Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #631

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This story is part of an Arc: "Shed"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: Jul 2010.

Background...

Curt Connors is having a rough time of it. His wife is dead and he has lost custody of his son. At work he is being pressured to come up with a new drug before it is ready, and his boss is a real jerk. When Connors is confronted with a real jerk, he simply turns into the Lizard and eats him. If only the rest of us were that lucky. Meanwhile, the Kravinovs are stepping up their campaign against Spider-Man. With Madame Web and Mattie Franklin their prisoners, they're hoping to turn the resurgence of the Lizard to their advantage. But they have their fingers in more pies than that…

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #631
Jul 2010 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 of "Shed"
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Zeb Wells
Artist:  Emma Rios (Pgs 1-8)
Pencils:  Chris Bachalo (Pgs 9-22)
Inker:  Chris Bachalo (Pgs 9-22), Jamie Mendoza (Pgs 9-22), Tim Townsend (Pgs 9-22)
Cover Art:  Chris Bachelo, Tim Townsend
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Articles: Kaine, Kravinoff, Ana, Lizard

The story opens with Spider-Man's flawed clone, Kaine, stalking through the South Bronx. Don't worry, we haven't missed an issue. Kaine is being hunted by Ana and Alyosha Kravinov. Ana manages to put the frighteners on Kaine and drug him. Only his "acid touch" manages to save him. As Kaine makes his escape, Alyosha chides Ana. They cannot pursue, the Lizard has hatched, and needs to be fed.

Meanwhile, Peter Parker is enjoying a genuinely new experience: being stood up! He's sitting in a restaurant waiting for Carlie Cooper, but she doesn't show. While walking home, Peter receives a call from her. She apologises; she's at a crime scene in Phelcorp Labs. It's Curt Connors, and it's bad. Within minutes, Peter Parker is at the scene in his regulation red and blue long-johns.

Spider-Man can't believe that this has happened again. He believed Connors when he said that he was cured. Carlie's having trouble taking it all in. Six people dead, only the assistant Marissa is alive and she's in no shape to talk to anyone. Connors was trying to get custody of his son. How did it all go so wrong for him? Carlie's words act as a spur for Spider-Man. The Lizard is bound to go after Billy Connors. Spidey has to get there to save him.

Spidey races to the address of Billy's foster parents, getting there moments before the Lizard. Now it is the Lizard's voice that is strong, and Connor's voice that is merely a whisper in the dark. But Connors's voice is loud enough to express his relief that Spider-Man has arrived to stop him: has arrived to save his son, again.

Spidey tries to get through to Connors, to get him to take control of the Lizard, but it is all in vain. A vicious fight ensues that sees Spidey thrown through the front door of the house he is trying to guard. It is then Spidey realises that he is too late. Something horrible has already happened in this house, something that happened before the Lizard arrived.

Spidey hears a cry for help inside. At this instant the Lizard tastes the air with his long tongue and then lumbers off into the city, his entourage of freed lizards in tow. Spidey doesn't know why the Lizard departed, but he won't look a gift horse in the mouth. He tags the Lizard with a spider-tracer and then heads into the trashed house to find a broken and bleeding woman. This is Billy's foster mother. But Billy isn't here. The woman says that he was taken by a young girl. Spidey is stumped. Who would take Billy Connors?

In a dark alley not far from the house, Ana Kravinov is holding Billy Connors. He is frightened and he is crying, but she is unmoved. She can hear the Lizard coming, it has caught Billy's scent. Ana runs before the Lizard arrives. The hulking beast corners Billy in the alley. The boy begs his father to spare him, and in the Lizard's mind Connor is desperate to control the monster. But it is to no avail.

The Lizard is intent to assert its dominance over Connors, and to do that it must consume Connors's young. The abominable act destroys Connors sanity and any hold that he might have exerted over the Lizard. Connors is dead, just as Madame Web predicted. From a nearby building Ana and Alyosha Kravinov watch the Lizard feed.

In General...

No. No, no, no. I am not happy with this. Billy Connors has been a recurring character in Spider-Man comics for decades. Throwing him away like this does not make the Lizard or Curt Connors more interesting. What happens when Connors returns to his senses? He's just killed and eaten his own son! What father can recover from that? He either becomes suicidal, or yet another of the Marvel Universe's deranged homicidal nut-jobs.

I've said in the past two reviews that Zeb Wells wasn't taking the Lizard in a new direction. Well, I was wrong. This is a new direction, but it's an entirely unwelcome one. This is a move that actively harms the character of Curt Connors. It doesn't rehabilitate him, it doesn't make him more compelling; it's just wrong. It's also downright unpleasant.

One of the measures of good writing is whether it moves the reader. I suppose I should give Zeb Wells credit: he has definitely moved me. The writing here isn't bad, it is actually quite good. The pace of the issue as well as the scenes at the house and in the alley are well executed and powerful. I am critical of the plot more than the writing, which is an altogether greater flaw.

And while I'm on the subject of flaws, I'm not entirely happy with the way Kaine has been treated since his return to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man either. The writers have seen to forgotten quite how powerful and threatening Kaine was. He's not just a deluded Peter Parker with an acid touch - in fact he doesn't have an acid touch! His touch imparts a form of clonal degeneration into his victims. This Mark of Kaine is pretty much fatal, yet Ana manages to heal from it in about twenty seconds. Please, let's not forget that Kaine killed Doctor Octopus without breaking a sweat. That's the kind of guy we're dealing with here. Give the man some credit!

This issue also sees two artists and two inkers. Often this is a sign that a comic is running behind schedule. However, in this case it looks intentional. The art chores have been handed out rather intelligently, with Bachalo doing the Lizard-centric bits and the more conventional Emma Rios dealing with the opening scenes. There's something about Bachalo's art that really lends itself to the Lizard, and I'm really enjoying his portrayal of this monster.

However, it comes to something when the nicest thing I can think to say about a comic is my praise for Chris Bachalo's art. Zeb Wells is usually such a reliable pair of hands, and this as far off the rails as I've ever seen him.

Overall Rating...

I don't buy the Amazing Spider-Man to see malevolent fathers eat their terrified sons. Sorry, but I don't see how this arc can be redeemed at this stage. One web.