Lately it has been difficult to decipher what makes a good character in comics. This is mainly due to writers trying to make a character the polar opposite of what they are. Superman is evil, Iron Man a complete buffoon, and so on.
My main problem with Marvel’s core Spider-Man title has always been my ability to connect with Spidey’s rogues gallery. In previous issues, the trend seemed to be that one of the fantastical villains (Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, etc.) or resident thugs/crime lords (Kingpin, Silvermane and the hybrid Mr. Negative) would take on the web-slinger. So when I decided to jump in for one story arc, I figured I knew what to expect. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by what I was presented with.
First let’s talk about the art: Chris Bachalo has an insane kinetic flow to his lines. Most the series is drawn by other artists and the reader is treated to a traditional style, but Bachalo lends a very slick and organic look to his panels. While the other artists handle the calmer moments in the story, Bachalo’s art shines as the true selling point for this series. This is not to discredit the other artists who worked on the book, but many of the nuances are likely to be lost on the new reader and would not to make for an exciting cover. The cover art more often than not, is the reason people pick up books or trades, and it is why I picked up this particular arc.
The story is one that I thought I had seen rehashed time and time again: A villain has been leading a quiet life, but begins to long for their old criminal lifestyle. Writer Zeb Wells omits that part of the tale, but implies as much. In this case he chooses the Lizard; the four parter is titled Shed and it is perfectly named. What unfolds over the four issues truly sheds any pretense of the campy cartoon villain.
Spoilers to follow:
Gone are the previous characterizations of the Lizard as the simpleton brute who quests after lizard type rewards, or the subterranean kidnapper, or beast obsessed with his offspring. We meet Doctor Curt Connors once again having urges to become the Lizard, and before we know it he has taken on his reptilian form. Where the story differs right away from previous Lizard tales, is that this Lizard is feral, wild and pure instinct. Where other heroes and villains who transform usually keep a small piece of themselves, that either prevents them from killing or completing certain tasks, this iteration of the Lizard throws all that out the window. The Lizard kills Connors’ own son, Billy, in a horrific manner. After this horrific act the Lizard sheds his skin, emerging as an even more reptilian creature with a new set of powers. He is able to control other creatures, using their own genetics against them. He can cause people to behave like animals, making them fight and kill for dominance among their particular group. The Lizard character becomes much more interesting with the Connors character effectively dead. He does not regress back to human form and does not retain memories of Connors as vividly as he did in his previous incarnation. This story sets the stage for The Grim Hunt, which I do not particularly care for, but that is another review.
Overall, Shed will shake you to your core. It was a risky move in terms of character direction, but it paid off since I now care about one of these rogues and want to see more of them. While I won’t be adding Amazing Spider-Man to my weekly pull list, I will be picking up this trade. With all the Spider-Man hype building back up thanks to the new film on the horizon, this is a great time to pick up on some exciting stories before Marvel are basically forced to shoehorn in a bunch of crappy tie-in stories leading up to the film’s release. The hardcover and trade paperback of Shed has been solicited at the time of this post, so keep your eyes peeled for it at your local shop.
Do I need this book in my collection? Yes, especially if you enjoy interesting character studies.
Single issue or trade? I would pick up this trade if you can wait. Thankfully all the issue are out for the arc, but I will be waiting for the trade.
Will my significant other want to read comics because of this? Sadly no. I hope I am proven wrong, but the B story distracts from the core of this tale. Also there are a lot of differences between this and Spider-Man movies and TV shows.
Your objective review offends me; can I have a number comic boy? Sure I will use the tradition 1 to 10 scales with .5 as the only variable. I’ll give the Shed story arc as a whole is a 7.5. The art is wonderful, but not consistent. The art attempts to serve the overall story, which is compelling, but cannot complete the overall package on its own.
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