Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #125 - June 1995

Lives Unlived
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (writer), Steven Butler (breakdowns), Randy Emberlin (finishes), Steve Dutro & Janice Chiang (letterers), Kevin Tinsley (colorist)

The Plot: Spider-Man investigates the Daily Bugle morgue for information on Miles Warren. He tracks him to a suburban New Jersey town, unaware that the new Green Goblin has followed him. Spider-Man enters Warren’s home and is shocked to discover he’s married to Gwen Stacy’s original clone. Warren knocks Spider-Man unconscious and escapes with Gwen. Spider-Man recovers and follows their car. When Warren sees Spider-Man in the rearview mirror, he irrationally drives off the George Washington Bridge. Spider-Man, with Green Goblin’s help, rescues Gwen, but Warren dies in the accident. His body degenerates, confirming that he’s another clone.

The Subplots: Ben Reilly, who’s taken Peter’s place in jail, reflects on recent events. Meanwhile, MJ asks Black Cat to find Peter, who hasn’t told her about his trip to New Jersey.

Web of Continuity: The new Green Goblin’s full identity isn’t revealed, but we do learn he’s Ben Urich’s nephew. The climax at the George Washington Bridge is an obvious callback to Amazing Spider-Man #122; however, the bridge in Gwen’s famous death scene is supposed to be the Brooklyn Bridge. It was misidentified in the original story, but corrected in subsequent reprints. (Original dialogue from Amazing #122 was even altered to remove any references to the G. W. Bridge.)

*See _________ For Details: Ben took Peter’s place in prison in Spectacular Spider-Man #224. Black Cat visited Ben in prison, thinking he was Peter, in Spider-Man Unlimited #9. Spectacular Spider-Man annual #8 had a “super being named Dreamweaver” convince Gwen’s clone that she was a woman named Joyce Delany who had been infected with a virus that caused her DNA to imitate Gwen’s. She now believes Dreamweaver was committing an “act of mercy” to disguise the real truth.

Forever Young: Peter wonders if he would’ve settled down in suburbia by now if he had married Gwen instead of MJ.

Creative Differences: Two added thought balloons cast doubt that Peter can trust Miles Warren’s notes, opening up yet another door for even more retcons (although I believe this Gwen’s status as the original clone remains unchanged.) Almost the entire final panel of the story is completely re-lettered. Aside from misspelling Gwen’s last name, the captions emphasize that Gwen now realizes she is a clone and must deal with the truth.

“Huh?” Moments: The Daily Bugle ran a story on Miles Warren, who’s publicly known as dead, marrying Gwen Stacy, who’s also publicly known as dead, at some point in the past and no one, not even Peter Parker, noticed. Later, Warren comments that he and Gwen have changed their identities over the years, but that contradicts the very first scene of the comic. Peter finds their home by searching for Miles Warren’s name in the Bugle’s files.

Gimmicks: This issue is forty-eight pages, printed on slick paper, with a special “holodisk” cover. The cover price is an appalling $3.95. Editor Glenn Greenberg on the holodisks, as quoted on the Life of Reilly: The holodisks were yet another in a long line of gimmick covers that were all the rage back then. We had just done a gimmick cover for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #400 that did not turn out very well, and these holodisks were not much of an improvement. They looked GREAT in the prototype stage, but when we got the final versions, it was clear that you needed to view them under a light that was about as powerful as the sun to really get the full effect of the 3-D live action. Strike two!”
Someone must’ve realized that the cover gimmick had problems, since this issue’s hype page encourages fans to ask their retailers about the Spider-Man penlights that have been manufactured especially for these covers.

Review: I remember shopping at a local bookstore’s going out of business sale when I was fourteen. I swear to you, they had a comic book rack stuffed full of unsold copies of Web of Spider-Man #125. Now, this is a bad comic, but was it bad enough to kill a small business? Reasonable people would say no, but sometimes I wonder (not really) if this overpriced collection of dead trees and its lumpy, blurry hologram were the breaking point for the struggling storefront.

