October 26, 2008
Which one is the clone?! By the time this story ends... you won't care!
(We see Linkara sitting on his futon)
Linkara: Happy Halloween, everyone. I decided that for this recap that I'd the only way to do it justice was by video. Plus, I wanted to experiment with a different format than just the text recaps. As such, let's dig into adjectiveless Spider-Man #56. Part 3 of Smoke and Mirrors. (smiles)
Linkara (VO): The cover is... well, just kinda meh. Nothing pops out at us, but at least it doesn't seem as busy as the last one. What IS weird about is the Jackal. The angle of the shot may be responsible for this, but he looks very bulky as opposed to the lean, athletic who came back last issue. Plus, he's all grey (?) now instead of the lighter green we usually see. The cover promises the triumph of the Jackal and the return of Gwen Stacy. How much you wanna bet neither occurs?
Linkara (VO): (he briefly switches to a almost Ashens-like shot of him turning the page) (as Narrator) Like a modern Venus, she emerges from the swirling mists of a high-tech capsule.
Linkara (VO): (switches back to scanned page) Wait, she has arms! I call foul!
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) The image of her standing there stirs the shared memories of Spider-Man and the man called the Scarlet Spider. But they are painful memories.
Linkara: Is it nice when a bad comic reminds us of a good comic we could be reading instead?
Linkara (VO): (as Narrator) For the woman standing before them is Gwen Stacy. And they both know that Gwen is dead. Or is she?
Linkara: I mean it's not like the Jackal has lied to us about other crap.
Linkara (VO): Honestly, I don't see how anyone couldn't bought into this, be they Spider-Man or fans. Right as she comes out she says...
Linkara (VO): (as Gwen) Spider-Man? Peter? What's happened to me?
Linkara: Gwen never found out that Peter was Spider-Man. Never! The clone of Gwen Stacy found that later, but not the original! That's a warning sign right there! Next, if Gwen Stacy never died, then what the hell was Warren's motivation for becoming the Jackal in the first place! Furthermore, the sheer gall necessary to undo the death of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin is so astronomically...
(Shows a page from Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #75, involving Spider-Man standing before Norman Osborn, to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. There's also a caption saying "This is how the Clone Saga ended.")
Linkara: (Dumbfounded expression, followed by throwing his hat down to the ground in anger) Let's just move on!
Linkara (VO): The Jackal has Jack go get some clothes for Gwen and the two Spider-Men are still flabbergasted.
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Boys, shall we all avert our eyes while our beloved Gwen dresses? Oh, boys! I say... BOYS!
Linkara (VO): (as Spider-Man) No.
Linkara: (as Spider-Man) We never got to sleep with Gwen when she was alive so we're going to look as long as we can, damn it!
Linkara (VO): Spidey launches himself at the Jackal having another Heroic Spaz Attack saying what we all figured. Gwen Stacy died and this is all a lie. Fake Gwen consoles him calling him Peter once again. (For crying out loud, I thought Spider-Man was supposed to be intelligent.) The Jackal tells him...
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) There's a good boy, Peter! Do talk with your dear sweet Gwen!
Linkara: (as Jackal) And I'll just watch you from here like a creepy voyeur.
Linkara (VO): Scarlet Spider grabs the constantly grinning Jackal (Did those genetic modifications include Joker gas?) and says they're going to talk. (switches to Ashens-like shot again turning the page) At this point, we have a couple pages of Aunt May at the hospital, but I'm skipping over them since, ya know, they're actually good. (back to scanned page) The Jackal tries to convince the Scarlet Spider that a life with Gwen or Mary Jane or "any woman of his choice" could've been his. During this, Jack keeps interrupting the Jackal so he can learn more about the clone degeneration, but the Jackal just smacks him away.
Linkara: If one annoying character is beating up another annoying character, should I be happy?
Linkara (VO): Not-Gwen keeps on acting like she's the real Gwen and Spidey's all "No, I'm over that and all (?)" and once again Spidey decides to flip out and start smashing computers.
Linkara (VO): (as Spidey) No! Not again! NOT AGAIN!
Linkara: (flails his arms around) Not another Heroic Spaz Attack! It's not funny anymore!
Linkara (VO): The Jackal talks to Ben about how he only has himself to blame for the events in their lives.
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) I was a pathetic man searching... for power,,, for love.
Linkara: Well, you certainly were pathetic, I'll give you that.
