Curt Connors is once again the Lizard, and once again he has gone after his son Billy. And once again, Spider-Man is trying to put things right. Unfortunately, this time there is another obstacle standing in the way of the wallcrawler in the shape of the family Kravinov. Intent on blindsiding Spider-Man and softening him up for their Grim Hunt, Sasha sends her murderous daughter, Ana, to kidnap Billy Connors. After an abortive entanglement with Kaine, Ana does just that, and leaves Billy helpless in an alley for the Lizard to find. With no Spider-Man to protect him, the Lizard kills and eats Billy Connors. This abominable act destroys any hint of Connors's lingering influence on the Lizard.
|Artist:||Emma Rios (Pgs 16-22)|
|Pencils:||Chris Bachalo (Pgs 1-15)|
|Inker:||Chris Bachalo (Pgs 1-15), Jamie Mendoza (Pgs 1-15), Tim Townsend (Pgs 1-15), Victor Olazaba (Pgs 1-15)|
|Cover Art:||Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend|
Spider-Man has arrived in the alleyway and is crouching over the dead and partially eaten body of Billy Connors. He couldn't have done anything differently: he had to get Billy's foster mother to the hospital. But to know that he couldn't save Billy is tearing Peter apart.
The spider-tracer is nearby. Spider-Man explodes into a rage, digging his way through the garbage to find the Lizard, to find Curt Connors. And he finds him, lying inert. He seems to be dead. This stops Spidey in his tracks. Has he failed Curt as well?
Suddenly the skin of the Lizard cracks open. A new Lizard, a better Lizard, is rising Lazarus-like from the shell of the old. Spidey backs away. The new lizard is bigger, pricklier; with feathers on its neck and a wicked intelligence in its eyes. This Lizard talks. It opines that Connors has been shed, that his babbling monkey-brain is no more. Killing Billy has put Curt Connors to rest, permanently. Connors simply didn't want to live after that.
Now the Lizard is smart he remembers Spider-Man. He remembers that Spider-Man used to hunt the Lizard. Now, it's the Lizard's turn to be the hunter. But Spidey isn't in the mood for running anywhere, he takes the fight to the Lizard. The Lizard is confused. He is stronger than Spider-Man, and the strong dominate the weak. Why does Spider-Man continue to listen to his monkey-brain that tells him to fight, when he should be listening to his lizard-brain that tells him to flee?
Well, that's a silly question. Spidey isn't listening to his lizard-brain because he isn't a lizard! Wrong! All monkey-brains have a lizard inside… and the Lizard has the power to wake it up! Spider-Man tries to fight it, but he is suddenly overwhelmed with an uncontrollable urge to flee. The spider runs and the Lizard breaks off his pursuit. Why? This baffles the Lizard - it's not the reptile way! Why did his monkey-brain tell him to stop? And why is his monkey-brain telling him that he needs clothes? Why is his monkey-brain telling him anything?
A confused and terrified Spider-Man finds his way back to Phelcorp Industries, and to Carlie. She calms him down, and eventually Spidey tells her what happened to Billy. She is upset, but professional, and determined to help Spidey get the bottom of the menace of this new Lizard. She has discovered some intriguing facts.
Carlie tells Spider-Man that Connors was working on some sort neural stimulant to increase libido; but that wasn't all he was working on. He was trying to correct an imbalance in his own brain. The primitive R-Complex that governs his instincts (his 'lizard-brain') had become enlarged, and was exerting pressure on his neo-cortex (his 'monkey-brain'). Connors thought the Lizard was trying to kill him. He tried to hide it for fear that he wouldn't get custody of his son. He had developed an antidote. Spidey takes this, and also a picture of Billy Connors. He has to stop the Lizard.
In the streets of New York the Lizard has killed again and taken clothes. Now he reaches out his new mind and his new powers to the denizens of the city. He puts pictures in their minds, turns their lizard brains against their monkey brains; urges them to shed their humanity. The populace begins acting on instinct. Men take what they want from women. Property is seized. Murder is committed. Some people forget how to queue in an orderly fashion. It's chaos on the streets!
So Spidey has a lizard-brain does he? Between that and his insect-brain (see Changes) it's a wonder there's any room left for Peter Parker in there. I'm afraid I have no idea whether the pseudo-scientific explanation of Connors's research has any basis in fact. I suspect not, but to be honest I don't have the good will left to care.
The trouble with building a story around a conceit like the battle between 'lizard-brain' and 'monkey-brain' is that you have to go out on a limb to give these ridiculous concepts some credence. The characters have to believe all this scientific babble to be true, otherwise it weakens the story. You also have to persuade the reader to buy into the concept, and if you don't then it all comes across as a bit silly.
Which is one of the problems I have with this story. Zeb Wells doesn't really convince me that this psychological drama is anything but hogwash. And frankly, I'm not difficult to convince. I read superhero comics for goodness sake, I'll believe in flying men, time travel and the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto if you ask nicely; but this leaves me rather cold.
Now the Lizard has always demonstrated some form of lizard-telepathy. All Wells needed to do was say that this telepathy had somehow mutated, as was affecting the basic fight-or-flight instinct in people. I'm not sure we needed Carlie to come up with a neat scientific explanation. It didn't give the story any greater authority; it just made it more transparent.
Or maybe I'm still bitter about the death of Billy Connors, and I'm just looking to pick holes in the story.
Chris Bachalo continues to distinguish himself. His art lends itself to large splash pages which, although impressive, make the story feel slightly padded. There's not a great deal of content in this issue. Under a less flamboyant artist this would have been a three issue story. George Perez could probably have done it in one.
The division of labour between the artists is also less successful this time around. Emma Rios and Chris Bachalo's art doesn't have a great deal in common. This is fine when she's drawing the quiet moments between Spider-Man and Carlie, but comes into sharp contrast when she's asked to draw the Lizard. It's not bad art by any means, but it is rather jarring.
I'm also slightly confused regarding the Lizard's level of intelligence. He's been little more than a instinctive beast for a while now, but he always used to be an articulate and intelligent sort didn't he? He's only been mindless since Todd MacFarlane's wonderfully misjudged Torment storyline (in Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #1). Therefore returning a semblance of the Lizard's original smarts is hardly revolutionary.
Other than that, Zeb Wells does a reasonable job on the character moments. Carlie comes across strongly once again. Is she every writer's favourite member of the supporting cast? And, if I'm being honest, I also have a glimmer of interest in what is happening to the Lizard. However, I can't see that any revelation we have at this stage will be worth the price we paid.
Better than last issue, but only because there was no further callous death. I'm still not behind this arc, and suspect I'm unlikely to change my mind at this stage. Two webs.