Perhaps the most infamous story of the '90s and the best example of driving an interesting idea into the ground by prolonging a story beyond its limits in the name of making of money, the Spider-Clone Saga still makes certain readers cringe -- and others lament the way that it began with promise and then kept on going and going and going until it finally ended with nothing more than a 'Thank god that's over now!' reaction. As a result, the idea of revisiting the Clone Saga has been met with mixed reactions and, now that the first issue has arrived, I doubt it will sway anyone's opinion one way or the other, except, perhaps, to the negative since this issue isn't very good.
"Spider-Man: The Clone Saga" as a series is stuck in a tight spot, retelling the story 'right' in just six issues when the story was meant to take place over six months to a year through four monthly titles and the occasional one-shot or "Spider-Man Unlimited" issue, so prepare yourself for extreme plot compression and narration captions that cover pages, making sure readers are caught up on events. It's a shame, because Tom DeFalco's text page at the beginning of the issue does that very well, making a lot of the information in the comic itself redundant. However, it is smart to include as much contextual information as possible for anyone who wasn't reading the Spider-Man books at the time, particularly since Peter Parker's darker, quick-to-anger personality was a plot point at the time that may leave some scratching their heads.
The set-up is exactly the same as when the original Clone Saga began: Aunt May is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack, Mary Jane looks to be pregnant, Peter is slowly going off the deep end after recent events with his parents apparently resurfacing and, then, turning out to be robots, and a mysterious stranger named Ben Reilly is in town. To get all of this information in, the first half of this issue is a series of one-page scenes, each with the job of moving the plot forward one step at a time. It reads very mechanically, as you would expect.
Thankfully, once Peter and Ben come face to face, the issue moves along much better as they fight, the truth that Ben is Peter's clone comes out, and a common threat has them put aside their differences to save innocent people. Also, lurking in the shadows is the mysterious Kaine whose agenda here seems different than the one he had in the original story. His role is the biggest change here, which suggests that this isn't necessarily the true version of the Clone Saga but rather a divergent one a la Chris Claremont's "X-Men Forever."
Todd Nauck's art is fluid and dynamic, and has a style that conveys that mid-'90s look that this book needs. It's clear and gets the message across, although isn't always the most technically proficient work. He does a fine job at cramming in a lot of action into only so many pages without things looking too cramped. Helping is the bright coloring work of Javier Tartaglia, who uses a striking, clear palette of primary colors that is similar to that used in the all ages books Marvel publishes. This gives the issue a feel that it's of a different time than the current books that matches the art. The issue looks like a throwback to the original Clone Saga, which is smart.
Six issues of this story may be too much for some, but this issue suggests that they may not be enough to allow this story to be told at a smoother pace. This issue feels like the story is on fast-forward as Mackie and DeFalco try to cram it all in. Ironically, the first Spider-Clone Saga went too long and "Spider-Man: The Clone Saga" looks like it will be too short.