Aces & Eights
Credits: Roger Stern (plot), Joe Edkin (script), Darick Robertson & Dan Lawlis (pencilers), Keith Aiken (inks), Christie Scheele & Ian Laughlin (colors), Comicraft (letters)
The Plot: SHIELD scientist William Allen is exposed to Miles Warren’s virus, transforming him into the third Carrion. He uses his newly developed powers to turn portions of New York into zombies. Spider-Man quarantines a group of zombies, then jumps onboard a SHIELD helicopter. At SHIELD’s headquarters, Spider-Man learns that the Tinkerer’s son has been infected by the zombie virus. With the Tinkerer’s help, Spider-Man teleports to Wundagore Mountain and asks the High Evolutionary for help. He refuses, sending Spider-Man back to New York. Spider-Man turns to Miles Warren’s journal for inspiration, and soon abducts Carrion. SHIELD scientists are able to cure the zombie plague, and are confident that William Allen can be cured of the Carrion virus. One of the scientists consulting SHIELD reveals himself to Spider-Man as the High Evolutionary, telling him that he changed his mind after thinking about their conversation.
Web of Continuity:
This story establishes the first Carrion as a true clone of Miles Warren. The second, Malcolm McBride, was created by a virus left by the High Evolutionary in order to sell his story that Miles Warren never created clones.
At one point in continuity, Miles Warren was established as an apprentice of the High Evolutionary. The original retcon was intended to reveal that Miles Warren could never create clones, only genetic duplicates, but the Clone Saga re-established Warren’s cloning ability.
The High Evolutionary tells Spider-Man that the memories William Allen inherited from Miles Warren are incomplete, meaning that he doesn’t know Spider-Man’s secret ID.
*See _________ For Details: The Scarlet Spider learned that the High Evolutionary altered the contents of Miles Warren’s journal in order to cover up his ability to create clones in Scarlet Spider Unlimited #1. The Maximum Clonage one-shot established Miles Warren created a virus intended to wipe out mankind.
Production Note: This is a forty-eight page one-shot, with ads, and a wraparound cover. The cover price is $2.99.
Review: When Gerry Conway established back in the 1980s that Miles Warren never actually created clones, this lead to a series of letters asking the question “What about Carrion?” We know this because Spectacular Spider-Man ran an entire letters page dedicated to these letters. The answer was revealed in Spectacular Spider-Man #149, making Carrion another product of the genetic replicator virus Warren created. You could argue that downgrading Warren’s creations from clones to genetic duplicates was playing semantics, but I do think the creation of the second Carrion was a worthy effort. Under Gerry Conway, and later J. M. DeMatteis, Malcolm McBride was sympathetic, tragic character in the classic Marvel tradition. Plus, I think Carrion has a strong design, so I’m glad the character was revived in some way.
Years later, the original clone storyline was revisited, and it’s decided that Miles Warren really could create clones after all. I’ve stated before that this re-retconning didn’t add anything to the overall storyline, and only served to create more hurdles for the creators at the time. And, unlike Gerry Conway, no one seemed to care enough to answer the question “What about Carrion (II)?” Two years later, this one-shot appeared, coming out of the office of the more continuity-conscious Tom Brevoort and Glenn Greenberg. Roger Stern is once again tasked with cleaning up other writers’ sloppy work and trying to get a coherent story out of what could easily be a mess. His solutions (along with the ones already established by Glenn Herdling in Scarlet Spider Unlimited #1) are fairly simple and not hard to grasp. Warren studied under the High Evolutionary. Warren could create clones. Carrion was his clone. High Evolutionary wanted to keep his work a secret, so he concocted the “genetic virus” cover story. High Evolutionary arranged for Carrion II’s creation in order to sell the story. Carrion III is the work of Miles Warren, yet again. If you care about keeping this stuff straight, and Marvel still pretended that it did in 1997, it seems to work out.
Judged as a story and not a continuity patch, the one-shot is still fun. The plot moves along without getting bogged down in all of the backstory, and Joe Edkin’s script is sharper than most of the work being done on the main titles at the time. You could argue that the Tinkerer is only there to provide Spider-Man a quick trip to Wundagore and back, but he never comes across as an overly obvious plot device. (The Tinkerer has a grand tradition of popping up in Roger Stern’s Spider-Man stories anyway.) The transition from Darick Robertson to Dan Lawlis is smooth, thanks largely to Keith Aiken’s dark, moody inks. I don’t know why Aiken didn’t do more Spider-Man work during this era, since he seems able to capture the best elements of McFarlane’s inking without going overboard.
My only real complaint about the issue would be Robertson and Lawlis’ eye design. Spider-Man’s eyes are way too large for the entire story. They’re stuck on the exaggerated “shocked!” expression Mark Bagley always used, which doesn’t work at all if they’re that big in every single panel. I’m all for giving artists some leeway when drawing Spider-Man’s costume, but I wish there was more of an effort to keep things from going outrageously off-model.