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Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 Spider-man/Lizard: No Turning Back

by Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Collects Amazing Spider-man 688-691 plus Untold Tales
of Spider-man #9

 
Why I bought this: The Lizard is one of my two favorite Silver Age Spidey foes so I had wanted
to read this since it came out around the time of the Spidey reboot film. At
Free Comic Book Day this year one of my local shops ran a buy one, get one free
sale on all trades making it an ideal time to finally pick this up.

 

The Plot: Spider-man
captures Lizard and takes him to Horizon labs in an attempt to cure him but
Morbius’s presence there soon leads to events spinning out of control as the
Spidey mythos takes a rare foray into the horror genre.

 As always spoilers after the
break.

 
Chapter 1 – Spidey is
battling Lizard in the sewers and is horrified that Lizard ate the scores of
people that accompanied him down there at the end of the “Shed” storyline. We
flashback to earlier in the day where MJ has opened a new nightclub and Peter
manages to find a moment alone with her to talk about his guilt over letting
Silver Sable die in the “Ends of the Earth” arc. They are interrupted by a call
from Carlie Cooper who tells Peter that Morbius has dug up Billy Connors grave
and stolen the body. Spidey breaks into Horizon Labs where Morbius is indeed
dissecting the body. Morbius says the autopsy has allowed him to find a
permanent cure for the Lizard. Back in the sewers Lizard has the advantage in
the fight when Morbius emerges and injects Lizard with his cure via a harpoon.
However it does not work as Lizard explains Connors is gone forever due to the
guilt he feels after Lizard killed Billy. They electrocute Lizard and he indeed
reverts to human form but in the cliffhanger we see the Lizard’s personality is
still in control.

Chapter 2 – The Horizon staff
confirm there is no Lizard DNA left in Connors’ system. Lizard fakes being
Connors remembering Billy’s death for the first time and asks for some time
alone (in Morbius’s lab) to mourn his son. He then steals Morbius’s blood
supply and empties it into the air vents which causes Morbius to go berserk
with bloodlust and bite one of the Horizon girls. Spidey and Morbius fight to
the outside. Interlude as Madame Web v2.0 (Julia Carpenter: the former Spider
Woman v2.0 from Secret Wars) gets a
prophecy of extreme danger facing Peter. Back at Horizon, Lizard cons Max Model
into thinking he wants to reciprocate by designing a cure for Morbius but in
fact tries to recreate his Lizard serum. When he injects himself he regenerates
Curt’s missing arm while remaining completely human, ironically achieving the
success Connors wanted when he injected himself with the Lizard serum the first
time. Lizard then ambushes Max and injects him with the serum which turns Max
into a lizard-man.

Chapter 3 – To keep up his
ruse Lizard cuts off Connors arm and feeds it to Max, then finds another lab to
work in. Meanwhile Spidey’s fight with Morbius is interrupted by Madame Web who
warns him something is about to happen at Horizon’s lab that will lead to “ruin
and despair.” Cut to the Kingpin who has an inside man at Horizon who he has
tasked with stealing spider-sense jammers. At first Kingpin’s mole attempts to
hack the computer system but then he stumbles across a paper file that has just
what he was looking for so he steals it and in his haste leaves the computer
virus uploading in a scene reminiscent of Jurassic
Park
. Lizard meanwhile is infecting more employees with lizard DNA and then
locking them in their labs as each serum works on everyone but him thanks to
Morbius’s cure. Spidey defeats Morbius and hands him to the cops and then
rushes off to Horizon. Lizard gets help from Uatu (not the Watcher, another Horizon
employee who wants to be a monster hunter) and realizes he needs superhuman DNA
to override the Morbius cure. Connors bumps into Carlie Cooper in an attempt to
retrieve it and she notices the wrong arm is missing. Just then the computer
virus activates and unseals all the doors thus freeing the horde of lizard-men
that Connors has created. Spidey arrives just in time, while Connors gets his
hands on Mutant Growth Hormone but then pauses to debate if he wants to return to
his Lizard form having spent the past two chapters experiencing human food,
music and videogames for the first time.

