Last time on We Care a Lot, I talked about Daniel Way’s Venom on-going. Hitting the halfway point, I decided to stop and give myself a break to recuperate. It’s good to know that while that series was going on, Venom started to appear elsewhere. And why wouldn’t he? The reason he was turned into a full-blown bad guy again was so he could go back to being Spider-Man’s threat of the day.
Venom would make his return to Spider-Man’s world in Spectacular Spider-Man #1 for a five-issue story called The Hunger. This isn’t to be confused with the super-awesome four-issue story from years earlier called Venom: The Hunger, but it usually is. It’s kind of funny how although it’s obvious Paul Jenkins probably didn’t read that Len Kaminski story, he more or less wrote the same story, only with Spider-Man and without the happy ending.
As Paul Jenkins writes the story, we get Humberto Ramos on art. This is rather interesting, considering Francisco Herrera is doing the art on Venom at the same time. A little research shows that Ramos mentored Herrera and that really shouldn’t come to a surprise of anyone. Case in point:
Which came out a month apart.
Though there are parts that annoyed me, The Hunger isn’t so bad. If anything, it’s easily the most important Venom story in the past 15 years, so you have to give them that. Really. While it introduces some ideas that don’t go anywhere, it still gets the ball rolling and leads us to where we are today.
It begins with a young woman walking down the street alone one night, speaking with her mother on the phone about a doctor’s appointment. Though we don’t get a clear shot of him, we can definitely tell that Venom is on her trail. He confronts her in an alley and assaults her.
Detective Neil Garrett is introduced. He’s been following a trend where some attacker has been hunting people down and biting into them. Puncture wounds have been found on the victims and they’ve all gone into comas, leading Garrett to believe it’s a vampire of some kind.
Eddie Brock, hacking and coughing, visits a priest for a bout of confession. He goes back to his origin and how he went to that very church to pray to God for forgiveness for the suicide he was prepared for. Now he believes that what followed – him becoming Venom – was God’s way of refusing forgiveness.
We obviously need a transition from Eddie sulking and Peter Parker dealing with his wacky neighbor to having Spider-Man fight Venom. This is especially difficult, since Spider-Man doesn’t know Venom’s up to no good and Venom isn’t on his weekly run to track down and kill Spider-Man. Jenkins does it in the way that everyone knows he shouldn’t.
Spider-Man stumbles upon Venom about to eat a hobo in a train tunnel by chance because he was led there by his spider-sense! You know, the power Spider-Man has that doesn’t work on Venom?
Maybe that homeless guy was a vicious criminal mastermind and it was a complete coincidence that Venom was there trying to eat him.
The fight goes on for several pages, but it’s overly dark and intentionally cropped in parts. Spider-Man can tell that Venom is different somehow; more primal than before. Venom rants about how conflicted he is when he’s around Spider-Man.
“Consider your betrayal, Spider-Man: you made me into the creature that is Venom. I reflect your mind but I can no longer endure it… I am torn by love and hatred. Trust and fear… I am everything of this world… and nothing. You brought me here – why will you not grant me release…? The being that I was is gone… the change is complete… But I am incomplete because you have made it so… I suffer for your sin—“
Spider-Man tries to verbally defend himself, referring to Venom as “Eddie”. In response, Spider-Man is swatted out into the light, where the symbiote looms over him.
“You do not understand, Spider-Man… there is no more Eddie.”
Spider-Man is quick to get away, thanks in part to an oncoming train. Part of his ability to escape seems to be from the symbiote’s lack of endurance when on its own.
We later see Eddie Brock staring in the bathroom mirror, noticing how much looser the waistband of his pants has become. He looks completely broken, though still completely jacked, and the symbiote whispers to him about how he needs him once more. Eddie pleads with the symbiote to leave him in peace, but the symbiote takes him over anyway, promising that he’ll leave him alone later and sweet-talking him about how much he needs him.
Unmasked, Venom stands on top of a building. Eddie can sense Spider-Man is nearby, in danger. The symbiote asks Eddie if he’s scared, which he admits he is.
The symbiote stops him from falling at the last second, ingesting every piece of adrenaline it could get.
