For many fans the whole Clone Saga is a turning point in the history of Spider-Man.
For a long-running storyline (the collected editions run five volumes!) that was so universally reviled, it’s easy to forget that the whole clone debacle began a decade before as the run-up to and celebration of Amazing Spider-Man #150.
Those dozen or so issues are collected in the first half of Spider-Man: The Original Clone saga and reading them again, I’m taken back to a time when I first found Spider-Man on the Electric Company. While I didn’t read any of these issues when they were first published, the style of art and storytelling contained here reminded me the issues my parents and grandparents purchased for me during my formative years. (It also reminded me of the Power record entries “Mark of the Man-Wolf” and “Spider-Man and the Dragon Men,” both of which I listened to relentlessly as a child).
At a dozen or so issues, the entire Clone storyline works well enough and writer Gerry Conway keeps pulling out one surprise twist after another in the life of Peter Parker. Gwen comes back, the identity of the Jackal is revealed and Spidey must face off against a clone version of himself. It’s all so absurdly, brilliantly over the top fun that you can’t help but just enjoy the ride for what it’s worth.
Unfortunately, the second half of the storyline included is an indicator of where things would begin to go so horribly, horribly wrong in the mid to late 90’s. Collecting a storyline from Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man that involves Carrion, a genetic weapon developed by the Jackal, is far less interesting and entertaining. The 70’s Spidey stories had a sense of fun and humor to them, even with some fairly dark events unfolding on the page. These stories have less of that sense of fun to them and drag down the entire collection.