Credits: Written by Howard Mackie, pencils by Tom Lyle, inks by Scott Hanna and edited by Danny Fingeroth.
Cast: Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Ben ‘Scarlet Spider’ Reilly, 3Pete, Kaine, and Mary Jane Watson-Parker.
Plot: Warned by Judas Traveller about the threat to his pregnant wife, Peter Parker has broken out of prison and returned home to find a clone of himself that he knows (Scarlet Spider) and maybe another one (3Pete) and he wants answers. 3 Pete goes berserk, and attacks Peter, Ben keeps the pair apart and tries to keep everyone calm. He loses that calm when he learns that Kaine is involved. He demands to know what happened from the severely concussed 3Pete. 3Pete passes out and Peter goes to get a spare mask and gloves. All he has left is the old black costume.
Bit of a digression, but he only has one red and blue costume? I get Ben only having one, it’s new and a bit slap-dash. Peter has been Spider-Man for years, most likely 4-5 times per week on average. Now, that’s a lot of sweating. Now imagine how you feel after going to the gym, or some sports game/ activity and how you smell afterwards. Surely you would need a second gym outfit? Beginning to think that Spidey being less involved in teams, might have a very specific reason.
Under the city, Kaine is holding MJ hostage and far above it Peter waits for something. Ben gets there and waits with him, offering him help against Kaine, known to Peter, but not Ben. Out of sight, 3Pete watches. Inside MJ’s pocket is an enhanced Spider-Tracer. Given to her some time before as a failsafe. Due to Peter being in prison, MJ is hesitant to use it, but frightened of the increasingly erratic Kaine, she finally does.
Using the signal Ben and Peter race to the location, followed by 3Pete. MJ picks her moment and starts running, followed by Kaine. All 5 of our players converge under the city. A battle ensues, where Peter learns despite being warned by Ben, Kaine is extremely powerful. As Kaine battles Ben, Peter and 3Pete go after MJ. Peter puts 3Pete on the floor and the couple are reunited. Kaine then arrives with a beaten and unconscious Ben. Now all 4 are there, 3Pete inexplicably goes into a rage and declares that he’s going kill them all.
Notes: Well that escalated. Mackie and Lyle take the third part on taking us from interesting cliffhanger to interesting cliffhanger. We start the issue with the three Spider-Men long before the meme was a thing. 2 of them believing they are the original and 1 of them unsure which of the others it is. Change of clothes and post-concussion syndrome later and the story become a chase to find MJ and save her from Kaine, who’s obsession with MJ is making him more and more erratic.
There’s interesting themes of identity and love, but what we are really getting is an action flick on the page. Peter vs Ben in verbal conflict, 3Pete and Peter trade blows more than once and everyone battles Kaine before Peter gets to MJ, before apologising that he’s wearing an outfit she doesn’t like. I don’t think she minds Peter, but it’s sweet that you are thinking about it. We also see more of Kaine and Scarlet Spider’s implied previous enmity. If there’s been a bigger criticism of the Clone Saga so far is that it’s a lot of set up, but no pay off and at least here there is some pay off. We get major players all together and a hell of an action set-piece and it seems there’s going to a point to the introduction of 3Pete.
Verdict: Writing 3 out of 5 – Howard Mackie does this kind of thing well. It’s not the character stuff of Tom Defalco, or the psychological stuff of J M DeMatteis, this is just straight up action and it plays to the writer’s strengths. It’s not devoid of character, all of the characters feel raw and desperate, many just holding on by a thread and that tension comes through in the words. My only complaint is that the passing out of 3Pete seems a bit too off-panel.
Art: 4 out of 5 – Tom Lyle handles this well, carrying much of the issue’s weight. It’s action scenes with 3 of the 4 players being the same body type, I mean exactly the same. But Lyle does it well, he even sells the power of Kaine when he takes a Spider-Punch to the face and doesn’t react to it. Maybe he felt it, maybe he didn’t, but damn that is a power move. I am still not a fan of the colouring, but that’s all that stops this being a 5 out of 5. If there was anyone who was close to being as good as Bagley in this era, it was Lyle.
Overall: 7 out of 10 – A solid middle chapter, that bridges the emotional power of the first couple of parts with what I am expecting will be an exciting finale and does a decent job of ratcheting up the tension.
Next Time: Back to the bad guys of the Age of Apocalypse.