Spectacular Spider-Man annual #8
Issue(s): Spectacular Spider-Man annual #8
This issue does the most to find a reason why the High Evolutionary might be interested in the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel universe, but at the same time it brings in something so far out of left field it winds up feeling like the least Spidey oriented of the three annuals.
As to what is related to the Spideyverse, well, it's been a while and it's not the 90s yet, but Spider-Man has had some significant dealings with clones thanks to Gerry Conway and Dr. Miles Warren, aka the Jackal, and those stories left a clone of Gwen Stacy still up and around. It's fair enough that the High Evolutionary might be interested in clones, especially since the Handbooks had indicated that both the Jackal and the High Evolutionary got technological help from the Inhuman Phaeder. The use of the Gwen Stacy clone was not a surprise if you were following Gerry Conway's build-up to this issue in the regular Spectacular Spider-Man series, and indeed Jim Salicrup called this a revisit of the character that "ruined Gerry's reputation".
The Gwen clone was seen fleeing the High Evolutionary's troops in the regular series, and here she reaches New York, where Spider-Man rescues her from the latest wave of Gatherers.
But the Gwen clone is terrified of Spider-Man because she thinks he killed her father.
However, she still intends to go see Peter Parker, and unlike the Black Cat in Amazing Spider-Man #306 (or Venom, for that matter), she doesn't seem stymied by the fact that Peter has moved to a different apartment.
Peter is of course rattled by the return of the facsimile of his first love. In fact, he talks like Gwen is "back". He's even wishing her dead.
Wait, wait, wait. I know how to handle this, you guys! First, we contrive to separate Peter from Mary Jane for about two years, and we eventually let Peter think that MJ is dead, while she's really hanging out with Daredevil. Peter is riddled with guilt for a while and goes crazy. Then we reveal that Mary Jane is actually an evil clone, and we kill her off and let Peter get back with Gwen guilt free!
Ok, the difference between this and Cyclops/Jean/Maddie is that we already know that Gwen is the clone. In fact, even Peter knows this. Not that having a clone of your dead girlfriend resurfacing wouldn't still be traumatizing.
The thing that comes out of left field is the return of the Young Gods. The Young Gods were a really trippy concept that Gerry Conway introduced during his Thor run back in 1972 (even earlier than the Gwen Stacy clone). They were never fully developed and didn't make any sense to me, but the basic idea is that they were new Relevant gods created from real humans dealing with real world 1970s problems. Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio (possibly from a plot by Roy Thomas) got rid of them as part of a clean-up exercise that said that they were designed to prove to the Celestials that humanity deserved a positive judgement from them. So i would have never expected to see them again, and i certainly wouldn't have expected to see them on an abandoned Celestial spaceship training like a teen super-hero team.
I have been willfully neglecting to itemize the characters' names and powers, even though Conway brings them back again for a Marvel Comics Presents storyline. I'll just note that every time they appear there seem to be more of them.
The High Evolutionary's investigation of them results in the same disappointment i have: they aren't super-evolved beings that can impart any special knowledge about the Celestials. They're just super-powered kids.
So he takes his leave of them. But one of them, Daydream, detects his plans...
...and convinces half the group to go stop him.
Back on Earth, Gwen arrives at Peter and MJ's place, but he's (it's suggested perhaps subconsciously deliberately) still wearing his Spider-Man costume, so she flees again.
Spider-Man catches up with her in time for both of them to be captured by Gatherers and teleported to the High Evolutionary's base.
And that's when half the Young Gods show up.
Then the other half of the Young Gods show up to stop the first half from interfering with humanity, and so it's just chaos.
After a while the Evolutionary's troops are all messed up, Gwen is freed, and the Young Gods depart. Peter picks that moment to tell the clone that he doesn't love her.
The High Evolutionary then reveals that Gwen isn't really even a clone; she's actually another person genetically manipulated to look like and act like Gwen.
Poor original person, whoever she was. After the Evolutionary teleports Peter and "Gwen" back to New York, Daydreamer shows up again to revert the clone back to her original form.
What a weird story. It's especially weird in retrospect since we know that no matter what, Miles Warren was capable of making actual clones. So this doesn't serve to downgrade the Jackal's capabilities in an effort to make the Evolutionary look better or anything. But i guess the purpose is to remove the fact that there was basically a Gwen Stacy running around in the Marvel universe, even though we haven't thought about her since 1975.
This all remains tangential to the High Evolutionary's actual goals; this was just a point of interest for him. So it's another potentially skippable part of the Evolutionary War. The Young Gods might have added something to the plot, similar to the way the Evolutionary talked to the Eternals and tried to steal the Inhumans' Terrigen Mists, but since he dismisses them as uninteresting early into the story there's not a lot more to do with them. And there are just so many and they are all so devoid of personality that it's hard to care.
A back-up story focuses on them specifically, having half the group being drawn to Israel.
