What’s Going On In The Amazing Spider-Man? And Is Any Part Of It Not Great? December 2017 – March 2018


Recapping the plots of the story comics has been good for my readership. It’s also good for my spirits. There’s usually something delightful going on in the strips. They’re not always as glorious as, say, Mary Worth on a cruise ship or that dopey mob kid in The Phantom Sundays. But there’s usually something. And some comics just keep delivering glories. Among them is Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Alex Saviuk’s The Amazing Spider-Man. I reliably look forward to recapping this strip’s plots.

This is the recap for the end of March 2018. If I’ve had another post about it since then look at or near the top of this page. I’ll try to have it there. And, yes, if there is news about Stan Lee — who’s been reported to be in bad shape — I’ll share what I do know. His name’s always been attached to the newspaper comic strip, although there are people who wonder how much he writes it himself.

The Amazing Spider-Man

31 December 2017 – 24 March 2018.

There was a spectacular super-crossover going on last time I checked in. While visiting reformed rampaging monster supervillain Dr Curt “The Lizard” Connors in the Everglades, Peter Parker met up with Bruce Banner. Banner hoped that Connors might cure him of hulking out. But an alligator attacked Connors and Banner hulked out. While the immediate alligator-bite problem was passed, Connors was losing a lot of blood and maybe his remaining arm.

So the challenge was getting him to a hospital as quick as possible. Spider-Man’s plan: grab the severely injured man suffering massive blood loss and carry him, leaping across traffic, to Miami Metro Hospital. You know, the way you safely move a critically injured person. At the hospital he barges through the emergency room and into an operating theater. You know, the way you get medical care in an emergency situation as efficiently as possible.

There’s a complication. Even before Connors had been a rampaging lizard-monster he had a weird blood type. Bruce Banner has the same weird blood type, but he’s making his way through traffic while warning traffic not to make him hulk out. With Connors going into emergency surgery Spidey plot-drops that he’s O-negative and could be a universal donor if that’s still a thing. Fortunately, Bruce Banner, with Mary Jane, arrive. So they can start a glorious two months of blood transfusion follies.

Nurse: 'I should've called in a DOCTOR before I took blood from you.' Spidey: 'You know there wasn't TIME, nurse!' Mary Jane, thinking: 'Spider-Man's blood --- going into the body of the man who becomes the Hulk! Will it save Bruce --- or do something STRANGE AND TERRIBLE to him?'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16th of January, 2018. Just kind of idly wondering how they did the body-temperature check with that mask covering Spidey’s mouth and ear and all that.

I understand that I may sound like I’m being sarcastic here. But there’s a bunch of blood-transfusion-based plot complications that are just gloriously Silver Age Nonsense in their workings. And I love that. The science may be nonsense and it might be hard to fathom why people would act like this. But that they act like this is great fun. It’s what I hope for in this sort of goofy-science superhero tale.

Because here’s what happens. The hospital staff recognizes Bruce Banner’s purple stretchy pants as those of the Incredible Hulk. But they go along with the transfusion anyway. It seems to help Connors, but this knocks out Banner. Spidey’s hypothesis: being the Hulk probably requires a lot of blood. Maybe Banner can’t donate as much of it as a normal person could without crashing his body. This far, I’m with Spidey; that works for me. So Banner just needs more blood, right? … And since his body was exposed to gamma radiation he’s probably got all sorts of weird irradiated stuff in there. You know who else has radio-active blood? Look out, here comes your Spidey-Donor.

So there’s the first stage of wackiness. It makes a nice goofy dream logic, mind, and that’s why I enjoy the storytelling even as I don’t buy it.

Mary Jane: 'So why does a transfusion from you stop Bruce from hulking out --- while Bruce's blood made the Lizard bigger and stronger?' Spider-Man: 'Bruce and I barely understand what radiation did to our blood. There's a big difference between being bombarded by gamma rays and getting bitten by a radioactive spider.' Banner: 'At least I've always liked to think so.'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 16t of February, 2018. So this makes me wonder how snobby superheroes get when they compare origin stories. ‘Oh, you’re a superhero because your mob associates shoved you into an open vat of industrial chemicals and then a kindly monk rescued you? Well, it’s so brave of you to carry on. Now Ken here, he got a tattoo from a crashed alien spaceship that was actually the body of a 17th-century Dutch nobleman both of whom are actually his son from the future. Don’t let him at the pricey beer.’ Anyway I leave this observation for a needy improv troupe.

