Hey, Dan Slott? You know how angry I was when you basically shat on the Juggernaut during your She-Hulk run?
All is forgiven.
(note: I still boycott Amazing Spider-Man, but I’ve allowed myself to make exceptions for Eddie Brock appearances)
Welp. I’m back to this. It’s been a while since the last We Care a Lot, so let’s do a quick recap. It started off with me reminiscing about how I was introduced to Venom comics and how it led to this site. In the comics, Venom decided that Spider-Man wasn’t so bad after all and they formed an agreement not to go after each other. That lasted for about five minutes. Then Venom went to San Francisco, where he teamed up with and/or fought Spider-Man, Punisher, Juggernaut, Hulk, Morbius, Mace and Vengeance. He then went back to New York City to get punked out by the Scarlet Spider. After dealing with his symbiote children and fighting Carnage inside the internet, Eddie Brock turned his wife into Venom for a few minutes and saved Christmas. All that and he made appearances in other comics.
All caught up? Good. Let’s pick up where we left off with Rune vs. Venom, a one-shot by writer Chris Ulm and artists Greg Luzniak, Mark Pacella and Gabriel Gecko. So who is Rune and why does he get top billing? He’s an alien vampire from Malibu’s Ultraverse line. At the time, they were doing a series of Marvel/Ultraverse crossovers and this was one of them. Fair enough.
A couple would-be rapists corner a girl in an alley. Venom appears in the shadows to deal with them, saying that this young woman will not fall to vermin like them. Only instead of going after the criminals, he lunges at the woman and bites down on her neck. As he sucks her dry and turns her into a husk, we see that this isn’t Venom after all. It looks like Venom, but there’s no chest symbol, there’s an extra pair of arms and bat wings. Screaming, “We are the DARK GOD!” the newcomer flies off into the night.
The news states this as being the 76th victim of the killing spree. Jesus! I know Venom isn’t the easiest guy to catch, but come on! There are like 300 superheroes in that city. Somebody get off their ass and find him! Ann Weying watches the news conflicted. She’s questioning whether or not these murders are really Venom’s doing, even with the bloody “VENOM” graffiti at every crime scene. She’s also questioning whether or not Venom can possibly get out of this when SHIELD is now after him.
SHIELD does track him into the sewers, but it’s an absolute slaughter. Venom is out of the loop, but having a bunch of SHIELD goons coming for him sets him off.
Huh. The symbiote must be resistant to brain splatter.
Venom goes to the last soldier and demands to know what’s going on. The soldier tells Venom about that girl he killed, ignoring the other 75 victims, and then dies.
“The agent was not lying – I’m sure of it! He truly believes we have murdered innocents. The true killer is still at large… and we will not rest until the murderer is brought to justice!”
Keep in mind he’s saying this while standing over a mountain of dead SHIELD soldiers. I’m sure that’s an intentional joke, but it’s a bit too early to be an intentional OJ Simpson reference. The issue seems to have been released during the month or possibly even week of the famous acquittal.
Ann Weying has a dream about being in bed with Eddie, transforming into She-Venom and biting his head off. She wakes up in a cold sweat and tries to calm herself. Then she sees the Vampire Fake Venom on the ceiling above her.
Venom swings around town, knowing that Ann has been captured. How does he know this? Perhaps he saw it on the news. Maybe he had been nearby when he heard a scream. Or could he have heard about it when shaking down an old Daily Globe co-worker? Any of those would make more sense than saying it’s because he hacked the SHIELD database. That’s right, Venom hacked into SHIELD. With what, exactly? He’s a hobo! He’s so out of the loop that he didn’t even know about the 76 people killed under his name! Now he’s an expert computer hacker? No wonder Nick Fury got fired. Any vagrant on a library computer can break into his network.
Vampire Fake Venom attacks Venom in mid-swing and bites down into his neck. Venom pushes him off, but falls down and into a fuel tanker which EXPLODES IN A HUGE FIREBALL and Venom casually jumps out of it unscathed.
