Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #633

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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...

A battle was fought in the mind of Curt Connors between the instinctive and visceral 'lizard-brain' and the higher 'monkey-brain'. The lizard won. Now Connors's mind is completely lost, and the a newly regenerated Lizard is in charge. He has eaten Connors's son, Billy, thus eradicating any link to his former life. What is more he has the power to draw out the 'lizard-brain' in humans, causing fearful and violent chaos. Not even Spider-Man is immune. Speaking of Spidey, he's laid his hands on a means to cure the Lizard, and he's on his way to stop this madness once and for all.

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #633
Jul 2010 : SM Title
Arc: Part 4 of "Shed"
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Zeb Wells
Artist:  Emma Rios (Pgs 18-21)
Pencils:  Chris Bachalo (Pgs 1-17, 22)
Inker:  Chris Bachalo (Pgs 1-17, 22), Jamie Mendoza (Pgs 1-17, 22), Tim Townsend (Pgs 1-17, 22), Victor Olazaba (Pgs 1-17, 22)
Cover Art:  Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend
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Articles: Kravinoff, Sasha, Lizard

In the violent streets of a New York a TV reporter and her camera-man are overwhelmed by a bestial mob, and then fall prey to the same mania. It is a common occurrence under the watchful gaze of the Lizard, who presides over the destruction his powers have wrought.

From the roof of a near-by building Spider-Man is also watching. He has a vial of Connors's cure in his hand. He hopes that by taking it himself, he will be immune to the Lizard's telepathy. He swigs back the green liquid, and then swings down to do battle with the Lizard.

At first the Lizard is confused as to why his powers aren't affecting Spider-Man, then he realises that Spidey is protected by Connors's formula. He roars in anger, and Spidey spits half the formula into the Lizard's mouth. As the monster is distracted, Spider-Man buries a handful of syringes filled with Connors's cure into the Lizard's back. "Fight him Connors!" he yells.

It's a fine strategy, but you didn't expect things to be as easy as that, did you? The Lizard is staggered, but the cure won't work on him because there is no Connors to appeal to. Spidey doesn't believe it. He knows Connors is in there, and he presents the Lizard with a picture of the deceased Billy: his son. This has a profound effect on the Lizard, but not in the way that Spider-Man hoped.

"You put pictures in my head!" the Lizard cries, and commands his hoard of addled New Yorkers to attack Spider-Man. They pull him to the ground, rip his costume and tear off his webshooters. Spidey knows this could be the end, but he won't fight back against the Lizard's innocents victims. However, he is saved at the last moment: by the Lizard himself!

He carries Spidey away to a rooftop. He has been thinking about the picture. He knows the boy in it, but he doesn't understand the emotions he is feeling. He killed and ate Billy because he was Connors young. Doing such a thing made him strong. But seeing the picture makes him feel weak, it makes him feel injured. Why is this?

Spidey says that it is the feeling of shame. He needs to get used to it. "Is this what it means to be a mammal?" asks the Lizard. He looks around at the city, as if he is seeing it for the first time. Mammals built all of this. And there is much more that he cannot see. He does not belong in a place like this. The Lizard drops from the roof and disappears into the city. Spidey is in no position to stop him. As the Lizard departs, he releases all the New Yorkers from his thrall.

Hours later an emotionally bereft Peter Parker staggers to his aunt's home in Forest Hills. The May who answers the door is the acerbic and unfeeling Anti-May that was created by Mr Negative. But there is something in Peter's haunted face, and in his story about Curt Connors and Billy that touches May. Something strong enough to break whatever hold Mr Negative placed on her. She is herself once again, and all she wants to do is comfort her nephew.

Meanwhile, in the sewers of New York, it is revealed that the Lizard did not relinquish his hold on all the 'monkey-brains'. Some humans are seeking him out. The Lizard is pleased: "They should make good pets".

In General...

Just in case you missed my righteous outrage in previous reviews, I will reiterate that the killing of Billy Connors was a terrible mistake. To take a long-standing character and simply kill him off as a deus ex machina or worse, for pure shock value, does no favours to the comic or to the creative team involved.

Back in 1999, Gail Simone launched a website called Women in Refrigerators to highlight the way that so many female characters in comics were killed or injured purely to drive the plot of a male character. Some of her examples have merit, others are on shakier ground. From the world of Spider-Man, both Gwen Stacey and Jean DeWolff died purely so the reader could see what effect that would have on Spider-Man. Regardless of whatever character development they had both enjoyed, in the end they amounted to nothing more than a plot device.

This is what Zeb Wells has done to Billy Connors. He's killed off a long standing character just to see what effect it would have on the Lizard. I don't think this is good practice. He could have tried something genuinely new, and moved the dynamic between Connors, the Lizard and his son into new territory. This was the easy way out, and it slightly depresses me that Wells took it.

The death of Billy overshadows the whole arc, and turns a perfectly serviceable issue such as this one into something sub-par. Bachalo's Lizard is still the best thing in the book.

This issue also sees the end of the Anti-May sub-plot. I'm sorry to see Anti-May go, as she was far more entertaining than May herself. However, I do like the way that Zeb Wells resolved the matter. It makes perfect sense that May's love for Peter would overcome the conditioning placed by Mr Negative.

One wonders how much May remembers of what she saw at the FEAST centre, and whether she now knows that Mr Negative and Martin Li are one in the same. This could be the start of the long awaited final confrontation between Spider-Man and Mr Negative. And that is something I can genuinely look forward to.

Overall Rating...

The comic is short on content, and big on spectacle. That, and the scene with May, would probably have been enough to carry it to three webs. But the death of Billy and my ongoing issues with this arc compel me to award only two.