Credits: Plot by J.M. Dematteis, scripted by Todd Dezago, breakdowns by Steven Butler, finishes by Randy Emberlin and edited by Eric Fein.
Cast: Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reily, Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Anna Watson, May Parker, Joe ‘Robbie’ Robertson, J. Jonah Jameson, Lt Jacob Raven, ‘Jack’, ‘Guardian’ and Kaine.
Plot: Smoke and Mirrors Part 1 – The Call opens with Scarlet Spider swinging through New York. He’s started feeling a call, a pull to an unfamiliar place. As he considers following it he starts having flashback hallucinations of his early days with Miles Warren, the Jackal, his creator.
Elsewhere in New York, Peter is also having these memory flashes, which shouldn’t be the case as only the clone would have memories of this time with the Jackal.
Peter and Mary Jane getting ready to go out kiss and this causes Peter to flashback to Gwen Stacy, who was killed years ago, this event triggering much of Jackal’s actions when he created the clone. Peter is rattled, but still happily takes Mary Jane out for lunch.
100 miles from Manhattan, Scarlet Spider arrives wherever this call has drawn him and he finds a short man in a Jackal costume calling himself Jack. Jack informs Scarlet Spider that all of the answers he seeks are behind the door that Jack is near. This door is guarded however, by a large man, covered in veiny grey growths. The man doesn’t speak, but keeps Scarlet Spider from the door as if it’s the only thing that is in his mind to do.
Back in Manhattan, Peter visits Robbie Robertson at the Daily Bugle and bumps into Police Lt Raven, who is visiting there also. This happens after Peter has another vision/hallucination, we then learn that Lt Raven knows who Peter is.
Mary Jane and her aunt Anna, visit the comatose May and both women hope for her to recover, but Anna fells that she may be making way for the new baby to arrive, whilst Mary Jane wants more than anything else to share this joy with May.
100 miles away, the Guardian has finished beating Scarlet Spider into a bloody pulp, all under the distant view of Kaine. And that night Peter has another flash of this and he gets into his Spider-Man costume and heads out to that same location to go save him.
Notes: This is where the disparate stories featuring each Spider in a different set of titles end and the main body of the clone saga starts. This issue starts with Ben Reilly, but the large part of the middle is carried by Peter Parker’s story.
It was inevitable that the stories had to start converging, we couldn’t have both heroes have two titles and not interact with one another indefinitely. This isn’t X-Men in the 80’s after all. Ben goes to a door 100 miles away, talks to an annoying guy called Jack and then is beaten to hell by Jack’s big friend. That’s as much of an A plot as you are going to get here. The bulk of the story is the B plot, which is Peter’s life changing and both he and Ben having memories that really only one of them should have. This is where it starts ladies and gentlemen, two years of who is the real Peter Parker? But here we do get a lot of Peter without the mask content, which has always been the heart of this comic series. Peter takes his wife out to lunch, to try and celebrate their great news and then goes to the office, rather than visit his only living family in hospital? I mean seriously, why is he at the Bugle? I know he’s there to see Lt Raven and move that subplot along, but is he there to sort out medical insurance for his new baby? No, genuinely I want to know, because that’s a hell of an oddity in and of itself. But it is a reminder that this book is about Spider-Man and those around him and under that mask, Spider-Man is Peter Parker.
But back to Ben and his beating. Despite the last 4 issues of the comic being very Ben centred, he’s little more than a plot device here and it’s a shame. He shows up to lure Peter to this door, so that both of them can be a part of the next issue and that’s it. It’s all set up and that is okay for a first part, it’s just a little underwhelming is all.
Writing: 3 out of 5 – This comic was plotted by J.M. Dematteis, but he leaves the scripting to Todd Dezago, Dezago is fine and all, but his dialogue is a little less sharp than DeMatteis and as a result the writing seems flatter then when this saga started. Then again it is hard to follow a writer that good. Still the plot moves along at a decent clip and seeds of future stories are threaded in nicely.
Art: 3 out of 5 – I do normally enjoy the pencils of Steven Butler, but here we only have breakdowns and the rest is done by Randy Emberlin, who again is a fine inker and has added some serious polish to this title over the last several issues, but again it feels like we are getting less than we were getting in the last issue or two. Nothing bad, just meh.
Overall 6 out of 10 – A solid, but unspectacular affair, doing little but setting up what is hopefully a better part 2. All the pieces are in place and we just want things to start happening, both on the page and with the creative team.
Next Time: Strap in as we head back to the Age of Apocalypse