SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy” #4 by Dan Slott and Jim Cheung, and “Amazing Spider-Man” #23 by Slott, Christos Gage and Giuseppe Camuncoli, both on sale now.
The extent of The Jackal’s plan – that is, Ben Reilly’s plan – to bring back the lives of those lost is shown in all its twisted beauty in Dan Slott and Jim Cheung’s “The Clone Conspiracy” #4. Its unintended consequences also start to become apparent on a far grander scale, as the severity of the fallout turns out to be even worse than Peter Parker had imagined. Peter, in fact, makes his decision regarding Reilly’s proposal to ally with him and bring his Uncle Ben back from the dead, along with many others from Peter’s life that have already been restored.
Has The World-Ending Carrion Virus Been Unleashed?
The events leading up to a seemingly apocalyptic moment stem from Slott’s “Superior Spider-Man” era, as the captured Anna Maria Marconi is brought to New U and endures a reunion of sorts with the reconstituted Otto Octavius, with whom she had a relationship while Octavius’ mind was in control of Peter’s body. Octavius has deduced that the decay experienced by The Jackal’s creations is related to an ambient sonic frequency, and proposes seeking out the correct counter-frequency to offset it. Anna Maria professes to have her own solution to stop the cellular degeneration, and when The Jackal offers Anna Maria a “perfect” body (his terms) in exchange for her cure, Octavius turns on him and sides with the gravely offended Anna Maria, and angrily boosts the strength of the harmful frequency, causing the sudden acceleration of all the clones within the New U compound.
Octavius’ sacrificial actions expectedly bring about the onset of his own destruction, but more surprising is the unexpected consequence: that the acceleration of the degeneration has now made it contagious, with the first non-clone victim being Anna Maria herself, as her body begins to show the same signs of decay. Kaine, who is present at this critical moment, recognizes it as the unleashing of the Carrion virus on this world, the apocalyptic aftermath of which he witnessed on countless other alternate realities. With Anna Maria now stricken, the still-smitten Octavius has the ultimate motivation to pursue a cure, and combined with claims of her own cure, the two stand to potentially find themselves working together again, but with the stakes infinitely higher.
This game-changing moment coincides with a broadcast being delivered by J. Jonah Jameson onsite from New U, extolling the virtues of the regenerative technology at the behest of The Jackal in exchange for Jonah’s late father to be restored. With his creations disintegrating all around him, The Jackal opts not to try and save them, but instead initiates a scorched-earth move, hijacking Jonah’s broadcast and transmitting the localized signal Octavius had amplified to anyone tuned in within broadcast range, resulting in the similar destruction of his clones outside of New U. His stated intent is to rebuild, but what he’s actually and unwittingly done is release the Carrion virus to the entirety of the outside world, as the issue draws to a close.
Nearly Everyone Is “Dead No More” – Except Uncle Ben
When The Jackal revealed himself to Peter last issue and promised him the possibility of resurrecting Uncle Ben, it appeared that Ben Parker would be the last and most anticipated Spidey cast member to be dead no more. Uncle Ben’s death has been one of the longest-standing character deaths in comics history, and Slott’s story has postulated the possibility that the sanctity of his demise was about to be broken. The Jackal shows Peter a previously unseen New U location called Haven, a seemingly idyllic community populated exclusively with past, and previously deceased, friends and foes from Spidey’s life, living harmoniously side by side, which proves to be a key component in cementing Peter’s position against The Jackal.
With costumed supervillains mingling with the likes of a fashion-frozen Gwen Stacy and Nick Katzenberg in a setting that looks like a “Pleasantville” archetype, Haven has the creepy appeal of a living wax museum; disparate players that are all segregated into a distinctly out-of-place environment. Cheung’s rendition helps readers realize what Peter himself does: that these characters don’t belong here, or anywhere, among the living. When Peter observes that The Jackal has regenerated just about everyone except Uncle Ben, he recognizes that The Jackal’s promise was merely a bluff to coerce Peter to his side. The Jackal reveals that Uncle Ben’s own lesson to Peter is what precludes him from bringing his beloved uncle back: while Reilly might have the power to seemingly resurrect the dead, doing so would not be responsible, ensuring not only that Peter wouldn’t be joining his cause, but that Uncle Ben will indeed remain dead.
The concurrent “Amazing Spider-Man” #23 by Slott, Christos Gage and Giuseppe Camuncoli expands on Peter’s first quiet time with pseudo-Gwen since they first met earlier in the series, and lends some emotional backdrop and psychological weight to Peter’s realization of The Jackal’s intentions, and his own feelings regarding those who are back from the dead. Gwen reveals to Peter her feelings of betrayal at the moment of her death, as shown in “The Clone Conspiracy” #1, while Peter struggles to even acknowledge her as the “real” Gwen Stacy. Peter’s feelings extend to the others brought back by The Jackal, as well, and Gwen observes that their appearance ironically makes him only grieve for them all over again, which lends weight to his decision to strengthen his resolve against The Jackal’s machinations.
“Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy” concludes with the fifth and final issue of the series, on sale February 15.
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