This compilation is an odd Spider-Girl sandwich between two slices of the Lizard. Personally, I would have loved a third Lizard story, but I understand what Marvel is trying to do here by giving Spider-Girl another chance to reach out to the comic reading populace.
Using Man-Thing as our guide into the past of Curt Connors, we find that these two have a bond that stretches back to when both were untampered human beings. Van Lente crafts a fun throwback through the eyes of the Man-Thing that has me hoping to one day see Van Lente return to the character.
Jefte Palo's art is perfectly suited to the story that focuses on the past between Ted Sallis and Curt Connors, a fine work of revisionist Marvel history that makes perfect sense and brought a smile to my face. Palo's art is great for the quiet scenes, the Baghdad bombing, and the sludging of the Man-Thing. It falls flat, however, when the Lizard hauls off and belts Man-Thing. I haven't read every appearance of the muck monster, but I don't recall him ever being hit so hard as to leave his feet, especially in the swamp.
The Spider-Girl story is thick, and the use of mixed cases lettering makes it seem moreso to me. A story any less dense, however, would not have advanced as much in the span of seventeen pages. DeFalco, Frenz, and Buscema deal out a double-cross in that span: a truncated throwdown between Black Tarantula and Spider-Girl, and a family dinner. Not bad for a story shorter than a normal comic.
The third installment in this issue is an internal reflection powered by the mind of Curt Connors as he resists the Lizard's attempts to resurface. Xurxo Penalta is channeling his inner Bernie Wrightson for this creepy story, but with mixed results. It is dark and brooding, but Penalta's sense of anatomy seems much more cartoony than Wrightson's, making this story a murky caricature. Wells' story works with this style. After all, it is a story told through the eyes of Curt Connors, who is more than a little unbalanced, like the art itself. Penalta's art works for this story, but would be a little off in a true Spider-Man story.
The continuation of the Lizard's tale will not be upon us until "Amazing Spider-Man" #630 at the end of April. Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo will be on board for that. I guess I'll have re-read my old Spidey comics with the Lizard in the time in between.