The third part of No Turning Back has some of Slott’s typical ADD storytelling quirks to it, and suffers for it compared to the first two issues. Readers may start to feel more conflicted about Spider-Man in this story, too, as he’s still on the warpath and showing no signs of slowing down. The Lizard trapped in Connors’s form remains an interesting villain, though, which is holding my attention for the conclusion.
The Amazing Spider-Man #690: No Turning Back Part 3 — Natural State
Words by Dan Slott
Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks by Klaus Janson, Daniel Green & Giuseppe Camuncoli
Colors by Frank D’Armata
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
This issue opens on a strong note. The Lizard, still stuck in Connors form and desperately trying to find a way back to his old self, is seen chopping off his regrown human arm with no hesitation and no indication of any real pain, throwing it aside with contempt. He then feeds it to the fresh lizard he’s made out of Max Modell, a move that, while perhaps unnecessarily morbid, does manage to send the intended chills down one’s spine.
Slott has been doing a good job of selling this version of the Lizard as one that has seemingly had all trace of humanity wiped from him while still hinting, through last issue’s “Billy moment,” that there may be a speck of it left after all. He’s developed that element of the character further in this issue by confronting the Lizard with Uatu again, and repeating the hallucination that it’s Billy a couple times. While there’s some potential for this to end in a played out scene where the villain finds his humanity at the last moment, I’m hoping it will stay more complicated than that. As of right now, the most interesting development with the Lizard is that he’s actively learning human things — tasting human junk food, hearing human junk music, even playing video games thanks to his scene with Uatu — that he’s starting to find intriguing, and a believable conflict is forming in him about whether or not he actually still wants to get out of Connors. There are any number of ways this could end, and the possibilities are what’s keeping me really interested in this arc.
The issue concludes with him exposed and sending his newly created minions after the Horizon crew. He’s discovered through an enjoyably clever twist that had the added benefit of giving Carlie Cooper something worthwhile to do, which she always needs. It’s a suitably dramatic cliffhanger to lead us into the story’s conclusion.
Look at you, boss. Multitasking. I’m so proud.
One of the reasons why I rated the past two issues so highly was their cohesive and focused storytelling. This is an area where I think Slott doesn’t usually do so well, and he’s back to his old ways on 690, which I found a little annoying. In the middle of the story there’s an aside following up on Tiberius Stone, the Horizon employee trying to sell secrets to the Kingpin, where he searches for complete plans to the spider-sense jammers from Spider Island. This sequence does end up being important to the plot — Tiberius is unintentionally the reason that the freshly mutated lizards are set loose throughout Horizon — but most of it, particularly his conversation with the Kingpin and the Hobgoblin’s unfunny interjections, feels shoehorned in, and Slott could just as easily have written something where Connors-Lizard sets the beasts loose instead.
We’re subjected to another Madame Web intervention, as well. Like always, she simply shows up to tell Spider-Man that because she’s seen the future, he has to do something but she won’t explain it because that would give away the plot to the reader. As repetitive as my complaints about this character have been, I can’t it go whenever she appears. It’s just sloppy writing to move a plot forward by having a character who can magically point people in the right direction whenever you need her to.
While I’m glad that Slott is developing a larger story through his smaller arcs, I wish that he wouldn’t go about it in this way that he feels he needs to insert “preview” scenes at seemingly random points in various issues. The stories would all be a lot stronger if he would connect current ones with references and connections to previous stories, rather than trying to preemptively connect stories to what he knows he’ll write in the future like this.
My only reservation about where No Turning Back may be taking us is that I’m a little worried about Peter’s characterization. I’ve been fine with it up until now, and I still am, but it’s borderline in some ways. Slott has been gearing him up for the big event that’s planned at issue 700, and his frustration level has been escalating. As of now, it’s yet to escalate beyond a point that I’m willing to accept. But taking a character as established as Peter Parker and putting him through something major is always risky. Comic book personalities have often been victimized by the story direction the people at the top wanted to take, and Peter’s suffered this fate too much in his history already.
I just hope they’re remembering that Peter’s been through periods of darkness before, and he always rises above them before he goes too far — or at least that’s what is supposed to happen. There is, of course, a certain story that shall not be named in which he didn’t, and we’re still suffering through the consequences of that poor decision to this day. Here’s hoping we’re not in for a repeat experience.
Pros: The development of the Connors-Lizard remains the intriguing focus of the story. We’re well set up for part 4.
Cons: A disappointing return to unwarranted looks into the future, both from Madame Web and from Dan Slott. The issue’s storytelling is weaker because it feels less focused on what’s going on in the present.