Spider-Man seeks out Detective Garrett and they trade information on the recent attacks. Over the issues, Garrett has found that all the victims are cancer patients with stolen medical records. They are all comatose due to a complete lack of adrenaline.
Spider-Man knows that this is Venom, but suspects that Eddie Brock isn’t the guilty party. The symbiote is looking for a new host.
They talk it over and decide to leak this information out to the press to add pressure on Venom. That night, Eddie Brock sees himself on the news with announcements on how he’s behind the “vampire mutilations”. He punches a hole through the TV and has a fit.
It does later come back to him, finding Eddie laying in the bathroom in fetal position with a bloody nose. They become Venom and swing around, sneaking up on Spider-Man for another showdown. The two brawl on the rooftops until Spider-Man trips Venom and knocks him through a window, into an empty building. Spider-Man goes to follow-up, but only finds Eddie Brock. Eddie warns Spider-Man to get out, but it’s too late. The symbiote has trapped Spider-Man and is in the process of latching onto him.
“I tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen: the suit’s changing – it’s evolved. I’m all tapped out – it can’t use me no more. All this time I thought it wanted to be with me… but it only ever wanted you.”
Spider-Man struggles for a half hour with nothing to show for it. Luckily, the Human Torch arrives to help. He tries to burn the costume away, but Spider-Man refuses his help. Instead, he grabs a couple high voltage wires and electrocutes the hell out of himself. I would have gone with the close friend who has absolute control over flames, but it works.
We cut away to see Eddie Brock at another confession. He tells the priest that he believes his soul has been stolen piece-by-piece over the years. The priest tries to explain that such a thing is impossible, but Eddie refuses to listen. He leaves all the money he has as a way of thanking the priest for all of his help and walks off.
Part of me wonders how much of that cash was from skateboard tournaments.
Spider-Man wakes up in the Baxter Building. They can’t get the symbiote to separate from Peter’s body, so Sue has to hold most of it away with a force field. Reed comes to the conclusion that Spider-Man’s spider-sense gives off adrenaline, which the symbiote feeds off of. That’s why it’s so obsessed with him. Reed injects Spider-Man with a serum meant to block the symbiote from Peter’s adrenaline supply. Doing so causes Peter to momentarily see the symbiote’s memories, shown through a beautifully inked sequence.
I’m really glad Jenkins went with this scene. He seems to be the only writer willing to give the symbiote sympathy despite showcasing it as a demonic evil for most of the story. Although Venom is supposed to be the dark Spider-Man, they never do enough to compare and contrast who they are.
Spider-Man, like many of the Marvel heroes that came from the 60’s, was a jerk who experienced tragedy and it transformed him into a great hero. The symbiote, destructive as it was, had good intentions as Spider-Man’s black costume. It wanted to do right by him and even sacrificed itself to save his life after their falling out. That tragedy worked the other way – it turned the symbiote into a jerk.
That’s something you don’t see too often in comics. Spider-Man and Daredevil and others get shit on and betrayed so much, but they never decide to go rogue based on it. They keep their chins up and move forward. The symbiote feels betrayed and it drives it to madness. The dark side to Spider-Man indeed.
The memories cause the symbiote to freak out and break from Sue’s force field. It leaves Spider-Man and busts out through the wall.
Elsewhere, Detective Garrett reads a letter sent to him by Eddie Brock. Eddie apologizes for everything bad he’s done, including that time he killed a cop during his origin. He wishes Garrett well and sneaks in a jab about how this is all Spider-Man’s fault.
Spider-Man is able to track down Eddie thanks to some never-before-mentioned mental link between the two. Man, that would have been convenient as hell during all the other 291 times Spider-Man’s been trying to track down Venom. He finds him on an old rusty ship, which Eddie says he used to visit as a kid.
Uh… dude, you grew up in San Francisco.
Spider-Man seems completely unfazed by this breakdown, rubbing in that Eddie’s going to prison. Eddie laughs, saying that he doesn’t give a shit. Why?
“…I’ve got cancer.”
No, he didn’t just get cancer. He’s had it since before his first appearance. Jenkins, I understand that your biggest impact in comics is introducing a living, breathing retcon into the Marvel universe. But really? Cancer?
