Continuing on with the long, classic run of Michelinie…
Erik Larsen took over after old Toddy McFarlane moved on and he was a big improvement if you ask me. There are some great stories here with The Sinister Six, Venom, and more. This was in the classic early days of Venom too, before he was forced into a more heroic position and overused like crazy. I mean, there’s are still some great Venom stories here and there after these early days, but it’s never been quite the same as when he first came around. It always felt like a special occasion when he popped up and he always felt like a serious threat that even Spider-Man could barely handle. Larsen really nailed the look of Venom too.
Good times. It’s too bad his run was so short before he ran off to start Image with Todd, but then again, then we might not have gotten to see Mark Bagley take over next.
Bagley would become one of the longest running Spider-Man artists and would return to the character again years later in Ultimate Spider-Man and has even come back again recently for the latest Venom book.
Spider-Man went through a long series of team-up adventures at this point for some reason, but luckily they were pretty good ones. Other memorable moments included the introduction of Carnage, the debatable transformation of Venom from deadly villain to half-assed anti-hero, and the decent, but somewhat bloated Maximum Carnage crossover event. Michelinie finally left Spider-Man not long after Maximum Carnage, just in time to miss out on the whole Clone Saga business, but more on that in a minute.
During the Bagley/Michelinie era, there continued to be some good times in some of the other spider-books. DeMatteis brought a few more good stories to Spectacular Spider-Man and Howard Mackie and Terry Kavanagh had an interesting few stories that kind of revisited the whole Rose/Hobgoblin era again. Unfortunately, they never seemed to know what to do with the Spider-Man title after McFarlane and Larsen left, and all three books just went right into the toilet after Maximum Carnage wrapped up and ended up shaking all the creative teams up again.
In the end, Bagley stuck around and DeMatteis moved on over to Amazing Spider-Man, and this is when the highly controversial Clone Saga began. Ironically, at the time this was also right around when I gave up on comics for a long time because the dark age of the mid-90’s was starting and a lot of books were starting to get really ugly and bad. It wasn’t until many years later that I’d go back and read the Clone Saga for the first time…
The Clone Saga has a pretty bad reputation and usually gets mentioned alongside other mid-90’s shitfests like X-Men’s Onslaught Saga or Avengers’ The Crossing, but personally I think that’s an unfair comparison. The main problem with the Clone Saga is that it went on for sooooo long. It was a situation that went on for two years and ran through all 4-5 Spider-Man titles at the time, and more, but even at its worst points it never came close to touching the rock bottom art and writing of things like Onslaught and The Crossing.
In fact, it was actually quite entertaining for the first year or so. The multiple Spider-books had become really inconsistent and seemed to all be shooting off into entirely different directions from each other, but the Clone Saga came along and tied them all together into a huge single narrative dealing with the reappearance of a clone from an old plotline that was thought to have been dead for a few decades. It all gets pretty convoluted from there, with the clone becoming a second Spider-Man called The Scarlet Spider, then they traded costumes for a bit, then it was revealed that the clone was actually the original, new villain Kaine was also revealed to be another Peter Parker clone, another Peter Parker appeared claiming to be the real one, but turned out to be another clone that became another new villain, Spidercide…and this is all just in the first year still.
Things declined a little in the second year as there was another big writer shake-up which resulted infamous Tom DeFalco writing most of the titles. This was the era where Ben Reilly, previously thought to be the clone, officially became the new Spider-Man while Peter Parker retired. Things got even more complicated with the discovery of a skeleton in a Spider-Man costume in a smokestack, which was where the original clone was thought to have died back in the day. Testing revealed that it was indeed a clone, so then who was the other clone that had been Spider-Man for years? Nobody knows because the Clone Saga got wrapped up before this was resolved and it was never really explained. Spoiler alert, turns out the real Spider-Man was really the real Spider-Man all along! Reilly was quickly killed off and Parker had to return to face the secretly-alive-all-this-time Norman Osborn who was behind the whole thing all along. Oh well!
Thus ends another big era of Spider-Man. Is there anything worth reading right after this or should one just skip ahead five years to the JMS era? Well, you’ll have to wait until the next installment to find out!