Friday, December 30, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #123 - April 1995



Players and Pawns Part Two - True Lies
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steven Butler (penciler), Randy Emberlin (inker), Steve Dutro (letterer), Kevin Tinsley (colorist)

The Plot: Flash Thompson and his students are targeted by the Jackal. Ben Reilly defeats him, unaware the Jackal wants to be placed in Ravencroft. As the Jackal is taken away, Jack hands Ben a disc that he claims proves Ben is the original Peter. A verbal command from the Jackal immediately causes Jack to deteriorate. Meanwhile, Kaine has handed Peter Parker documents that allegedly prove that he is the original. When Kaine refuses to answer all of Peter’s questions, Peter charges him. Kaine throws Peter off of a building and escapes. Later, Ben throws the disc into the river, confident in his own identity.

The Subplots: Aunt May awakens from her coma. Meanwhile, another clone travels to New York. Finally, Detective Trevane pursues an arrest warrant.

Web of Continuity: Flash Thompson is now a grade school gym teacher. The third Peter Parker is a needless distraction that only serves to pad the story out even longer. The arrest warrant is for Peter, of course, leading in to the OJ-inspired “Trial of Peter Parker” storyline.

*See _________ For Details
: Peter and Ben shut down the Jackal’s lab in Spider-Man #56. Kaine presented Peter with his “evidence” in Spectacular Spider-Man #222; the same issue the mystery of the third Peter Parker began. Ben returns to the smokestack that allegedly incinerated him in Amazing Spider-Man #150 before throwing the disc away.

Creative Differences: Several added thought balloons establish that the Jackal is attacking Flash and his students in order to provoke Ben Reilly. Later, more added thought balloons have the Jackal boasting that he wants to go to Ravencroft because “something” there belongs to him.

Review: The clone storyline was originally supposed to end in Amazing Spider-Man #400, which went on sale the same month this issue was released. Clearly, this was not to be. The standard explanation from the creators is that Marvel’s marketing machine became enamored with the concept and pressured them to keep it going, requiring them to develop one inane plot twist after another to prevent the story from reaching its natural conclusion. Okay, maybe no one involved with the books ever used the phrase “inane plot twist” (in public, at least), but that’s clearly what’s happening by this point. Ben’s the real Peter! No, Peter is…Kaine says so! Who’s Kaine? We can’t say yet, but Peter’s going to fight him for no reason this issue! Wait, this third Peter is the real one…you can trust us now! Uh-oh…the Jackal’s plan is still in motion behind bars! By the way…we’re killing Aunt May next week, but Peter will be too busy digesting prison food to mourn his loss!

As exasperating as the overall storyline is by now, there are a few decent moments in this issue. Ben’s interaction with the original supporting cast has been interesting so far, so working in Flash and his students is a smart move on the creators’ part. Ben’s decision to throw away the evidence that “proves” he’s not a clone is reminiscent of Peter’s choice to throw his test results away in ASM #151, which is a clever callback. Ben’s just as confident in his own identity now as Peter was back then, which is ironic given that Ben’s so adamant that he isn’t Peter anymore. Finally, Steven Butler returns with full pencils, producing the best-looking issue in a while. Unfortunately, he’s still stuck drawing the horrific Scarlet Spider costume, which is several months away from retirement. Yet another reason why this story needs to move on.

8 comments:

Matt said...

"Ben’s the real Peter! No, Peter is…Kaine says so! Who’s Kaine? We can’t say yet, but Peter’s going to fight him for no reason this issue! Wait, this third Peter is the real one…you can trust us now! Uh-oh…the Jackal’s plan is still motion behind bars! By the way…we’re killing Aunt May next week, but Peter will be too easy digesting prison food to mourn his loss!

At the risk of re-re-repeating myself, this is exactly the stuff that kept me interested in this storyline, and waiting on the edge of my seat for each new issue!

"...the horrific Scarlet Spider costume..."

I've never understood why people dislike this costume so much. Even within the comics, characters poked fun at it. I mean, I get that the hoodie is silly, but I like the colors and I thought the whole package was a pretty neat visual, and a nice derivative of Spider-Man's costume. Of course, people made fun of the name "Scarlet Spider" too, but I thought it was cool and I liked the alliteration.