Chapter 4 – The lizard-men
are suddenly tame and a Horizon employee notes that lizards and men are not
natural enemies (implying thus that it has always been Connors that caused the
Lizard to be evil—a concept Paul Jenkins explored a few years ago as well in a
very good trade). Ironically the Lizard decides he wants to remain human
because he can experience more sensations in a human body but when Spidey and
Cooper make it clear they intend to imprison him he injects himself with MGH
and reverts to his true form (in fact we’re told he’s stronger than ever). We
get the big fight scene but when Lizard looks into the crowd of Horizon employees
he starts to hallucinate all the women and children are Martha and Billy. This
gives Spidey the opportunity to inject the harpoon cure directly into his brain!
It knocks him out but does not turn him human. However in the first epilogue we
see Lizard imprisoned in the Raft and learn Connors’ personality is now
dominant in the Lizard body but he is not telling anyone because he feels he
deserves to be punished after what Lizard did to Billy. Meanwhile Kingpin and
Hobgoblin have the spider-sense jammer and this causes Julia’s apocalyptic
vision to return. At the center of that vision is a man named Devil Spider who
we (but not Julia) learn is secretly the original Hobgoblin. 

Bonus Chapter – In his early
days Spider-man met Bat Boy a young teen who was shunned as being freak and
became homeless. Spidey decided to take Bat Boy to Connors for a potential cure
but during the initial consultation Bat Boy causes a lab accident that turns
Connors into the Lizard. Spidey and Bat Boy fight Lizard into the sewers.
Lizard is about to kill Peter until Bat Boy calls out for his father causing
Lizard to think of Billy and Connors to seize control of the body long enough
for Peter to force the cure down his throat and Connors returns to human form.
The story ends with Connors again working to cure Bat Boy and Peter destroying
his film of the fight to protect Connors’ identity.

Critical Thoughts: Yea this is all good and then some. I like the Lizard and this may
well be the best Lizard story ever told. (Certainly in the top two with the
aforementioned Jenkins story the other big contender as Lizard’s Silver Age
stuff is more fun in a traditional comics-for-8-year-olds way than having
psychological character depth.) Fortunately this is just what the character
needed after his prior appearance in the abhorrent “Shed” storyline following
up on the consequences of that story in a very real way while also abandoning
that woefully misguided direction and bringing Lizard back to his roots.

I also really liked
Spider-man’s portrayal here of being worn down from the epic events of “Ends of
the Earth” and just fed up with the constant string of horrors he sometimes
sees so that after Morbius butchers Billy’s body and then bites a one of
Peter’s coworkers he is just done making excuses for Morbius (who in fairness
is often portrayed as anti-hero rather than a villain) and Connors (who is
traditionally show as not responsible for Lizard’s actions.) The resulting
fight scenes with Spidey and Morbius is really good, and really all the fight
scenes work.

The female supporting cast is
also portrayed well. MJ has a real nice moment relating to Peter after Sable’s
death and we see her do what she always did best during the marriage: keep him
grounded in reality by helping him realize he should not always feel guilt and
responsibility for every thing wrong that happens in his world. Carlie Cooper
also remains an effective supporting character giving Spider-man a connection
to the police force that he’d lacked since the death of Jean DeWolf. Even
Madame Web v2.0 is given a moment or two with her daughter to show how she’s
adjusting to her new powers. I’m still not thrilled with the decision to make
Carpenter the new Madame Web but Slott at least does a little more for her this
time out.

The biggest highlights are the
middle chapters with Lizard in Connors body as the scenes are narrated by the
Lizard persona and I don’t think we’ve really been privy to the Lizard’s
thoughts before. If we have it was certainly not to this extent and not in such
an intriguing situation. The art is also top notch making the Lizard as Connors
stuff feel really creepy throughout.

 
Grade A.  The more of Slott’s stuff I read the more I
am convinced that we are in the midst of an all-time great Spider-man run that
will be remembered as legendary years from now.