With Marvel shamelessly mining the collective pain of comic fandom by reliving Spider-Man's "Clone Saga" one more time with a new series officially announced yesterday, we wonder: Why return to one of Spider-Man's least successful storylines ever, anyway?
The new series, written by former Spider-Man writers Howard Mackie and Tom DeFalco - two of the many writers behind the original "Clone Saga" that ran for years during the 1990s - will, according to Marvel, correct all the (many) mistakes behind the story this time around:
Marvel's most controversial event of all time returns with a vengeance, presenting the Clone Saga as it was originally intended to be told! From the minds behind the crossover that changed comics forever and the artist that introduced Spider-Man to President Obama, it's six issues of twists and turns that will shock fans old and new alike! Be here as Peter Parker's worst nightmare begins again…now with an ending you have to see to believe!
Whether or not this ending will really be the ending that was originally intended - that "Peter Parker" would be revealed to have been a clone for years, and Ben Reilly would be revealed to be the "real" Peter Parker and take over as the one and only Spider-Man - is open to question, but we're still wondering just why Marvel is returning to this particularly painful well one more time. Surely the nostalgia vote isn't that important?
While we've got nothing against shaking up the status quo, especially for long-running characters like Spider-Man, we're consistently surprised when Marvel goes about it in such ways that seem antithetical to the character's set-up (See also: The Devil popping up to undo your marriage). While Spidey, like almost every other Stan Lee-era Marvel hero, has a pretty sciencey-origin, he's become much more of a street-level, down-to-earth character since then. Current Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott puts it best:
What makes a classic Spider-Man story is that he's like you. Spider-Man is a guy you know. Anyone else can fight crime, put on a costume, have a secret hideout, have a secret identity, the whole schmear. But with Spider-Man, here's a guy who has to fight crime while he has a cold or he has a physics test to pass or he's running late for a date. He's the guy that has the real world problems that intrude on him being Spider-Man. That's the most classic Spider-Man element.
You know what most people you know don't have to deal with? Finding out that they're actually a clone, and have been for years (Seriously, we've asked around). In a way, you can't really blame Mackie, DeFalco and the other Spider-Heads from the 1990s for keeping their particular Clone Saga going forever; at first, it sold really well, so they thought they were giving the people what they wanted, and then they realized that they had no idea how it was going to end, and tried to keep it running until they could work it out (Even publishing a special comic about the fact that they didn't know how to finish the plot, along the way)... and, at the very least, they were trying something new, if misguided to the point of stupidity. But this new version doesn't even have that defense.
Cynically, it's tempting to suppose that this new six issue series is a distraction for fans still complaining about the "One More Day" storyline that gave us a newly-single Peter Parker, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Satan analog, but a better bet at the reasoning of Marvel editorial is the recently-launched X-Men Forever, which ignores every X-Men story created since 1991 to give hardcore fans a chance to relive their childhoods once again. If Spider-Man: The Clone Saga's similar retro do-over is successful, who's to say that we won't see a parallel Spider-Man Forever series, complete with a married Peter Parker, allowing Marvel to have their cake and eat it too?