Last time on the Venom Marathon, we discovered that the symbiote is an entity that can extrude itself as a molecular filament and travel along communication cables. In other words, Carnage Unleashed is the greatest awful comic of all time. Yet somehow, Marvel brass decided that Larry Hama should continue writing the series.
Continue he did, with Sinner Takes All. Had they gone with a real numbering system, this would be Venom #31-35, meaning that we’re halfway into his series. I have fonder memories of this one merely because as a kid, I had the entire five issues. Boy were they big issues. The first four came with a Jury back-up story that I’ve never cared about enough to actually read. The fifth issue came with a quick Venom story that I’ll get to after this Sin-Eater business.
The artist here is Greg Luzniak (Ted Halsted takes over for the last issue), who had a really nice art style for the most part. The catch was that his Venom, as you can see, is a little bit overboard.
Yikes. From what I understand, Hama is less into the superhuman and more into badasses armed to the teeth, so this storyline comes more natural to him.
You may have noticed that in Carnage Unleashed, that prick Fordham Rhodes never got his comeuppance, which, in Venom/Carnage terms, means get killed. That’s all but set-up for the opening of the first issue, where he and his lawyer discuss the charges brought against him. A reporter brings up how their new legal assistant, Ann Weying, is Eddie Brock’s ex-wife, which seems to embarrass everyone involved. To break up the awkward moment, a psycho in a ski mask pops in for a killing spree.
Reciting bible quotes, it’s the return of the Sin-Eater, who blasts Fordham into mush with his shotgun. He then takes apart Fordham’s lawyer and, despite her begging, guns down Ann. Then he runs off, probably glad that for some reason there are absolutely no cops around.
Eddie breaks into Ann’s apartment, due to being a bit injured from a couple punks tossing lighter fluid on him and lighting him on fire while he was sleeping on the subway. His symbiote helped put out the fire and he did proceed to murder them both, but he’s still hurting a bit. He finds that Ann isn’t home, despite her TV being on. Watching the news, Eddie discovers what’s happened to her and freaks.
The Sin-Eater, for those who don’t know your Spider-History, is a masked maniac who went around killing sinners in the name of God. Emil Gregg was a psycho who thought he was the Sin-Eater and confessed it to Eddie Brock. Eddie put it on the front page of the Daily Globe and thanks to Spider-Man’s crime-fighting skills, it was revealed to be false. The real Sin-Eater was Stan Carter, Gregg’s neighbor, whose mad rantings drilled their way into Gregg’s psyche.
Carter died, of course. So does that mean that Gregg is the Sin-Eater for reals this time?
Policemen are stationed all over Ann’s hospital in case Sin-Eater tries to finish the job. Venom and Sin-Eater race to the room, with Sin-Eater killing cops all over and Venom just shrugging off their bullets. Sin-Eater does his usual bit of quoting the bible as to justify Ann’s death.
Venom’s frustrated, but a little pleased at the idea of killing the villain that created him. He hopes it’s Gregg, just to bring things full circle. Sin-Eater gets the advantage of the situation by aiming a gun at Ann and revealing a dynamite vest. He fires at Ann, but Venom acts fast and absorbs the shot. He then stands in front of Ann and goads Sin-Eater into blowing himself up. Sin-Eater instead escapes. The police chief, who has seen the whole thing transpire, thinks it’s for the best that Venom takes care of Ann, since the police are worthless.
At a homeless shelter, Emil Gregg checks in and goes to his cot, all while ranting about the bible. The others are verbally abusive towards him and threaten swirlies if he doesn’t shut up. The police appear and bring Gregg into custody. They find that the bag under his bed has the Sin-Eater outfit, as well as some guns. He’s taken away and doesn’t do much to dispute the evidence. Nearby, another man remains in bed while silently reciting his own bible quotes.
Gregg admits to being the Sin-Eater and is soon shot to death by the mother of a dead cop. Soon after, they find out that the prints on the guns don’t belong to Gregg after all, but to Michael Engelschwert, an airborne ranger who served in the Gulf War. A flashback later shows that he was the lone survivor of a Black Hawk crash and went on to fight off an entire troop of enemy soldiers by himself. He was damaged goods and sleeping next to the biblical rantings of Emil Gregg at the shelter altered his mind and turned him into the new Sin-Eater.
