"Even if I live, I DIE!"
Words by Gerry Conway.
Pencils by Ross Andru.
Inks by Mike Esposito.
Lettering by Annette Kay.
Colours by Janice C.
And so, like Alice, we're flung into a land that makes no sense.
The Jackal certainly doesn't. He's on a revenge mission against Spider-Man and has him captive, at his mercy. So, what does he do now he has him where he wants him?
He does the obvious. He runs out on our hero, telling him to meet him tonight at Shea Stadium.
Spider-Man's not making any sense. Upon being faced with a clone of himself - and the knowledge that a bomb's about to detonate, killing Ned Leeds - both versions of Spider-Man choose to fight each other instead of saving Ned.
Why are they fighting? Why have they decided that giving each other a smack in the mouth is more important than saving the life of a friend? Who can know?
For that matter, why did Professor Miles Warren choose to clone Peter Parker as well as Gwen Stacy? At that time, he could have had no knowledge that Peter Parker was Spider-Man and so no plan to use the Spider-Man clone against the original. For that matter, he hadn't yet killed his lab assistant, nor even dreamed of adapting the Jackal guise. So, why the extra clone?
Peter Parker's not making any sense. He heads over to the Bugle, hoping to catch Mary Jane alone.
Why does he expect Mary Jane to be at the Bugle, a place with which she has only tenuous connections and has hardly ever visited? And why would he expect her to be alone in a busy newspaper office?
And now - again - the Jackal's not making any sense. Upon being forced to face up the fact that it was he (Professor Warren), not the Jackal, who killed Serba, Professor Warren frees Ned, causing his own death.
Except that, in his flashback sequence, our villain has already declared that he, Professor Warren, not the Jackal, killed Serba.
The one thing that does make sense is that, realising, at the original Gwen's graveside, that she's not the real thing, the Gwen clone leaves, to make a new life for herself. At last some sort of logic. Happily for us, it also makes for a poignant climax and leads to Peter and MJ becoming closer than ever.
One thing that does impress me is Professor Warren's ability to multi-task. We've seen, repeatedly, over the years that Peter Parker struggles nightmarishly to balance his duties as Spider-Man with his need to keep up his college studies. Professor Warren, on the other hand, manages to raise and nurture two clones, develop a hi-tech costume, train himself to the peak of physical condition, hold down a job as master criminal and still not let it affect his ability to perform his duties as a college lecturer. Clearly, the man's a genius at time-management and someone Peter Parker could take more than a few tips from.
So, senseless it may be but is this story any good? As always in the Conway era, any sort of scrutiny tears it to shreds of a million colours but, as always, it achieves its prime function of entertaining you, so can hardly be labelled a total disaster. It's just so ludicrous from start to finish that, like a brand new bag of marsh mallows, you might be able to enjoy it but not in any way respect it.