Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 28: The Final Adventure

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 Final Adventure"  Spider-Man: The Final Adventure #1-4

Writer: Fabian Nicieza

Artist:  Darick Robertson

Review by Eric Lee

This mini-series is an amusing chapter in the Clone Saga. It was created to give Peter and Mary Jane closure on their personal story. However, like many occurrences in the Clone Saga, things did not go as planned. More on that in the end.

The last time we saw Peter and MJ, they walked off into the sunset to raise a family and retire from superheroics. Now they live in Portland, Oregon. Peter has a job as a scientist  and MJ is becoming more pregnant-looking. The catch is, Peter now works for Garid, which is the company that created the radioactive generators that gave Peter his Spider-Man powers.  

That was not an accident. Peter sought out to work for them just in case something goes wrong with the pregnancy, he can use Garid as a resource.
Interestingly, Peter wears his old wide-framed glasses at work, a visual throwback to his pre-Spider-Man years. He doesn't even need the glasses, since he clearly does not wear them anywhere else.

Perhaps it's supposed to be a Clark Kent-like disguise? Or maybe Peter just wants to appear smarter at work.
There also is a super shifty scientist that Peter works with, Dr. Monica Staphos.  Dr. Staphos is working on a cure for a rare degenerative skin disease called necrotizing fascitis that slowly disintegrates peoples' skin before killing them. She also has a patient locked up in a cell to run experiments on. What kind of reputable science company has a private cell block? You tell me.

The locked-up patient Verys is a serial killer who's personality is pretty much like Carnage's. 

After Peter's Spider-sense goes off with Dr. Staphos, he decides to investigate her work. He reads up on her efforts to cure  necrotizing fascitis and then uses his radioactive spider blood to help concoct a cure. He leaves it at his work station to go home, but the morally-bankrupt Dr. Staphos breaks into his computer and steals the formula.

She injects Peter's blood into Verys, which transforms him into a disgusting white ragged monster called Tendril. He can control every molecule in his body, spit out web and acid, and dissipate into webbing-like strands. I will say this, despite his stereotypical serial killer personality, Tendril is a pretty unique villain.
In fact, writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Darick Robertson really take their time revealing this character. They build him up, they purposefully obscure most of his body and face, and they don't even show his full form  until the second issue. When Tendril finally battles police, it plays out like a scene from "Aliens" where the tension slowly builds up until he lunges at them. It is a masterful way of  unveiling a character.
Given his unusual powers and disgusting look, Tendril feels more like a horror movie monster than a typical Spider-Man villain. His motives are creepy and the way he kills or captures people is straight-up unsettling.

Of course, once Peter hears about Tendril escaping and murdering a bunch of people. He feels responsible and suits up as Spider-Man again much to Mary Jane's chagrin.

Unfortunately for MJ, she is more or less regulated to the naggy wife role who gets angry when Peter has to be Spider-Man. But it feels a little bit more earned in this series. I think it's because it's easier to empathize with her fear of her husband possibly dying before seeing his own child. Also, she brings up legitimately good points about how there are trained military guys on the case, to which Peter can't even answer back.
Nicieza also takes his time building up the tension between MJ and Peter. She slowly becomes more resentful towards him in the series the more he goes out as Spider-Man.  The MJ subplot reaches a pinnacle where she leaves a note implying that she left Peter forever. It's resolved in the end, but honestly the resolution is pretty dumb.

Incidentally, Daily Bugle reporter Ken Ellis is given probably the biggest spotlight ever. This is really the first time he displays more of a personality other than "obsessed with Scarlet Spider". We also see he is actually a pretty cunning, if a morally-grey journalist . He figured out there is some connection between Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man, and the Parkers. He also matched up the timeline of when Spider-Man became a crime fighter and Uncle Ben was murdered.

Eventually, rumors that Spider-Man was spotted in Portland "coincidentally" at the same time as the Parkers proved to be too enticing for Ellis. He becomes relentless in pursing the Parkers for his story. Ellis even goes so far to lie and go against his editor's back in to get the story. 

In the end, Editor Joe Robertson shuts Ellis down for good with a little help from Ben Reilly as Spider-Man and Ben Urich. It's too bad that Ellis never displays this much personality again. This is such an interesting take on Ellis. It's a shame his character flounders around in the main Spider-Man books, only to eventually get forgotten.

