Coming off of Bill Mantlo’s finest moment on his first run of writing Spectacular (the multi-part Carrion saga), we are graced with an interesting 3-part Lizard story.
|Cover Art:||Bob Layton|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #2|
After a gruelling, non-stop round of confrontations that led to the exhilarating final battle with the first Carrion, Pete swings himself through the rain in route to his apartment. It’s been four issues since Parker has even been to his apartment and he’s stunned to see it looking so good after Carrion trashed the place a few issues ago. A note explains that his close friends were responsible for the clean up. As a hungry Pete scourges his fridge, he remembers an important bit of information - graduate school starts today. Glory Grant then makes a surprise appearance to both give Pete a plant and tell him that she’s moving out of the apartment today. Peter craftily hides his Spider suit from Glory that was left out on an end table in plain sight and inconsequentially soaks it in a vase in the process.
We’re then transported back a few hours earlier in the morning, which presumably would have been around the same time that Spidey was passed out in the snow outside Professor Warren’s burning lab during the last ish. Across campus at the Biology lab of ESU’s graduate school, a security guard is ambushed by a lizard like tail (the ESU campus is a busy place). Shrouded in the shadows we see a familiar face, Doc Connors covered in a cold sweat saying that he can’t let it happen again. It seems as if Connors has again lost control of his alter-ego, the terrible Lizard. The scene then shifts forward a few hours to follow Peter as he makes his way to the university for his first day of graduate school. After quick run-ins with Flash and Sha Shan and then Hector and Holly, Pete, in clumsy fashion, meets Dr. Morris Sloan and fellow grad student Marcy Kane.
This marks the first appearances of both Sloan and Kane, characters that will play semi-important rolls in Peter’s life over the next few years. We quickly find out that Marcy is a blonde bombshell with an attitude. Looking back, it’s really a shame that Marcy’s character didn’t develop more during the few years that she and Pete were classmates. In a few months Deb Whitman would come on to the scene and Marcy would eventually be relegated to a bit part. By the mid-'80s, Mantlo would turn poor Marcy into an alien.
Soon there after, a flash of light explodes out of the biology lab and Marcy and Peter run in to see what is happening. Lo and behold, we see Doc Connors laying face down in the lab and a bright light illuminating from a large machine in the center of the room. Once he comes to, Connors blames his state on a power surge but Peter knows that there's more than meets the eye. Speaking of eyes, a creepy iguana with glowing eyes eerily looks on from within its cage. After Connors brushes off all the oddness that is currently going on in the lab, Marcy reminds everyone that the doctor is supposed to take them on a field trip to the Bronx Zoo.
Once the contingent of Peter, Marcy and a group of undergrad students arrive at the zoo, we find out that, for whatever reason, the good doctor has brought the iguana with the glowing eyes along with him. He says that he is donating the iguana to the reptile collection at the zoo, but after we find out the true secret of the eye-glowing iguana, it seems kind of weird to want to bring this thing to a public place. Soon enough, Connors' eyes start to glow in the same fashion as the iguana and he takes off towards the zoo’s ‘House of Darkness.’
Finally we get to see Spider-Man in action as he sheds his civies and follows Connors into an unguarded entrance of the dimly lit display. Using his awesome Spider-Signal (that even in the ‘70s we didn’t see enough of), Spidey navigates his way through bats, snakes and eventually a man-sized lizard. The red tint of the Spider-Signal playing against the darkness all around Spider-Man looks really cool and make the last few pages of the book the most memorable. After finding an unconscious Doc Connors, Spider-Man is ambushed by some sort of lizard-like creature. At this point it becomes obvious that this monster is not Connors' Lizard alter-ego, but instead a brand new villain. As he trades blows with the mysterious monster, Pete tries to make sense of what exactly it is he is fighting. This leads to a full page ending that gives us our first look at the creature. Presumably in a raspy, lizard like, voice the creature calls itself “the incredible Iguana.”
After a lot of action over the last few issues, it was nice to see Pete kind of settle down here. Starting graduate school, meeting new people and the return of Doc Connors (who was last seen in the pretty ridiculous Stegron storyline back in Amazing Spider-Man #165 and Amazing Spider-Man #166) are enough to make this issue stand out among other Bronze Age back issues. Not letting us see the villain’s face until the final page helped build up anticipation and made the impact of seeing The Iguana in its entirety that much more profound.
Another fine start to a pretty intense '70s Mantlo story-arc. The build up is nice and the anticipation for the next issue is high.