Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #102

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Six Arms Saga"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This story is part of a Lookback Series: Al Observes

This review was first published on: 1997.

Background...

We continue with part two of our Looking Back at the classic three-part masterwork entitled "The Six Arms Saga". In an attempt to rid himself of his powers, Spider-Man has given himself an extra four arms. His attempt to reverse the change has caused him to get all tangled up with the Lizard and a new vampiric villain named Morbius...

In Detail...

"Vampire at Large!"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #102
Nov 1971 : SMURF 102.500 : SM Title
Summary: Morbius, Lizard
Arc: Part 3 of "The Six Arms Saga"
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Roy Thomas
Pencils:  Gil Kane
Inker:  Frank Giacoia
Cover Art:  Gil Kane
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Selects #3
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #253
 Reprinted In: Marvel Treasury Edition #14
 Reprinted In: Essential Spider-Man #5
 Reprinted In: Spider-Man: Strange Adventures (TPB)
Articles: Watson, Anna (BTS), Aunt May Parker, Gwen Stacy, Jameson, J. Jonah, Lizard, Morbius, Robertson, Joe "Robbie"

Just like last time, this issue picks up precisely where the last one left off. (And don't you love it when they do that?) Everyone remember where we were? Good! Let's go!

The Lizard leaps at Morbius, claiming, "Spider-Man is mine to kill! Mine!", which gives Pete time to recover. Liz doesn't fare too well against Morby who grabs the reptile by the tail, swings him around, and tosses him at a table full of test tubes. (OK, wait. First the lab was in the basement. Then it was upstairs. Now, after descending one flight, the lab is on this floor as well. What's the deal? Does this house have a lab on EVERY floor?) The Lizard strikes back with a left-handed blow. Meanwhile, a recovered Spidey clings to a wall and watches. He would like to join the fight as somebody's ally but he doesn't know which side to take. But the battle is decided without him as the Lizard is knocked into a conveniently placed electronic lab device, (Even Roy can't come up with a good explanation as to what this machine is. He has Spidey call it "one of Doc's far-out frammistats".) which pumps so much electricity through him that he collapses in a heap. Morbius pounces on him and bites his neck but Spidey swings down and knocks the Living Vampire away. Morbius decides to seek easier prey rather than fight Spidey all over again. He flies off into the night with a spider-tracer planted just behind his right shoulder.

Pete is still trying to clear his head when the Lizard recovers but it is not his old enemey before him but the mind of Curt Connors in the Lizard's body. Before Spidey's startled eyes, the reptile turns halfway back into the scientist; human but still covered in scales. Significantly, his right arm is also gone. (Surely, everyone knows Dr. Connors is missing his right arm. It was his attempt to regenerate it that first turned him into the Lizard. OK, OK, just checking.) Spidey reasons that since the Lizard has lost an arm and still retained many of his lizard qualities, maybe he can lose his four extra arms and still retain his spider qualities the same way. (Friends, this is politely called pseudo-science, or to put it bluntly, "hooie". Enjoy.) Connors speculates that it was Morbius' bite that caused this change in spite of the fact that he had no time to actually suck any blood. Quickly, the Doc turns completely back into the Lizard, still with Connors' brain but with the evil mind of Spidey's arch-enemy lurking just underneath.

Spidey and Connors begin their work. The Lizard's hands are too awkward to handle the lab instruments but Peter, learning to control his four extra arms, makes up for this. Hours pass with the Lizard flucuating between brains. At last, Connors comes up with the answer. Morbius didn't take something OUT of the Lizard's body when he bit...he put something IN. An enzyme. The duo decide they can cure them both if they can mix Morbius' fang enzyme with Connors' newly-mixed serum. Spidey puts the serum in a bottle to take along. The Lizard realizes that something about Morbius' name seems familiar. The strange bedfellows venture out together to look for Morbius. The Lizard keeps right behind Spidey "like a loaded gun".

Meanwhile, in Manhattan, Morbius is on the prowl. But dawn is approaching and with it anguish over the deaths he has caused this night. He finds a cellar in which to take his rest but his sleep is fitful as he relives...Part 2: The Way It Began

Back in time we go, a few weeks earlier, to a secluded lab somewhere in Europe. Michael Morbius, Nobel Prize winner, is working with his assistant Nikos, performing tests that involve a vampire bat. He is interrupted by his love, Martine. Michael tells her that the next phase of his research must be done at sea (Why? Who knows?) and that she cannot come along. But Martine is insistent and, when the ship sets sail, she is right there with the two men.

The ship takes them from the Mediterranean to a chartered yacht in England. As the threesome set out into the open sea, only Martine is unaware that Michael is dying of a disease that "dissolves my very blood cells". The fluids distilled from bats have not slowed the illness. Drastic measures are called for.

One night, Michael bids Martine goodnight and goes below. He dons an outfit that looks like a space suit, complete with helmet, for an experiment to electrically create blood cells. Nikos pushes the fateful button and Michael is overwhelmed by pain.

