Hey Kevin, you skipped #5! Why yes I did. For whatever reason, when this title was originally being reviewed, issues 1, 5, and 2 were covered (in that order). I’m just filling in the gaps here and will not be re-reviewing any previously covered material. If you’ve been following along and want to read about the Vulture origin story, the next chapter in the Spectacular Spider-Girl story, and/or a Ben Reilly untold tale by JMD, you can read the Web of Spider-Man #5 review here. Or you can always click on the “Web of Spider-Man” tag under the article title on any of these reviews to see the title’s full archive.
This issue is cover-dated May 2010 and features the origin of The Lizard in preparation for his then-upcoming return, “Shed,” in Amazing Spider-Man #630-633 by Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo. Going further to support that story than the previous issues of Web have done, this issue also features a Shed Prologue as it’s third story by Shed writer Zeb Wells. The Lizard’s first appearance was in Amazing Spider-Man #6 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko – hey that’s the same issue number as this one! Cool! (ASM #6 is pictured to the right.)
Production: Anthony Dial
Editor: Tom Brennan
Senior Editor: Steve Wacker
Cover Artist: Jelena Djurdjevic
“GAUNTLET ORIGINS: LIZARD”
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Jefte Palo
Color Art: Javier Rodriguez
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
THE STORY: Man-Thing is wandering around the Florida swamps narrating the intertwined origins of himself and the Lizard. Curt Connors had his arm blown off by a grenade attached to a wounded soldier in Baghdad and met Ted Sallis in the hospital tent. The two talked briefly about their science passions, and ended up on similar tracks later in civilian life. Connors turned himself into the Lizard and Sallis turned himself into Man-Thing. Back where we started, Man-Thing runs into the Lizard in the swamp and the two fight, with Man-Thing claiming the KO.
MY THOUGHTS: This was an excessively odd choice for how to do this. On the one hand I have to give this story credit for giving us more actual origin than the past two Gauntlet Origins stories I’ve reviewed. On the other hand, framing the whole thing with Man-Thing makes it come off as totally forced and even a little confusing. The narration by Man-Thing is in second-person perspective (a rare choice for a reason), and since I had forgotten that Ted Sallis is the real name of Man-Thing it took me awhile to break into the narration and figure out what was going on. I was thrown the first two or three times the narration referred to flashback-Ted as “you” before his identity came back to me. I imagine someone with no familiarity at all with Man-Thing may well have been confused right up until Sallis transforms himself and they’re finally shown the connective tissue between Man-Thing and the Connors flashback. Given that, I feel like Van Lente could have given the readers a bit of a heads-up on that much sooner, considering Man-Thing isn’t the most well-known character out there.
As for feeling forced, we have Man-Thing wandering around a swamp telling himself how he doesn’t really have memory, then getting psychic impressions of an old fight between Spider-Man and the Lizard, and then flashing back from there to narrate the whole story of Connors’ and his origin. What happened to that not having a memory? And if that wasn’t forced enough, Man-Thing then runs into the Lizard, who’s chosen now to return to this scene of his previous fight with Spider-Man. That’s a lot of forcing of square pegs into round holes just for a narrative device that honestly doesn’t really work in the end.
GRADE: 2 webs out of 5. An actual origin for once, but wrapped in some very poor storytelling choices. The art is decent, neither offensive nor impressive.
“THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-GIRL in A MATTER OF TRUST”
Pencils: Ron Frenz
Inks: Sal Buscema
Colorist: Bruno Hang
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
THE STORY: Spider-Girl convinces Police Captain Ruiz to let her set up a meet between the two of them and Black Tarantula to try to end the gang war. Man Mountain Marko offers April (who names herself Mayhem when asked) a spot with Don Silvio aka Silverback. Captain Ruiz involves police team Code: Blue for the upcoming meet with Black Tarantula. May stops April from flirting with her ex-boyfriend Gene Thompson by inviting her to the meet as well. Silverback apparently has a police contact who informs him about the meet and decides to send a bunch of his guys as a surprise. When Black Tarantula and Spider-Girl are ambushed by Silverback’s goons, May signals April, who is supposed to signal the police to move in, but April is distracted by Gene on the phone and fails. Black Tarantula gets away before the police get there, and Spider-Girl narrowly escapes, suspecting foul play from April.
MY THOUGHTS: I swear my summaries for these 16-page Spider-Girl stories are generally longer than most of my summaries for full-length 20-22-page comic books. I can just imagine Tom DeFalco scribbling furiously, yelling, “I’ve only got 16 pages and I gotta blow !@#$ up!”
I have to say, though, this issue felt a bit weaker than the norm through too much naivety going around. Mostly that May would be naive enough to think that tricking Black Tarantula into facing the police was going to solve the problems of this gang war. He’s a crime lord so he’s probably not just going to up and work with the cops, so either he gets away and feels betrayed by May (which is what happened) or he’s taken into custody and Silverback becomes the new kingpin and probably murders any of Black Tarantula’s people he can’t turn (including Arana). I’m not sure what good result she was expecting out of that.
Then there’s people’s continued insistence that they don’t know whether May or April is the clone. Ok, I get that April could be convinced that she’s the real one because self-delusion is a powerful thing. But for everyone else – SHE’S A SYMBIOTE HYBRID! On the one hand we have May, who was raised since she was a baby by her parents, and on the other hand we have April, who was found in a tank and isn’t human. It strains my credulity that people are really going to think April really might be the real one and May really might be the clone. And all that suspension of disbelief is really just there to re-establish a “Who’s the clone?” status quo that got old way before Spider-Man’s Clone Saga ended.
The art, of course, is still top notch and that’s what will always keep this series afloat through thick and thin, but storywise I’m afraid this was a thin month.
GRADE: 3 webs out of 5. Still the strongest part of the book, but weaker than its usual self.
“CURT CONNORS in SHED: PROLOGUE”
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Xurxo Penalta
Color Art: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
THE STORY: Lots of sciencey exposition about the lizard brain through centuries of evolution is followed by a check-in with Curt Connors who is feeling the Lizard pressing against his mind, wanting out. He starts experimenting on some lizards.
MY THOUGHTS: Well this was…pointless. We get nothing here that you don’t get in Shed proper – just a lot of exposition about the lizard brain’s primal urges and wanting to kill his boss and mate with his coworker. I don’t know why this artist was chosen for this project, either. His figures are all lumpy, blobby forms that don’t really resemble people at all. It’s fine for the early stuff about dinosaurs and early mammals, but then there are several pages of humans that just don’t look…human. And not in an “Oh, it’s an allegory for monsters” sort of way, just in a “lacking form” sort of way. All in all this prelude is a total waste of time.
GRADE: 1 web out of 5. Nothing to see here, move along.