Linkara (VO): He starts referring to Ben as his "son" and that it was all a game to him. With the mind control and the cloning and this serves to remind me that the Jackal's plans make no sense.
Linkara: Even if we accept the idea that the Jackal that died in the old Clone Saga was just another clone and the real Jackal has been manipulating these events for years, it still leaves one lingering question, (drops book) WHY? Seriously, he never offers an explanation for all of this. The Jackal is just some (starts twirling imaginary moustache) moustache-twirling villain and he'd be better off tying the clone of Gwen Stacy to some railroad track. That would have at least have plausible sense than this nonsense.
Linkara (VO): But wait, we're in for another shock! Jackal leans in close to Ben and says he'll finally tell him the truth.
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Yes, Ben... or should I call you Peter... you... you are the real one.
Linkara: (looks up from book with shocked expression as the classic suspense sound effect plays, then looks back down)
Linkara (VO): So then, we get a page of the Jackal trying to fill in all the plotholes of this crap, like how he made Spidey think that Ben was dead, implanting memories to make Ben think he was the clone (Again, what was the point of it?) and then says he's offering Peter's life back to him. We get more pointless shots of Kaine looking down at the entire thing, wanting to join in on the action, but something keeping him for doing so. We see that Scrier is standing even farther up than him, implying that he's somehow responsible for keeping Kaine from doing anything.
Linkara: And the point of this page is...?
Linkara (VO): Meanwhile, the less interesting but actual plot of the story. The Jackal goes (?) Ben on into trying to kill Spider-Man so he can take back his life. Jack tries to bring up the clone degeneration, but Jackal's had enough and not only backhands Jack, but then for some reason attacks Scarlet Spider as well. The man must have bipolar disorder or something considering his sudden heel changes (?).
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Jack! Where are you? Get over here! Assist me!
Linkara (VO): Hey, you're the one who keeps telling him to go away, asshole! Make up your mind already! In what possibly might be the most disturbing part of this comic, Jack suddenly leaps onto Scarlet's head and wraps his body around it!
Linkara: Dear God, comic! What new spore of madness have you released upon the world this time?
Linkara (VO): Following that disturbing sequence, we learn that the Jackal implanted Ben with mental implants that prevent him from attacking his creator. However, such implants are apparently not in Spidey since he decks the Jackal having gotten his apparent hate of computers. The Jackal decides to lay a new bombshell on us. He was lying before about Ben being the real one. Peter is in fact the one, original Spider-Man.
Linkara: (looks up from book with shocked expression as the classic suspense sound effect plays, then looks back down)
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.
Linkara (VO): And we have a title, ladies and gentlemen! Not that it added any real relevance to the plot though. Scarlet Spider rightfully asks why he lied and the Jackal responses...
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) For fun! I got to program a sense of humor into the next batch!
Linkara (VO): Somebody ought to program a sense of humor into this comic!
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) See, Ben, this is how a real man acts! Peter knows how to deal with our type. A quick kill and then off to the smokestacks for us! Isn't that how it goes, Petey?
Linkara (VO): Oh sure, bring that up in front of the clone. Spider-Man once again growing pissy knocks the Jackal into more machinery and brings up another plot hole that they felt needed to be resolved here; that the Jackal never actually created any clones, but that it was some virus that altered their appearances. I know, I know, it's comic books, okay? (starts showing pages from The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #8) It all happened in a crossover event several years ago called "The Evolutionary War." The villain, a man called the High Evolutionary, saw the Gwen Stacy clone and revealed that Miles Warren hadn't in fact cloned anyone; that it was a virus that changed her body around, and that the Jackal had planted false memories in the poor woman named Joyce Delaney.
(Clip from the "Spider-Man" animated series)
Spider-Man: This is starting to sound like a bad comic book plot!
Linkara (VO): Why they'd do that? I don't know exactly. They probably just didn't want the Gwen Stacy clone running around but didn't want to kill her. (shows picture of Gerry Conway) The really interesting this is that it was done by Gerry Conway, the same guy who did the original Clone Saga in the 1970s. (returns to showing pages from the main event) So how do they sweep this particular continuity flaw under the rug? Well... they... don't. All the Jackal does is say...
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Exactly what purpose would telling the truth to you served to the High Evolutionary? Hmm? Interesting. Can't think of a thing... can you? Me neither!
