It’s beginning to look a lot like Clone-mas in Dark Web #1, and Spider-Man’s gonna need all the holiday cheer he can muster to get out of this jam.
Combining two of Marvel’s strongest franchises (Spider-Man and X-Men) for maximum crossover appeal, Dark Web is something of a spiritual successor to the classic Inferno storyline. Erroneously thought to have finally broken good after years of evil-doing, Madelyne Pryor —AKA the Goblin Queen, AKA the clone of Jean Grey, AKA the ex-wife of Cyclops— is back to wreak literal hell on New York City. The difference this time? She has enlisted the likes of Ben Reilly, the vigilante formerly known as Scarlet Spider now calling himself Chasm. Oh, and he’s the clone of Peter Parker, if you somehow weren’t aware of that whole situation. With their infamous clone rivals now unionizing to claim final revenge on their enemies, it’s up to Spider-Man and the X-Men to save the day, hopefully before Christmas!
If I’m being perfectly honest, the idea to form an event around two of Marvel’s most infamous clones on the basis of them being clones of more popular characters is equal parts stupid and brilliant. I haven’t been following Spider-Man comics very closely in the leadup to this event, but the thinking behind it makes perfect sense based on what I already know about the character. Ben is defined by his desire to establish an identity for himself distinct from his quasi-brother, and Madelyne is a master manipulator cut from a similar cloth who frequently uses insecure men to help meet her own ends. (See: Madelyne doing the exact same thing with Havok, AKA Cyclops’ overshadowed brother, in Inferno.) Throw a few more pieces onto the chess board for added flavor (a vengeful Venom, Norman Osborn as the heroic Gold Goblin, intriguing new henchwoman Hallow’s Eve) and you’ve got yourself a crossover.
Events are an increasingly hard sell in the comic book industry with the sheer amount of moving parts required to follow them to completion —I’ve covered quite a few of them here— but one thing I’ll say about Dark Web #1 is that it left me interested to see what happens next, and I’m not really much of a Spider-Man obsessive. Zeb Wells is always a writer worth following and his script here keeps things moving at a clip, while Adam Kubert’s art is incredibly distinctive, favoring stylization over realism. It helps that Ben’s new look as Chasm (designed by Patrick Gleason) is perhaps one of the best character redesigns in recent memory, really popping on the page with its sickly green/purple color scheme and harsh, angular lines. (Are those colors meant to evoke Norman’s former Green Goblin getup now that he’s a shining knight in gold and white? Maybe!) The jury is out on whether or not this idea has enough steam in it to sustain months of tie-ins, but it’s not a bad start in the slightest.