Written by Dan Slott
Art by Jim Cheung, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, Joe Caramagna, Ron Frenz, and Edgar Delgado
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: October 12, 2016

In a rare meta-twist for the adventures of Spider-Man, Dan Slott has the webslinger declaring what so many fans must be thinking of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy #1, ” This is all one of his stupid frickin’ cloning experiments! Again!”

Artist Jim Cheung joins Slott for this tale, and makes a real strong case to be the only event artist ever. More on that in a bit, but for now, let’s just say that Cheung makes every panel a masterpiece, and every character iconic. John Dell provides inks over Cheung’s pencils, Justin Ponsor adds color, and Joe Caramagna transcribes the script, complete with streamlined locales and word-balloon-bursting exclamations. Al in all, Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy #1 is a very pretty book, with near-splash pages to Rhino (not spoiling, as it’s in EVERY preview to date) and some other, more surprising characters.

As readers of Amazing Spider-Man know, there are some things afoot, and some of those things seem very clone-tastic. Inevitably that means Spidey is going to cross paths with the Jackal. Free of the binding parts of continuity, but celebrating the building blocks that led to this event, Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy #1 feels like an epic unfolding, with room to breathe and no restrictions given it isn’t embedded in the monthly comic. Slott’s sprawling spider-epics have been hit-or-miss, but this one takes a confident step forward, giving readers a powerful narrative that opens with a funeral and closes with a splash page worthy of becoming a poster.

If nothing else, this comic (at least temporarily) gets rid of the fuzzy green Muppet reject look that Jackal was known for and replaces that vision with a snazzy streamlined look that harkens back to Anubis, the jackal-headed god of ancient Egypt. After all, Miles Warren is playing god here, with his new life experiments, so it’s only fitting that the god of the afterlife should be influencing the story.

I’m rather thankful we have a new visual design for a character that meandered through comics for way too long looking like the lost lovechild of the Green Goblin and Kreacher. Jackals aren’t particularly fuzzy, nor are they green. This new look – the Egyptian-inspired mask, the slick red business suit – this fits the moniker of Jackal so much more. And it works in both Cheung’s style and that of Ron Frenz, who tackles the art chores for the backup story titled, “The Night I Died.” Both artists are masters of their craft, but fewer pairings could have more disparate styles in one single issue. But it works. Edgar Delgado colors Frenz while Ponsor tints Cheung’s art in the twenty-page lead-in.

The story itself gives readers absolutely everything they need to know to roll on. Lapsed Spider-fans and Wednesday Warriors alike will be able to sling their webs alongside, keeping up the whole time.

Slott gives readers a full assortment of Spider-Man’s world, from J. Jonah Jameson hollering at Peter Parker at a most inopportune time to appearances from Jackal, Green Goblin, Electro, Rhino, and a couple other characters (one of which you have to look real close to see) that have challenged Spider-Man. The story doesn’t stay put in New York City either, embracing both Peter Parker’s executive profile and the event scope of this story. A pitstop in Oklahoma fuels Parker’s suspicion, which then leads the wallcrawler directly to New U Headquarters in San Francisco and a revelation that will certainly leave some readers aghast – for both good and bad reasons.

The ten-page backup, drawn by Frenz, adds some depth and characterization to one of Spider-Man’s life-changing events, while also pulling back the conspiracy curtain of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy. This one is certain to upset some fans, but for now, no one is allying themselves with Hydra, so hopefully readers will join me in waiting to see where this story flows.

Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy #1 is not a happy-go-lucky globetrotting Spider-Man adventure. It’s dark and, at times ugly, but that doesn’t stop Cheung, Dell, and Ponsor from making it beautiful nor does it preclude Slott from dropping in some humor. In short, this is everything you can and should expect from a Spider-Man event packaged up in a smart, strong introductory chapter. After the revelations of Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy #1, I cannot wait for more.

The Verdict: 10/10



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