As Eddie explains it, he was told by his doctor that he had three months to live. He decided to invest his energy into his writing, but then that Sin-Eater scandal screwed things up. With memories of how harsh it was when his uncle died of cancer, Eddie decided to end his own life. When making his visit to the church to pray for forgiveness, he met the symbiote and became Venom.
But why did the symbiote join with Eddie? Was it because of his feelings of hate against Spider-Man? Apparently not. Eddie had a tumor that was giving off lots of adrenaline. The symbiote sensed it and took him over. Eddie’s all used up, so it’s been searching for other cancer patients. There’s been no progress, since the symbiote has yet to find a better host than Spider-Man.
Just as an aside, I recall when this comic came out, David read it. Everything else he said to review it is lost to my memories, as the only piece that’s stuck with me after all this time is him looking at that image and saying, “He looks like a go-rilla!”
It’s funny because it’s true. Eddie Brock: Agent of Atlas!
Spider-Man comes to realize that this is the REAL reason why Eddie hates him. The fact that Eddie is a rebound and that the symbiote would drop him in an instant if it meant getting Spidey back.
Eddie tries to warn Spider-Man about something involving the symbiote, but before he can say what it is, he slumps over and passes out. Being without the symbiote gives him only so much time before the cancer kills him. Spider-Man makes the decision to seek out the symbiote and force them back together.
For the record, I can count at least eight instances of Eddie Brock being separated from Venom prior to this story. At no time did he seem even a little queasy. In fact, most times it made him into more of a badass.
Spider-Man goes into the woods with Eddie webbed up on his back. There’s no reason this time as to why Spider-Man is able to track the symbiote. He just can. Eddie tells Spider-Man to put him down for a second and we get a rather sweet scene of Peter at Eddie’s side, not unlike Harry Osborn’s death years before.
“I don’t wanna die this way, Spider-Man. Not without my soul. It’d be worse than going to Hell. You die without your soul, you don’t get your chance to be judged… *hhh* …like Peer Gynt… into the melting pot… like you never existed… *ah-huchh*…”
Spider-Man knows the symbiote is nearby and tells it that although Eddie is clinically dead, the symbiote has about three minutes left if it wants to resuscitate him.
“Do not want Brock. Never did. Only you.”
From here, we get a bunch of stuff that has no bearing on the Venom mythos but really, really wants to. First off, the symbiote tells Spider-Man that it is pregnant with a child. ANOTHER ONE?! You already had six!
Jesus. The Venom symbiote is like Kate Gosslin. Sinister, screams at you to do its bidding, has a million kids, is way overexposed and will suck out your very soul if you give it the chance, but at the same time, I wouldn’t mind being inside it.
I guess the pregnancy is some kind of failed link of an explanation to the Daniel Way series, or a miscommunication on how they were planning to introduce the character Toxin. Other than that, the symbiote says that the very next time it joins to somebody, it’s stuck with them for life. This time for reals! I guess because it’s been five issues, they need some sort of resolution to the story, but we can all look at the Dark Avengers roster and know that this is bullshit.
Hey, remember the time Eddie and the symbiote joined together on a molecular level? So, it’s only me? Sheesh.
Also, the symbiote mentions that being stuck to a guy with cancer sucks. Yeah? Then maybe you should have tried someone else a long time ago! Why’s it only have to be Spider-Man? There are other metahumans out there, you know.
Spider-Man shoots a web at the symbiote, which it dodges by turning itself into a big donut. He was really aiming for Eddie’s corpse, which he yanks over Scorpion-style and force-feeds it to the symbiote.
“Well, great! I have cancer again! I’d totally stick around and kill you, but we only have two pages left! Asshole!”
Then Spider-Man sits around and wonders if he did the right thing. A lot of people are going to die because of his actions, plus Eddie Brock is going to continue suffering. Hey, why stop now?
To keep with the cancer theme, I’m going to skip ahead ten months to the follow-up. Between that time, Venom’s on-going is still going on and he has a miniseries too, but I’ll go over those in the following couple articles. For now, let’s close it out with Mark Millar, Frank Cho and Terry Dodson’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man, starting with #5.
