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's "The Clone Conspiracy" #5 concludes the event that stands to serve as a potential game changer for the future of Spider-Man's supporting cast. Readers who cringe at the sound of the word "clone" even being mentioned in the same breath as Spidey probably aren't going to be thrilled with the outcome, but the event series did more than just lay the groundwork for Peter Parker's future; it also came to terms somewhat with the past. That potential future hangs on a thread thinner than Spidey's finest webbing, but at least certain characters get their special moments that were previously denied them.
What's The Frequency, Peter?
Last issue, Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, deduced that the decay of the Jackal's clones around the world was the result of a specific ambient harmonic frequency. Anna Maria Marconi's ability to determine the counter-frequency to neutralize that decay, along with Peter's knowhow to broadcast that wavelength across the world, results in saving the lives of many of the Jackal's clones all over the globe. While Anna claims that her solution is a permanent one that will halt the clones' cellular decay entirely, Slott's story doesn't address exactly how that will work -- unless the signal is never shut off and everyone on Earth is going to have to learn to live with that annoying tone in their heads for the rest of their days.
Even if the ambient wavelength that had created the initial decay no longer does so, it doesn't seem all that unlikely that someone couldn't eventually reinstate its destructive capacity. That someone could conceivably be Ben Reilly himself, should he eventually again decide that he's just not cut out to be the Scarlet Spider in the pages of the upcoming ongoing series. This is especially true if he's reconstituted in his self-proclaimed and supposedly improved proto-clone body that just might luck into being immune from the decay.
The bottom line is, a more permanent solution is required if any of these newly-cloned characters are destined to stick around. It would be a shame for any of them to be reestablished in the Spider-Man mythos, only to turn to dust when a local TV station airs their monthly test of the emergency broadcast system.
George and Gwen Stacy Get the Deaths They Deserve
Gwen Stacy never deserved to die, of course, nor did her father. But among the reasons Gwen's death – that is, her original death – was so emotionally wrenching is that she died as a true victim, an unsuspecting pawn in the Green Goblin's scheme to get at Peter Parker. George's death at least was a heroic one, but it was heartbreaking in its own right because it happened in the absence of Gwen, whom he loved more than anyone else. It made for a powerful and revealing moment between him and Peter, but he never got the chance to say good-bye to his daughter.
Well, dead is dead, as has been said, but Slott's story nonetheless gives the characters' clones a second chance to die more apt and fitting deaths, deaths that bring with them some decades-late closure, in that fantasy, wish-fulfillment kind of way. As George withers away as a consequence of the Jackal's scorched earth gambit, he does so with Gwen at his side, this time given the opportunity for his last words to be said to his own daughter rather than her still-grieving boyfriend.
When it's Gwen's turn to go, she doesn't go down as a victim this time; she instead goes down fighting not only a decaying Hobgoblin and Jack o'Lantern, but also a clone of the very supervillain who killed her in a past life, with that memory still vivid in her mind.
It's Peter vs. Peter, If You Squint Just Right
One of characters restored by the Jackal was the previously mentioned Doctor Octopus, who had faithfully served the Jackal until Ock took offense at Reilly's offer to regenerate Anna into a new and "better" body. When Otto turned on the Jackal, this by default allied him with Peter, allowing the two villains to face off while Peter and Anna worked to counter Reilly's destructive ploy.
This puts a curious spin on the character dynamic during this final battle, as Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter Parker who once believed himself to be Peter, battles Otto Octavius, the former occupant of Peter Parker once pretended to be the young hero.
Presuming that Doc Ock will somehow be brought back again -- and it's frankly difficult to imagine that he wouldn't be at some point -- this conflict might establish The Scarlet Spider as Ock's new arch-foe, as opposed to Spider-Man's. Of course, Peter still has a score to settle with Otto, as well as with Reilly, so the stage might also be set for a unique three-way animosity. (We smell a future Spider-verse crossover in the making.) Peter, of course, also stands for many of his old and once-dead foes to make a comeback, paving the way for some old enmities to be rekindled.
One of those enemies appears to be the focus of the upcoming "The Clone Conspiracy Omega" #1, on sale March 1 and featuring longtime Spider-Man villain Rhino, whose wife was resurrected and then died again during the events of "The Clone Conspiracy.". Ben Reilly might face some of these villains, or perhaps go up against some new ones, in "Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider" #1, on sale April 26.