The post-event “epilogue” issue has been a dicey subject in the Spider-Man comic book universe the past few years, even following arcs that were otherwise highly entertaining (as good as the finale to “Spider-Island” was in 2011, the follow-up issue in Amazing Spider-Man #673 felt mostly like a rehash outside of the Peter/Carlie Cooper beak-up scene). So, even after issuing a favorable review for the final chapter of the The Clone Conspiracy series last week, there was ample reason to approach Amazing Spider-Man #24, by Dan Slott and Christos Gage (with art by Giuseppe Camuncoli) with a healthy amount of caution.
The big question headed into this issue was, would the creative team address any of the major unresolved plot points from Clone Conspiracy in a satisfying way that pushes the overall narrative forward, or would ASM #24 just be another case of Slott & Co. spinning their wheels until their next big event hits the shelves in March (with a $9.99 price tag to boot!).
For the most part, ASM #24 actually does a solid job addressing the big lingering questions from CC #5 — specifically the whereabouts of Doctor Octopus and Ben Reilly and how the latter of these two characters will ultimately be transitioned into his own series, set to drop in a few months. With that said, the comic takes a little longer than needed to get the story moving in a forward direction. Plus, as has been the case for the entirety of the overall “Clone Conspiracy” storyline, it just feels odd to dedicate so much of Spider-Man’s flagship book to a character who isn’t (technically) Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
To the first point, readers who have grown to loathe the amount of recapping that has monopolized the pages of ASM since the beginning of “Clone Conspiracy,” are likely to be alarmed by how the first few pages of ASM #24 are rolled out. Slott/Gage/Cammo juxtaposes scenes that were “cut out” of CC #5 featuring Reilly and Doc Ock with rehashes of Peter and Anna Maria Marconi using their Webware to “save the world” from the Carrion Virus just one issue ago. Fortunately, just as the flashbacks and re-renderings of these scenes start getting tiring, ASM #24’s story finally starts its ascent onward and upward.
In typical Slott fashion, the creator takes the less obvious route (though, not necessarily the safest and most logically executed route) in resolving the future whereabouts of Otto and Ben. It’s definitely a “cake and eat it too” plot twist for Slott and Marvel, as it allows both toys to remain in the toy box for another time. Then again, considering the number of characters who were seemingly revived as part of the events of CC #5 (most of them villains), there has to be some concerns over the dangers of Spider-Man’s supporting cast being a bit too watered down, especially when you consider how the current creative forces driving the Spider-office have had obvious issues maintaining focus and consistency when it relates to their family of “books.” Sure, in a vacuum, having a new “Superior” Otto (or whatever he inevitably becomes) running around the Spider-verse could be a fun time, but do we really need that in tandem with a new Scarlet Spider series, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, and Venom, not to mention recently revived baddies like Massacre, Bart Hamilton, Tarantula, Jason Macendale, et al.?
Regardless of your excitement level as it pertains to these (mostly) C-list entities, the point still stands that even with the recent or imminent cancellation of books like Spider-Woman and Carnage, the Spider-office is still positioned to churn out an unprecedented amount of content in the near future. That news might either thrill you or burn you out. Can you guess where I stand on the spectrum (considering I’m the one bringing it up?).
Back to ASM #24, once Ben and Otto part ways, the creative team delivers a rather neat and tidy resolution for Reilly’s arc in “Clone Conspiracy”. After being relegated to the sidelines for most of the arc, Giuseppe Camuncoli definitely gets to shine a bit, rendering a dynamic “big battle” sequence that had become his bread and butter during the first dozen or so issues of ASM vol. 4. However, there are still some other nuanced elements of the visual story — like Cammo’s depiction of the decaying clones — that lack the same “pop” as Jim Cheung’s in the Clone Conspiracy mini.
Meanwhile, in terms of story, Slott and Gage still seem like they’re just putting lipstick on a pig when it comes to “redeeming” Ben’s character in a meaningful way. It’s been patently obvious since ASM #22 that the powers that be at Marvel are not all that interested in justifying Ben’s uncharacteristic behavior the past six months beyond, “Hey, he got tortured a bunch so now he’s crazy.” Even in declaring that he’s “done” with his current lifestyle (thereby setting up the “on the road” motif in the new Scarlet Spider) there’s still no way of knowing what version of Ben Reilly is set to appear in Marvel’s Universe going forward until Peter David and Mark Bagley start pumping out some content. If you really don’t care about how the character was depicted in the 90s, I guess that’s a good thing.