Well, The Amazing Spider-Man movie is out, and the opinions are quite a widely mixed bag. Our man William Bibbiani on the Film Channel has resoundingly bashed it, and just yesterday I was commenting on how amusing it was to see Facebook group posts from my friends about the movie – one of whom thought it was surprisingly fantastic, and another of whom thought it was "the gonorrhea of superhero movies." (Here's a hint – you'll hear more about the latter on our next Book Report podcast).
But one place Peter Parker isn't being questionably portrayed is in his own comic series. Here, Dan Slott's been knocking it out of the park with our wall-crawling hero on a twice-monthly basis. Amazing Spider-Man #689 may have shoehorned in a Lizard story just to tie in with the movie's release, but the Dr. Curt Connors we see here is much more fascinatingly messed up than anything the movie managed to make of him (which wasn't much). There are complaints that director Marc Webb Twilight-ed up Spider-Man for the movie, but Slott even manages to do him one better on that score, by weaving in the sad tale of Morbius The Living Vampire.
At one point, Spider-Man explains Morbius: "There's something you need to understand about him first. He's not a real vampire. And no, I don't mean like one of those fake, sparkly ones. He's a creature of science, an experiment gone wrong." That's how you Twilight up a comic. You don't.
When last we left the ASM gang, Peter Parker was on edge after losing Silver Sable in the final fight against Dr. Octopus to save the world. He was driven even closer to that edge at the discovery that Morbius dug up the corpse of young Billy Connors, whose death at the hands of his own father is one of Peter's greatest failures, in an effort to cure Dr. Connors of his Lizard affliction (and, by extension, cure himself of his vampire affliction). Then even closer after engaging in a savage battle with the Lizard to deliver that ill-gotten cure. It appears to work, reverting him back to Dr. Connors… but as Peter mentioned last issue, the reason Billy was killed was because the Lizard was trying to erase the entirety of the Connors psyche and exist solely as the reptilian beast he'd become. That beast is still in control, despite the human form, and wants nothing more than to be the beast again.
Thus, there's a lot of Curt Connors being truly creepy as he tries to play at being human, struggling to fake emotions at the sight of his dead son, to fool the people at Horizon Labs into leaving him alone long enough to concoct a reversal to Morbius' antidote. He extends his time alone by using airborne blood packets to drive Morbius into a feeding frenzy on one of his former Horizon colleagues, which sends Spider-Man WAY over that edge. This is seriously the most YOU MOTHERFUCKER! styled anger I think I've ever seen out of Spider-Man, and Giuseppe Camuncoli's artwork brings it across with a powerful ferocity.
This is a disturbing issue all around. Vampire bloodletting, Spider-Man on a violent rampage against a messed-up, apologetic guy with ghoulish tendencies, a child's corpse, and Connors' madness flickering for a moment, before he subjugates the benevolent Max Modell, head of Horizon Labs, and uses him as a test subject for his own nasty experiments. Even the last panel is particularly gruesome, underscoring Connors' Lizard nature.
Slott's reputation is that of a light-hearted storyteller, and there's been a lot of that in Amazing Spider-Man that's kept it so much fun for so long. However, he's not afraid to get into the macabre, either, and that's on full display in Amazing Spider-Man #689. It's still got the dense, entertaining writing that so characterizes him, but the wide range of themes and tones Slott can ace really makes us believe that Spider-Man is in the best hands possible, movie or no movie. The comic book has always been where it's at, anyway.