Goddamn. I know Venom was over-powered in the 90’s, but now he’s no-selling his own weaknesses. After this he’s going to rock out at an AC/DC concert while standing directly in front of the amps.
Vampire Fake Venom reveals itself to be a horrified Ann, causing Venom to loosen his grip. But it’s just a trick as apparently Rune can shape-shift. He punches Venom and then taunts him with how he has Ann kidnapped and flies off. To escape the imminent SHIELD capture, Brock just has the symbiote turn into SHIELD armor and he tells Dum Dum Dugan that Venom’s escaped. See? Even back in the 90’s, Dugan was falling prey to alien shapeshifters.
Okay, now that I think about it, Dum Dum Dugan is someone who could gain from a symbiote. Imagine him with one. A symbiote with a razor-sharp mustache and a bowler hat on. That would be amazing.
Venom’s in a bad way, since Rune’s poison is eating away at him. Oh, the irony. He figures out that since he has a piece of Rune’s symbiote’s DNA inside him, the Venom symbiote can track where he is. Sure, we’ll do that.
Rune explains his backstory to Ann. Back during the Planet of the Symbiotes storyline, one of the symbiotes dealing with the portal to move from planet to planet had accidentally released Rune from his dimensional prison (Annihilus put him there, interestingly enough). Rune thanked the creature by biting its neck. The symbiote left the host and joined onto Rune. When Venom used a sonic scream to kill off the symbiote race, Rune protected his symbiote from harm with his own magic. Now the symbiote pushes him towards getting revenge on the traitor.
Before I move forward, I almost forgot to mention that at one point Venom goes to Ann’s apartment to see if she’s being held there. He beats up a couple SHIELD agents and this happens.
This never comes into play. He isn’t even carrying it on the next page.
We get Venom vs. Symbiote Rune vs. SHIELD at Rune’s hideout. Stray shots by the agents accidentally start up a nearby portal that’s only there for the sake of plot device. Symbiote Rune has the fight won against Venom, but gets a sonic blast to the back. This frees Rune’s mind enough that he tears off the symbiote and bites down on it, draining its color before wadding it up and shoving it down his throat. So in review, zombies can’t eat symbiotes but vampires can.
Rune’s hair falls out and he’s become more powerful. Venom gets back into the fight, but Rune grabs him by the face and says that he’s developed a taste for his skin. Ann hits Rune from behind, getting his attention just long enough for Venom to handle things.
Dugan tells his men to stand down. Considering Venom just saved their lives, that must mean that every single Venom-related death ever was Rune’s fault. Eddie tells Ann that he’ll always be around to save her from monsters. No mention whatsoever is made to Venom being poisoned by Rune. Meanwhile, by going through the portal, Rune returns to the Ultraverse.
Fun fact about Rune: in Jim Starlin’s Thanos run, there was a part where Thanos found the Infinity Gauntlet being worn by Rune’s skeletal remains. They had to alter it slightly because Starlin didn’t know that Rune wasn’t owned by Marvel. Whoops!
Well, that was something. Next up is a comic that is probably instrumental in me taking my time with this update, since it’s easily the most uninteresting and mediocre Venom comic there is. Probably because it’s more of the same stuff we’ve already seen replayed. It’s called Along Came a Spider, by the team of Larry Hama, Joe St. Pierre and Tom Grindberg. With regular numbering, this would be Venom #36-39.
Venom walks around his underground lair and decides to check up on Ann. When he calls her apartment, the phone line makes a detour to the police station, where the police have Ann in protective custody. They force her into talking to Venom long enough for them to trace the call, blackmailing her with the threat of being charged for aiding a criminal. She helps Eddie by giving him hints that it’s all a set-up. Eddie has his suspicions, but can’t know for sure.