The Hulk blood in Connors’s body causes, first, his lost arm to start regrowing. Then his tail grows back in. Then his scales and snout and pointy triangular teeth and forked tongue. He then leaps off the operating table and starts to rampage, promising the destruction of humanity beneath the onslaught of his telepathically controlled reptile army, while he himself keeps growing into a larger and more muscular super-beast. This is a rather faster than average recovery for injuries of this type, must say. The Lizard barely has time to knock Spider-Man out before Bruce Banner agrees Spider-Man is helpless and he’ll have to become The Hulk. But, infused with Spidey-blood, Banner now has the proportional haplessness and ability to whine of a Spider-Man. While he’s quite angry and says he is so several times over, he can’t summon the transmutation into The Incredible Hulk. He just stays … a large, poorly-shaved shirtless man in torn purple pants. So there’s the second stage of wackiness.

Now and then you have to wonder if the story comics are trolling their ironic fan base. James Allen has slipped stuff into Mark Trail for his friends on the Comics Curmudgeon. There’ve been bits of wry self-awareness on Judge Parker since Francesco Marciuliano took over writing. And here? Connors gets blood from the Incredible Hulk and turns into a giant rampaging monster. I see the internal logic there. And Bruce Banner, after getting blood from the Amazing Spider Man, and he becomes helpless and a little whiny. Core to Spider-Man’s character is how the universe doesn’t give him any respect. But this is also kind of the joke we’d be making about the comic strip while reading it only partly in earnest.

Lizard: 'With the Man-Spider hurled to his death, there is nothing to concern me here. I must launch upon humankind --- the Reptilian Revolt!' Spidey, clinging from a flagpole and thinking: 'Reptilian Revolt? I don't much care for the sound of that. Right now, though, I'm just lucky I grabbed this flagpole --- and that he didn't notice --- or he'd have finished me off before I could catch my breath. All I've got to do is --- ' [ the flagpole crack ] '--- FALL RIGHT ON MY HEAD!' [ In a waiting room ] Bruce Baner: 'Shouldn't you see if Spider-Man's all right?' Mary Jane: 'I'm sure he can handle the Lizard!' Neither notices Spider-Man outside the window, plummeting.
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 4th of February, 2018. I am again genuinely, truly delighted by the last panel. It’s the blend of action, adventure, and comedy that I like in this kind of superhero story, especially a protagonist like Spider-Man who lives that adage about not having bad luck.

The Lizard climbs to the top of the hospital, declaring the launch of the “Reptile Revolt”. Spidey climbs up the building, gets knocked off, climbs up and up again, and gets thrown — with Banner — over the edge. Spidey actually saves them this time, with his spider-like powers of holding on. (His web-slingers were crushed somewhere in his fights with The Lizard.) But The Lizard escapes to the Everglades.

Spidey, Banner, and Mary Jane go off towards Connor’s swamp laboratory. And then we visit a plot point mentioned early on in this story and forgotten since then: J Jonah Jameson! He’s skipped the newspaper publishers convention along with some other publishers(?) who don’t really like him to putter around the swamp. They notice lots of pythons and alligators swimming in the same direction, toward The Lizard. The other publishers turn their boat around and flee fast enough to knock Jameson overboard and they don’t make the slightest attempt to rescue him. But Spider-Man’s swinging into action. (He must have got replacement web-slingers somewhere.)

Spider-Man, wrestling a python: 'You want a piece of me too, luggage-jaws? Here! Waltz around with him instead!' [ He throws the python at an approaching alligator. ] J Jonah Jameson: 'Have I really sunk this low --- to be rescued by you?' Spidey: 'Hey, man, I can always throw you back!'
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Alex Saviuk’s Amazing Spider-Man for the 7th of March, 2018. Hey man, also, who rescued you that time you bought an old Iron-Man super-suit that “fell off the back of a truck” and that some supervillain was controlling to make you the object at the center of a skyscraper-smashing rampage? Was it Spider-Man? … I think it might have been Doctor Strange, actually. But Spider-Man was in the vicinity while a lot of the rescuing was being done so let’s not you be too snooty here.

He rescues Jameson from a python. They banter the way the leads in an 80s action-romance comedy do, sniping at each other while waiting for the moment they can start making out. Also being swarmed by alligators under The Lizard’s telepathic control. Bruce Banner shows up and spends several weeks of strips explaining how he’s angry but he can’t change into the Hulk. And then, finally, this past week he explained he was angry but he did change into the Hulk, the better to throw telepathically-directed pythons and alligators around. And then he charges for The Lizard, reasoning that it’s better to do the boss battle while he’s powered up and maybe he won’t even have to deal with the minions after.

And that’s where we are as of the 25th of March: with two giant irradiated green monsters in purple pants trash-talking each other in the swamp. I am so happy with where we’ve gotten. To sum up, no, no part of this has not been great, even by my ridiculous standards.

Next Week!

How did Alley Oop’s cold work out for him, and has it wiped out prehistoric humanity or what? And what about the rich idiot? We’ll check in on Jack Bender and Carole Bender’s Alley Oop for the start of April, all going well.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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