Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #8

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Spectacular Beginnings

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Gwen Stacy's clone has returned to make Spider-Man's life complicated once more.

In Detail...

"Return To Sender"
Spectacular Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #8
Year 1988 : SM Title
Summary: Evolutionary War, Gwen Stacy, The Young Gods
Editor:  Jim Salicrup, Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Gerry Conway, Mark Gruenwald
Pencils:  Mark Bagley, Ron Lim
Inker:  Keith Williams, Mike Esposito, Tony DeZuniga
Cover Art:  Sal Buscema
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Articles: Gwen Stacy (Clone), Mary Jane Watson-Parker

Spider-Man is enjoying a peacful night out when he's attacked by a stray energy blast. When he swings by to see what all the commotion is, he sees some robotic goons are pursuing a woman. The woman turns out to be Gwen Stacy's clone. Gwen's clone (let's just call her Gwen 2) freaks out and runs away at the sight of our web-slinging protagonist. Spidey makes his way home to warn Mary Jane that his ex has returned.

The Parker's penthouse apartment, Peter is looking for his old photo album with pics of you-know-who. Five minutes later, MJ comes home and and wants to take her Peter out to celebrate for the goods she scored. Peter rains on her parade by telling her that Gwen (2) is back.

We're then take to a scene where the Young Gods are being observed by the High Evolutionary. After deeming them useless, the High Evolution teleports away.

Back at Peter and MJ's place, MJ is feeling really depressed about Gwen 2's return. She beats herself up until Peter steps in and says she's the only woman that he loves. They kiss but are interrupted by the door bell. Peter opens the door and finds Gwen 2 waiting (big shocker, that one was). She clings to Peter but panics when she sees the spider on his chest. Oopsy. Looks like Peter didn't take off his costume. Gwen 2 takes off and Peter gets ready to go after her. MJ says it doesn't matter if she's real, not real or a clone, he loves her. She tells Peter to help her and come back with a clear heart or don't come back at all.

Gwen 2 gets grabbed by one of the robots that was chasing her earlier. Just as they teleport away, Spidey hitches a ride and finds himself in Star Wars-like surroundings. Spidey fights his way through hordes of robots to find Gwen but he's getting overwhelmed. When things are looking grim, the calvary arrives in the form of the Young Gods. More fighting ensues. Then another group of Young Gods shows up. Both groups end up fighting amongst each other because they just can't seem to see eye-to-eye.

Gwen 2 is being kept in a some type of machine that's reading off data and numbers on her. Spidey frees her but she looks on at him in fear. He tells her not to be afraid. They hug. He thinks of how he's missed her and how warm she feels. Then he tells her that the Gwen he knew is gone and that he's in love with someone else.

The High Evolutionary drops a bomb on Spidey and Gwen 2. Gwen 2 is not and never has been Gwen's Clone. Miles Warren was so obsessed with Gwen being gone that he kidnapped a woman and implanted a genetics virus in her that turned her into a near duplicate of Gwen. Gwen 2 doesn't take this news to well and breaks down in tears, once again clinging to Peter when they get transported home. Daydreamer (one of the Young Gods) removes Gwen 2's illusions, restoring her look to the woman she originally was. As Spidey watchs her walk on, it hits him that he doesn't even know her name.

MJ looks out the window, seemingly lost in thought. The door opens and Peter tells her that Gwen has been gone a long time. MJ knows this but she says that it seems Gwen is always between them. He asks if he still loves Gwen. Peter says yes, but he loves MJ more than he ever loved her. Gwen is the past, MJ is his future. They kiss as the story concludes.

In General...

Sigh. I wanted to like this story more, I really did, but the nonsense with the Young Gods really ruined things. I didn't know who the Young Gods were before I read this story and I didn't care during, or after I finished reading it. The whole deal with the Young Gods seemed really out of place here as they felt like filler. I thought this story was supposed to about Peter dealing with the return of Gwen 2. Then why do the Young Gods get more panel time?

The parts with Peter/MJ, Peter/Gwen 2 were good but unfortunately, these parts are dragged down by too much Young Gods stuff.

And Miles Warren is even more of a sick, twisted human being than I originally thought. Kidnapping a woman and trying to pass her off as a Gwen clone, altering her memories, thereby destroying her life? There aren't enough words in the English language to describe how low that is.

As for Peter loving MJ over Gwen, well that's a whole different can of debate I don't want to open up. I'll just say Gwen is dead and Peter (and comic book writers) need to move the heck on and in this story it seems like Peter has (well until those pesky writers drag her skeleton out of the closet again).

Overall Rating...

As much as I liked the Peter/MJ/Gwen drama, the Young Gods mess mucks things ups.

Footnote...

This annual also contains a bonus story and a fact page on the Young Gods.