A Stillanerd Review — An entire Spider-Man comic devoted to the Lizard and there’s no Spider-Man? So why is this comic still worth reading?
Amazing Spider-Man No. 18.HU
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Chris Bachelo
Inkers: Wayne Faucher, Livesay, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, Tim Townsend, Al Vey
Cover: Greg Land and Frank D’Armata
A quick, but tough, question for you Spider-Man aficionados: what’s the most overrated story arc from the last ten years? If you answered “Shed” (and hopefully you did), congratulations! You have better taste than most. And yes, using “taste” in that sentence was deliberate, considering Curt Connors, as the Lizard, ate his own son, Billy, during that story. Seems that’s the only thing Spider-Man fans ever remember about “Shed,” and it’s the only thing which had any lasting impact (Remember when the Lizard could control the reptilian parts of people’s brains, or had feathers for hair?)
Nick Spencer doesn’t want you forgetting about “Shed,” either. He definitely doesn’t want you forgetting about what the Lizard did to Billy, as this forms the basis behind the latest “Hunted” tie-in, Amazing Spider-Man No. 19.HU. The comic’s premise shows how Taskmaster captured the Lizard for Kraven’s latest scheme, as revealed in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5 No. 19. Here, readers learn that Dr. Connors, having seen Billy captured by Taskmaster and Black Ant on the news, came up with a plan for Taskmaster to smuggle him inside Central Park. The reason Taskmaster goes along with this, aside from feeling really bad about selling out Black Ant, is that Dr. Connors slipped him a poison of which only he has the antidote.
To be honest, a story explaining how the Lizard was captured doesn’t need that much explanation, let alone having an entire comic book issue devoted towards it. Perhaps that’s why Spencer brings in another Spider-Man villain with close ties to Kraven as the means for Dr. Connors orchestrating his plan. But the how and why end up being less important than Dr. Connors’ motivations for rescuing his son–or rather the clone of his son. Because, as Amazing Spider-Man No. 19.HU points out, the real Billy Connors still died at the hands of the Lizard.Credit: Chris Bachalo, Wayne Faucher, Livesay, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, and Erick Arciniega (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man No.19.HU
Previous stories depicted Connors and the Lizard as a modern-day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Yet Spencer writes Dr. Connors as someone who doesn’t see himself and the Lizard in such simple dualistic terms. Even though Connors acknowledges that the Lizard is more aggressive, prone to animalistic urges, he never considers the Lizard as a separate persona. Not once in Connors’ interior monologue does he ever say that the Lizard did “terrible, unspeakable things” or that it’s the Lizard’s fault. Instead, Connors says, “I have done terrible, unspeakable things” or “this is my fault.” As far as this story is concerned, Connors and the Lizard are–and shown to be–one and the same.
Arguably, Spencer’s take on Dr. Connors isn’t congruent with how he’s been portrayed in past comic book appearances. Such inconsistencies, however, are also easy to forgive and overlook. Thanks to some solid writing, particularly Dr. Connor’s interior monologue, readers can understand his guilt and why he wouldn’t excuse his actions. Spencer also brilliantly weds this same interior monologue with the dialogue, as Dr. Connors sometimes doesn’t respond to Taskmaster questions except in thought; likewise, there’s one instance where he finishes his thoughts out loud.
Such praise cannot be said about the art, unfortunately. Although Chris Bachalo can still illustrate an awesome-looking Lizard-like he did during “Shed,” his penciling becomes wildly inconsistent when drawing anyone else. This lack of consistency becomes further exacerbated due to the artwork also being done by six different inkers. Hence why some panels look richer, bolder lines and shading, while others looked washed and unfinished even with the colors fully applied. If a comic can settle on one penciler, why not just settle on one inker, too?
The real question, though, is whether you should pick up Amazing Spider-Man No. 18.HU or not? That depends. Unlike the previous “Hunted” tie-in (Amazing Spider-Man No. 19.HU), this isn’t a mandatory read; if anything, it’s more of an appendix than a missing chapter. Still, if you appreciate solid character work, it’s probably still worth getting. It’s certainly no “Shed,” and that’s actually a good thing.
Stillanerd’s Score: 3.5out of 5.