Nikos soon turns the machine off and helps Michael out of the suit. He has a familiar-looking secondary insulation suit underneath which is blue-black and red in color. The man inside the suit has been changed by the experiment but Nikos doesn't notice. He lets Michael rest in another room. When Nikos goes to check on him later, he is strangled to death by the Living Vampire.

Michael realizes what he has become and is horrified by it. He decides to go to Martine for help but the blood lust has overtaken him and he imagines himself drinking his fiancee's blood. This thought so shocks him that he tries to end his life by diving into the sea.

Underwater, Morbius' survival mechanism kicks in. He claws his way up to the surface for air. His blood lust takes complete control. His yacht is gone but he knows other ships will come by, ships where he can feed. And, eventually, a ship does come, bringing us right up to date.

It is now nightfall and a lone hobo, looking for a place to flop, stumbles on Morbius' cellar resting place. Courtesy of Morbius, it becomes the hobo's final resting place on this earth.

At a TV news service, Leo and Syd are tired of taking calls about a prowler with a hundred arms and a tail. They figure it's just hysteria but it is really just a six-arm Spidey swinging on his web with the tailed Lizard holding on to him around his waist.

Part 3: The Curse and the Cure swings along with Spidey and the Lizard on the trail of Morbius. Suddenly, the Lizard's personality assumes control of the reptile body. He is shocked that he is high in the air, clinging to his greatest enemy. So, he lets go and plummets. Spidey snags him with a web only to discover that Doc Connors' mind has again assumed control. But for how long?

Elsewhere in Manhattan, Gwen Stacy broods over Peter's strange behavior. He has not called for two days. Either he is not at his apartment or, she thinks, he is not answering his calls. Although Pete told her he was leaving town, Gwen checks with May Parker. Peter's Aunt has not heard a thing about Peter taking a trip somewhere. A distraught Gwen breaks down in tears.

And at the Daily Bugle, Robbie Robertson never gets a chance to tell his publisher about the murdered derelict whose body was drained of blood, for J. Jonah Jameson is concerned with other things. With the drop in circulation, the hefty pay raises to stave off a strike, and it's biggest advertisers going over to television, "if something doesn't happen fast, there won't be a Daily Bugle!"

Out in the night, Morbius glides, free of doubt, looking for a new victim. What he finds is Spidey and the Lizard instead. Spidey uses ALL of his fists to pound away on Morbius but the vampire still nearly escapes. He is hauled back by the Wall-Crawler's webbing and smashed against a wall. This knocks Morbius out cold. Connors extracts some of Morbius' blood and adds it to his serum. He quickly injects himself and is changed back to human so fast it nearly takes his breath away. Spidey is ready to partake of the serum as well, but, before he can, Morbius comes to and strikes! He steals the vial and flies off, intending to reclaim his stolen blood by drinking the serum himself. It is at this moment that Doc Connors realizes the vampire is Nobel Prize winner Michael Morbius. (Gee, what finally tipped him off? Could it be that they're both named Morbius?) The Doc figures Morbius needs the enzyme back or he'll die. (Uh...they took ALL of this enzyme with one little drawing of blood?)

Spidey tries to catch up to Morbius but the vampire makes it over the river. Pete snags him with a web but instead of reeling him in, he's pulled along for the ride. But Spidey's weight pulls Morbius down far enough so that he strikes the side of a bridge! Both hero and villain plunge toward the water. Spider-Man lands on a garbage scow but Morbius ends up in the drink. Our hero figures Morbius, with his hollow bones, to float (but each time he's been in the furshlugginer water, his body has reacted differently, as we have seen) but instead the vampire sinks like a rock. "Must be caught in some kind of undertow!" (Yeah, that must be it.) One hand still remains above water and Spidey aims his webbing at it. The shot misses the hand but attaches to the vial the hand was holding. The serum is saved. Morbius is gone.

Back on a rooftop, Connors injects Spidey with the serum and, instantly, his four extra arms are gone. Peter thinks about Morbius and the Lizard. He speculates that each of us has a monster inside him. "If so", says Connors, "then you faced your monster tonight and you defeated him. But Morbius couldn't face his and it killed him. And maybe, just maybe, that's what he really wanted, all the time!"

In the letter section, Bradley D. Ellis of College Station, Texas says of Pete, "I eagerly await the coming milestones in his life for the great improvements they will make. Peter Parker's adult number will be something else. I just want to tell you Gwen Stacy belongs to it. Don't let him lose her." The Response? "And we won't, if we have anything to say about it. But then...do we? It sometimes seems like our characters and stories virtually write themselves and that we're just recording 'em the way we see 'em." Oh oh. I don't like the sound of that.

Also on the letter page, an apology for the rise in price of the comic. Whatever happened to that little courtesy, huh? I guess they got too busy jacking the price up in recent years to bother to say they were sorry about doing it. (Bitter? Cynical? Who, me?)

Did Spidey suffer any side-effects from the serum? Oh yes. Is Morbius dead? Oh no. Gerry Conway deals with both issues eight months later in Marvel Team-Up #3 (July, 1972). Maybe some day Looking Back will review that issue, too. (Well, don't hold your breath waiting for it.) For now, though...