“NO TURNING BACK part 1: The Win Column”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by Klaus Janson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Colored by Frank D’Armata
THE PLOT: In the immediate aftermath of Ends of the Earth, Mary Jane throws Peter a party at her new establishment titled “MJ’s”. Before he can relax however, Carlie calls our hero and informs him that Billy Connors’ grave is missing. Spidey immediately determines due to the witness’ testimony that Morbius is behind the heinous crime.
LONG STORY SHORT: Spidey confronts Morbius who claims that with Billy’s DNA, he’s concocted a cure for Curt Connors and hopefully himself through the process. With Max Modell, Spidey and Morbius find the Lizard in the sewers. After a fight, they manage to revert Lizzy back into Curt Connors. However, the mind is still very much the Lizard’s playing them for fools.
MY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed the heck out of this issue. Where was this Dan Slott during Ends of the Earth?
This was really good. We have Spider-Man asserting himself through his emotional state, but for once it’s not spelled out for the readers like we’re idiots. The stakes are different from the Doctor Octopus arc, but are displayed more earnestly and honestly. This story works because whether you liked Shed or not, it changed the Lizard in a profound way. “No Turning Back” goes right back to that feeling of desperation and intensity that it needs for anybody to take it seriously. And damn it, I did. The best thing Slott does is start off and continue to inter-cut the issue with action scenes to keep the pace fast while naturalizing the exposition. Right at the top, Spider-Man and the Lizard are beating the crap out of each other underground in grimy sewers. Everything works in these scenes. The background is littered with skeletons and sewage water, reflecting the down and dirty nature of the fight. The dialogue, for once, is actually well done! Slott excels here because anything Spider-Man says is an honest reaction to the Lizard, while his inner monologue reflects on how he feels he’s failed to properly stop the Lizard from killing people. It’s a simple thing, but honestly it’s refreshing coming from this writer who has in the past literally had characters describe the violence happening to them as it’s happening as though people around them were blind. The situation lends itself to being taken seriously as well. There’s a strong Todd MacFarlene feel to the fight scenes as there has been for most Lizard stories since 1990, and it works well here. Not being a fan of cannibal Lizard, I looked back to those issues to see if his newfound carnivore tendencies began there, and they didn’t. I still don’t know when or why Lizard was changed to behaving like a dinosaur, but if nothing else it sells him as a threat. Lizard was always one of Peter’s most dangerous foes, but somehow that never falters or gets old. Case in point is made here.
The quieter scenes are handled fine without excess or needless jokes. All the characters sound like real people as opposed to stand-up comedians, and Mary Jane manages to be both supporting and light hearted. I like the idea of her owning a nightclub called “MJ’s”, because it feels like something she would do for herself, whether or not Peter’s in her life. Sure, she did it mainly to throw Peter a party, but it will now be a part of her character’s priorities from now until retcons or the writers forget. It’s a nice addition.
Carlie Cooper returns, but for a good reason. It seems as though Camuncoli gets to draws her the most, as his issues always seem to involve Carlie in an integral way. She’s been out of the books for a while now, and while I never expected her to be completely exiled from Amazing Spider-Man, it was a bit noticeable. Before people stat to cock their guns, there’s no hints of romantic rebounding between her and Peter. Aside from a scene of gentle jabbing by Mary Jane, Carlie’s a cop first and Peter’s ex second in this. I wonder if this will be how she’ll be used from now on. On the one hand it’s nice because her relationship with peter never worked at all. On the other hand, I would like to see her grow as she still has potential as a supporting character, especially now that she knows Peter’s secret.
Morbius kind of comes out of nowhere in this story, even considering the .1 issue where he reappeared. However he was used to good effect in this. He was diabolical in his grave robbing of Billy, but it was for the greater good. That type of Morbius characterization I can get behind, as opposed to the inconsistency of whether he’s a villain or not. He’s an anti-hero in this issue and it plays off well in comparison to Spidey’s outrage at what he’s done. Speaking of which, Spider-Man bum-rushing him in the lab would usually annoy me because there’s a lot of comics out these days where character jump into fights without any explanations for it. *coughAVENGERSVAX-MENcough* I can buy it here, though. Spidey’s still reeling from not only the Sable death but from the sudden drop in supporting character life security. Billy and Marla still weigh on his soul, and everything he’s done since Slott’s started his run has been to keep reminders of Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy away from his mind. Making myself clear, I really do not like how Slott has Spider-Man piss and moan about how everything’s his fault because it goes beyond reasoning the majority of the time. Mainly it’s just used for pathos and melodrama. In this instance, he’s just angry at himself in a very human way. He has the power, he applied responsibility, but it still wasn’t good enough. His talk with MJ was a great scene because the words “Power and Responsibility” were never uttered, thank God. Peter knows that MJ is right when she says he can’t save everyone, and I love the quote of him saying “Days when I believe I could (save everyone) were all that kept me from going crazy.” It’s very Batman in its human obsession, but manages to stay in Spider-Man’s realm. This is a really good handle on Peter’s psyche that reminds me of times where he failed to save Ezekial in JMS’ first story, or Jean DeWolfe in Spectacular Spider-Man. It’s not overplayed here, it’s honest. Please, please PLEASE Dan Slott, keep writing like this!
The art by Camuncoli for the most part was his usual competence. I’m still not crazy about him as a regular ASM artist. He’s good, but the Klaus Janson inks really keep me from fully embracing him as a flagship title artist. That being said, he kicked butt on the action scenes. Never in my mind did I doubt that Spidey was fighting for his life in an issue where it’s not advertised that he would be. Really stellar penciling from the man.
This wasn’t an out-and-out perfect issue for me, but honestly it’s close enough to get the full score. I enjoyed the hell outta this thing, and am on a high right now with this story. Here’s to the hopeful future.