Spider-Man 56: Well lots of family gatherings are awkward affairs

Credits: Story and Pencils by Howard Mackie & Tom Lyle, inks by Scott Hanna and edited by Danny Fingeroth

Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly, Dr Miles ‘The Jackal’ Warren, ‘Jack’, Kaine, Scrier, ‘Gwen Stacy’, May Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker.

Plot: Jackal reveals and then dresses Gwen Stacy who is confused by the Spider-Men she sees before her and wants Peter to explain whats going on and to hold her while the Jackal plays mind-games with Ben. He tells each of them that they are the original, then each of them that they are the clone.

In subplot land, Mary Jane is visiting the still comatose May, whose thoughts are all about how tired she is, but how glad she is about news of the expected baby.

Back at Jackal’s base/lab, Peter tries to regain control and brings up that the High Evolutionary dispelled the myth of the clones, Jackal laughs that off, pointing out that the High Evolutionary had no reason to be honest with Peter and that all he has to do to get the life he wants is to take it, Gwen is right there. Peter seems tempted, but clone or not, he has a life and rejects Gwen. Just as he breaks her heart, he watches her degenerate and dissolve before him.

‘Jack’ learns from the Jackal that apart from his original masterpiece clone(s) of Spider-Man, all of the clones degenerate, some sooner than others. ‘Jack’ is shocked by this, but Jackal pays him no mind and as he exits the lab he throws one more wrench into the works. He tells Peter and Ben that they are both clones, that the real Peter Parker is somewhere in that lab, which is now falling apart around them. Peter and Ben leave, watched by Jackal and Jack. They both then leave, watched by Kaine, who in turn is watched by Scrier and in the remains of the lab, is a pod, just like the one that Gwen walked out of. This Saga has only just begun.

Notes: If you are not a fan of sudden and unnecessary twists, convoluted retcons and all that you know is wrong comics storytelling, I am going to assume that you have already left. Because that is all that this issue is. The Jackal villain-splains and laughs maniacally and the heroes of both confused and angst ridden and really that’s about it. There’s little to no resolution in this part 3 of a 3 part story and really it sets up the next story that either frustrates you, or gets you interested in the next story. Your mileage may vary.

The story itself is very thin, Gwen is alive, but no she’s not. Peter is the clone, but no he’s not. Ben is the clone, but no he’s not. Both are the clone? Or maybe one of them? Or there’s another Peter. It seems almost designed to confuse and frustrate. It’s either well designed and pulls you further into this web of story and intrigue. Or it’s everything people hated about the 90s, or it’s both. Yeah, I think it’s both.

Characterisation is thin, with Ben getting almost nothing in the way of plot movement. The Jackal is lets be honest no one’s favourite villain and his whole madman in green schtick is simply pointing out how he’s a second rate Green Goblin. That said the moment were Peter rejects Gwen only to see her die again does carry some emotional weight and you can feel the tension that it adds to both of the Spider-Men and while this doesn’t really give you an end to the three parter, it does crank up the tension and even 25 years on, I still want to see what happens next.

Verdict

Writing 3 out of 5 – The plot is thin, but does do the job of keeping the characters guessing and the dialogue gets all of the emotional beats across, even leaving me sympathetic to Jack, who before this just irritated me. It’s not great, but it does keep you interested.

Art: 3 out of 5 – Tom Lyle isn’t helped by the colouring, but is able to express emotional well and give the few action scenes the requisite punch. The death pf Gwen is well done and you feel for a character that only loves for most of one issue.

Overall: 6 out of 10 – This is okay. It’s not great and it’s a poor substitute for a genuine ending for this story, but it does set up the next stage and does keep your interest the whole time and so is an improvement on the other issues of Spider-Man.

Next time: Age of Apocalypse in Spaaaaaace!!!!!

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