Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 40: Puppets

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.

"Puppets" Spectacular Spider-Man #235, 236

Writer: Todd Dezago

Artist: Sal Buscema

Review by Eric Lee

We now dive into the one-off stories featured in Spectacular Spider-ManSpectacular seems to really focus on using more out-there ideas and villains than the other Spider-Man titles during this period.

The opening of this issue is really interesting. The tone of the first page really conveys a dark, gritty feeling not-unlike a Frank Miller comic. It opens up with a couple of gang bangers pressuring a kid to kill two other kids. Of course, Spider-Man intervenes and gives them a lecture about the cycle of violence. 

Honestly, the captions and the slightly cynical tone of Spidey’s lecture actually makes the whole scene surprisingly dour. It is realistic, because there’s a realization that escaping from a gang is not as easy after one stern lecture from Spider-Man. I kinda of liked how Spidey even realizes that he can’t change their minds, but just hopes for them to think about it.

Contrast that with the ridiculous- if not condescending gang scenes in “Media Blizzard”. It feels more real here. I mean except for that African American gang member who looks like a 1970’s 

Honestly, the captions and the slightly cynical tone of Spidey’s lecture actually makes the whole scene surprisingly dour. It is realistic, because there’s a realization that escaping from a gang is not as easy after one stern lecture from Spider-Man. I kinda of liked how Spidey even realizes that he can’t change their minds, but just hopes for them to think about it.

Contrast that with the ridiculous- if not condescending gang scenes in “Media Blizzard”. It feels more real here. I mean except for that African American gang member who looks like a 1970’s pimp, complete with a top hat.


This guy resembles the Falcon’s former alias Sam “Snap” Wilson. Thank goodness, that’s been retconned.


Anyways, Spider-Man runs into Will o’ the Wisp. Wisp is a super obscure Spider-Man anti-hero who is intangible from the late 70’s. His updated outfit is a huge improvement over the one back in the 80’s when he work a basic green leotard with a starburst logo.

Wisp is being controlled by another old 70’s Spider-Man foe Doctor Jonas Harrow to steal tech items for him on behalf of the evil Roxxon Corporation. Wisp is desperate for Spidey’s help to regain control.


When I say Spectacular  focused on more out-there characters, this is what I meant.  I like how writer Tom DeZago dug through the Marvel catalog and brought back some really obscure characters.

There's something really enduring about how Dezago characterizes Wisp here. According to Peter Parker, Wisp is not a bad guy, but is easily manipulated by others. I like the idea of Wisp being this guy who wants to do good, but is a little too naive and/or wants to do things the quick, easy way which gets him into trouble.

The characterization is acutely demonstrated when Spider-Man hatches a difficult plan of Wisp becoming intangible enough for Spidey to snatch the mind control device out of his skull. But Wisp blows him off and yells at him for making everything too complicated. You get the feeling that Wisp kinda is his own worst enemy because of his poor choices.

So Wisp is still under Harrow’s control and unlocks a super secret weapon that will change robotics warfare forever. What is it? Some guns? So boring. Perhaps it’s a Terminator? Wrong universe.

Nope, it’s the mother-effin’ Dragon Man!

After Spidey successfully helps Wisp regain control, he is immediately attacked by the Dragon Man. I particularly enjoyed how Spider-Man is not really focused on beating  the Dragon Man, but more trying to save the brave, but stupid soldiers from getting killed.
Fortunately, Spider-Man placates the Dragon Man enough for Wisp to remove the control device from the Dragon Man’s head.

But that’s not the end of the adventure. Spider-Man and Wisp take Dragon Man back to the Roxxon facility where Harrow is and then unleashes him on those corporate stooges.

While the Dragon Man wrecks havoc in Roxxon, there is a mysterious figure who slyly enters the facility. Presumably, he wants some weaponry from them.

Meanwhile, Wisp takes personal revenge against Harrow by dematerializing his hand into Harrow’s chest. It looks like Wisp was about to kill Harrow, but it turns out he’s just scaring him. Even Spider-Man was concerned that Wisp was going to murder Harrow.
This moment actually lands for me, because so far we’ve seen Wisp make some poor choices because it’s “easy” or “fast”. So the idea of Wisp killing Harrow wouldn’t have been outlandish.

Meanwhile, we catch up on Peter and Mary Jane after Peter collapsed in a seizure in Spider-Man #70. Peter is taken to the hospital and MJ is desperately trying to notify Ben, but can’t reach him. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong with Peter other than his condition is getting worse. They have him hooked up to every machine, including what looks like a virtual reality helmet.

That’s not an important plot point. I just thought it’s funny that the doctors thought maybe being in VR will help Peter.

Also, one really small tiny detail I really liked is Mary Jane’s socks. Too often she looks like an unrealistic sex-bomb where she’s glamorous and wearing high heels in inappropriate situations. But given that MJ is pregnant and they probably rushed to the hospital, the socks are a nice realistic reminder that she’s going through a lot of stress.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  •  Will 'o the Wisp is being mind controlled to steal the Dragon Man for Jonas Harrow
  • Spider-Man saves Wisp and stops Dragon Man and Harrow's plans
  • Peter is in the hospital, but his doctors don't know what's wrong with him.

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • Gaunt
  • Mystery Boss
  • Mystery Stalker
  • Mystery Roxxon Man

Subplots Count:

  • Peter and Mary Jane are still pregnant, but moved back to New York
  • 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 
  • Trainer works for Gaunt and a mystery man
  • Peter may be starting to regain his spider-powers
  • Peter convulses on the ground and MJ needs to call the hospital- UPDATE Peter is in the hospital and his condition worsens
  • Spider-Skeleton is a clone
  • A mystery man is targeting Peter and Ben
  • Potentially another mystery person is stalking Peter and Mary Jane
  • Peter is now a staff photographer at the Daily Bugle
  • Shirley's ex Garon reappears
  • Arthur Stacy is interested in Spider-Man
  • Don Fortunato tries to take over the New York crime scene
  • Jimmy-6 is running from the mob for unknown reasons
  • Hammerhead is injured and promises retribution
  • A shadowy man is stealing from Roxxon

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Mystery men: 12
  • Number of tech crimes committed: 8

    Verdict

This issue just felt plain fun. It's not groundbreaking or anything, but it is the perfect kind of entertainment. We see random characters that Spider-Man does not interact with a lot. We also see more of the "Peter's sick" plot line advance.

This issue is not important in the grand scheme, but it does offer some really solid entertainment. I am also particular with Will o' the Wisp's personality here. He's like a guy I want to cheer for, but because of his poor choices, I can't. There is some real good pathos with him. Too bad he barely appears in comics. 

For previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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