Spectacular Spider-Man 222: Two’s company, three’s a f***ed up mess

Credits: Written by Tom DeFalco, breakdowns by Sal Buscemi, finishes by Bill Sienkiewicz and edited by Mark Powers.

Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly, Dr Miles ‘The Jackal’ Warren, ‘Jack’, ‘Kaine’, Joe ‘Robbie’ Robertson, J.Jonah Jameson Jnr, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Detectives Tremayne and Raven, Eugene ‘Flash’ Thompson.

Plot: In the aftermath  of the conflict at the Jackal’s lab, the man known only as Kaine is sifting through its wreckage to find definitive proof of who Peter Parker is and who is the clone of Peter. He finds an intact computer and produces the information he has been looking for. He is about to leave, when he sees a pod, similar to the ones the Jackal has used, inside it is another Peter Parker. He is then set upon by the Jackal, who has Jack with him. It gets violent, but that ends when Scrier appears, surprising Jackal (who knows Scrier, but is wasn’t expecting to see him) and terrifying Jack. Kaine uses this distraction to escape.

Back in the city, Ben is checking up on an old ‘friend’ Flash Thompson who in his role as an athletic director is teaching kids to play basketball as Ben looks on, musing on the possibility of being the original Peter Parker and whether than means he can have more of a real life now.

Subplot time: Kaine has a precognitive flash of a murdered Mary Jane. Mary Jane is learning that because of the radioactive blood and altered DNA of the father, there is an anomaly in some of her unborn baby’s test results. Detectives Tremayne and Raven secure a warrant for someone’s arrest and Peter struggles to get photo assignments before being warned of Det. Raven’s questions over him and a Ben Reilly. He is warned by J. Jonah Jameson, who is uncharacteristically concerned.

After his encounter at the Bugle offices, Peter wanders the streets, wondering what Ben has done. He is stopped by Kaine who offers him proof of Peter’s identity. All this does is anger Peter who feels has been screwed around enough.

Jackal attacks Ben, putting Flash and the kids at risk. Jack is with Jackal, still obsessing over his clone degeneration disease.  Quickly changing into his Scarlet Spider costume, Ben fights back against the Jackal and the mutated creatures that he grows from fingers sized blobs to huge slobbering monsters. As this is going on, Peter changes into his Spider-Man costume and confronts Kaine.

As the issue draws to a close, the third Peter Parker is hitchhiking away from the Jackal’s lair, unaware of who he is and what he needs to do.

Notes: And now the mind-f***ery begins in earnest. The contenders for the post of the real Peter Parker are Spider-Man, Scarlet Spider and now a third Peter Parker. Who is real? Who are the clones? Ultimately do any of the editorial/writing staff even know at this point?

The Clone Saga shifts into this new stage with twists, turns and subplots a’plenty and right now it’s all holding together pretty well. Ben and Peter don’t know one another that well and their lives have been quite different, so Ben envies the opportunities that Peter’s life offers him, while Peter learns that Ben is being investigated and struggles to imagine what Ben could have done. It plays well with the themes of paranoia and identity that the Clone Saga brings up and keeps the two leads from working together or even communicating well. This is creating increased drama. It also furthered the story of the mysterious Kaine whose presence annoys me less than it used to. All in all, this was a better issue than at first glance.

Verdict: 

Writing 4 out of 5 – Tom DeFalco is once again a pleasant surprise. He is clearly having fun with the writing of the Jackal’s dialogue and is using him well. His Peter and Ben are a bit similar, but based on what they are to one another, this seems more intentional here. The story is well paced, everything feels jam-packed, but nothing seems rushed.

Art: 1 out of 5 – I don’t know who decided to put Sal Buscema and Bill Seinkiewicz together, because the basic workman-like pencils that Buscema was known for and excelled at seem ill-matched to the expressive style of Seinkiewicz.The mad expressionist style which launched the successful era of New Mutants is absent and replaced by a thick scratchy line obscures art rather than enhances it. Still Buscema shines through in the action, his tradmark big punches are here to see and the panel progression is good, but it’s two greats that are ill-suited to work together when both had done great work separately. Add the washed out colouring to it and this comic does not look good, which is a problem for a mostly visual medium.

Overall: 5 out of 10 – A fine issue that keeps you interested in the ongoing saga, but makes you yearn for a comic and leads you towards it.

Next Time: Post-apocalyptic teen horror as we return to the Age of Apocalypse.

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