Venom brings the injured Ann to an old underground hideout from his villain days. It’s an abandoned bunker that the government forgot about. The journey and lack of medical attention has only made things worse for Ann’s wounds and she’s dying. Eddie knows that the only way to save her is to share the symbiote and its healing power on her. She’s horrified at the idea, but Eddie eases her into it.
Ann falls asleep and it doesn’t take long to realize that this isn’t working out. If Ann’s to survive, she needs the entire symbiote. The symbiote isn’t keen on the idea of leaving Eddie, but Eddie warns it that if it doesn’t do this for him, he’ll leave it forever. Like some kind of misdirection, the symbiote takes to Ann with the appearance of a pure, white blanket, with her appearing completely peaceful as it goes to work on fixing her up.
Then Eddie realizes the mistake he made by not locking the door as two psychotic looking hobos break in, scavenging for money and drugs. They get in a fight with the wrench-armed Eddie, but two psychos beat one psycho and our hero goes down. Luckily, there’s someone to save him, as Ann warns the two to stay away from Eddie else she eats their brains. Yes, that’s right. It’s time for She-Venom!
Wait! It gets better!
“Huh? Wuzzat, Big Brown?”
“I dunno, Junior – but it sure as heck is female!!”
“Hoo-ha!! We can put a sack over her ugly head after we stomp her into submission!”
Yes. Yes, exactly. Because the first thing that comes to mind when I see a female Venom is, “Shit, I wish I could rape that thing!”
As Venom, Eddie Brock’s killed an awful lot of people, but they’ve always shown and suggested it as being straightforward deaths. Snapped necks, crushed skulls, sliced throats, etc. Quick deaths. As She-Venom, Ann goes so far that even Eddie is sickened by it. She just goes to town on these guys with blood spraying all over the place. By the time is done, we get a little glimpse of one’s remains and it’s extremely grisly.
Eddie demands that the symbiote leave her and return to him and it eventually gives in. Ann is horrified at her handiwork and says that the symbiote took her over. Eddie, always knowing the right thing to say, brings up that the symbiote can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do, which sets Ann off. She screams about how she hates Eddie and needs to get away from him.
Elsewhere, the Sin-Eater leaves a bomb decoy at the homeless shelter to greet the eventual police raid. Then he visits a militia meeting, where he guns down everyone in the room in order to steal all their hidden-away weapons. He’s not the only well-armed bad guy around. Kirsten’s mother, from the cliffhanger of Carnage Unleashed, convinces the doorman at Ann’s apartment building that she’s Ann’s sister and is allowed entry.
Ann crawls out of a manhole to escape Eddie. He warns her that if she goes back to her apartment, the Sin-Eater can find her easily, but she just wants to be saved from herself. She makes a huge scene – or more of a scene than a woman in a hospital gown emerging from the sewer already qualifies as – and the police get involved. Eddie turns into Venom and things get hectic as Ann sneaks off in a taxi.
He hears about a stand-off between the Sin-Eater and the police on a rooftop and leaps off to deal with it. There he discovers that the Sin-Eater is just a decoy. Venom tracks the Sin-Eater into the basement of the New York Stock Exchange, where he’s in the middle of setting up a couple bombs. This is where the two finally throw down.
This is everything the earlier Venom vs. Punisher fights should have been. Sin-Eater uses sound tactics, such as hitting Venom with white phosphorous. Although Venom shrugs off bullets, Sin-Eater is able to stun him by emptying a pistol’s clip into Venom’s forehead at point blank range. Venom gets his hands on Sin-Eater once or twice, smacking him around and slashing his face. I guess the main flaw would be that Sin-Eater has everything too well-scouted and Venom’s a bit too durable. The whole place crumbles due to their battle and both survive. A handful of SWAT guys barge in, but spend so much of their effort shooting Venom that they leave themselves open for Sin-Eater to kill all but one. With a hostage in hand, he sneaks off.
As Sin-Eater gets in his van, Venom notices that he left a bag of weapons behind. Venom sees the hostage tossed from the van, aims a rocket launcher and grins.
Come on. Tell me that image doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
With Sin-Eater gone, Venom evades the police and swings off to Ann’s apartment, where Kirsten’s mother is waiting with a tied-up Ann nearby. Considering there’s an entire issue left, Sin-Eater isn’t really dead. He just switched outfits with his hostage as means to escape and get off the radar long enough.