Getting back to Spidey adventuring, he tracks Tendril down at a bridge and they battle it out. There is also this odd subplot where Peter's web-shooters broke and he is forced to use a construction steel rope belt to swing around in. I'm not sure what the purpose of this subplot is other than giving us a silly visual of Spider-Man wearing a construction harness over his costume.
Tendril eventually escapes. But Peter decides to try another approach: he is going to find the only other survivor of necrotizing fascitis and try to experiment on him to cure Tendril.

The sole survivor Contoni was given a beta-version of the cure for his disease years ago. He was cured, but he ended up looking like a leafy version of the Thing.
Spidey convinces Contoni to return back to Garid. They also capture Tendril and begin to implement a cure on both of them using those radioactive globes that turned Peter into Spider-Man years earlier.
However, Tendril awoke while the radioactive silos were dousing him and Contoni with the cure. Only Peter was strong enough to brace the radiation globes long enough for the process to be complete. Contoni returned completely human again, but Tendril fought the process the whole time, thus he ended up perishing. Additionally, the radiation caused Peter to lose his spider-powers.
With Peter losing his powers, he and MJ could now have a normal life raising a child together. Oh, and that note that made it look like that MJ was leaving Peter? It turns out he only read half of it, because it explains that she only went to New York to do a modelling gig. That's the only really dumb thing about this comic.

What's a shame is how the story does a pretty cool job of being Peter's swan song. His powers were taken away by the very thing that gave them to him in the first place. What's even better is that Nicieza emphasizes that, even with his powers gone, Peter's responsibility is still intact. There's a montage of Peter helping people wherever possible, even if it just means getting a girl's cat out of a tree.  This is feels so appropriate for him.

Unfortunately, everything is sorta ruined in retrospect, and with knowledge of the behind the scenes shenanigans.

According to then-assistant editor Glenn Greenberg, the main Spider-Man writers were pissed that an "outside writer" like Nicieza was able to do these momentous things like "make Peter lose his powers" in a side-book. 

Worse yet, Nicieza originally planned to end the series with MJ giving birth. But those plans were nixed and he was jerked around for a bit before him and editorial settled on a compromise of an ending. It's amazing that Nicieza was able to write a solid, coherent story with so much editorial strong-arming.

And of course, Peter's power loss was only temporary. We all expected it would happen eventually, but apparently, it was reversed within six months. By the time the last issue of Final Adventure hit the stands, plans were already being made for Peter and MJ to return to New York and for him to become Spider-Man again. 

I'm not sure why the plans to reset the status quo happened so quickly after Ben officially became Spider-Man. Maybe there was such an uproar when Ben replaced Peter that Marvel quickly reversed course. It's too bad that happened, because Ben barely got a chance to settle into the role.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • First time it was established that Peter and Mary Jane moved to Portland, Oregon
  •  First appearance of Tendril
  • First appearance of Garid, the company that created the radioactive generators that gave Peter his Spider-Man powers
  • Peter cures Tendril, but loses his powers in the process
  • Ken Ellis seek out more Spider-Man information from the Parkers, but his story is killed by Robbie Robertson

Shadow Mystery Men:

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

Subplots Count:

  •  Mary Jane's baby is fine- UPDATE Peter and Mary Jane moved to Portland, while awaiting for the baby's birth
  • Daily Bugle reporter Ken Ellis' obsession with Scarlet Spider- UPDATE Ken Ellis found a connection with Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man, and Peter Parker. But was stopped by Joe Robertson
  • 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 buys a cable network to use the DIT-chip for entertainment purposes
  • Who is Jessica? 
  • Ben signs a lease to a new apartment
  • Peter loses his spider-powers

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  •  No repetition this story arc! Good work!
    Verdict
This mini-series was great. I think it helped that it was not a part of the main Spider-Man titles, giving it an air of specialness to it. It also gave extra pages per issue for Nicieza to draw scenes out more and give them room to breath.

The villain Tendril was suitably creepy, although I'm not sure if I'd ever clamor for his return. Robertson's art is so good in this comic. It looks naturalistic and moody. It's a little surprising that he's never drawn regularly for Spider-Man.

The ending was pretty good too, despite all the insider drama behind it. Despite a silly Mary Jane leaving fake-out, the whole story was solid Spider-Man.
For the previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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