NO TURNING BACK part 4: Human Error
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by Klaus Janson and Daniel Green
Colored by Frank D’Armata
Lettered by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
THE PLOT: Although considering to remain human, the Lizard in Curt Connors’ form injects himself with the perfect Lizard serum anyway to keep from being treated like an animal. Spider-Man and the Reptilian Menace duke it out over the streets of New York, whilst back at Horizon Labs, Uatu, Sanjani and Carlie come up with a perfect cure to reform their transmuted friends.
LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Man sticks Lizard with the serum, but it has no immediate effect. Locked away with Morbius, Spider-Man feel resolute that he prevented deaths from happening this time ’round. Unbeknownst to him, the Lizard is actually Curt Connors in mind only, remaining in the Lizard’s physical form as penance for his crimes.
We cut to Delvadia where we see a bearded man in a costume mowing down Mexican gangster and claiming that their territory belongs to “Devil-Spider”. A fellow gangster informs him that his brother was found dead before he could assume the mantle of the Hobgoblin, which in turns reveals that the assumed Kingsley thought to be dead was actually Daniel all along, and that Roderick Kingsley, now Devil-Spider, has remained away from America all this time…until now!
MY THOUGHTS: This story has been without a doubt a small highlight of Slott’s run on ASM. While not spectacular, it’s been solid all the way through and the consistency of the Lizard and Spider-Man’s motivations have kept my interest issue after issue. As a story, there are lots of emotions driving the characters actions and heavy violence that reflects the stakes and danger. Sure, there are some complacent moments that characterize each and every one of Slott’s issues. In my opinion however, the positives outweigh the negatives.
I’ll get the cons out of the way early. Slott has a tendency to throw too much science around for the story’s own good. Much of Spidey’s exploits involve wacky mad science, but it gets to a point where the plot begins to rely on fictional wizardry so much that the comic delves into cartoonish magic. The serum that Sanjani and Uatu came up with took all of five minutes to concoct without any testing or reassurances to estimate its effects asides from guestimation. That gets annoying because while the reading audience may not have scientific degrees, they shouldn’t be taken for idiots. True, people don’t actually turn into Lizards, but repeating that same instance of suspended disbelief can really wain on the, well…suspension.
Another thing is the fake-out cliffhangers with immediate clean resolutions. Back in ASM #663 Spider-Man seemingly was doomed as Venom began to pounce on his unconscious body saying that he would basically kill him. The next issue starts with Spidey tied up and Venom wanting to impress him. Here, we have the last issue end with the threat of all the mutated Lizards coming upon Spider-Man. This issue starts off with Spidey and Sanjani saying “Of course they wouldn’t attack us! Lizards are friendly to humans!” Adding in the fact that the Lizard in Connors’ body was feeding Modell-Lizard a human arm in the last issue, it’s both contrived and inconsistent. I’ve always had problems with the Lizard all of a sudden becoming this carnivorous dinosaur villain as opposed to a mutated monster, but now Slott’s trying to have it both ways. The same with the Lizard’s motivations. We barely see him mull over his decision to transform again. It’s basically off-camera despite the last issue ending on that weight on his mind.
Finally, the Lizard kink with Grady and Bella was weird. Not offensive, and it didn’t offend me, but it was unnecessary.
What this issue did right was pay off the Lizard/Connors mind-melding subplot by have it converge towards an ending that is unexpected yet makes a lot of sense. I’m starting to think that Slott is a serious fan of the 1994 Spider-Man show (as well he should be) because I’m seeing story ideas from that series find their way here. The concept of the Lizard having Connors’ brain is straight from the Secret Wars arc, as well as Madam Web continuously popping up where she’s not wanted. Not to say that Slott’s specifically going for a 90s show feel, but there are similarities that feel subconscious to me in his writing.
I liked Spider-Man’s mentality throughout this four-part story. He never got too annoying with his anger at the super villains and he remained in character without becoming dark or gritty to match the vicious nature of his opponents. He had a bad attitude, but when you think about it this occurs no later than a day after Ends of the Earth wrapped up. He’s probably not had any sleep since then with Sable non-death still looming over him. Due to his Spider-Powers, I liked how that wasn’t dwelled on much if at all in the script, but his mood was always foul. It’s sometimes hard to have a character be angry for a stretch of time without them appearing whiny or irritating. I fully expect those sentiments to be expressed on the upcoming podcast discussing this issue, but this was a story where I felt Spider-Man was in the right 95% of the time considering what he’d been through. Obviously his vendetta against Morbius was based upon falsehoods, but while Morbius tried to do the right thing he was still far from a saint. I didn’t feel bad for him at the end when Spidey just walked right past him in prison, but I don’t end up dismissing him like Spidey did. Just a nice part to the story.
For the ending, I was expecting the Tarantula to return in an arbitrary fashion. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be Roderick Kingsley, the original Hobgoblin alive and well! Okay, it wasn’t a total shock as many people guessed this when he appeared to have died back in Big Time. Still, I’m seeing a pattern of Dan Slott that should probably annoy me but doesn’t as of yet. The man’s a habitual liar, saying things to defy readers’ expectations or to throw them a swerve. I think that’s a good thing for a writer to do to be honest. Why have people go into a story expecting a twist? So Slott ended up lying, but it was for this twist which definitely has my attention for the next few issues.
(Although the dreaded Slott-Speak does return. I think Kingsley knows his brother Daniel’s full name, he didn’t need to hear it to clarify who his brother was.)
All in all, this arc really has been a pleasant surprise from Dan Slott’s era on Amazing Spider-Man. It was a solid hero/villain story with emotional resonance and high enough stakes to keep me invested. Again, it wasn’t amazing by any stretch of thought. I think as of now his two-part timeline story is his best, as it was a lot of fun without being overtly stupid or taking itself too seriously. This, coupled with his two-part “No One Dies” story rank up there for me though. Bottom line, stay away from the six-part epics Mr. Slott, and you’ll do just fine.