Review by Ian Keogh
There’s a case to be made for Morbius, but the Lizard really stands alone as Spider-Man’s most tragic villain. Dr Curt Connors investigated the ability of reptiles to regrow lost limbs hoping to replace his own lost arm, but the resulting formula instead transformed him into a rampaging giant lizard. Whenever Connors is seen in a Spider-Man story it’s a sure sign the Lizard will be appearing down the line, and he was seen ending Vol. 2.
Zeb Wells teases us for almost an entire chapter, showing Connors becoming increasingly fractious in the lab where he’s employed until the inevitable transformation occurs. Chris Bachalo has already filled the pages with ultra-realistic drawings of iguanas by then, and continues to use them as a decorative motif over a lot more stunning pages. Because the Lizard is such a savage and unpredictable villain, Bachalo treats his appearance as a horror story, only rarely showing the Lizard as a full figure, frequently closing in on a single red eye and some teeth, and using a lot of vertical panels. It’s meant to emulate cinema jump-cuts and does. A secondary purpose is the story calling for a complete regeneration, enabling Bachalo to provide his own design, and Bachalo delivers.
Some pages are drawn by Emma Rios, sequences that have little connection to anything else, which isn’t her fault. Dropping in on Kaine seems entirely random, but she draws that and her other pages with her customary poise. The reason for Kaine is that he has a part to play in the continuation.
Although he provides a serviceable Lizard story, Wells is less convincing than Bachalo, relying too much on cheap shock, and escalating the Lizard’s powers to the level where he can control others. It’s frustrating as occasional scenes work really well, such as the prologue and a desperate sequence of Connors having a supervised visit with his son in the presence of an inhumane social worker. Wells also seems to have drawn the short straw, and is landed with concluding a subplot that went nowhere, with Aunt May becoming unpleasantly cranky after meeting Mr Negative. He hardly stretches his creativity. Oh look, a cuddle and she’s cured.
To his credit, Wells is also one of the few writers incorporating scenes connecting with the over-riding plot. When the writers have remembered to include it, there’s supposed to have been a connecting thread to The Gauntlet, that of Spider-Man being tested by the daughter of his old enemy Kraven the Hunter. Readers might reasonably expect some payoff, and that isn’t supplied, as it’s found in Grim Hunt. A possible better bet is buying this combined with that and Vol. 4. as The Gauntlet: The Complete Collection 2.