The truth revealed?!
Ben Reilly aka the Scarlet Spider, also revealed to be the clone of Peter Parker, had decided to take Peter's place in prison while Peter searches for evidence to prove his own innocence. His search leads to Kaine being the killer and he seeks to bring him in. In the mean time, Judas Traveller returns to torment Peter once again. -summary
Here goes the volume that contains the chapter in the Clone Saga that sent the entire Spider-Man fan base into a bloody uproar. In fact, it got under the fans skin so damn bad that several stopped reading the Spider-Man books altogether. I remember being furious about it back then myself, but I never truly thought it as a bad story. Marvel were very bold in taking the risk, and even now I look back at it and I can commend them for doing it. This fourth book contains quite a few good stories draped in suspense and intense action. The plot twist work out in developing a gripping story. If there's anything holding it back, then it's several stories that just come off as filler, and personally, I just found them hard to get through. This TPB collects Amazing Spider-Man 402 - 404, New Warriors 61, Spectacular Spider-Man 225 - 227, Spider-Man 59 - 61, Spider-Man - The Jackal Files, Spider-Man - Maximum Clonage Alpha and Omega, and Web of Spider-Man 125 - 127.
The first story follows Spider-Man in the Scarlet Spider outfit, as he goes through some of the Jackals files. He tracks down the first clone of Gwen Stacy whom happens to be married to another clone of Miles Warren aka the Jackal. This lands him into a brief battle with the new Green Goblin. Outside of the story elements pertaining to the Clone Saga, this story was pretty bland to me, and it took awhile before anything truly grabbed my interest. I was never interested in these stories in original form, and time hasn't helped matters at all. This leads into the first arc Crossfire, and later into another boring story with this new Green Goblin, as Spider-Man also takes on a villain that is running around incinerating homeless people.
Judas Traveller returns and his mission has been made clear. He wants to study Peter, because he wants to learn what makes him into a hero. He reveals that a decision Peter is going to make will destroy New York City in a mere 24 hours later. Seriously, by this point Traveller has become a total bore, and these interactions have reached an annoying level of redundancy. The only thing truly interesting going on in these stories is Mary Jane dealing with her pregnancy. She was warned that the baby could probably be born abnormal due to Peter's irradiated blood, which causes her to lash out at him, to include she was pulled into the Spider-Men battle earlier when Kaine kidnapped her. The stress has definitely been pounding her, and Peter Parker being put on trial for murder doesn't help in the least.
The story finally begins to move during the next arc, The Trial of Peter Parker. Here, Peter hunts down Kaine with intentions on forcing him to confess as the murderer. This story is very action packed as they collide in a furious brawl, where Kaine is clearly the stronger of the two. Plenty of things are cleared up here, such as who Kaine is exactly and why he has invaded Peter's life in the first place. I remember wondering how Peter would be cleared of the murder charge, and I have to admit I didn't see this coming. The writing does have moments where it can keep you guessing, which makes the suspense one of the stronger attributes in this saga. The suspense picks up again as Peter and Ben, once and for all, seek the answers on who is truly the original and who is the clone.
The final arcs in this book, Maximum Clonage Alpha and Maximum Clonage Omega, puts the Jackal's plan in full view. The events that took place earlier in the story in regards to the Jackal allowing himself to be caught and imprisoned in the institution only to escape later, finally takes form as he seeks to destroy humanity with an airborne virus. There are several interesting story elements here that shouldn't be spoiled. I will only mention that it does feature battles amongst the four Spider-Men: Scarlet Spider, Spider-Man, Kaine, and Spidercide, plus the New Warriors and the Punisher make appearances.
The writing really does have its bad moments in the form of some pacing issues; Judas Traveller returns again in a story that just seems to come too far out of left field, and it just bothered me having to go through with it. Plus the New Warriors felt like too much of a last minute add on. I was following their stories back then too, and it always felt like a cheap Marvel trick to squeeze them in just to buy their book.
The artwork as usual has that same mixed reception from me. The Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man books have the best artwork; the character designs are very well drawn with some nice detail, while the Spectacular (especially) and Web titles can have some down right bad artwork, with overly dark panels and lines. The facial expressions can look too out of line and are just too damn ugly, Spectacular 226 comes to mind. Spidercide has a design reminiscent of Venom in his earlier days, and the various artwork watching his wild abilities in battle can be pretty cool. The action panels were rarely boring as there are plenty of fisticuffs with some punishing looking blows.
Overall, this volume isn't bad to me. Once you get pass the filler it's not a bad story. The issue has always been fans not liking Marvel's decision, but I would be lying if I said there was no enjoyment here at all.
Pros: Lots of action, suspense, surprises, and some very good artwork
Cons: Some bad artwork too, and interesting stories as well