Deep within my collection there are books long forgotten, either by chance or by choice. It Came From The Longbox is where some of these books will find a new life, if only for a single review…
Normally when I do these reviews I prefer to do them with books five years old or older but this is a special exception. Last week the reboot movie, Amazing Spider-Man, started and featured the classic Spidey villain the Lizard. that got me to thinking about Lizard stories through the past and I realized…there really aren’t a lot of Lizard stories that stand out. Then I remember one that ran recently and thought that even though it’s still fairly new that it’s a good time to give it a good look.
“Shed” was part of an overall story line called The Gauntlet which featured the long awaited return of the classic Spider-Man villains who were making their first appearance in the Brand New Day era. Many got new looks and adjustments to their powers and motives and The Lizard was no exception.
He’s no longer a man trying to cure his lizard half. In “Shed” we get something of a role reversal. While Connors is trying to keep the Lizard under control and suppressed, The Lizard is trying to escape his mind. He slowly works his way though the thoughts of Dr. Connors and during a Lizard-induced confrontation with his boss, Connors transforms into an all-new, very deadly Lizard and the killing spree begins.
Things go from bad to worse once Spider-Man gets involved and realizes the Lizard may try to harm Dr. Connors young son, Billy. In his mind Connors is still fighting for control and sees the arrival of Spider-Man as the best possible thing to happen at this time but not even Spider-Man can stop the monster as they fight in front of Billy’s house. During the fight, Spider-Man sees all of the blood inside the home. Thinking The Lizard has already been there he tries to get through to Connors again in hopes of getting time to help the injured family inside. The Lizard leaves and Spider-Man thinks he gotten through to him but he couldn’t be more wrong. Before the Lizard and Spider-Man arrived, Billy was taken by Ana, the daughter of Kraven The Hunter (remember, this was all part of The Gauntlet. The overall story was the return of the Hunter and the family’s revenge on Spider-Man. It was very odd and, honestly, not one of my favorite recent Spider-Man plots.)
Towards the end of Amazing Spider-Man #631 we get what is possibly one of the most gruesome moments in the title’s history. Thanks to Kraven’s daughter The Lizard tracks down young Billy in an alley. The boy doesn’t fight and isn’t surprised that he’s in this situation because, as he says, he always knew it would come down to this and the Lizard would kill him.
And that’s exactly what The Lizard does. Partially based on instinct but mostly to destroy the human part of his mind, The Lizard kills and eats part of young Billy Connors. The sequence is very well done, including the ‘death’ of Curt Connors who all but gives up trying to regain control over the beast. You really feel for the guy.
Then the biggest change for The Lizard begins. After killing Billy he seemingly dies, Spider-Man thinks he’s dead but soon realizes that he’s shedding his skin and out comes a much smarter, and much more dangerous Lizard. But it gets worse than that. Before, in the old days, The Lizard could control other small lizards. Now? Now he can tap into the lizard part of the human brain and control that. His first victim is Spider-Man who barely escapes and, after his mind clears, begins to form a plan that he hopes will stop The Lizard and save Curt Connors.
Meanwhile, The Lizard stalks the streets of New York City, almost totally free of Connors influence, and begins to awaken the lizards within the people of the city. Chaos is what follows.
As we race toward the end of the story, Spider-Man figures that if Connors was able to use a serum to contain the Lizard then maybe that same serum can help Connors control it and maybe even become human again. First, though, he drinks some of it to protect his brain from The Lizard’s influence.
As the city tears itself apart, Spider-Man faces off against The Lizard with everything he thinks might help, including a picture of Billy. Their fight is nasty and gets worse after Spidey gives The Lizard some of the serum and puts the picture of Billy up for him to see. As The Lizard loses it he has his mind-controlled humans attack Spider-Man and they certainly do a number on the guy!
The Lizard then begins to realize that he’s not as cold as he claims. He has certain feelings that can only be Connors human emotions inside him, preventing him from killing Spider-Man and making him feel shame for what he did to Billy. He also, for the first time, sees the world around him. Not just the dark parts but everything and realizes he doesn’t belong in this world.
In the end, much of New York is freed from The Lizard’s influence but some aren’t so willing to return to the ‘monkey’ part of their brains and they join The Lizard in the sewers as pets… for now.
As I said, it isn’t easy to find a Lizard story. I really don’t think there are that many and there are even fewer that are memorable. This is certainly one of the few that are and it has just as much impact and emotional punch as the other stories that made up The Gauntlet arch. It’s been collected in Amazing Spider-Man: The Gauntlet, Volume 5 and while it’s part of a larger story it can easily be read on it’s own and be fully enjoyed. I do recommend it.
The art on this story is something that simply needs to be seen. The Lizard’s new look is amazing and finally makes him something more than just another ‘lizard man’ and has made The Lizard a contender in Spider-Man’s gallery of rogues.
Then we have the covers. Nothing can be said about them other than…wow. These covers are amazing, my personal favorite being #630 which shows the emotionless lizard eye of The Lizard with the remains of Spider-Man’s costume hanging from his mouth. That is something the artists on this book did very well: Lizards don’t show emotion in their face and eyes and The Lizard doesn’t do either in this story either. It’s fantastic.
I’ve read this story a few times and it always entertains me. I’m just happy to be able to share it with more people now, especially since The Lizard is being introduced to the masses by way of the Amazing Spider-Man movie. If you saw the movie and want to read about the original 616 version of The Lizard then I would recommend this story as well as the equally dark Torment story from Spider-Man.