SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "The Clone Conspiracy" #5 by Dan Slott and Jim Cheung, on sale now.
Dan Slott and Jim Cheung close out the latest Spider-Man clone saga in "The Clone Conspiracy" #5, but while it's an ending, the issue also serves as a new beginning of sorts for Spidey's world. The event has featured the return of several supporting characters, or reasonable facsimiles thereof – some of them well-known and remembered, and others who had been nearly forgotten. The conclusion of Slott's event seemingly institutes a sense of finality regarding the fate of some of these characters, while leaving a path for others to potentially return, possibly changing the dynamic of Spider-Man's world in the wake of the story as well as several of the cast members who inhabit it.
The Extent of Dead No More Is Revealed
The "Dead No More" tag had been attached to this storyline months before it began, and its meanings had been many – it was applicable to the return of Ben Reilly, clone of Peter Parker and the one character in the Spider-Man mythos who many had concluded would never be seen again. Slott's story hook also earlier teased the return of Uncle Ben – a notion that was dispelled midway through. In more general terms, though, the phrase was fittingly tied to the actual return of familiar friends and foes alike, from Gwen Stacy to Otto Octavius, and the resolution of "Clone Conspiracy" provides the scope of this revelation; in short, most any character once dead is ripe for eventual return, and very few of them need be dead no more.
This revelation is made possible thanks to Peter Parker's technological knowhow, after he hacks into Parker Industries webware worldwide and broadcasts the sonic frequency counteracting the one that had been unleashed by The Jackal last issue to accelerate the decay of his creations. This includes the regenerated members of Peter / Spidey's supporting cast who had been living within New U's Haven facility -- or, at least, most of them. While several are revealed to have already disintegrated (among others, Gwen Stacy and Marla Jameson are shown as dissolved into dust, while The Prowler's clone and Jean DeWolff are mentioned), there are many more who remain unharmed, and unnamed.
Having fled Haven during the chaos, the potential for most of Spidey's once-dead friends and foes – including those not specifically shown in the storyline – now have the potential to return at any time. So while Uncle Ben remains safe in the afterlife (for now), and the characters mentioned above are seemingly off the table, the future return of anyone ranging from Jack o'Lantern to Nick Katzenburg is made a little more plausible by way of Slott's story. Peter's past promise that "no one dies" is slated to take on a new meaning that he likely never envisioned.
Ben Reilly Bites The Dust. Again. For Now...
While all of the clones who decomposed within the story are implied to be gone for good, the series' most notorious character has been set up to be the most notable exception. Not only serving as the storyline's only known clone-of-a-clone, Reilly is also the only clone to be genetically strengthened by Miles Warren's twisted scientific experimentations on him. Reilly disintegrates along with Octavius during their climactic battle, and while the finale is structured to imply that Reilly is gone, other factors indicate otherwise, the most prominent one being the upcoming "Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider" series by and Mark Bagley.
Reilly's unique background and multiple regenerations offer a possible clue as to his pending return. After Peter and Anna Maria Marconi observe the remains of Reilly and Octavius in the battle's aftermath, Anna makes a reference to "the ultimate template," the clone prototype Reilly had shown her earlier in the event, tempting her with the promise of a body free of genetic defects. Reilly has already been set up as the series' character slated to come back from literal certain death, and his upcoming return indicates that this template is something Reilly could have already used to augment himself, or perhaps the proto-clone is Reilly's next body. The genetic manipulation that enables Reilly to return to life with comparative ease, and in perfect form, could indeed serve as a template that could be applied to others, postulating what's essentially the promise of potential eternal life.
Who Else Will Be Dead No More? Place Your Bets
With the notion of death now being established as even more of a revolving door back to life than a barrier to it than we've ever seen before in the Marvel Universe, the possibilities of who just might walk through that door are many. Some, like Uncle Ben, still carry a reverence that Marvel Comics' writers and editors don't seem ready to defile, and others, like Jean DeWolff, are unlikely to be resurrected for other reasons. Most others, though, stand a pretty fair chance of returning.
Otto Octavius is an odds-on favorite to be one of them; it's unlikely he would finally be brought back as the classic incarnation of Doctor Octopus only to be killed off again for good. After Ock committed the ultimate crime against Peter by taking control of his body and usurping his life for a time as the Superior Spider-Man, Peter still has that longstanding grudge to settle, and it's one that hasn't really been addressed since Peter's return amidst all of the other Spider-events. And, Octavius' remains likely mixed with those of Reilly's after they dissolved, so some of that ultimate template DNA is a more than a little likely to literally rub off on Ock.
Gwen Stacy, besides her cloned self being prominently featured in this series, is currently starring in a title of her own, albeit as the alternate versions known as Spider-Gwen. With all of this demand for Gwen, and with Peter back to being his old bachelor self for the past decade or so, there's really no reason not to bring back the "real" Gwen into the "real" Marvel Universe. Besides, the character has been in woeful need of a fashion overhaul since the '70s; every time she's supposedly been brought back, she somehow feels the need to bring her miniskirt and headband with her. It would be nice to see how the classic Gwen would play out in the modern world, if for no other reason than to see her adapt to modern styles.
Lastly, the classic Green Goblin, whether as a clone of Norman Osborn, Harry, or someone else entirely, has been a long-missed villain in Spider-Man's rogues' gallery, and deserves to reclaim his place. While only an extra in "The Clone Conspiracy," the character was seen in the background enough times to indicate that he didn't simply flee Haven only to never be seen again. Indeed, he's been revealed as the main protagonist in "Amazing Spider-Man" once artist Stuart Immonen joins Dan Slott on Spidey's flagship series.
The saga isn't quite over; the story of The Rhino carries over into "The Clone Conspiracy Omega" #1, on sale March 1. Ben Reilly's new life – that is, his latest one – picks up in "Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider" #1, on sale April 26.