As Eddie knocks on the door to Ann’s apartment, Kirsten’s mother shoots him through the door. She doesn’t recognize him, so she drags his body with the dead officers she had to take care of and puts a sheet over them while waiting for Venom to arrive. She also calls up Kirsten, who is horrified that her mother is going to murder people for her. Bitch, that’s what you asked for at the end of the last story!
Under the cover of the sheet, the symbiote is able to remove the bullets itself and save Eddie, but barely. The rest of the issue becomes a big pile of clusterfuckery with the Sin-Eater and Kirsten each showing up in the apartment. The symbiote latches onto Ann again to help take on Kirsten’s mom, which leads to a fun exchange between Eddie and She-Venom after Eddie stops her from biting the woman’s head off.
“You had better come back to me this instant, or else!”
“Are you talking to Ann or the other?”
Kirsten’s mother accidentally, though uncaringly, guns down the Sin-Eater. The symbiote rejoins Eddie to protect him from a shotgun blast. As Kirsten tries to talk sense to her mother, the Sin-Eater reveals his final gambit.
Kirsten blames herself for all of this, so she tackles Sin-Eater out the window. Haunted by his inability to save Clive from falling last storyline, Venom hops out the window and saves Kirsten from Sin-Eater’s clutches before the madman explodes in mid-air. He hands Kirsten off to Clive, who refuses to accept Venom’s apology.
Clive and Kirsten, by the way, never appear in Venom’s comic again, but they DID appear in Larry Hama’s Wolverine run. Why and what were they up to? I have no idea and I don’t care enough to find out.
Kirsten’s mother is ready to sneak out, but Ann shatters a lamp over her head. Everything’s wrapped up and it ends with one panel of Venom saying, “ARRRRGH! What is the matter with me?! I just bring pain and suffering to everyone I know!!”
Hey, he may be a Spider-Man knockoff, but at least he’s quick about his sulking.
Fun fact: one of the arc’s covers was meant to have Venom protecting Ann by carrying her with his tongue, but they had to redo it because Marvel was under fire for having Peter Parker hit a pregnant Mary Jane during the Clone Saga. The tongue thing was deemed over the line in terms of man-on-woman violence and they had to scrap it.
Now, I personally enjoyed Sinner Takes All. Maybe it’s the nostalgia speaking, but I liked it. It gets better though, because hidden at the end of #5 is a back-up story written by Marv Wolfman and Gabriel Gecko.
In this story titled Symbiote, we start off with Venom hanging by a series of wires sticking into him from all sides, zapping him relentlessly. The villain shows himself, but he’s never given a name, so for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just call him Fake Wesley Gibson.
That is his face while fucking Venom in the ass.
Through flashback, we see that Fake Wesley has been watching Venom for weeks and has succeeded in luring him to his hideout and capturing him. Now he wants the symbiote, as he believes it will give him eternal life. Venom passes out from the pain, but comes to hours later to find himself alone. By stretching a piece of the symbiote into a wall outlet, he busts the wires and escapes.
Upstairs, he discovers Fake Wesley waiting for him. The villain says that he’s only siphoned a little of the symbiote’s power, but it’s enough to make himself stronger, which he demonstrates by punching Venom back. Venom simply tackles him out the window and impales him on a fence. With Fake Wesley no longer a problem, Venom walks away.
But Fake Wesley is surprisingly still alive. The healing ability of the piece of symbiote he’s taken in is working, but he’s still a bit too weak. He gets up and blasts Venom in the back with a handheld sonic gun. He brings him back into the lab and tells him about his origins.
He used to be a SHIELD agent and they were experimenting in ways to bring Venom down. One option was a special nerve gas, but Fake Wesley accidentally got it into his system and now he’s dying. Since it was going to be used on Venom in the first place, Fake Wesley blames Venom for his misfortune.
He uses a special device to extract the symbiote and force it to bond to him. It… doesn’t go so well. Despite having the symbiote enter through his mouth, among other places, he’s still able to go into a huge monologue about it.
“Enter me, symbiote… Become part of me as you were with Eddie Brock. Let me possess your strength. Give me your life! Yes… I can feel it entering… My God! This is more than I ever realized it could be. These sounds… like nothing I’ve ever heard before, colors I could never imagine… This is so incredible… How could you be so selfish to keep this all for your—“
“You wanted the symbiote, gruesome. But if you take it, you’ve got to take it all!”
