This book is one of a recent series of novels based on Marvel Comics characters, produced by Marvel Comics/Byron Preiss Multimedia, and published by Putnam. The Lizard Sanction is a sequel to Spider-Man: The Venom Factor, also written by Diane Duane. The copy I read was a hardback, 333 pages, retailing for US$19.95.
The book is partially illustrated by Darich Robertson and Scott Hoblish. There is a half-page black and white drawing at the start of each chapter. In my opinion the illustrations add little to the book. Given the scarcity of them I could have expected more attention to be given to each, but in fact they're really a bit scruffy (and Curt Connors's name is wrong in one of them too.)
Something is rotten in the State of Florida. A band of Smuggler/Terrorists, aided by an unwilling Lizard, are running amok in the Everglades and threatening the success of the latest shuttle launch. Freelance Photographer Peter Parker accompanies a tough-headed but attractive investigative journalist who is sent to get to the bottom of the NASA cover-up. When Venom decides to get involved then things really start to heat up.
I don't want to get too deeply into the plot - mostly because I didn't really understand it. I never really got a feel for the motives behind the actions of the smugglers. Various individual baddies appear prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause - but this seems strange for villains who seem only to be motivated by profit.
Conversely, their crimes-for-profit seem to be unfocused and unclearly motivated. We never really get introduced to anyone other than the most menial of villains, and the master plan is never truly revealed. At the end of the book, the major baddies hadn't really been properly identified - let alone cleaned up! It is indicated that the mysterious corporations behind the villainy are the same as those in 'The Venom Factor', and reading that first would provide some enlightenment. I wouldn't count on it though.
Fortunately the characterisations and motives of the "good guys" (namely Spider-Man, Venom, and the Lizard) are clear and well-presented. The written word provides us with more intimacy than the comic from which the characters sprang. A picture is worth a thousand words they say, but I think if you did the calculations, a comic book panel would clock in at around 100 words, not much more.
I must admit I started reading with a little trepidation. I was so familiar with Spider-Man and his friends as a comic book character and the jump to the written word seemed fraught with danger for them. Fortunately Diane takes good care of them. She demonstrates strong background knowledge, both of the characters as individuals and of their interaction. In particular she pays good attention to Peter and Mary-Jane's relationship, which has been so sadly neglected in recent comics.
She also displays a strong technical knowledge, with some acknowledge help from a technical source at NASA. I find it frustrating when my meagre technical knowledge is enough to poke holes in a stories pseudo-science. No such problem here. In fact, I occasionally felt that the jargon and acronyms were a little too rampant. I guess I'm just hard to please.
Overall I kind of liked the book. The villains did seem rather confused, and the ending was a little anti-climactic. Other than beating up some bad guys, I couldn't really see what Spider-Man, Venom, or The Lizard had actually achieved in the long term. I guess in that sense, The Lizard Sanction was pretty much your average comic.
In spite of its other weaknesses, I did enjoy the consistent characterisations and the generally strong writing. For me, Lizard Sanction did a good job of transferring Spider-Man and his entourage across to the new world of the written word. I gave it four webs.