Ever wondered what happened to the Spider-Man of the 90's TV cartoon series? Well, he's alive and kicking in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine, currently being released every three weeks in the United Kingdom. Each issue features a swag of puzzles, posters, letters, and general all-out Spidey fun - all aimed at the young at heart. Plus, there's an 11-page original story featuring more of Spider-Man's Adventures.
The last time we saw the Lizard in this magazine was in issue #81 in the story Jungle Stalkings, where Spidey fought the Lizard one-on-one. This time, he's back... with friends!
Our story opens at "The Coffee Bean", with MJ saying the gang needs a summer holiday. Peter is broke, but Harry suggests they use his father's holiday home in Florida. Flash reckons maybe they might even get to see that "'gator-creature" that's been reported in the swamps. Ooops, that sends Spidey to visit Doc Connors (you do know that Connors turns into the Lizard, don't you?)
Seems Connors isn't home. He's down in Florida on a field trip. Well, more of a swamp trip. Cue the Lizard back-story. Now jump to old Lizzie himself; he's spotted a local army base. Woohoo! Add serum, and you've got an instant swag of well-armed lizard soldiers!
Three days later, Pete, MJ, Flash and Harry are in Florida. Flash is hassling Pete. "Scared of us seeing that puny body of yours in swimming trunks?" "No, Flash, just thining that big head of yours would make a good beach-ball." Heh, maybe I'm immature, but I had to laugh at that one.
On their way to the beach, the gang passes the army, packing up to head off to the swamp to investigate the sighting. Suddenly, Peter "needs to go lie down." The rest of the team head to the beach, while Spidey swings into the Everglades and finds... The Lizard! The Lizard has an army of reptiles with him, so cue the combat! Whack, thump, strangle... oops, Spidey's getting choked! But suddenly, America's finest arrive. Well, second finest, presumably the finest are in Iraq.
Lizard sics his slithering forces on the armed forces, while Spidey reaches for his vial of anti-serum (never tackle a lizard without one). Ooops, smash, dribble, dribble! Last chance... grab the Lizard and give him a face plant in the fast-fading puddle of serum. YES!
Spidey shuffles the now-human Doc Connors off the scene, and without the control of the Lizard, the creepy-crawlies creep and crawl out of there, except one... the Lieutenant is cornered by one last 'gator. Spidey leaps to the rescue, and then cuts a deal to keep the whole embarassing affair quiet if nobody mentions him being in Florida. That fixes the problem of explaining Spidey and Peter being in town together.
Peter then heads to join the others at the beach... just as it starts to rain. D'oh!
It must be really hard to write an original story about the Lizard. Really, he's a one-trick pony. Connors turns to the Lizard, starts plan for world domination in some jungle somewhere (usually Florida). Spidey forces some anti-serum down him, and that's that.
The only real options are the location of jungle, the exact nature of the plan for world domination, and the means used by Spidey to get the anti-serum into the Lizard.
Given that a Lizard story had to be written, Ferg Handley did at least manage to get a minor sub-plot in there with the gang's summer holiday, and pulling in the army gives some variation. As Lizard stories for kids go, this one could have been a lot worse.
There's a new artist this issue - Paul Marshall steps in for Jon Haward, and it's a bit of a step in the wrong direction if you ask me. Paul's work is rather blocky and primitive, and just a bit less appealing.
Difficult villain, good script, bland art. Still, it could have been much worse, so let's be generous with three-and-a-half webs.