entertaining. Believe it or not it has nothing to do with the use of the spider-clone. I wasn't looking forward to reading about the Ben Reilly Spider-Man, but I put my preferences aside for this one.
Obviously I would have preferred they chose a different approach, but it wasn't too bad. I hope that this is a simple nod to those who remember this particular storyline and not part of a long-range plan to bring Ben Reilly back. He's dead, let it alone.