Credits: Written by J.M. DeMatteis, pencilled by Mark Bagley, inked by Larry Mahlstedt and edited by Danny Fingeroth.
Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly, 3Pete, Kaine, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Chakra, Dr. Seward Trainer, Scrier and Dr. Judas Traveller.
Plot: Mark of Kaine part 2 – Down in the Darkness starts with 3Pete bumping into Mary Jane who is fleeing Kaine. Kaine catches up with her and declares 3Pete to be yet another clone of Peter Parker, but 3Pete eager to prove he is the real Peter fights with Kaine so that Mary Jane can escape. This does not go well for 3Pete as Kaine gives him a beating then chases after his quarry. 3Pete gets up, battered and bruised shortly after and then does the same.
Mary Jane calls Ben for help, but soon realises that relying on masked men hasn’t gone too well so far and hangs up, she has to fight back herself.
In his prison cell, Peter is doing better. The events have taken their toll, but he has hope. He believes he will be exonerated and will be there to meet his baby, when they are born. The astral form of Chakra appears before him and tells him about Kaine chasing after Mary Jane. Torn over what to do, Peter eventually decides to break out of his call and go after her. He is met outside the prison by Judas Traveller who offers to help cover Peter’s absence. Peter leaves with Chakra and the arriving Scrier asks Traveller why he is doing this, but Traveller’s motives remain a mystery.
At their home, Mary Jane finds the gun she bought. She is holding it when she is surprised by 3Pete, standing there in one of Peter’s Spider-Man outfits. She panics, the gun goes off, but somehow 3Pete is unharmed. 3Pete is then struck from behind by Kaine, who abducts Mary Jane, knocking her out in the process. She awakens somewhere under the city, safe from everyone except Kaine.
3Pete wakes up to find Ben in his Scarlet Spider costume standing over him. Justas things seem confusing enough Peter Parker arrives, freshly escaped from prison demanding to know where his wife is.
Notes: More than most issues in the clone saga so far, this is the one that feels most like a soap opera. The farcical melodrama, a damsel in distress, a man imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, mistaken identities and amnesia, there is just so much going on. Ironically, the clones of the man with Spider-Powers seems to be the thing that is most reasonable to the reader. One of the negatives out of the way is the almost complete absence of Scarlet Spider. This is really the show for the other four characters and I that’s a shame. The one thing that does come across is Kaine’s hatred of 3Pete, showcased by the savagery of his attack. Kaine’s motives and thoughts continue to be a mystery, but he is sincere about protecting MJ from what he perceives is a threat, but even still that’s a severe kicking.
After last issues drama in the prison, we do get a more optimistic Peter Parker, which is always nice to see. Whilst the character of Peter is always forged in tragedy and self-involvement, the flipside of that is his jokey nature and optimism. Peter believes he can help and that things can work out. He believes that since he did not commit the crimes he is accused of that he will ultimately be acquitted. The fact that the case against him is full of eye-witnesses and DNA evidence doesn’t dampen that optimism. This feels true to that character in a way. So he’s willing to go with it and try his luck, at least until he is told Mary Jane is in danger. I bought that completely, DeMatteis fleshes out in one small scene the whole core of Peter Parker outside of his being Spider-Man.
The whole issue comes to a head with three Peter Parkers standing in his living room each looking for the same person. It’s the opening for the 70’s sit-com Soap. “Confused, you will be.” At the end of the day, this is a solid part 2 with a great cliff-hanger delivered by a quality creative team and that’s all you really want from an issue.
Writing: 4 out of 5 – J.M.DeMatteis delivers a solid story with plenty of charactersation and nots to future stories. He adds depth and interest to Judas Traveller in just a couple of panels that the rest of his appearances have failed to and brings the story to a scene that could have been seen as a lot more ridiculous.
Art: 5 out of 5 – It’s Mark Bagley doing Spider-Man, what else do I need to say? The action scenes are frenetic and intense, just as Spider-Man ones should be and there’s the weird positioning and movements that you expect as well and it’s all pretty good. Out of the 4 regular artists in this era, he is clearly the best and once again shows it with three almost identical characters each looking distinctive. Whomever is in your top ten pencillers of Spider-Man and whatever that ranking is, it’s hard to imagine Bagley not being there.
Overall: 9 out of 10 – It doesn’t have to be a big event or anniversary issue to get some of the best out of your creative team and this issue proves it. When I started the re-read/blogging project, I promised myself that I wouldn’t read ahead, issues like this, make that more difficult.
Next Time: More clone saga sh.