STORY: Zeb Wells

ART: Chris Bachalo

REVIEW: Master Filmmaker Mark Mackner

Hola, Arachno-philes! Here we are! Finally! THE RETURN OF THE LIZARD!!!!!!!!! We’re nearing the end of THE GAUNTLET here, with Spidey having already faced ELECTRO, SANDMAN, MYSTERIO, RHINO, and NEW VULTURE. These battles have seen the Daily Bugle building destroyed, Peter Parker’s career as a photo journalist cut short, and Rhino’s wife killed, among other tragedies and misfortunes. And, with each encounter survived, these villains have been recruited by the Kravens (Being Mrs. Kraven and her daughter) to assist in their dastardly plot against Spider-Man, paving the way for GRIM HUNT, the follow-up to the GAUNTLET.

Which brings us to LIZARD, the final villain in the GAUNTLET. They’re not even running those cool GAUNTLET issue number boxes with the GAUNTLET logo and a cool illustration of the featured villain anymore. But, fear not. This is still part of the GAUNTLET. The Kravens pop up in this issue, tormenting their poor, abused captive MADAME WEBB, trying to get a glimpse of what the future holds as far as Spidey’s inevitable clash with the Lizard. Her vision tells that everything turns out OK. Mrs. Kraven doesn’t like this, so she hints that she and New Kraven (The daughter) are going to do something to tip the odds in Lizard’s favor. Ooooh!!!! Ominous!!!!!

The issue starts with Spidey and BLACK CAT thwarting an armored car robbery. Some good comedy here, with Spidey trying to think of a good action hero one-liner to throw at the crooks. But Cat’s bad luck powers turn the situation on its ear, and by the time Spidey gets to use the line he put so much effort into coming up with, Cat doesn’t get it, and the crooks are unconscious and don’t even hear it. Cat also underlines the point that she and Spider-Man DO NOT have a real relationship, and that he should feel as free to screw around as she does. Being the monogamous type that he is, Peter is saddened by this.

But it does prompt Peter to make more of an effort with another lady in his life, CARLIE COOPER, whom he keeps blowing off to be with Cat. Maybe there’s more of a future with Carlie, thinks Peter, so he finally makes good on their long-postponed date, and brings her lunch at work. Aww.

Now, on to the juicy stuff! Billy Connors, Curt’s son, is in protective custody, seeing as how Mom is dead, and Dad is a monster. Billy is cold and distant with Curt during a visit, and Curt is forced to leave. The voice of the Lizard calls to him. Then, back in Phelcorps Lab, where Curt’s been working, Curt tries to make a little flirtation with his lab assistant, who is quickly scooped up and whisked away by BRIAN KING, Curt’s boss and all-around douchebag. The voice of the Lizard calls out to Connors again, telling him that King is challenging him and stealing his mate.

What’s awesome about The Lizard is that he’s like THE WOLFMAN or DR. JEKYLL. He’s Marvel’s very own classic monster creation. His human side is a good guy, and he struggles to maintain that, but he’s not always successful in keeping the beast bottled up. The second we met Brian King, we knew he was gonna end up as a Lizard snack, so the ending here is no shock. If you’ve seen WILLARD (either version), or ANY horror film with a douchebag boss character, their doom is always inevitable. And this guy is such a slimy prick and a bully that his comeuppance was only a matter of time.

I am so fucking happy to have the Lizard back!!!!! Seriously, it’s been too long. The last real Lizard story we had was in Roberto Aguirre Sacasa’s underrated SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN. The story was called FERAL, and it had little Billy Connors turning into Lizard Jr. That was awesome! Black Cat was in that story as well, and fucking STEGRON the DINOSAUR MAN was the main villain. Go find the trade and buy it. Excellent story!

So, we don’t get a whole lotta Lizard action in this issue. OF COURSE Connors doesn’t turn until the very end, so next issue should be orgasmic. And Lizzie’s got spikes on his back now! I like the new look! More dragon or dinosaurian. That’s probably about as “Gauntlet-ized” as he’s gonna get, really, but that’s fine with me. Lizard and RHINO are among my favorite Spidey villains, because they’re the first ones I ever saw. I was 3 when I watched the original Spidey cartoon with my brother, and I have vivid memories of Spidey clashing with those guys, and the memories were solid enough to have stayed with me my whole life. You can get that cartoon on boxed set. I’ve watched it with my kids, and I was impressed at how much I actually remembered.

Aside from his brief stint as one of the “Sinister 12”, Lizard hasn’t been much of a team player as far as Spidey villains, go, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how he fits into the Kravens master plan. He hates all mammals, and he couldn’t even get along with Stegron, so who knows where this is going, but I’m fucking LOVING it!!!!!


And THAT is the WORD, so sayeth the MASTER!!!!!

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