Amazing Spider-Man #21 is at about the halfway point through the Clone Conspiracy crossover event. So far, it’s been met with mixed to positive reviews; some enjoy the classic Amazing Spider-Man dramatics, others feel it’s just another dreaded Clone Saga. And while Peter Parker has been uncovering more and more about what the Jackal is up to, this issue focuses on characters and events elsewhere.
As with any Spider-Man arc involving Jackal, there must be a clone of Gwen Stacy and a clone of Peter Parker in some capacity. A familiar face comes back to life in Kaine – the Spidey clone who starred in his own Scarlet Spider series and played a big part in Dan Slott’s Spider-Verse. He teams up with another fan-favorite, Spider-Gwen, and they uncover a new plot development.
In multiple alternate realities, Jackal’s New-U, “non-clone”, resurrected allies eventually decompose into Carrions (another Clone Saga era reference). With the help of Karn, the two spider heroes work to solve the Carrion disease, while also trying to save Kaine – who is already deteriorating after just being reborn.
And if you aren’t confused by that summary – and this book – then you are among the most well-read Spider-Man fanatics. Thus far, the story hadn’t been very hard for new readers to follow without knowing the long history of Spidey and clones. This issue, however, is the complete opposite. It’s a bold direction to take when trying to sell comics to new readers, but I guess this is a strong enough title that they can get away with it.
Unlike the other issues in the Clone Conspiracy, this one left me feeling like it was a bit unnecessary. I’m a big fan of Kaine, and from Spider-Island to Spider-Verse was a great period for the “evil” Peter clone. But having him sacrifice himself to save everybody and be reborn only to be immediately start dying was overkill. Everything that happens in this issue could have been left out completely and would not have changed anything about the overall arc. It felt a bit like an excuse to use Kaine one more time and include the massively popular Spider-Gwen in another comic.
Even the artwork isn’t up to par with what readers have come to expect from Giuseppe Camuncoli and Jason Keith. It’s not offensively bad or anything, it just doesn’t do the book any favors by providing compelling visuals to liven up a dull script. There’s a lot of jumping between timelines and worlds, which all comes across as the same uninspired environment. There’s nothing to help differentiate one world from the next, as if the plot wasn’t already jumbled enough for newer readers.
While it isn’t a crucial issue of the series or story, it very satisfying to see Scarlet Spider face-off against the Kaine of another world, even sporting his 90’s villain costume. Still, Amazing Spider-Man #21 is a forgettable installment in what has been an otherwise great story. Don’t let this hinder you from continuing to read Clone Conspiracy, as Slott can still definitely still deliver. Just not this time with an issue that seems like an afterthought.