It’s All-Amazing time again, where I review each and every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. Today we’re covering issue 6, which introduces yet another classic Spidey villain, and might be my favourite so far.
The Amazing Spider-Man Issue 6 – Review
Wow, this might just be the best issue yet.
These early Spider-Man comics have been a little hit and miss, with inconsistent plotting and a goofy Archie style to everything, but one consistent highlight has been the introduction of classic villain after classic villain. Issue 4 had been my favourite so far, with its sympathetic first appearance of Doctor Octopus, but the guy didn’t take long to descend into a raving mad-man. Amazing #6 brings The Lizard into the Marvel universe and really crafts a nuanced take that I wasn’t expecting from the series. Lizard has never been one of my favourite Spider-Man villains, too B-List, and one of so many “Help, I turned myself into a monster” villains that plagued the animated series I loved so dearly as a kid, but this is a pretty gripping story.
We kick things off nice and fast with The Lizard terrorising people in the swamps of Florida, word spreads about a monster in the Sunshine State, and J. Jonah Jameson, ever trying to make a buck off Spider-Man’s name publishes a challenge to our hero; Defeat The Lizard! Peter figures this is a terrible idea but if Jameson will pay to send him to Florida and get photos, at least he’ll get a free holiday out of it. Jonah doesn’t bit though, and reveals that he’s fairly certain Spider-Man won’t rise to his challenge; he just printed it to shift a few extra copies. JJJ is quite the capitalist these days.
Peter stays home to fight a few local thugs, but after noticing more and more New Yorkers thinking he’s too frightened to tackle The Lizard, he figures if he doesn’t go then Spider-Man’s going to be a laughing stock at home. He breaks into JJJ’s office (again) and gives him a little scare. He brags he’ll rise to Jonah’s challenge, and then webs him to the roof. Jameson, appropriately outraged, arranges for Parker to head for Florida immediately, and tags along for the ride. This is all setup, but it shows a side of Spider-Man we don’t see as much in these early issues; the resourceful, cheeky opportunist. Jonah is also taking shape here a little more, represented in the early issues as a mogul and publisher more than an editor, this JJJ has been all about the sales, but he’s also starting to show a bit more interest in the actual journalism of it all. The dynamic between the two of them is already pretty perfect.
Once they arrive, Peter ditches JJJ and heads out in search of The Lizard. The swamp is cordoned off, but Spidey swings in, and is attacked by the Lizard almost. The Lizard overpowers him embarrassingly quickly, and so Spidey retreats to consult with local reptile expert Dr. Curt Connors. Sound familiar? He doesn’t find Connors, but he does find his grieving wife, who tells him the story we all know and love. Dr. Curt Connors was a brilliant scientist who lost an arm; motivated by the ability for some reptiles to regrow lost limbs, he worked to combine reptile DNA with Human into a serum that would grant people the same ability. He tested it on himself, because all mad scientists seem to do that, and found that the serum did exactly what he needed and grew him a new arm, as well as a new tail, and a lot of other new stuff too. The origin is a typical Jekyll and Hyde story, but it’s the little touch of pseudo-science that sells it. You feel for Connors, even when its clear he’s lost his mind, because his original intention is genuinely relatable.
The flashback is interrupted when a child screams from the swamps, the Connors’ son has wandered out and come face to face with the Lizard himself. At first he seems to recognise the boy, but when Spider-Man returns he is enraged and the fight continues. Only the sound of Connors’ wife pacifies The Lizard and makes him retreat back under the swamp. Spider-Man meanwhile accompanies the family home, certain he can make an antidote for Connors’ condition. Which he does, because Peter Parker is a super genius.
He takes the antidote and heads out in search of the Lizard, who he discovers having a tender moment with some alligators, and monologuing to himself about his plans to drop his own serum into the water and turn everyone into lizard people. Without a moment to spare, Spider-Man gets spotted, and starts another fight which lasts several pages and culminates with Spider-Man and the Lizard trapped in a well. Spidey force-feeds him the antidote; it takes a while to take effect, but when it does Connors returns conspicuously back to normal and Spider-Man reunites him with his family. All is well. Parker takes photos of the Lizard to Jameson, who wanted photos of Spider-Man instead, and has decided the Lizard is fake, and they all go home.
This is such a good story. It’s the first to take Peter out of the city, and with Jameson too! Over the course of the plot a lot unfolds but it does so at a pretty nice pace, in a new type of scenery, but it’s The Lizard himself that really keeps the story going. We really haven’t had a character like this so far and it’s funny how well it works despite being Marvel’s tried and tested Jekyll and Hyde plot. I really enjoyed it, but more than that, I felt like I was being more challenged with ideas that I have up to this point. Connors’ nature, and his problem, are ethically complex, even if we have seen the story before, and I think it’s a shame The Lizard has been so overused since. 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man keeps the basic character ,but loses his family, his humanity. It’s a pretty lousy change.
Another interesting thing to note is how grounded in 60s science fiction this is. We’re used to seeing Superheroes presented as Sci-Fi concepts all the time now, even the lofty ones like Thor, but Marvel is really setting up a tone for its New York based characters now that we see in Iron Man and The Fantastic Four too.
This is easily the strongest issue we’ve seen so far, and if the series keeps up this pace, I’ll soon be reading these less for historical context and more for honest to goodness investment in the storytelling! The art is really growing on me too, as Ditko is really finding a style for the character that sticks closer to his Teenage background and less of the Superhero archetype. The strip looks and feels so much fun right now… unfortunately new characters keep looking unpracticed and a little goofy.
All in all, the series is getting really good. Continuity is light still, we’re in the age of self contained books here, but he’s building up a family of characters that work well together. I’m invested, and next time we see our first returning villain!