If you haven’t read Zeb Wells’ ‘Shed’ storyline from back in the Brand New Day era of Spider-Man comics, I heartily recommend you do so before picking up issue #688. Yes, we’re into lizard territory now, and your enjoyment of the movie cross-promotion story will increase if you’ve already read about the creation of the current lizard. In that previous story, Curt Connors (the human alter-ego of lizard) turned into the monster, completely shed his human side, killed his own son, and went down into the sewers by himself. The human side seemed to be completely disintegrated, as animal instinct destroyed human reasoning.
Which is where we start with the first part of the current storyline. Dan Slott has very slowly brought us a new Peter Parker breakdown over the past few months, cleverly introducing a new motto for the character which he could never hope to live up to. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ is an aspiration and moral. ‘Nobody dies’ is an impossible mission statement. And so it proved with the end of ‘Ends of the Earth’, a final battle between Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus in which one of Spidey’s allies apparently died. With his ambition broken already, we have a repentant and angry Peter Parker in the books at the moment, who has turned from defensive reaction to aggressive action by the time this first issue in the lizard battle starts.
Drawn by Giuseppi Camuncoli, who is simply one of the very best around at the moment, issue #688 anticipates new readers and develops the new status quo for Peter Parker deftly, without going too far into angst and woe. We also get to check in briefly with all the other members of his supporting cast, and see how his universe works at the moment. The Peter Parker side of the story is brilliantly done. The lizard side is a little less built-up, and really does rely on the reader knowing about ‘Shed’. The story is simple enough that new readers will be able to jump in – but the payoff is far greater for those who know what’s been happening for the past few years.
The story flashes between present and past quickly, establishing a battle between Spidey and lizard before going back in time to show us how he got to this point. It allows Slott to make this first issue almost a one-shot in nature, with next issue starting with a new storyline that builds from here, with the same antagonist. It’s an interesting approach, and Slott has really been trying out some new approaches to narratives recently. Primarily known for writing short arcs, here we’re seeing a three-issue story cut down into a one-shot followed by a two-parter. It’s an interesting experiment, although it does mean that it’s hard to evaluate the story without having the whole thing in front of me.
It’s a little bit slight, which is a worry, but Slott’s last page manages to build on both Peter Parker’s old and new mission statements, and leaves the story in an interesting place for next issue.