Curt Connors is back experimenting on lizards. He has been employed by Phelcorp Pharmaceuticals to come up with a profitable alternative to Viagra. As humans are all just lizards in monkey suits, Connors knew just where to begin. But his boss is pushing him a little too hard, and his home life has fallen apart. You don't want to make Curt Connors angry. You wouldn't like him when he's… no. wait. That's the other green guy.
In downtown New York, Spider-Man and the Black Cat make short work of an armoured car heist. In the aftermath, talk turns to their 'relationship'. Spidey is obviously guilty about his feelings for Carlie, but can't bring himself to tell the Cat this. Perceptive Felicia knows the score. "We're not a couple," she says. "If something better comes along, don't let us get in your way." Spidey watches as she swings away. If Felicia would just let him in, maybe he would feel less guilty.
Meanwhile, Curt Connors is having a supervised meeting with his estranged child, Billy. It doesn't go well. Despite Curt's reassurances that he has got his life back on track, Billy won't speak to him. His father frightens him - which considering the fact that he fairly recently turned his son into Lizard Jnr, isn't entirely surprising. A disconsolate Curt is led away by the social worker.
At the Coffee Bean Peter places a call to his Aunt May. He has girl trouble and he needs advice. Anti-May isn't the slightest bit interested, but does take the opportunity to belittle Peter to the workmen currently rebuilding her house. Fortunately, Harry Osborn has seen the glum faraway look in Peter's eyes. It's a look he knows only too well, and he's here to offer his advice.
They talk about Harry living with MJ (which is weird) and Peter confesses to Harry that he's been "having fun" with a girl, and although he knows it's not going anywhere he thinks that it's keeping him from a deeper relationship with Carlie. Harry snatches Peter's phone and texts Carlie asking her out on a date. He can see that Carlie and Peter are perfect for one another: why can't Peter see it?
At the Phelcorp Lab, Curt's assistant, Marissa, is cuddling one of their lizard test subjects. Curt points out that lizards don't feel love, and it's just seeking out her body heat. Marissa knows this of course, but she likes to kid herself. Isn't Marissa adorable? The lizard in Curt wouldn't mind seeking out her body heat.
The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Brian King. He confronts Connors in a scene reminiscent of last issue's prologue, but this time Connors is much more dominant, much more threatening. He won't have King coming in here. "This is the lizard's territory" he says. King says that he's not staying long. He didn't come for the lizards: he came for Marissa. He wants to take the attractive young woman out on a date.
These events are watched from afar by the captive Madame Web. She predicts that Curt's secret ardour for Marissa will inflame the Lizard, that Spider-Man will battle him again and that the "cries of the son will tame the beast". Sasha Kravninov doesn't like the sound of that at all. It sounds too much like a happy ending to her. She sends Ana off to nudge the players in a different direction.
At the fifth precinct, Peter greets Carlie with a spot of lunch. He's waited in line for an hour at a popular fast-food eatery, and Carlie is immediately suspicious that he has an ulterior motive. Peter pleads ignorance: lunch is sometimes just lunch. But he'll probably tell all his friends it was a date. Carlie is surprisingly okay with that.
The following day, Connors arrives early at the lab. Marissa is already there. She spent the night with Brian King, and Connors can smell him all over her. He is distracted, he is angry and he's started growling. In his mind, the voice of the Lizard is getting louder and louder. The last thing he needs in this state is an encounter with Brain King himself. But guess who is waiting in Connors's office; in his territory?
King poached Connors's female. The reptilian response would be to kill him for it. That's what Connors wants to do. He can feel the Lizard coming. Madly he fumbles through his desk, hunting for the drug that suppresses the beast. King misreads the situation, and things that Connors is actively trying to turn into the monster. Stopping Curt is the last thing that King ever does.
The Lizard returns with slashing claws and razor sharp teeth. King doesn't stand a chance. And when he has eaten King, the Lizard prepares to turn his attention elsewhere.
Part one of the four part return of the Lizard and nothing original to report so far. This isn't a bad issue by any means: the story is competently done and, as readers, we really feel for Curt Connors. He has no wife, a son whom he can't even touch, and a job that is both aggravating and demeaning. Connors's descent from scientist to lizard is given the unstoppable pathos it deserves; but we've been here so many times before that it doesn't have the impact that it probably should.
There must be another way to tell a story about the Lizard than this. We have another three issues to go, of course, so it could be that Wells has something revolutionary planned. The opening act could just be to lull us into a false sense of inevitability. Perhaps the intervention of the Kravinovs will alter the status quo. I hope rather than believe this to be the case.
You also have to wonder why, given his history, Curt didn't decide to conduct his clinical trials on rats, or hamsters or (perish the thought) actual monkeys. Why lizards? I can see it won't end well, everyone else who reads the book can see it won't end well, why can't Curt see that? Zeb Wells might be going be aiming for the key element of any good tragedy (the hero never sees it coming), but he's in danger of presenting Curt as a bit of a nitwit.
The bits of the story that don't deal with the descent of Curt Connors are rather well done. I like the way that Peter is having to wrestle his entirely different relationships with Felicia and Carlie and, to his credit, doesn't want to pursue Carlie until matters with the Black Cat are settled. As readers, you can't help thinking that he would prefer to be with Felicia, if only she would give him something back in return. This doesn't bode well to a future relationship with Carlie, no matter how well suited they might be.
The supporting turns by Harry Osborn and Aunt May are most welcome. Harry is his usual jovial self, and the new, improved Anti-May is hilarious. I know that Marvel won't make this personality change permanent, but I hope the creative teams make the most of it while they can.
Usually, I find Chris Bachalo's art murky and indistinct. It's common that I have to rotate the comic through three hundred and sixty degrees, peering myopically at each panel in a vain attempt to work out what the Dickens is going on. That is not the case here. While his art retains its distinctively quality, it is the clearest I have seen from him for a while. Mr Bachalo isn't my favourite artist, but this issue is perfectly acceptable and easy on the eye. And he draws a good lizard.
The story is covering all-too familiar ground, but it's covering it competently. The sub-plots still make the issue well worth a read. Three webs.