AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #646
“Origin of the Species, Part 5”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Paul Azaceta and Matthew Southworth
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez
Cover Art: Marco Djurdjevic
Variant Cover #1: Paolo Rivera
Variant Cover #2: Mike Mayhew
Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!
This comic nearly brought a happy tear to my eye. I grinned from ear to ear reading it, and I’m even willing to admit that it was damn cute. This is the sort of comic book that we don’t get enough of these days. I mean, with all the –
What’s that? I’m NOT reviewing Avengers vs. the Pet Avengers #1? Well, dammit. Nevermind then.
Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus look for the Lizard. Spidey and Ock fight before a confrontation between the three occurs. Spider-Man learns that the baby is not Norman Osborn’s. He leaves and takes the baby to Avengers Tower, messaging Mary Jane to tell Lily and Harry to come there. Lily flies off, however, so Harry goes alone. Spider-Man informs Harry that he is the baby’s father. Spider-Man is publicly cleared of all charges.
This was an arc that had a lot going on, and Waid does a good job here of tying together the majority of these plotlines. The Lizard scenario is resolved, Doctor Cripplepus is defeated, the baby’s parentage is definitively established, Lily comes to grips with the reality of her situation, Spider-Man is cleared of charges … we even get reference to his lack of clothes from earlier in the arc. That’s a lot of stuff to cover in 22 pages, and Waid does it so effortlessly that it doesn’t feel forced or rushed in any way.
There is also character development to be found here. For starters, Lily goes from being an overtly villainous character in “American Son” (wow, was that really around 50 issues ago at this point?) to being a desperate and depressed one that makes a hard decision to benefit her friends. She flies off – perhaps for good, as far as the ongoing story is concerned – to ensure that they aren’t endangered by her presence. Harry also goes through a major change now that he has a child to worry about. It’s also implied that he turned down the opportunity to use the Goblin serum which was shown in the last issue. Of course, this all brings to mind something else that I will touch on later …
Unfortunately, this issue does a few things that are either jarring or outright stupid. For example, we were robbed – ROBBED, I say – of a climactic confrontation between Doc Ock and Spider-Man because of the “monkey brain” nonsense. I hated that so much, I wanted to rip the pages out of the comic, my $2.99 be damned. It’s bad enough that they’ve outright ruined Doctor Octopus to begin with, but now they won’t even deliver a fight with that Ock either? C’mon.
The scene in the Lizard’s makeshift laboratory was mind-numbing. First of all, the characters come to the conclusion that Norman Osborn is not the father of the baby, and therefore they make the leap that the baby is worthless to them. Wait a minute … if Norman isn’t the father, then Harry would immediately be the next “suspect.” I can forgive the Lizard for not realizing that, but Doctor Octopus should be pretty aware of it, and we know for a fact that Spider-Man realizes it based on his actions later in the issue. Harry Osborn is also known to have used a variant of the Goblin formula, meaning that, at the very least, the possibility still exists that the baby could inherit advanced genetics/abilities. Yes, his variant is not as powerful as Osborn’s, and with the murky status of Brand New Day’s wacky continuity with regards to Harry, who the hell knows whether or not it is still even active in Harry’s bloodstream. However, the characters don’t even consider it. There isn’t even any dialogue acknowledging it as a possibility.
Second, Spider-Man demonstrates that he has the antidote serum for “the lizard brain” by threatening the Lizard with it. (This in itself is not a mistake. We can assume that Spider-Man cooked it up in that lab from last issue.) However, once he learns what he needs to learn from the Lizard, he never considers using it on the Lizard at all. In fact, he could use it on both the Lizard and the mind-affected Doc Ock to reduce their threat, since the “lizard brain” makes them more feral and dangerous, and possibly corral them for the authorities. But no, Spider-Man doesn’t do that. Instead, he chooses to leave them in the lab to kill each other. I’m not even going to waste my time explaining why this is wildly out-of-character for Spidey, because you’re all savvy enough to know that by now.
Third, as Bertone and I discussed over a mocking chat session, how the hell is the Lizard doing all this, anyway? How can he use all that equipment and do all that SCIENCE when he has a Lizard brain? Considering that we saw the “regular” Lizard in that preview a couple of months back, I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrote this for the normal Lizard and had to change it slightly to incorporate the changes from Shed. You can even see him wearing the traditional “Conners pants” in many panels, except that they’re blue instead of purple.
I mentioned earlier that they develop Harry’s character here by giving him the responsibility of having a child. One problem with that is that Harry already has a child. Remember Normie Osborn, his son with Liz Allen? (Okay, okay, Liz Allan. I just wanted to piss off Bertone.) He’s already a deadbeat dad, so why does he need to have another kid? In fact, both he and Spider-Man are nearly dumbstruck by how great it is for Harry to have a kid.
Ever since they reintroduced Harry at the end of One More Day, he’s been floating in a weird limbo. The writers/editors wanted him back so badly, but it didn’t seem like they really knew what to do with him. Now, they’ve fallen back into rehashing the past and dramatically changing his role in the Brandnewverse. From here on out, he can’t be the swingin’ bachelor character anymore. Will Mary Jane, his current roommate, help him care for the baby? If that’s where Dan Slott is going to take this once he becomes the solo writer shortly, he’d better tread carefully – that one is going to be a MINEFIELD after Mary Jane’s stance on kids was established in One Moment in Time.
I don’t think I need to talk about the art again. You already know I don’t like it, and this issue was on par with the rest of it. Fat Spidey even reappears again here and there.
Let’s look at the solicit for this issue, shall we?
“THE HEARTBREAKING CONCLUSION OF ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES! The odds are stacked against Spider-Man as he and Harry Osborn fight side-by-side in a battle to save Harry’s child. The people Peter Parker cares about most are in danger, and someone won’t live to tell the tale! Save everyone; never insist on resting!”
My God, is that a pack of lies. Look at all the problems we’re talking about here …
(1) “THE HEARTBREAKING CONCLUSION …” No, just no. There wasn’t any heartbreak to be had here. The closest they came was the bit with Lily leaving, but I would hardly call a minor character that we haven’t seen in ages taking off on a possibly temporary leave of absence “heartbreaking.”
(2) “… as he and Harry Osborn fight side-by-side …” Nope. Harry isn’t anywhere near the battle. In fact, he just sort of shows up at the apartment where Mary Jane, Lily, and Carlie were without so much as a reaction from the other characters. Seriously, go back and read issue 645, and then read this one. He materializes out of thin air off-panel.
(3) “… in a battle to save Harry’s child.” Way to blow your own plot twist there, guys.
(4) “The people Peter Parker cares about most are in danger …” Nope. That danger was resolved last issue. In this issue, they just kind of stand around before Lily takes off.
(5) “… and someone won’t live to tell the tale!” Nobody dies in this issue. Unless, of course, either Doctor Octopus or the Lizard is killed off-panel in their feral fight, in which case Spider-Man looks like even MORE of an asshole for just leaving them to duke it out when he had the serum in his figurative back pocket.
(6) “Save everyone; never insist on resting!” I don’t even know what this means. It sounds like it was lifted from a World War II propaganda poster.
How does this happen? Is Wacker asleep at the wheel? Was this solicit written without anyone’s knowledge? Are they making up the stories as they go along? Or were they just telling a bunch of lies to boost orders? Either way, it’s inexcusable.
The Bottom Line
This issue is a bad end to a mediocre arc. That’s unfortunate, because parts 2 and 3 were actually solid. Unfortunately, this is another case of the execution not living up to the concept. 1.5 out of 5 webheads.