Aunt May is in the hospital slowly dying from an illness effecting her on a genetic level. Mary Jane also appears to not be in good shape. Peter Parker's life becomes even more complicated when his clone, thought to have been dead for years shows up to the hospital alive and well. A confrontation begins between Parker and the clone calling himself Ben Reilly. The two go on to put aside their differences to deal with an attack, and search for a way to cure Aunt May. -summary
Serious comic fans, or better yet, serious Spider-Man fans are all too familiar with the most controversial story arc in the Spider-Man mythos; the 2 year long story arc Spider-Man: The Clone Saga. There were plenty of gripes about the saga, with one of them being it was way too long. Now let's be honest with ourselves, we all know the real reason why the fans truly hated the story, and length had little to do with it. It was mainly because Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man, was revealed to be the clone, and Ben Reilly, The Scarlet Spider, was revealed to be the original, and for a while Marvel went with that. The decision resulted in such a backlash that Marvel had to make things "right", by naming Parker the original once again. I seriously doubt anyone would have had a problem with the length had Marvel not chosen to take that one chance. In any case, Marvel decided to focus on the "real" problem with the story and that was the length.
Written by Tom Defalco and Howard Mackie, Spider-Man: The Real Clone Saga is a shortened retelling of the entire story arc, and although I don't think the original saga to be a masterpiece or even the greatest in Spider-Man history, it's leaps and bounds better than this filler and all. Even if I wasn't familiar with the original story, this six part series would still feel like it was missing something, and I'm sure it would have never achieved the desired effect Marvel was shooting for back in the early 90's, because let's not forget, The Clone Saga was Marvel's answer for not only DC's The Death of Superman but also Knightfall. This particular story wouldn't have been anywhere near as shocking.
The plot follows Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider as they search for a cure, and their mutual enemy Kaine plays a role in this, which leads them to a resurrected Miles Warren aka the Jackal. His plan is to use the clones in an attempt to takeover the world. Meanwhile, there's clearly someone behind the scenes either pulling strings or waiting for something to happen.
I'll come right out the gate and say skip this story, and go for the two year long epic which has been collected in five books. The sliced and diced narrative is incredibly damaging and has such a rushed feel. When looking at the things Spider-Man was going through (taking under consideration this is acknowledging ALL storylines leading to this), it felt too unbelievable that he would just buy into Reilly being such an honest person, clone of him or not. The character development is miserable all around and the villains are heavily damaged here. Even if you hated the Clone Saga, you must admit there were some things it handled very well and it was indeed the villains. Try to imagine what the X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga would be like in a shortened manner, if the Hellfire Club were never developed and the battle between Phoenix and White Queen was completely omitted. This is what you get here as villains like Jackal and Doctor Octopus are the very definitions of stock bad guys, when in the original source material they were very well developed, especially the Jackal since we were able to see he was a formidable warrior, who was capable of battling both Spider-Men to a standstill, and even practically destroying the original one on one. The drama was also very weak, as Peter Parker took the knowledge of being a clone so easily. I can go on and on about how awful this story feels with so much missing.
The plot feels so standard and so much like your average Spider-Man story, not even the action panels have much flair to them, and they just come off feeling average, at least until the end when the real mastermind is revealed. The final events leading up to the end has its moments, but the ending itself feels so underwhelming that I just can't imagine this was the way it was meant to be.
Todd Nauck's artwork is one of the only things keeping this book from being completely useless. The character designs have that 90's style and looks great with a pretty good consistency. The action panels are easy to follow and dialog boxes do not distract from the artwork. Victor Olzaba and Javier Tartaglia do a very nice job with the inks and colors and the artwork has a beautiful, polished, look. The only interesting moments in the dialog is during the trade-offs between the two Spider-Men, which actually made the book surprisingly easy to run through. If it wasn't for the upbeat comedy here, I don't know what I would have done.
When looking at the original Clone Saga, this story makes it look so much better, and it really is. The original had some soul and an epic feel to it. This doesn't even feel like a What If story, since nothing even remotely shocking happens; it feels like a cash in and just another Spider-Man story to pass the time. And when looking at the fact this story arc debut Spider-Man's clone, who was thought to be long dead along with the return of Jackal, it would be too damn insulting to believe Marvel intended this to be for long time fans. Unless you're a serious Spider-Man fan leave this alone.
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