"Spider-Man... ...Or Spider-Clone?"
Words by Archie Goodwin.
Pencils by Gil Kane.
Inks by Mike Esposito and Frank Giacoia.
Lettering by Joe Rosen.
Colours by P Goldberg.
Insomnia makes philosophers of us all. Most of us at some time have asked the question, "Why am I me?" Here, Peter Parker takes it one step further and asks, "Am I me?"
I suppose the obvious next stage in this evolution is to ask, "I me?" but, as that would make no sense, it's probably best we halt our quest for enlightenment there.
That's right, Peter Parker needs to know if he's the real deal or a mere clone of our hero. As with all of Spider-Man's biologically-based problems, there's only one way to find out.
And that's to go see Curt Connors.
That's where the story begins to get a little odd because, at this point, it starts to become a virtual re-run of issue #100, with an existentially challenged Spidey seemingly nodding off, to be confronted by a dream sequence of his old foes who he promptly despatches as each new one comes along. Writer Arche Goodwin even acknowledges this in a thought balloon.
The point at which it deviates is the point at which the Spider-Slayer turns up, and its driver Professor Smythe declares the foes to have been mere androids designed to wear our hero out before the attack proper. In other words, this is no dream.
Oddly though, even here, it still feels like issue #100. Needless to say, Spidey quickly defeats Smythe and realises, thanks to having had visions of MJ - not Gwen - when facing death, that he's not the clone. The clone was created before Peter began his relationship with MJ, by a man obsessed with Gwen Stacy. Therefore, Spider-Man reasons, his strong feelings for Mary Jane prove he's the original article.
Thanks to its distinctly second-hand nature, and the less than anticipated return of the Spider-Slayer, this is never going to be one of my favourite tales but it is a quite cleverly conceived one, allowing the old foes to represent the self-doubt that plagues him, with the Slayer as the ultimate embodiment of that urge. It also enables Peter to realise he's not a clone, in dramatised and direct terms rather than just have him sit around for twenty pages, waiting for the results of Curt Connors lab test. It's a story written by Archie Goodwin and, has a cunning behind it that I somehow couldn't envision from the now-departed Gerry Conway.
But Conway's not the only creative regular missing because, no offence to the always sterling Ross Andru but, on the art front, it's nice to see Gil Kane back, even if his presence does increase the issue's similarity to issue #100, also drawn by him.