Remember back in Carnage Unleashed when Carnage is able to send his symbiote through phone wires? Yeah, unfortunately, so does Hama. The symbiote reaches into the phone and comes out the other end. What we get is a quite literal interpretation of “phone sex”.
Hey, I just noticed Eddie got rid of the mullet! I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Eddie retracts the symbiote, leaving Ann in an exhilarated state. In that one instance they had shared minds, which causes Eddie to panic as now Ann knows everything about him. On the other hand, Ann now knows just how much Eddie loves her. Anyhow, Venom decides to save his ex-wife from the tyranny of the police. With the help of a pizza delivery prank and a bit of kidnapping, he sneaks in and steals Ann away.
Meanwhile, Ben Reilly recounts how he’s a clone only not a clone for those of us lucky enough to have forgotten the 90’s. He gets wind about the Venom situation and gets in his Spider-Man costume. He finds Ann screaming at Venom, insisting that she isn’t going to go out on the run with him. Spider-Ben goes to bring Venom in and proceeds to get his clock cleaned.
Even though Scarlet Spider handed Venom his ass a little while back, this time it’s all Venom. He webs up Spider-Ben and tosses him off the roof. Spider-Ben breaks the webbing, swings to safety and steals a cop’s bullhorn.
Hm… You know, I think I have just the guy!
Venom no-sells Spider-Man’s punches and swats away policemen as Ann begs to everyone that Eddie is misunderstood. One cop turns the rooftop sound system to its maximum setting and sends Venom packing. The cops arrest Ann for helping Venom and threaten Spider-Ben with arrest if he doesn’t get going.
By the way, if you want to see a good example of this storyline’s art, look no further than this:
Awww… SD Venom! So is that still supposed to be a spider on his chest or what?
I forgot to mention that from here on out, the police-related stuff in Venom’s comics are centered around detectives Clark and Steen. Clark is a middle-aged cop out to nab Venom and get his push towards becoming chief and Steen is his angry, female partner. Arresting Ann is just another part of Clark’s plan to catch Venom.
Ann gets her one phone call and uses it to call Venom’s hideout. Remember, she shares his knowledge thanks to the mind merge earlier, meaning she knows his secret phone number. She begs Eddie not to come for her, but the symbiote fully travels through the line and turns her into She-Venom yet again.
In the third issue, the whole thing becomes one big mess. She-Venom escapes the police with the symbiote telling her where Eddie wants to meet her. Spider-Ben quietly follows her. Eddie steals a cop’s motorcycle and races to the rendevoux point. The spot is the amusement park where Eddie and Ann always used to go. You might remember that as the place where Venom and Spider-Man formed their little pact right before Venom’s hero run began.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, it’s currently the hideout of drug and weapon dealer named LD-50. The feds have been staking out his place with the help of an inside man for years and now She-Venom’s going to ruin everything with her presence. It’s actually fortunate for them, as their undercover cop has been discovered and is set to be tortured by LD-50 and his boys. She-Venom, soon followed by Spider-Ben, steps in to stop them. Spider-Ben then has the task of protecting the criminals from She-Venom.
As Eddie rides in on his motorcycle, one of LD-50’s lookout men thinks he’s a possible threat, so he fires a flamethrower at him. The motorcycle goes up and Eddie is fried. She-Venom sees that the only way to keep Eddie alive is to give him the symbiote back. As Venom, Eddie heals up instantly and gets to work on LD-50’s goons.
Roach, the guy with the flamethrower, kidnaps Ann. While sitting in a monster truck, LD-50 calls up his psychiatrist to tell him that he’s in the middle of a psychotic episode, just in case he gets arrested.
Venom is a man who enjoys his job. You have to give him that. Spider-Ben teams up with him… or fights him… I don’t know, the art is confusing. They banter a bit and Venom makes it apparent that he knows that Ben isn’t the same Spider-Man he’s been pestering for all these years. As this is going on, Detective Clark runs into the amusement park and saves Ann by shooting and wounding Roach. Unbeknownst to Roach, the bullet has caused his container of lighter fluid to leak.