“Oh God – it’s coming in too fast – I-I can’t absorb it all. N-now it’s changing! N…NOOO! It’s horrible! Noise… so shrill… so piercing… my ears… bleeding… Colors… turning into… into things… into monsters!!! Those awful, terrible images… burning into my brain! I – I can’t shut them out… I CAN’T MAKE THEM GO! MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT GO AWAY!! Can’t… It’s too much… Too fast… Too—“
And then his head explodes. He had a good run.
No, he never does show up again.
Man. Those last couple stories were a bit dark, what with all the head explosions, dismemberment and many dead police officers. We need something lighter and happier. Something… festive.
I know just the thing.
The Spider-Man Christmas Special 1995 is a really solid piece of work, even though, despite the cover, it is NOT about a giant Santa Venom fighting two Spider-Men and the Human Torch. Damn it Marvel, for once in your life give the fans what they want.
There are five stories involved. One is about Ben Reilly Spider-Man trying to help a young woman deal with her problems on Christmas Eve (originally she was supposed to have HIV, but that was too much of a downer, so they changed it to her being evicted from her apartment. Same difference). There’s a short ‘Nuff Said story where Black Cat helps out an orphanage. Willie Lumpkin deals with having Aunt May gone during the holidays. Ben Reilly spends his first and last Christmas with the Human Torch, including a flashback to Torch’s previous Christmas meeting with Parker (Torch’s gift to Peter was a talking Venom action figure). It goes really well with the Dan Slott Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries from a couple years back.
Hey, you know what doesn’t go well with the Dan Slott Spider-Man/Human Torch miniseries from a couple years back? One More Fucking Day!
But I digress.
There’s a story in there called The Venom Claus, so you know you’re going to get something good. It’s by Eric Fein on words and Javier Saltares on art. It’s a crying shame that Saltares’ depiction of Venom never got any play outside of this short story. Venom has those eyes drawn to look like a cross between Spider-Man’s eye lenses and an inkblot test, but Saltares went an original route with them. There would be ridges in the eye designs to make it seem like Venom had reptilian pupils. It made him a bit less overly demonic and far more expressive without having to look too silly.
The story starts off with an awesome piece of misdirection, where we see a beaten down Santa Claus crawling in an alley, with Venom standing behind him and saying, “Don’t try to get up.”
Turns out Venom’s just looking out for a mugged street Santa. There have been a series of attacks in the neighborhood and that Santa was the latest. Eddie and his symbiote other know that this cannot stand.
The next night, Eddie stands on a street corner, disguised as Santa. A Christmas-hating blowhard with a megaphone takes offense to Eddie shilling for the poor and gets in his face about it. Annoyed, Santa Eddie takes the megaphone and forces it down the poor guy’s throat.
Finally, he hits paydirt. An old couple running a Christmas tree shop are attacked by a group of punks. Our Santified hero lunges at them, but is taken down by a crowbar to the head. One of them plans to kill him, but first wants his hat as a souvenir. Wouldn’t you know it, it just won’t come off.
He’s quick to dismantle the group and, being a Venom story, gets shot up and laughs it off. I swear, he and Luke Cage can’t go ten minutes without having to do that routine. With the ringleader in hand, he’s ready to kill him, but promises it’ll be fast since it’s the holidays. The old woman that he just rescued asks him to spare the young man and just let the police deal with them.
“We don’t know…”
“Please please please please, let me live…”
“…We were really looking forward to twisting his head off and using it as a Christmas tree ornament.”
Venom gives in and lets the guy live with a warning.
He ties up the thugs to the Christmas trees and swings off with a Santa hat on, singing loudly that, “Venom Claus is coming to town!”
Such a cute story.
What? Venom can be cute. Like, for instance, in a hit-or-miss and annoying-to-navigate webcomic about a little girl adopting the Venom symbiote as a pet. Yeah, I don’t know either.
That’s enough for this update. For the next article, I’m going to take a short break from Venom’s series. I’ve spent all this time discussing what was going on in Venom’s comics that I haven’t even told you about his appearances in other people’s comics.
This includes the most hilarious, over-achieving Venom fight in his entire existence. And you thought Venom beating up Juggernaut was bad…