Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #688

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This story is part of an Arc: "No Turning Back"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: Jul 2012.

Background...

During the controversial storyline Shed, not only did Dr Curt Connors, aka The Lizard, shed his human alter ego of Connors and let the Lizard's reptilian brain take over fully, he devoured his long-suffering son Billy while he was at it.

Peter learned (in Amazing Spider-Man #679.1) that the secret scientist of Lab 6 at Horizon Labs was none other than Dr Michael Morbius, Spider-man's foe Morbius the living vampire.

In Detail...

"The Win Column"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #688
Aug 2012 : SM Title
Summary: Lizard, Morbius
Arc: Part 1 of "No Turning Back"
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker:  Klaus Janson
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Frank D' Armata
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 Partially Reprinted In: Summer of Spider-Man Sampler #1
Articles: Lizard

The story opens down in the sewers with Spidey and the Lizard in the middle of a dramatic battle. Spidey is a little worse for the wear, with tears in his costume and missing an eyelet in his mask. Lizard tells him that they had a deal last time they met, that Spidey stays topside and Lizard rules the underground. Spidey thinks that Lizard is right, that last time they met "he broke me, and I just let him go", as Lizard's human followers went with him into the sewers (I guess Spidey forgets the 4-issue X-Men Vol 3 crossover where he faced the Lizard again after Shed, or rather Slott did).

Lizard throws Spidey into a pile of human bones--the remains of his followers, whom he has eaten. Faced with letting the Lizard murder so many people, Spidey goes in a rage and beats the Lizard down with even more gusto.

The story flashes back to "eight hours earlier"--the Horizon's vessel Zenith is docking to the cheers of the press and a crowd. The scientists are being greeted as heroes for their role in helping stop Doc Ock and the Six during the Ends Of The Earth. Max Modell runs into his lawyer Hector, who says the power in the Horizon building is back on after their spat with Jonah and the city--but that the "special guest" in lab six has to go--Morbius. Modell says he won't turn his back on Morbius, who is his old friend and collegue. A group of supermodels approach Grady, Uatu and Peter and invite them to a nightclub party in their honor--at Mary Jane's new nightclub.

The scene shifts to said nightclub where Peter and MJ go out on the patio together so she can give him a much needed pep-talk. Things shift abruptly back to the present, where Spidey jams a harpoon-looking thing into the Lizard's shoulder, saying that he's there to end him. Shift back to the patio scene with MJ, and Peter gets a call on his cell from Carlie Cooper, saying Spider-man's needed at the Brooklyn Greenwood Cemetery. Peter suits up, and meets Carlie there to find that Billy Connors grave has been dug up, and the body taken. She gives Spidey a witness description--and Spidey knows that Morbius is responsible.

Spider-man storms into Horizon Labs, demanding to see Morbius. Modell takes him to lab six, and sure enough, there's Morbius with Billy Connors' remains. Spidey sets into Morbius, but he explains that he needed Connors DNA, to make the perfect cure: to restore Curt Connors.

Shifting forward--the harpoon Spidey shoved into Lizard contains the cure. Lizard scoffs at the idea of returning to a human form, that Connors is dead. Morbius jumps out of the shadows suddenly with a second harpoon, which he drives into Lizard's back.

Back two hours previous, Morbius is explaining to Spidey and Modell that the cure he's formulated is a variation on the one he came up with during Spider-Island. Morbius has devised a hyperdermic harpoon to deliver the serum through Lizard's thick hide ("hypoons", Spidey calls them). Modell chimes in that "the desecration of the Connors boy will not stand", and that Morbius is no longer welcome at Horizon after that night. With that, they agree the Lizard has to go down, and Spidey, Morbius, Modell and a couple of Modell's Horizon lackeys head into the sewers.

Back to the present. Morbius tells Spidey to attack Lizard now, after being weakened by several of the "hypoons". Spidey says he's sick of all the death and killing around him, that he's going to bring Curt Connors back and put one in the win column. Modell and his techs zap the Lizard with "sonic agitators", which break down the "hypoon" metals and deliver the serum faster into Lizard's system. It works--Connors reverts back to his human form. Modell says they have to get him out of the dirty sewer and back to the lab for examination. Internally, the Lizard talks to Connors, telling him he'll pay for what he's done.

In General...

It got to the point where I couldn't wait for Ends Of The Earth to finally end, so the first part of this story comes as a nice palette cleanser. I've made no bones in my reviews here of not being a fan of the endless teamups and guest stars, the overblown six-part stories, and the space and globe-trotting that often mucks up this otherwise great title. I get that Marvel seems to want this title to be all things to all readers, and they have their own marketing agendas, but it makes things disorienting issue to issue. In this reader's opinion, Spider-man is still a character that works best on his own, in New York City, fighting often bizarre villains. And Spidey has his hands full with one here.

I liked Shed. It made the Lizard interesting to me and I've never particularly had a fondness for the villain. There was a complaint of sorts among fandom that there was nowhere to go with Lizard after that story, however, but Dan Slott has found a way to smartly integrate the Lizard and Morbius this issue in a way that acknowledges Curt Connor's part in his son's death (and having these two bad guys together again is like a call back to the classic The Six Arms Saga and the first appearance of Morbius). It's almost too tidy the way Max Modell, Morbius and Spidey turn Connors back to human form this issue, but I've an inkling that Connors will regret they did next issue. It's nice to see the Shed-styled Lizard make a comeback here, Lizard dreadlocks and all. Carmuncoli even dials back that Chris Bachalo Lizard re-design, so he looks a little more like the classic Lizard.

Carmuncoli's art is great here, as ever, though his Peter Parker looks a bit odd to me at times. The early scenes of Spidey battling it out with the Lizard are moody and layed out in a great way. Stylistically, Carmuncoli's art with Klaus Janson's inks falls somewhere between Caselli's realism and Ramos' exaggerated art, and it splits the difference between the two nicely.

Finally, the use of disjointed storytelling creates a neat effect this issue. One thinks that Spider-man has finally had it with his bad guys and is trying to kill the Lizard with the "hypoon" he drives into the beast. It's a clever tactic and it's one that makes this relatively straightforward tale a bit more interesting.

Overall Rating...

Slott manages to drive the Lizard story further, while cleaning up the mostly withered subplot of Morbius in Lab Six. It's also finally a storyline that feels like a true Spidey story, where the stories of the last 3 months to me have not.

There seems to be a pattern in Amazing Spider-man now: these smaller, somewhat more personal (for Peter Parker) tales following the craziness of the crossover stories, where Slott has to pull in every Avenger and guest star in the Marvel toy box to cram Spidey out of his own title. It allows Slott to tell different varieties of Spider-man stories: lighthearted, crazy or dark. Since I generally prefer the more serious tales, I liked this issue very much. Put this one in..wait for it.. Slott's "Win Column".

Footnote...

This issue's cover has The Lizard chomping on Spider-man's neck in a rather gory and bloody fashion, even though it doesn't occur anywhere in the book. Though I do like the altering of the cover's tagline to "the world's tastiest super-hero".