Ann gets angry again at becoming She-Venom for the umpteenth time earlier and yells at Eddie for trying to get her hooked the same way he is. She doesn’t want to speak to him until he can control his problem and can bury the hatchet with Spider-Man. She walks out on him and leaves the Venom series behind. That’s a shame. I kind of liked her. She’s a far more interesting supporting character than Clark and Steen.
Speaking of Clark, he, Spidey and Venom get ready to make a siege against LD-50. The dealer is in the basement of the amusement park, where they have all their drugs and weapons. They’re trying to move them out of there before the authorities can find them. Venom realizes how Roach is leaking lighter fluid, so he cuts off the power to the basement. Roach, being a total tard, lights a match and the whole place goes up.
Venom escapes and decides that although he would love to go kill Spider-Ben, he has to let it go. It’s the only chance he has to get back together with Ann.
That one certainly didn’t need to be four issues long. Hell, it didn’t even need to exist. It’s okay, because the next Hama arc is actually pretty fun. It’s called The Hunted and it features the art of Duncan Rouleau. Like the rest of Hama’s stuff here, the story is really over-the-top, but he gets it right here. I know I’m not the only one who finds this arc worth checking out.
It starts off with the police looking over grainy footage of a creature that obviously isn’t Venom, but appears to be Venom, going around and devouring an innocent woman in an alley. They decide to… hold on, we just fucking did this. Remember? A couple stories ago? Space vampire? Come on. I can let the two She-Venom stories in a row slide, but now you’re just stretching it.
Clark and Steen argue about the footage. Clark doesn’t think it’s as cut and dry as it looks. He hates Venom, but he knows that Venom doesn’t just go around eating innocent people willy-nilly. Steen, who also wouldn’t mind being behind Venom’s capture for the sake of being promoted to chief, thinks that Venom’s nothing more than a psychopath monster. Clark later has dinner with Dr. Pazzo, who was Carnage’s top-heavy psychiatrist back in Carnage Unleashed. She agrees with Clark in thinking that this isn’t Venom they’re dealing with.
We see a woman named Zeena, who is now a roommate of sorts with Donna Diego. You might remember her as the redheaded host of Scream, the symbiote that went and killed the other members of the Life Foundation. Zeena keeps thanking Donna for finding her and helping her with her “problem”, but Donna says that they’re all in the same boat and need to stick together. She then leaves to go search for others.
As Zeena lays back and watches Home Improvement, a series of slimy tentacles break into the room and have their way with her. No, wait! It’s nothing nasty like that. It just delivers a horrible, painful, screaming death where it snaps up all her bones and devours her. Nothing gross or anything.
Where’s Venom during all of this? We see Eddie’s misadventures as he is kicked out of a movie theater for trying to use it as a place to spend the night. One of the employees sneaks him some money to get himself a hot meal. Eddie gets a bit optimistic about the city for once and goes to spend it in the restaurant The Daily Grind. Upon noticing that Ben Reilly works there, he skedaddles. He tries to fight some crime, but civilians seem more scared of him than usual.
Eddie ponders this all on a rooftop and decides that he needs to reinvent himself and find a way to get some real income. As he does this, a helicopter pilot recognizes him and gives chase.
I love the cover to the second issue only for how it basks in its outlandishness. “Confused cops! Attack choppers! Female symbiotes! Skateboarders! Carnivorous Aliens! Face it, this one has it all!”
Yes, that’s right. Skateboarders. As Venom is being chased by a trio of helicopters (with Clark and Steen trying to catch up by car), they come by a group of skateboarding kids in overly loud outfits. Out of boredom, the group decides to play it dangerously by skating circles around Venom as he tries to escape. This helps Venom out, since the pilots won’t fire on children. Venom converses with the ringleader about how he’s going too far with this stunt, but the kid doesn’t listen. Venom admits that when he was a kid, he was also a skateboarder and when the kid is almost crushed as part of a sudden car accident, Venom saves him by giving him skater advice.
