Spider-men and ‘Spides’

Dicks Volume 1: written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by John McCrea (1989-90, 1997, 2002): One of the earliest collaborations between the dynamic duo of Ennis and McCrea (Hitman) takes us through the hyper-violent, occasionally supernatural adventures of two Belfast screw-ups.

Your degree of enjoyment will depend a lot on how funny you think Ennis and McCrea are when they get all hyper-violent and super-offensive. I think they’re funny, and the dense Belfastian slang just adds to the humour. Recommended.

Spider-man: The Original Clone Saga: written by Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Len Wein, and Archie Goodwin; illustrated by Ross Andru, Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney, Frank Miller, and others (1974-75, 1979-80, 1989-91; collected 2011): The ‘Original Clone Saga’ comes in at about 500 pages, which works out to about two-dozen comic books spread out over nearly 20 years. However, it would also spawn what is probably still the longest Spider-man narrative in history. That would be the redundantly titled ‘Clone Saga Epic.’

The ‘Clone Saga Epic’ was much-hated when it occupied every issue of every Spider-man title for a couple of years in the 1990’s. The ‘Original Clone Saga’ (TOCS?) is really three story arcs that occur with several years separation between each one.

The first gives us the story of the attempts by somebody to drive Spider-man crazy by convincing him that murdered love Gwen Stacy is actually still alive. The second traces the strange story of Spider-villain Carrion. And the third…well, the third is one of those ‘Everything you knew was wrong!’ scenarios that, in the process of ostensibly making a previous story make more sense, actually causes that story to become completely goofy.

Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable survey of three different times in the publishing career of Spider-man. And the third arc, written by Gerry Conway, who also wrote stretches of the first arc, may actually be a parody of the ‘Everything you knew…’ trope that super-hero comic books have deployed since almost the beginning of superhero comics. Because if it’s a parody, it’s a funny one in which a new explanation that’s supposed to make more sense than the old one actually requires much more suspension of disbelief.

The art is competent and, in stretches, quite enjoyable (though Frank Springer makes a terrible inker for Frank Miller — their styles just don’t work together). I especially like Ross Andru’s Spider-man, though he, like Miller, is not always served well by his inkers. And the writing gives us, for the most part, that angst-ridden but dedicated Spider-man we know and love. Recommended.

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