One of my biggest criticisms of the entire Ultimate line has always been that it seems the book is plowing through the famous storylines of the original characters far too quickly. Case in point, the final chapter of The Clone Saga has arrived, and we’ve just passed the 100 issues mark. That in itself is something worth mentioning about the odd timing of this story. Usually, highly marketable numbers (multiples of 50, usually) are used for big honking stories. Often either the first or last part of a storyline. That gives reason to double size the issue and bump the price up a dollar or two. Ultimate Spider-Man had the bonus sized issue, but it was part four of an eight part storyline. The bonus? A complete sum-up of everything that had happened in Ultimate Spider-Man to that point. Which, of course, would have fit a lot better had it shown up at the first or last part of a storyline, rather than smack dab in the middle.
As for the story itself, this would have been a huge turning point for the book had the ‘abort’ button not been hit in the final two parts, putting everything nicely back into place. For starters, Peter finally tells Aunt May that he’s Spider-Man after Gwen Stacy shows back up alive and well. May promptly kicks him out, which opens up for Peter’s father Richard to show up, which doesn’t surprise Aunt May at all. Turns out she’s known the whole time, but there’s no time for further explanations, because Nick Fury shows up and tells Peter he doesn’t get to be Spider-Man anymore – a decision that he announced waaaaaaay back in issue 77 at the close of the Hobgoblin story.
The story is that the government used Peter’s DNA (gained at the close of the Carnage storyline) to clone him several times. The clones escaped, one kidnapped MJ and as a means of protecting her, injected her with the Oz formula (creator of the Green Goblin), transforming her into a monster. She goes nuts, calms down, goes nuts again, then is cured by the Fantastic Four. Yay. All but two of the clones are killed – the survivors being Spider-Woman (a female clone with all of Peter’s memories…weird) and Scorpion (who will no doubt show up as a villain).
Towards the end of this storyline it looked like no outcome was planned in advance, because everything kind of just happened. Dr. Octopus was the head of the cloning project for no particular reason. Richard Parker turns out to be dead after all, with the one that showed up being another clone of Peter…which contradicts Aunt May’s reaction as well as not making any sense. Anyway, he kind of ages really fast in the issue and dies for no particular reason. Gwen Stacy becomes Carnage for six pages, then is taken away with no further mention of her anywhere. And finally, Reed Richards offers Peter a chance to cure his spider abilities…which for some reason comes as a big shock, after Nick Fury already told him it was going to happen. The book is called Ultimate Spider-Man for a reason. He ain’t losing his powers.
This story was really a victim of missing identity. The pieces were there, but there was simply too much crammed in, even in an eight part story. There’s an epilogue coming up next issue that looks to break up Spidey and Kitty, and everything will be good as new. Well…good as old, really. Hopefully the book can rebound from this mess, especially with longtime penciller Mark Bagley set to leave the book.