Fan Retrospectives: Spider-Man: The Clone Saga: Part 48: Onslaught

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.

"Siege", "The World's Gone Mad", "The Road Back"  Amazing Spider-Man #415-417, Spider-Man #72

Writer: Tom DeFalco

Artist: Mark Bagley, Ron Garney, John Romita Jr.

Review by Eric Lee

 The Clone Saga is already considered to be a prolonged crossover arc between Spider-Man titles. But you know what's even crazier than having a 2+ year long event arc? Having it crossover into another totally separate event arc from the X-Men comics! Welcome to "Onslaught".

To back up, Onslaught is the new threat from the  X-Men comics . He was created by a combination of Professor X's psychic abilities and Magneto's dark side to create a totally new being with immense psychic powers.

Anyways, at this point of the story, Onslaught busts out and takes over Manhattan using an army of Sentinel robots. Which is where we see Peter and Mary Jane. They're stuck in traffic with a Sentinel threatening to kill him.

But before we get started, what the heck is up withe their cab driver's hair? He only grows hair on half of his scalp or is it a cheap toupee about to fall off?
 Anyways, Peter and Mary Jane escape the Sentinel, but realize that they've taken over all of Manhattan. 

At the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson have their own problems as a Sentinel attacks the Bugle building. It's a little confusing why the Sentinel would bother attacking the Bugle, since they're supposed to only be targeting super-powered persons.

 My No-Prize answer is that they are scanning for Phil Urich, who has superpowers as the Green Goblin. In fact, Urich as the Goblin wards of the Sentinel's attack.

Probably the most poignant scene in the issue is seeing the Daily Grind staff hustle into their basement bunker as Ben Reilly turns into Spider-Man. Shirley then reminds people about how similar it was to when she used to practice nuclear bomb drills back during the Cold War in the 60's.

 Back to Peter and Mary Jane, the Sentinel  continues to chase them. There is an added surprise too. The Sentinel scans Mary Jane and finds that she is carrying a superhuman being in her stomach. Surprise!
Fortunately, they escape to meet up with Jonah and Robbie at the Daily Bugle. Peter volunteers to go out again to take pictures of the attack. What's funny is how John Romita Jr. draws the Sentinels' scale. I know they're supposed to be huge robots, but they look like they barely fit in the streets between the buildings.
 They're like pegs that are stuck on a board. How do they even move without hitting a building?

So Peter runs into Ben as Spider-Man as he is fighting other Sentinels. Peter continues to try to help Spider-Man, despite having his own spider-powers go in and out. Spider-Man then continues to chastise Peter for putting himself in danger like that.

I gotta admit, I am a huge sucker for these "back up against the wall" scenes with Spider-Man. So as an army of Sentinels break through Spider-Man's hiding place, he  knows that this is hopeless, but refuses to back down.

 What a great monologue by Ben. He's snarky, resigned, but most importantly, unwilling to accept defeat. Fortunately, he's saved by Peter again, who uses his webbing to break the Sentinel's neck and destroy two more in the process.
 They then go together into the city to back up the Avengers and X-Men in their final showdown with Onslaught. 

 25 years old spoilers warning, but in Onslaught: Marvel Universe  #1 the Avengers and Fantastic Four seemingly die. We won't be covering that story here, you're just going to have to trust me.

So jump ahead to after the big battle. Spider-Man is thwarting an arms sale. Interestingly, the police are super grateful for Spider-Man, instead of the usual act of shooting at him. Since the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are gone, the cops are happy to see any surviving heroes around.

So it turns out that the thwarted gun delivery is for the Rose and his cohort Delilah and her fancy fonts. While the Rose is excited to create a criminal empire when the Avengers are gone, he is stalked by the mysterious Scrier.
Remember that guy? I don't think we saw him since Maximum Clonage where he had plans to do.... something. Well he seems to have gone and grown 3 extra feet, because he towers over the Rose.

But the Scrier is actually working with Gaunt for some mysteriously vague reason. And another surprise, Gaunt and Scrier are being watched  by Chakra and Judas Traveller!

 Nooooo!!! I hate that guy! But fortunately, he appears once next issue and then we never see him again. Ever...

In another subplot, due to decreased circulation and the Sentinel damaging the building, the Daily Bugle had to make cuts to their budget. So many reporters and staff were laid off, including the Peter Parker, who finally loses his cushy staff photographer job.

Peter is understandably miffed by that since he'd get no health insurance when the baby arrives. Fortunately, Robbie ensures that Peter's severance package includes adequate care for the baby.

Finally, Spider-Man breaks up a fight between two kids who are mourning the loss of the Avengers. Even though Spider-Man is mourning himself, he tells the kids to live up the the standards that the heroes stood for and take it one day at the time.

It's a cliche cheesy speech, but I liked it.

By the Numbers

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

Notable Developments:

  • Sentinels battle with Peter Parker and Spider-Man
  • Sentinels confirm that Peter and Mary Jane's baby is super-powered
  • Scrier and Gaunt are working together with the Rose
  • Judas Traveller and the Host are spying on Scrier
  • The Daily Bugle made staff cuts and laid Peter off

Shadow Mystery Men:

  • Judas Traveller
  • Mr. Thorpe
  • The Scrier 
  • Gaunt
  • Mystery Boss
  • Mystery Stalker
  • The Rose
  • Mystery person who bankrolled Scorpion

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
  • 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
  • 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- UPDATED Peter is laid off and now back to being a freelance photographer
  • Garon is a police detective hunting the gangs
  • Arthur Stacy is interested in Spider-Man
  • Don Fortunato tries to take over the New York crime scene
  • Jimmy-Six is crashing at Ben Reilly's apartment
  •  Hammerhead has an exoskeleton
  • A new Rose is starting a gang war with Hammerhead- UPDATED The Rose is now joining forces with Scrier and Gaunt
  • A shadowy person upgraded Scorpion and has other plans
  • Judas Traveller is stalking Gaunt and Scrier 

Clones Running Around:

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

Repetition is My Job, My Job is Repetition:

  •  Delilah's lavish fonts:  39


  Most ancillary crossover tie-ins tend to be very middling to bad. Some of it is not really the fault of the actual comic, but that's the way crossover tie-ins work. This crossover is very okay. There are some great character moments in there. It also progresses some subplots forward.  Though it probably has my favorite Ben as Spider-Man moment where he stand downs the Sentinels. That was awesome and quint-essential Spidey. 

However, for the most part, the story is perfunctory, merely informing readers how Spider-Man and his cast reacts to the Onslaught attacks. However, Spider-Man plays a minuscule role in the event at best, so this also makes these books skippable if you're just following the Onslaught storyline.For previous Fan Retrospectives on the Clone Saga, click here.

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  1. It's nice to see that someone cares enough about these stories to break this down so well. I love the Clone Saga and all the twists and turns it takes through tie-ins, crossovers, etc.

    I think it's worth noting that Onslaught's impact on the saga is subtle but more effective than it gets credit for. It eliminated the Phil Urich Green Goblin from the storyline altogether. It brought Spidey and Daredevil together against Hydra and all but dictated half their adventures, filling in for the heroes who were lost.

    It's worth remembering, too, that the Onslaught story made a couple Spidey cameos before it struck in full. In an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man, there's a random issue with a Bugle computer where it keeps typing "Onslaught" uncontrollably. Then, at the end of an issue of Sensational Spider-Man, the Sentinels come flying in.

    So many things play into the saga even if it's not obvious. Even the Ultraverse. I suggest looking into it.

  2. I like your all post. You have done really good work. Thank you for the information you provide, it helped me a lot. I hope to have many more entries or so from you.
    Very interesting blog.


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