Well, here it is folks - the starting point of the most controversial storyline in the Web-Spinner's history - Chapter One of The Clone Saga!
You don't need to be familiar with the original Clone story that began in Amazing Spider-Man #149, since it's retold in the back-up story anyway. The only two bits of background you really need to know are:
One: Spider-Man is not a happy puppy right now.
His parents turned up a little while ago, claiming they weren't dead after all. Just as Peter began to trust them, they turned out to be robots sent by the Chameleon. Once he'd caught up with the Chameleon, it turned out that he'd been put up to it by Peter's old buddy Harry Osborn (aka the Green Goblin - the second one anyway) before he died. Then to top it all off, Aunt May had a heart attack and is currently in hospital in critical condition as this story begins. This chain of events has led Spider-Man to turn his back on his life as Peter Parker because it hurts him too much. He is now simply... the Spider.
Two: While all this has been going on, there's been a mystery man lurking around the Spider-books for the last few months. Here's his complete list of appearances so far:
Web Of Spider-Man #114 - The first we see of him is while he is speaking on the phone with Aunt May. She makes a reference to the fact that they've chatted before. (Rather annoyingly, it is never explained how they made contact in the first place - one of the many plot threads left dangling from this storyline.)
Spider-Man #48 - He phones May's home again, but unbeknownst to him Aunt May is currently recovering in hospital from a heart attack she had in ASM #391. It's Mary Jane who picks up the phone and the stranger obviously recognizes her voice.
Web of Spider-Man #115 - Our mystery dude phones the Parker residence again and MJ tells him to call Forest Hills Hospital if he wants May. He storms out of the cabin (in Vermont, belonging to Dr. Seward Trainer where he is crashing out at the moment) and heads towards his motor-cycle.
Spider-Man #49 - He's collected his pay from work and is heading back to New York. We get a good look at his ring - it's from graduating Midtown High (where Peter used to attend in his youth).
Spectacular Spider-Man #215 - While en route to New York, we catch a glimpse of our mystery man saving a kid from being flattened by an oncoming truck.
Web of Spider-Man #116 - He shows up at Forest Hills Hospital but makes a sharp exit when Peter appears.
Amazing Spider-Man #393 - We see him at the start of the issue, laying a rose on Gwen Stacy's grave. Later, he visits Midtown High. In a conversation he has with a passing cop it is revealed that our mysterious stranger used to attend this school also.
Spider-Man #50 - Now he's snooping around May's house in the middle of the night, but makes a break for it as soon as Spidey appears.
Spectacular Spider-Man #216 - Our mystery man is sitting with Aunt May at the hospital. He sees Spidey swinging past the window, so he makes a hasty exit. He goes up to the roof, where the two of them come face to face. And what do you know - the mystery man looks just like Peter!
|Editor:||Danny Fingeroth, Eric Fein|
|Writer:||J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh|
|Pencils:||Liam Sharp, Steven Butler|
|Inker:||Randy Emberlin, Robin Riggs|
|Cover Art:||Steven Butler|
Pages 1-6: The roof of Forest Hills Hospital. Spidey is momentarily stunned by the sudden appearance of another Peter Parker. But he has had so many bad experiences of malevolent doubles (what with his parents et al), that his shock turns into blind rage. He chases his double across the rooftops and is unusually aggressive in the process. The fight leads into a warehouse, and when the double calls Spider-Man "Peter", Spidey lashes out at him and says, "I hate Peter Parker!"
Pages 7-8: Ravencroft Hospital. Dr Kafka and Col. Jameson greet their visitors - Dr Judas Traveller and his Host (Chakra, Boone, Mr. Nacht and Medea). Since Kafka's recovering from an attack by Shriek (in Amazing Spider-Man #390), Jameson has insisted on some help in the institute while Ashley recovers. Given that Traveller's theories and the man himself are universally respected, he and his Host have been invited to oversee matters at Ravencroft. As Jameson takes them on a guided tour, he explains that each of the cells are specifically designed to neutralize the abilities of the individual held within. Nacht comments that sometimes "people are their own worst enemies". We then cut back to...
Pages 9-10: The two Peters as they continue to duke it out. The double reveals himself to be the Clone that the Jackal created (seen originally back in Amazing Spider-Man #149 and following). While the original Spidey is taken by surprise to this news, the Clone takes advantage of his shock and hits him into a wall, knocking him unconscious.
Pages 11-17: Obsessed with the nature of evil, Traveller walks round Ravencroft to see its inmates up close and personal. He describes Ravencroft as "The perfect location for our... ultimate experiment". He visits the Chameleon, Shriek and Carnage (the Carnage symbiote is terrified of him), and discovers the common factor in these three is an obsession with Spider-Man. Chakra is sent in astral form to lure Spidey to the institute while Dr Kafka is teleported out.
Pages 18-19: Once Spidey regains consciousness back at the warehouse, Chakra appears to him with the challenge from Traveller: "He has taken control of Ravencroft and he will kill its inmates... unless you stop him." She also tells him that should he defeat Traveller, the inmates will go free to menace the world. Spidey then swings off into the night, while the Clone (who's been hiding out at a safe distance) contemplates whether to go and help him in the Spidey outfit he's kept as a souvenir, or get back to Aunt May.
Pages 20-22: Speaking of Aunt May, we see her still out for the count in the hospital. Mary Jane's aunt Anna comes to join MJ wondering where Peter is. We then see the man in question arrive at Ravencroft. The NYPD have the place surrounded and Kafka and Jameson (who's also been teleported out) brief Spidey as to what's going on. The main door opens and Traveller greets him. One cop opens fire but the bullets are nothing to Traveller. Spider-Man enters with him, fully aware that he is walking into a no win situation.
Lots of new characters, and lots going on. There's nothing here so far to hint that the Clone Saga would run off the rails so much further down the track.
For now, plenty of interest, and 3.5 webs.