Spider-Man #53: By Mackie / Lyle
Aah the Clone saga, without doubt the period of Spider-history that divides fanboys opinions more than any other. Whether you love it or hate, chances are you have an opinion on it. When I started picking up comic books as a fresh faced six year old, they were knee deep in the clone saga, and hence I look back on it with fond memories. However, there are obviously a great many people who would not share this view, indeed there are many who see the clone saga as the proverbial dark age of Spider-Man's publication history. For the most part I totally disagree with this, while Spider-Man has seen better times the clone saga includes some very solid stories from top creators such as Jurgens, Defalco, Bagley and Romita Jr. However, that is not to say that it did not contain a fair few godawful stories. This clunker is one of them.
This storyline, 'The Exile Returns' is one of the gaps in my clone saga collection, and I have longed to pick it up since I learned that it featured Ben Reilly taking down Venom. On this note, when I saw part four of the aforemention storyline for a knockdown price of 50p in Mega City Comics it was a no brainer! Undeterred by the fact that I was coming in at the conclusion of a four parter, I filled myself in on the plot and settled down to read what I hoped would be one of the high points of the clone saga. However, this issue was the exact opposite, one of the definite low points of the saga. Howard Mackie is a writer who often gets a lot of unfair stick, but this really is turgid stuff. His dialogue is atrocious, cliched rubbish that really has no place in modern comic books. The narrative captions he uses are even worse, hilariously overdramatic. However, for his faults the way that Reilly eventually beats Venom is fairly imaginative, and visually interesting. Tom Lyle's artwork is also slightly above average, and is something of a saving grace for the issue, although that isn't really saying much. Reading the issue in hindsight also rams home just how inconsequential some of Mackie's subplots were. The Grim Hunter? Ken Ellis? Jacob Raven? Where are these characters now? The answer gives a clue about Mackie's talent for introducing new characters and plots. A very dissapointing issue from a writer who I know can do much better.