They uncover a golem thing.
And they form the Uni-Mind to defeat it.
They determine that it was an Earth god, but they can't tell what pantheon it was from.
And we're told to look for the Young Gods in future issues of Spectacular Spider-Man, but i assume reaction to this issue prevented that, hence their next appearance being in Marvel Comics Presents instead.
Alright, since i'm feeling guilty about not going into detail on the Gods, here's the full five Fact Pages about them.
In addition to the above, there is Juniper and Katos, their teachers.
At least there are some nice Mark Bagley faces in there.
I cover the Saga of the High Evolutionary back-up in a separate entry.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part ten of The Evolutionary War; Avengers annual #17 is next. I'm placing this before Web of Spider-Man #44 since that ties in with Hulk #349 which leads into Hulk #350 which leads into Avengers annual #17 which takes place after X-Factor #34, so it's better to place this prior to all of that.
Crossover: The Evolutionary War
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): show
According to Marvel Age 64, the Young Gods would get a series if the fans liked them in this Annual, which apparently they didn't. One of them DOES show up in later issues of Spectacular Spider-Man, though.
Posted by: Michael | August 5, 2014 11:01 PM
Of course whatever revelations that do emerge here really just get reverted away the moment we get to the Clone Saga. (and now Linkara's Jackal is in my head thanks to saying that...boy is this page going to get nutty once we get to that mess)
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 6, 2014 9:00 AM
I first read this issue when the 90s Clone Saga had just ended, so I was left thinking that Warren was both capable of cloning and of altering human DNA.
The Daydreamer scene at the end really is the hardest thing to reconcile with the future retcon of this retcon. Conway's views on the difficulties of cloning had evolved, and so he wanted to expand on his past stories to match that. But, in the context of the comics, I was perfectly fine with believing Warren had made actual clones; there really was no need to muddy things further.
Posted by: TCP | November 12, 2014 4:39 PM
The re-retcon makes an even bigger mess of the upcoming Carrion plotline, since it means that Warren invented both cloning *and* a virus that can turn one person into another.
Half the Young Gods are blatant national stereotypes.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 27, 2015 9:57 PM
First, we contrive to separate Peter from Mary Jane for about two years, and we eventually let Peter think that MJ is dead, while she's really hanging out with Daredevil. Peter is riddled with guilt for a while and goes crazy. Then we reveal that Mary Jane is actually an evil clone, and we kill her off and let Peter get back with Gwen guilt free!
You laugh, but a chunk of this describes how the 90s Spider-man cartoon ended.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 27, 2015 10:38 PM
Young Gods were awful, I certainly never wanted to see them again.
Posted by: RikFenix | June 6, 2016 7:46 PM
Well, Bright Sword rapped all night about his self-deicide,
And Sea Witch's stealing clothes from Marrina,
Shapeshifter man is crazy
All the young gods (hey, gods!)
All the young gods (I don't want to read you!)
Now Daydreamer looks cool cause she manipulates trees
And Gerry Conway's more at home with his Gwen and his Spidey
Now I've read a lot 'bout clones and I'm leaving that alone
All the young gods (hey, gods!)
All the young gods (I don't want to read you!)
[repeat chorus two more times]
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 7, 2016 3:46 PM
[standing ovation for Omar] Dude, that took some dedication.
If anyone is curious, Omar is paying homage to Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes," written for them by David Bowie.
Posted by: TCP | June 7, 2016 4:02 PM
"Chi Lo" is not a Japanese name.
Posted by: Oliver_C | June 7, 2016 4:05 PM
Juniper should team up with Hepzibah and Squirrel Girl to form the Bushy-Tailed Babes Brigade. I'd buy that book.
Posted by: Andrew | June 25, 2017 1:34 PM
I'm not going to get into it here, but I'll just say that I think Gerry Conway is one of my favorite Spider-Man writers insofar as Peter and his supporting cast go, but here he tries to be too clever by dragging back the Gwen Stacy clone and, even if this didn't help to lead into the upcoming Spider-Clone Saga, it turns his big wrap-up story arc into an even bigger mess than it was in the mid-70s.
Posted by: Jonathon | October 5, 2017 11:22 PM
I was quite pleased to see this ret-con. It had always bothered me that Spidey spent so much time agonising over Gwen Stacey's death when for all intents and purposes she was still alive.
The original Clone Saga had made Peter appear very callous, he gives the impression that now he has something going with Mary Jane he doesn't want Gwen coming back and cramping his style. And I found it hard to believe that Gwen would so conveniently disappear at the end of #149. If she had Gwen's memories and personality, then surely she would want to plug back into the life she knew?
This ret-con subtly answers those questions. If on a subliminal level, Peter & Clone-Gwen knew that she wasn't an exact duplicate of Gwen Stacy, then that helps explain their actions.
Posted by: Bernard the Poet | November 30, 2017 6:00 AM
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