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- Published on Amazon.com
I've always been a fan of Spider-Man since my very youngest days, and I've read a few hundred issues of this comic always hoping that it would some day reach the level of praise and the depth of storytelling that so many other tried and true characters have been given over the years. That finally happened when Dan Slott took over AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. He had it all; big ideas, great humor, genuine heart and fantastic style. The work he's done over the years with the likes of Humberto Ramos, Stefano Caselli and especially Marcos Martin have been incredibly entertaining, tremendously smart, hilariously funny, and emotionally powerful. But most of all, he had the characters of Spider-Man, his allies and his enemies down pat. At the climax of the "Spider-Island" event, Slott's run had turned into something of epic proportions and would go down in the history as probably the best run of the character ever committed to paper.
After "Spider-Island" completed though, the quality of the title began ever-so-slightly slipping. First off was the post-event "Flying Blind" arc, which also featured the art of penciler Guiseppe Camuncoli and inker extraordinaire Klaus Janson, which was still solid, as well as some of the other following arcs, but it was starting to become evident that Slott seemed to be starting to run out of steam during the mini-event that was "Ends of the Earth", which should have been the epic that "Spider-Island" was, but Slott never really seemed to be able to reach those previous heights. Now, right in time for the release of the newest Spider-Man film, which features The Lizard as the main villain, we get "No Turning Back", which just so happens to feature The Lizard as the main villain. Coincidence? I don't think so.
The layout here is that Spider-Man, coming off of the tragedy that befell him at the climax of "Ends of the Earth", is coming back to Horizon Labs only to find himself teaming up with Michael Morbius in order to stop another Lizard rampage. The two end up stopping The Lizard and actually curing him of his horrible Jekyll/Hyde affliction at Horizon, but a terrible truth comes to light as The Lizard becomes Dr. Curt Connors once more: His psyche has become so fractured from the horrific acts he's committed as The Lizard (such as the murder of his own son) that he no longer thinks like Connors. He now thinks like The Lizard, and he will wreak whatever havoc he possibly can on the employees of Horizon and anyone else who gets in his way so that he can become who he believes he truly is now.
Spidey's motto of 'no one dies' is obviously under assault during this arc as Mary Jane, running her new nightclub, calls him out on that idea, which is something I've personally been waiting for for quite some time, because while that motto is very positive, it's also very unrealistic and somewhat arrogant. It's also under assault as a blood-crazed Morbius (tricked by Connors) runs rampant throughout the labs and then later out onto the street in a seemingly interminable (and frankly very boring) battle between these longtime frenemies, while Connors is going from scientist to scientist at Horizon looking to different ways to cure his humanity. There are some nice character beats here, but more often than not, the 'action' is actually what drags this arc down. My two biggest complaints with this arc are the following: First is the art by Camuncoli and Janson. If you're going to get an inker like Janson, there is literally no reason to have a penciler. Anything Klaus Janson inks ends up looking like Klaus Janson's art. There's no getting around his harsh lines and extreme definition, no matter how Camuncoli might dress it up. It's really the wrong style for a book like this. When I first saw their work on the Vulture-centric "Flying Blind" arc, it was more tolerable because a more interesting story was going on there, but here, the problems with it are too glaring to avoid. The second could go either way, but it speaks to Marvel and their editorial dictatorship. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN seems incredibly micro-managed by Marvel's Powers That Be, and this never helps. It always hurts (look at "One More Day" for evidence of that), and it really doesn't feel consistent with what Slott's direction was. It really seems like he was told he needed to write a Lizard-centric tale because the big Summer film is coming out with The Lizard as the bad guy. I understand that most, if not all, of the major publishers consider comics as commerce, but there has to be a point when the editors have to let the creators breathe.
There are good things that come out of this as well, and they do have the edge as far as the book is concerned, but it's really only slightly above average.
I wish I could say better things about this arc, but when it comes down to it, "No Turning Back" felt rushed, inorganic, and very haphazard.