All-Amazing – The Amazing Spider-Man #6 – Review

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.

The Lizard makes his first appearance in Spider-Man

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.

Lizard challengeOnce 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.

Spider-Man creates antidote for the lizard

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!

 

All Amazing – The Amazing Spider-Man #1: Review

This is a new series where I read and review every issue of Amazing Spider-Man, starting way back with issue 1 in 1963!


I love Spider-Man. Ever since the 90s Animated Series, he’s been one of my favourite characters in jam packed Superhero genre. It was through Spidey that I started to really get into comics when Ultimate Spider-Man hit the shelves, and Spider-Man 2099 was my first experience diving into comics from the archives. Now I’m setting off on a project I’ve wanted to do for a really long time; I’m going to read all of The Amazing Spider-Man, from the very first issue in 1963. This won’t give me the whole story as Marvel launched, The Spectacular Spider-Man, in 1972, but I’m going to focus on just one except when the story requires picking up a few issues elsewhere.

So, let’s get started!

The Amazing Spider-Man #1

Comic buffs will know that this issue is not the first appearance of our beloved Wall Crawler, who launched in the final issue of Amazing Fantasy a few months earlier. While his success hadn’t been enough to save that book, Marvel did have enough faith in the character to give him a series of his own. Amazing #1 begins with a short recap of this origin, before fleshing out who Peter Parker is, and what his story is really about. The cover promises us a hero like no other, and it’s true… while this issue does give us a a classic villain, and a crossover with The Fantastic Four, really this is all about Parker’s money troubles.

Amazing Spider-Man 1It’s split into two stories, the first explores the birth of Spider-Man’s troubles with the press. To help Aunt May pay the bills he agrees to do a live show as Spider-Man, but has a little trouble getting paid. In one great little scene, he insists the promoter write him a cheque made out to “Spider-Man” and is then shocked when the bank won’t cash it. They say Peter Parker is a genius but I suppose everyone has their off days.

He returns the next day to find that Newspaper Editor named J Jonah Jamesonhas been trashing him all over town. Weirdly, Jameson doesn’t seem to think Spider-Man is a criminal at this point, he seems more concerned that kids might copy him and hurt themselves. This is apparently enough to send the city into an Anti-Spidey frenzy and he has to find money elsewhere. Even after he rescues Jameson’s son from certain death in a failed rocket launch, Jameson doesn’t seem interested in cutting Spidey a break. Some things never change.

The other story is the famous crossover from the cover, Spider-Man’s meeting with The Fantastic Four. This is a beat briefer than the cover implies, with the Richards clan basically shipped in to add a bit of credibility to the new character. Spider-Man invades their tower and promptly humiliates them all, insists on joining the Fantastic Four so he can get paid, and when they tell him they’re a non-profit organisation, leaves without even apologising for roughing them up. If you think Spider-Man seems a bit money hungry, later he meets The Chameleon who has deduced that Spider-Man must be hard up for cash, lures him into a really obvious trap by promising him some sweet green, and then frames him for espionage. Early Spider-Man is blinded by the kerching.

Amazing #1 is both refreshing, and bizarre. It’s actually nice to see Spider-Man so completely rendered on the page right from the first issue. Here’s a teenage boy with a life, problems, and all these responsibilities that weigh heavily on him. The kid really can’t catch a break, and he wonders exactly why he’s so different to all those other heroes who just live the easy life. The problem is that his humour isn’t quite there yet. That constant, charming, geeky sense of humour we associate with Spider-Man is nowhere to be seen in this issue, and so Spider-Man just comes off as sort of grumpy. Even the sight of Aunt May pawning in the bling isn’t enough to stop Spidey seeming a bit mercenary at times, and yet it’s so charming. It’s early days yet, but here Spider-Man reads more like a funny book than an action comic, and yet it works. The character and the series will grow from here, but it’s so close already.

The art is a little rough around the edges, it obviously comes from the cheap years, but it’s also pretty impressive how final Spidey’s design is here. The whole look is basically complete, with only the retro armpit webs looking a bit out of place. Parker doesn’t look so much like we’ll come to know him, but everything else is so solid. It’s a great start to a book that’s going to do so well from Marvel in the years to come. It’s hard not to read it with a bit of a cheeky grin about it all.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Amazing Spider-Man issue 1Uncle Ben’s death doesn’t quite play out as you’d expect. Here, there’s no indication he’s killed by a burglar Peter failed to stop earlier in the day. Peter just seems to blame himself for being too busy at the time. It doesn’t really work as a story, but they’ll really nail it down later.

No love interest. For a comic that was almost like a classic romance book during the late 60s, there’s no Felicia, no Gwen, no MJ. It’s weird to think of Peter Parker without romance, without family. It seems like such a big part of his character these days.

Spider-Man beats the entire Fantastic Four in his first solo issue. There’s lending credibility and then there’s humiliating your flagship characters.

In Conclusion

Amazing #1 is a lot of fun, the character’s almost fully formed right here, and the world Stan Lee is building won’t change much well into the 90s. Still, it’s a little weird to see Peter talking less about Power and Responsibility and more about those delicious, delicious Benjamins.