This second collection of Clone Saga issues is an improvement on the first, but it also lacks anything to rival the quality of that book's The Lost Years. The arcs collected (and the number of issues for each) are Back From The Edge (4), Web Of Life (4), Web Of Death (4), Funeral For An Octopus (3) and Smoke And Mirrors (3), with an additional one-issue story from Spider-Man Unlimited 8. Overall, the writing of the stories is mostly satisfactory (though the first arc is a tremendous bore-Puma? Nocturne, really?) and the art mostly top drawer- Bagley, Butler, Buscema, Lyle all on top form with Ron Lim also showing up for a bit.
It's clear in retrospect that Amazin really was the key title during this period- with Bagley's defining run and DeMatteis' writing, it remains the only of the four monthlies that has anything approach true artistic merit. The others were either well illustrated but poorly written or vice versa. As for the arcs themselves, Back From The Edge starts as somewhat disposable filler but becomes compelling enough and leads into Web Of Death, a truly classic 4-parter with a worthy end for Doctor Octopus. Some of these issues include an artistic collab between Sal Buscema and Bill Sienkiewicz which is somehow terribly ugly and yet oddly attractive. Web Of Life benefits from Steven Butler's fantastic character rendering against the most inviting New York of that period, and features Kaine and The Grim Hunter in a cut-price Kraven story with a satisfying payoff. The ludicrously titled Funeral For An Octopus features a distinctly Larsen-esque Sinister, er, four, and the Unlimited issue is total filler, the closest approximation of the old formula, Die Hard On A..., in this case A Spider-Man Comic. Smoke and Mirrors is where the real Saga truly kicks off is you ask me, with the return of the Jackal and some doubts sewn as to who really is the clone. The next volume should be a blast.
The inclusion of Back To The Edge (which counts as part of `The Clone Saga Epic' because Scarlet Spider appears in precisely one panel out of four issues) suggests they're going to be quite exhaustive with these trades, so expect another four or so before all's said and done. It's well worth picking up for a readthrough (particularly for nostalgia fiends like me- these were the issues being reprinted in Astonishing back when I first got into comics).
on 15 June 2010
This volume is where the "Clone Saga" really kicked off. For the most part, this is a decent collection of stories, with a good amount of mystery and intrigue, which should have paved the way for something very special. However, we all know that that's not quite exactly what happened.
This collection opens up with a somewhat boring story about the Puma and Nocturne, but it leads into a very good Dr. Octopus arc, which has criminally been ignored since the "Clone Saga" ended. The follow-up story, and the self-contained `Spider-Man Unlimited' issue that proceed it, are slap-bang average `90s action yarns that don't develop the "Clone Saga" in any way whatsoever. The other two stories in here are both good, though it's clear that throughout this book (and all the other volumes to come) the J.M. DeMatteis written issues steal the show. In fact, if it wasn't for DeMatteis, there would probably be very little saving grace to the "Clone Saga" as a whole, and it's only because of his issues that these volumes stand the test of time at all. In saying that though, nothing he wrote in this volume (or in any of the following volumes) is up there with `The Lost Years' from vol. 1, which is one of DeMatteis' best comics ever.
Reading this volume makes me very sad to think about how it all went horribly wrong not too far after where this one ends, and it confirms the opinion I've had since I was a child that the "Clone Saga" is unfairly criticised for the most part. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, although much of it is dated, and there's still a lot of great stuff to come which I can't wait to sink my teeth into.