Linkara (VO): I think it was later explained that the High Evolutionary's jealous of him or some crap like that. Anyway, the Jackal once again confirms that Peter is the real deal, the original Spider-Man, and that he should...
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Have the life you always deserved. Always wanted.
Linkara: Aww, isn't that sweet. (nods his head for a bit in approval) Why is no one punching the Jackal and shipping him off to the authorities?
Linkara (VO): Spidey goes over to Gwen and reiterates that he knows it's not really her and even if she was, he moved on with his life and she hugs him (zooms out from a side-by-side comparison with a caption reading "Separated From Birth?") while he just stands there, looking kind of like that one Rob Liefeld-drawn Captain America with the inflated chest. However, amidst Gwen's tears, veins start appearing across her skin. Zo-my-God!
Linkara: But that only happened to the other clone, The Guardian! But that would mean that this Gwen Stacey is... (drops comic, then screams "NO!" in slow motion, followed by him crying)
Linkara (VO): And faster than you can say "Oh. what a world, what a world," the clone Gwen Stacey melts away.
Linkara: (pouting) I wish I was a clone right now.
Linkara (VO): The two look down at the puddle of goo that was once the clone before leaping at the Jackal to attack, Spidey shouting "Why?" with huge letters as if this was the most horrible thing in the world. Okay, this has long since stopped being a Heroic Spaz Attack and is now going into an all-out Heroic Temper Tantrum. Anyway, what's the Jackal's input...
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) Smoke and Mirrors! Smoke and Mirrors! When will the truth be told?
Linkara (VO): Well, if we expect you to give the answers, no wonder this saga took another two years to finish. Scarlet Spider kicks him in the face (So much for that whole mental implant thing), while Spidey hits him in the stomach forcing the Jackal to say he's going to tell them the truth finally.
Linkara (VO): (as Jackal) The truth, my boys, is... neither of you is the real one!
Linkara: (looks up from comic) Hmm? What? All right! (proceeds with the same schtick as the last two times)
Linkara (VO): And by the way, he does this by literally stepping into a mirror. (clip from NeverEnding Story) Um, I guess he's going to see the Southern Oracle and save Fantasia or something? He says that they're both clones and that the facility is about to explode. The two pound away at the mirror but they can't get through. He tells him that the real Peter Parker's still somewhere and that they'd better get to looking for him. Jack however looking down at the gooey remains of Gwen Stacy worries that that's going to be his fate. Being useful for a change, he tells them that they won't be able to get through the mirror (Maybe you should've tried to stop him before you spent your time listening to his babbling), but that they could get through the main door if they both work together. Jack gets pulled in the mirror just before the facility explodes, sending the Spider-Men flipping out. By the way, in case you're wondering, no, we never get an explanation for how the facility decided just that moment to start blowing up, though I expect it has something to do with the Spidey's earlier assaults. The two agree that it may be possible for them to come up with a way to stop the clone degeneration thing, but that they'd have to be certain which one of them is the clone. Scarlet suggests that it'd be easier for them to keep on believing what they believed before the whole mess started. Spider-Man is reluctant to do so since they can't trust anything about themselves anymore, but Scarlet Spider just says "You'll get used to it."
Linkara: Well, thanks, comic, it's good to know that this three-parter resolved nothing and didn't advance the ongoing plot any further. Thanks for that waste of paper!
Linkara (VO): Well, the last page has Kaine... (sigh) watching again. And guess what Scier is doing? Watching Kaine! This is the equivalent of a scene where all we see is someone watching a TV screen. Back inside the remains of the lab though "rests a pod." And what's inside the pod? (suspense sound effect)
Linkara: Well? What rests within the pod? (starts pulling up images) Is it pod people? Is it Jesus? Is Jesus in the pod? Tell us! Personally, I think it's more of the Jackal's homemade butter. (stops pulling up images) (closes Comic) Anyway, what we get out of this comic is the first sign that the entire premise of the Clone Saga was starting to slip under its own weight. The storyline did nothing beyond resurrecting the Jackal, but instead of resurrecting one of Jackal's villains, what we got instead was a bizarre mixture of (images again) the Joker, Dennis Miller, and Carrot Top. (images stop) This comic sucks, so instead of reading it, watch a horror movie and have a Happy Halloween. (throws comic and walks off)
(Credits play to the tune of the "Spectacular Spider-Man" theme)