Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man [1963] #166 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 166, March 1977
Billed as a Christmas “Holiday Holocaust”, and depicting Spidey “caught in the middle” of a battle between the Lizard and Stegron, Len Wein’s narrative for “War Of The Reptile Men” must have royally pleased the vast majority of this title’s audience back when it was first published in the Mid-Seventies. Certainly, considering the comic encompasses the creation of “the brand-new Spider-Slayer", Harry Osborn’s engagement to Liz Allen, New York’s finest fighting off living dinosaurs, as well Doctor Connors’ desperate efforts to save his son, the eighteen-page periodical crowbars an awful lot inside its colourfully composed John Romita (Senior) cover.

Fortunately though, so vastly widespread a storyline is still easily accessible courtesy of “a reasonable summation of last issue’s doings” by the book’s editor and plenty of ‘cheery’ exposition from “the ghost of Christmas past” as he web-swings his way through this celebratory tale bringing comfort to a distraught Martha Connors, politely stands up Mary Jane Watson, and takes down Curtis’ cold-blooded alter-ego with a mouthful of “lizardism” cure. Indeed, the wall-crawler even has time to tackle a heavily-fanged Tyrannosaurus Rex before it and the other “Kings of the Earth” are reduced back to their skeletal state as a result of Billy’s father managing to “reverse the effects of Stegron’s retro-generator…”

Perhaps the Shazam Award-winner’s most successful plot-point however, is the fact that for once, the harshness of the festive weather is crucial to the adventure’s somewhat cheerless conclusion. For whilst the majority of similarly-themed seasonal tales ordinarily appear to just thoughtlessly bolt the cultural celebration on as an afterthought, the wintry snow becomes so heavy and turns “ssso cold” towards the end of Wein’s script that it actually causes the reptilian Dinosaur Man to completely lose his superhuman strength, and eventually simply slide to his death deep beneath a frozen lake when his footing finally fails him; “If only I had ssstayed hidden… until the ssspring… I could have been… massster… of… the… world…” 

Delightfully, all of this action is vibrantly brought to animated life by the pencil of Ross Andru, who provides both the Lizard and Stegron with plenty of pathos despite the combatants’ numerous scales and murderous intentions. In fact, in some ways the duo’s confrontation down “in an abandoned storage vault beneath Central Park” is the highlight of the comic, with Andruskevitch’s sketching the pair kicking, tail-whipping and throttling one another half to death, whilst simultaneously providing the book’s readers with plenty of appealing rhetoric.
Writer/Editor: Len Wein, Illustrator: Ross Andru, and Inker: Mike Eposito

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