So with Web wrapping up soon, will you be moving on to another Spider-Man series? I assume you will at least cover the four issues of Web of Scarlet Spider, right? What happens after that? I really enjoy your Spider-Man reviews!

Peter said...

The Dutch Clone Saga reprints are what caught my eye in the supermarket back when I was a teen. They were the issues that made it seem like comics were all about crazy plot twists, and that seemed exciting to my teenage self. So I will always have fond memories of the Clone Saga despite all the inanity, just like I've always liked the Jackal's crazy behavior or the Scarlet Spider costume (not to mention the awesome Spider-Ben costume).

I loved reading about the Life Of Reilly back when that series started and it's great to someone else going through these issues, it's very nostalgic by now.

I too am curious what series you'll move on to after Web ends in a few issues. Sensational, as that is the series that replaced it? And then once Sensational ends, the fantastic (haha) double-the-Mackie years start on ASM/PPSM, basically the same deal as they do now with Slott except in name it was two different titles.

I've been enjoying the heck out of your posts, all of them, from Spawn to Web to Chronos/Young Heroes In Love and many more, ever since I first found your X-posts years ago. So thanks for all the years of posting, I thought 2011 was a particularly entertaining year with the right combination of levelheadedness and snark :)

Looking forward to the goodies in 2012!

G. Kendall said...

Thanks, guys. I plan on going on through Spider-Man continuity up until the late '90s, but I can't imagine touching the Chapter One-era stuff. I also plan on reviewing some areas of '90s Spidey continuity that have been virtually ignored on the internet, as far as I can tell.

Peter said...

Hmm, 90s Spidey continuity that's been virtually ignored on the internet... All the crappy minis? Spider-Man Team-Up? Untold Tales? I cannot guess! Excited to find out :)

Anonymous said...

Untold Tales of Spider Man was probably the highest quality Spider Man book during the entire 1990s.
I have fond memories of that title.
I don't know if it's ignored by the internet, but it doesn't get mentioned as often as it should.

kerry said...

Is the "True Lies!" cover blurb too obvious for an "I Love the '90s"?

G. Kendall said...

Yes. That movie is probably rerun more today than it ever was in the '90s, also, so I don't really associate it specifically with the decade.

Matt said...

Props on another year Kendall, I've loved your site since I discored some old X-Posts a year or so back. As I told you in an earlier post, I love that you're covering 90s Spidey, and that you've gotten to the Clone Saga. Between that and 90s X-Men you're covering my two comics guilty pleasures (well, that and the Superman Blue issues of JLA...)

And I have to throw my hat into the ring on the SS costume - I personally love it. It's 90s tacky, but something about it works. That actually brings to mind something that I've thought a lot about, and that is why some people get so elitist about comics from now or before the Platinum decade being so much better, specifically with costume design. I'm not calling you out Kendall, but the idea that old school design is inherently better is an opinion very popular nowdays and one I think is inherently flawed.

What it basically comes down to is the subjective idea of what looks "cool," and because their idea is "classic" that automatically makes it better. In the 60s, it was cape and spandex. In the 90s, it was body armor and puches. Both can work visually, so long as you don't go overboard, which 90s artists had the tendency to do. To me, a lot of the old school purists come off as old men telling me to turn down my Limp Bizkit (yes, I like them).

Not only do I like the SS costume, but I like his Spider-Man 2.0 costume even better, a much more contemporary take on a classic that feels much more streamlined than Ben's previous costume. And speaking of good 90s costumes, I really like the costume Cable had for a majority of the 90s,the blue one with pouch-lined yellow harness and no shoulder pads. Also, a lot of people say Jim Lee's Cyclops is the best version of him, with the exposed hair, asymetrical harness, straps and pouches.

But like I said, you don't seem like one of those people Kendall, it's a topic I've been thinking about a lot recently (how people seem to take a value that's subjective and declare it as a universal standard for what's "good"), and talking about how I liked the SS costume reminded me of it.