Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 25: The Game of Life

The Spider-Man Clone saga is one of the most reviled story lines ever. It featured the return of Spider-Man's clone Ben Reilly, but also dragged Spider-Man through one of the strangest, series of conspiracies and narratives that the franchise have ever seen.
But... is it really as bad as the internet would have you believe? Come with us as we review the Clone Saga story arc by story arc as we uncover how one of comics' most infamous series holds up today.

"The Game of Life"   Spider-Man #64

Writer:  Howard Mackie

Artist:  John Romita Jr.

Review by Eric Lee

After having an awkward introduction in the middle of the "Cyber War", we finally get back to the Great Game plot.  

It's not a great re-introduction back. It continues to follow the character El Toro Negro- a character I don't think anybody is clamoring to see more of. It also neglects to give us more information about the actual Great Game, how it works or what's the overall purpose. 

Instead we focus on one aspect of it, how the Great Game recruits new players. It also  features a really obscure comic character Poison. Apparently she first appeared in Web of Spider-Man  Annual #4. I've never read the comic, but since it is written by Steve Gerber, it's guaranteed to be super-weird.


Amusingly, writer Howard Mackie did not seem to read the annual either because there are a ton of continuity errors related to Poison. 

But lets get into the actual issue. There was a fire in the apartment building where Poison  and her son live.  Spider-Man saves her son Carlos and sends him away in an ambulance. Poison comes a little late and collapses into Spider-Man's arms. She begs Spider-Man to make sure her son is safe. 

Unfortunately, El Toro Negro attacks the ambulance Carlos was in and kidnaps him. Apparently, Poison was approached by the Great Game representatives to join them. El Toro is bummed that he was eliminated from the Great Game and kidnapped Poison's son to blackmail her into letting El Toro take her spot.
As far as conflicts go, it's a pretty uncompelling one. Poison never wanted to be in the Game, so it was a really easy decision for her to agree with El Toro's demands. 
Apparently, Mackie realized this too and added an extra plot so there can be the obligatory fight scene. After Poison complied with El Toro's demands, he then changes his mind and tells her to also kill Spider-Man.
She tricks El Toro into thinking she vaporized Spidey but instead teleports him next to El Toro. Spidey knocks El Toro out and saves the day.

Poor Poison is rarely seen in comics after that. She's pretty much in limbo for 15 years until Mark Millar had her killed and revived to be evil in the Hand and then killed again in his Wolverine story line. 

Other minor subplots: Mysterio buys a cable network as part of his plot to "rule the airwaves". Also, Ben rents an apartment for himself, which is nice because technically he's been homeless for the past two years. 
By the Numbers

Lets tally up to see what the Clone Saga has done so far:

Notable Developments:

  •  First time Ben meets Poison
  • The Great Game tries to recruit Poison, but El Toro Negro interferes
  • El Toro gets captured again (the second time in less than two months)
  • Mysterio buys a cable network, begins plans to use the DIT-Chip to  give viewers higher level entertainment

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  •  Jessica

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane's baby is fine
  • Daily Bugle reporter Ken Ellis' obsession with Scarlet Spider
  • Thorpe wanting to kill Spider-Man for unknown reasons
  • Peter is the clone and Ben is the "real Peter"
  • Judas Traveller is helping Peter for unknown reasons
  • Other super-villains are teamed-up to kill Kaine
  • What happened to Janine?
  •  Peter retires and passes the Spider-Man identity to Ben
  • The Scrier has his own agenda and needs the Jackal's intel 
  • The Great Game 
  • Seward Trainer is trapped in cyber space 
  • Mysterio's plans for the DIT-Chip- Mysterio buys a cable network to use the DIT-chip for entertainment purposes
  • Who is Jessica? 
  • Ben needs an apartment- Ben signs a lease to a new apartment

Clones Running Around:

  • Ben Reilly
  • The first Gwen clone
  •  The four mini-Jacks
  • Kaine

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  •  No repetition in this issue! Good work!
    Verdict
 The first month of Ben being Spider-Man features all one-shot stories. This is probably the weakest one of the initial round. Mackie's pacing and plotting is a little all over the place. The continuity gaffs are really funny and the main conflict of Poison versus El Toro is really weak.

Overall, it's a weak issue, but not outright terrible. The John Romita Jr. art was amazing!
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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