I know that the mid-1990s era of Spider-Man has its fans, but to me it’s a horrible patchwork of tie ins between the various (four per month!) ongoing Spidey titles and lots of gimmicky references to various clones and symbiotes. It’s a total mess. Like most of Marvel at the time, frankly—this is when Daredevil got his battle armor, after all. All the characters were losing focus and Ghost Rider or Punisher appeared on the cover of every other issue of every single comic.
But through all that, Amazing Spider-Man #400 managed to rise above.
A lot happens in the main story, “The Gift.” Written by JM DeMatteis and drawn by Mark Bagley, it seems in the first half of the story to be an attempt to resolve a lot of the nonsense that had been permeating the Spiderverse for the past few years. The Kaine/Ben Reilly storyline seems to resolve as Reilly vows to finally leave Peter Parker alone.
It also seems like it’s trying to cut a new way forward, with Mary Jane revealing that she is pregnant, Aunt May revealing that she knew Peter was Spider-Man all along, and, of course, Aunt May finally dying.
But sadly, the end of the comic reveals that the clone saga is just getting started. It undercuts the sad death of a major character—and, ultimately, the clone saga undoes that death anyway.
Overall, #400 was an issue that, standing alone, is pretty close to being great but, when viewed in historical context, is the beginning of a chapter in Spider-Man that is so bad, so awful, that I’m skipping ahead. Way ahead.
Much has been written about the clone saga, which ran from Amazing Spider-Man #394 through #418 (and also through all the other Spiderbooks), and I have zero desire to reread it or write about it. And Tom DeFalco continued to devastate my favorite superhero for many issues past it.
All the way to #440, in fact.
Which is where we’ll pick up next.