“Slide out!! Do a kick-back and grab sky!! Don’t freeze on the stick, kid!!”
I don’t know what any of that means, but Venom saves him by stomping down on the back of the skateboard and catapulting the kid onto the back of a truck. Venom changes his appearance and braves the skateboard like a pro.
Who here can pick out the subtle Reservoir Dogs reference on this page?
Elsewhere, we see that Scream knows about the creature that’s been framing Venom for all the murders. She’s been looking for those who have somehow retained their symbiotes after the invasion so that they can strike against it with numbers. It’s too late for Zeena and Scream gets in a fight with her latest find. As they quarrel in her apartment, she notices a piece of furniture that she never bought. It transforms into a stringy and hairy monster with green eyes and a bone face.
Narration describes it as a Xenophage, an alien that preys especially on symbiotes. With the symbiote race all but exterminated, Xenophage has found its way to Earth so it can feed on either those who still have symbiotes or those with symbiote residue in their brains. He devours Scream’s male friend, but since he has only merged with his symbiote recently, he isn’t all that delicious. Someone like Venom, on the other hand, makes Xenophage’s mouth water. He keeps Scream for later, as dessert.
Rad Eddie wins the skateboarding competition and nets himself $500 among other prizes. He hangs out with his new friends until Clark and Steen show up and question him about the Venom incident from earlier. They get a note on a new dead body showing up so they have to leave, but Clark takes Rad Eddie with him. The officers find the Xenophage’s latest victim in Donna’s apartment and decide that this is the last straw. Steen calls the mayor and starts up Operation Decimal.
Just about every siren, loudspeaker, bell and whistle goes off around the city. Eddie, who has taken the disguise of a police officer, is bombarded with the sound and goes on a rampage. The other cops try to hold him down with Steen’s orders to chain him up so they can take him to Ravencroft.
The Xenophage shows himself. “Oh, don’t bother to wrap him… I’ll eat him right here!”
With the cops bearing down on Venom with their loud noises, the Xenophage jumps out, grabs Venom and runs off with Scream in its other hand. He injects Venom with flavor-enhancing neurotoxins that knock out the symbiote but keep Eddie awake and held down by the dead weight. One of the skaters sees Rad Eddie’s skateboard on the scene and figures it all out. He gets on the phone and puts the posse together.
The helicopters chase the Xenophage around town, but it escapes into the subways, where the skaters follow. He takes his prey to the top of a running subway train. Scream and Venom each regain their strength enough to fight back, only to get re-injected with neurotoxins. The skaters try to help, but Xenophage sees them and decides that he might feast on their brains as well. Scream and Venom each fight through the toxins enough to lash out at Xenophage for all the good it does them. Venom ends up hanging on the side of the moving train at half strength. He sees some soldiers ready at the next stop, armed to the teeth. He hijacks the controls to keep the train moving, steals a white phosphorous grenade and hangs on.
Xenophage sees Venom’s head peaking over the edge of the train, goading him. Xenophage bites off Venom’s head and swallows it, but comments that it doesn’t taste right. Venom reveals himself to be alive, albeit with a bare arm. He simply extended the symbiote on his hand and made it look like his head. Inside the false head? The white phosphorous grenade.
A massive explosion destroys the Xenophage and Venom stands there smiling. “Aww, nothing to get all burnt up about!”
Clark and Steen find the burning subway train as it makes its next stop, but see no sign of Venom. Again, all they find are the skateboarders.
That was a fun ride.
Next time should be an interesting installment. Not only do we get what may be the best Venom story ever, but it’s followed by what may be the worst Venom story ever! Well, not counting Daniel Way’s Venom, but you get the idea.