Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 39: Above It All

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.

"Above It All" Spider-Man #70

Writer: Howard Mackie

Artist: John Romita Jr.

Review by Eric Lee

Since the prolonged "Blood Brothers" arc ended, Spider-Man went on smaller adventures that only lasted one or two issues. Each title seemed to have a different story line going on. For Howard Mackie's Spider-Man, he went with a more street-level crime approach. 

Right in the first page, we meet the newest crime lord to try to take the place of the Kingpin: Don Fortunato. He appears to be an elderly man with a missing eye, but he is surrounded by high-tech goons and weaponry. He's gunning for the top spot in the New York crime scene.

Incidentally, I don't typically talk about lettering fonts, but this issue's opening title font is the ugliest I've ever seen. I genuinely didn't know what the title was for the longest time until I looked it up online. Is it "Afsove it all"? "Alsove it all"?
It seems like the lettering department went too crazy with the faux Italian fonts. 

Meanwhile, Ben Urich and Peter Parker are about to check out a mobster meet-up inside an abandoned theater. However, Peter is hesitant to jump across two building ledges, since he no longer has his Spider-powers. I kinda like this idea, but ultimately it's pretty pointless to delve too deep into Peter's life without powers since he regains it within the next five months.

Peter and Ben spy on the mob meeting the Fortunato family and Hammerhead's gang. By the way, Hammerhead is rocking a pencil thin mustache. I wonder what possessed artist John Romita Jr. to give Hammerhead a mustache?
 Anyways, Hammerhead ends up getting double-crossed by Fortunato's men and they shoot him up good. Peter saves Hammerhead from getting  killed by "accidentally" setting off the flash on his camera and distracting Fortunato's men. If you think that's gonna keep Hammerhead down, then you got another thing coming. This dude has been "killed", revamped and upgraded so many times.

Elsewhere, Ben Reilly literally runs into Jimmy-6, some mobster also being chased by Fortunato's men. Naturally, when mobsters are shooting laser guns in the middle of the city, Spider-Man has to intervene.

I've mentioned it before but, Romita Jr. is the master of drawing cool hero poses in the rain. Spider-Man looks so awesome while dodging lasers in  the rain.

Spider-Man asks Jimmy-6 what's going on, but an injured Jimmy tells Spider-Man to get lost. But Ben does not give up. He helps Jimmy in his civilian identity get medical intervention.

Back with Peter, he's so stoked that he and Ben managed to escape from the mobsters, he's positively ecstatic. Unfortunately, he immediately falls to the ground, convulsing while still lying to Mary Jane that he's fine.

Dammit, Peter! You're in the middle of a seizure and you still lie to you wife?!

Also, we have a brief interlude where we see a mysterious looking Arthur Stacy, the brother of George and uncle to Gwen Stacy! Arthur Stacy actually made a brief appearance wayyyyy back in Amazing Spider-Man #93, when Gwen took a trip to London.

However, now we discover that he is a private investigator, as well as having children of his own. Arthur and his kids become pretty major supporting characters in Spider-Man post-Clone Saga.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • First appearance of Don Fortunato
  • First appearance of Jimmy-6
  • First mention of Jill and Paul Stacy
  • Re-appearance of Arthur Stacy
  • First apperance of Hammerhead...'s mustache
  • A gang turf war breaks out with Fortunato trying to take over
  • Peter convulses on the ground with a mysterious illness

Shadow Mystery Men:

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

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 is coming down with a mysterious illness-  UPDATE Peter convulses on the ground and MJ needs to call the hospital
  • 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

Clones Running Around:

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

    Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  • Number of times Peter lies saying that he is fine when he's really not: 6
  • Number of times Peter lies specifically to Mary Jane about stuff: 6
  • Number of times Peter experiences migraine attacks: 2


The story here is surprisingly dense here. Normally a Howard Mackie story feels extremely rushed- especially near the end. But this issue is a complete story that also introduces a lot of interesting plot lines.

I also feel like you can see Mackie and Romita Jr. are really coming together as a team. Just looking at the zoom-out shot of Don Fortunato in the opening pages, shows a more cinematic feel. I felt in during their "Web of Carnage" issue and I feel that film noir influence here.

I really like seeing Peter as a supporting character, while Ben is his own person with an expanding cast of supporting characters of his own. It makes this issue feel like a modern classic Spider-Man story.

I make fun of Mackie a lot, but give credit, where credit is due. This issue is great. 
For previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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