One of the many reasons why the clone saga wasn’t exactly the best idea in the world goes back to Gerry Conway’s late ‘80s run on Spectacular Spider-Man. Conway was apparently never happy with his work on the original clone storyline and used his return to Spider-Man to smooth over some of the more absurd points of the story. Conway dismissed the idea of instantaneous cloning, revealing instead that the original “clones” from the ‘70s storyline were actually full-grown adults who had been injected with a genetic virus. A virus that happened to morph their DNA into a copy of someone else’s. Spider-Man’s clone was actually another ESU student named Anthony Serba, for example. Still implausible, but in terms of comic book science, it’s perfectly reasonable.

A few members of the ‘90s creative team realized that Conway’s retcons needed to be addressed if they were serious about reintroducing Miles Warren’s cloning process. Apparently, this issue was supposed to address the problem. Clearly, it does not. Kavanagh’s dismissal of Conway’s retcons is to reveal, over the course of two panels, that Dreamweaver (a minor character from the “Evolutionary Wars” crossover) just made up the lie and sold it to Gwen…to be nice, apparently. This is not how you retcon a retcon. I believe Howard Mackie was given another pass at addressing Conway’s later stories, and fared about as well. Finally, Glenn Herdling, assistant editor of the Spider-titles when Conway’s retcons were initially published, penned a Spider-Man Unlimited story that resolved the problem. Why exactly was it so hard to resolve this? Beats me. Why is this storyline still dragging on, anyway?

Now, if Marvel really wanted to revive the original clone, Conway’s Spectacular Spider-Man run wasn't that much of a hindrance in the first place. Why is it so important that the “clone” who apparently died back in the ‘70s actually be a clone? Couldn’t the story work just as well if Ben Reilly was a “genetic duplicate” instead of a clone? Wouldn’t it add another layer to his characterization if he had another life before coming into contact with Miles Warren and Spider-Man?

Anyway, there’s more to this comic than sloppy continuity. It’s the touching love story of the clone of a pervy college professor obsessed with his teenage student, and the clone of said student who decides to marry the professor’s clone when she realizes she has no life of her own. Okay, maybe Peter Milligan could do something with this…but, yeah, we don’t have Milligan. Kavanagh handles the story about as well as you would expect, right down to the cliché “Gwen falls from the bridge” scene. The debut of a new, heroic Green Goblin during the scene is an ironic twist, I suppose, but even that’s too obvious to work. Of course that’s how they introduced the hero Green Goblin.

Shining Armor
Credits: Terry Kavanagh (plot), Mike Lackey (script), Tod Smith (breakdowns), Jimmy Palmiotti (finishes), Loretta Krol (letterer), Nel Yomtov (colorist)

The Plot: In the past, Miles Warren’s clone comforts Gwen Stacy’s clone. They grow close and marry.

Review: This brief backup just spells out the details hinted at in the main story, only now with uglier art. Hooking Miles Warren and Gwen Stacy up could be a disturbing, creepy idea if executed properly, but there’s no chance of that here. Apparently, no one cared enough about this backup to notice that a narrative caption describes Gwen’s eyes as green when they’re clearly colored blue in the same panel. That’s the level of quality we’re dealing with.


Matt said...

I am, as you know by now, a staunch defender of the Clone Saga... but this issue was the low point for me. I remember reading it at the time and having many of the same problems you describe in your review.

Although, for whatever reason I never found the Warren-Gwen thing creepy. I think I would now, but back then both characters were older than me, and that meant they were in basically the same age group.

Also, since we know these days that Gwen has a thing for older men (see "Sins Past"), this pairing just makes logical sense, right?

wwk5d said...

I think this issue was the cause of many wet dreams for JMS.

Looking back, it seems like even then, Marvel wanted get rid of Peter & MJ's marriage. They get to have it both ways; "Peter" still gets to be married to his supermodel wife, but the "real Peter", is back and living the single life.

dschonbe said...

Great review. Posts like this are why I like this blog so much.

Thank you.

kerry said...

These references to "Sins Past" just renew my hope that Slott or someone will eventually retcon that away.

Harry Sewalski said...

@kerry: Apparently JMS wanted it retconned out with One More Day/Brand New Day, but he wasn't allowed to. Fun fact: The Stacy/Osborn twins were originally supposed to be Peter and Gwen's, but this was decided against. Don't ask me why.

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