The story arc Venomous begins with Eddie Brock at the airport, where a mob lackey is waiting for him with a sign saying “VENOM”.
Weird about the whole identity thing. Why wouldn’t everyone know that Eddie Brock is Venom? Hell, the last story had that all over the media. Millar also ignores that whole bit about how the symbiote can’t remember that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. So we have that going for us.
The opening two pages are nothing more than Eddie chewing out that goon and making reference to how he’s going to be dying in a couple days. The rest of the issue is all about Spider-Man and his own problems.
In the following issue, we see a big get-together between villains of all kind. They are having a big black market auction and the featured item of the night is none other than the Venom symbiote. Having just seen The Passion of the Christ, Eddie Brock has been inspired to do what he believes to be the right thing. He will exorcise the demon within by selling it to other criminals. After all, the symbiote will go and find a new host regardless. This way, Eddie can give their dirty money to charity.
The winning bid is a hundred million dollars, paid for by Vincente Paolo Fortunato, a mob boss who wants to turn his wimpy teenage son into a man. This son, Angelo Fortunato, has been chomping at the bit to be the new Venom. Eddie Brock – who is ready to die, as he feels he deserves every bit of suffering he experiences – takes the boy aside to warn him about what he’s about to get into. Angelo’s reasons for becoming the new Venom are pretty sound for the most part. He’s puny and he’s been getting his ass handed to him for years. That’s fine.
What’s insane and original is this:
Angelo Fortunato wants internet girls all over the world to be writing stories about him fucking their Mary Sue personas and/or the Rhino. Mark Millar, one day I need to shake your hand.
Angelo asks if it’s true that the symbiote knows who Spider-Man really is and Eddie smirks. “Oh, yeah… And if you ask it nice it might even tell you.”
Peter goes to a high school reunion, which soon becomes a slaughterhouse as the brand new Venom busts through the wall. With Angelo as the host, Venom’s appearance is much different. The sharp teeth are normal scale, the eyes are merely patterns attached tightly over Angelo’s face and it appears tighter and slimmer than the last few times we’ve seen Eddie wearing it.
Interesting side-note: the first look at this Venom design was shown in an unused cover image for one of the issues. Why wasn’t it used? Cho drew Spider-Man’s spider-sense as going off. Oy.
Venom’s knocked out several former students, but one of them stays conscious enough to see Peter stick to the wall. He announces that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, an instant before being murdered by Venom.
Peter changes into his tights as the two punch each other through the school. Spider-Man is surprised at how fast the kid has mastered the symbiote’s tricks, like the webbing and invisibility. Wow, invisibility. When’s the last time we’ve seen that trick? Ten years?
Spider-Man keeps having to take breaks from the fight to save innocents from the collateral damage. He chases Venom onto a rooftop and is surprised when Venom pretty much impales him from behind. Really, look at this.
Venom – whose hand is caked in blood – is distracted for two seconds by a photographer before Spider-Man gets back up, looking and acting completely fine. HE PUNCHED A HOLE THROUGH YOUR CHEST!
Even Deadpool would take five for that!
(Update: It’s been brought to my attention that the Spider-Man getting punched was a random dude in a costume who happened to be on the rooftop so that his friend could take pictures and they could sell it to the Bugle as “Spider-Man’s secret identity revealed!” My mistake, but the scene really could have been more clear on this. Having Spider-Man and the corpse in the same panel could have helped.)
Spider-Man is now capable of beating the total shit out of Venom, with Angelo losing his game. Now that the upper hand is on the other foot, he can’t keep it together. He begs Spider-Man to stop, while the symbiote eggs him on to keep fighting. Spider-Man goes on a narration rant about how he too was picked on growing up, but he didn’t go on a killing spree.
Angelo makes a break for it, arguing with the costume. The symbiote gets fed up and leaves Angelo’s body mid-swing.
“Sigh. You know your problem, Angelo…? You just don’t have enough Venom!”
“Jeezus! Where are you going?”
“To find someone else. What does it look like? You’re even more pathetic than Eddie Brock ended up.”
Spider-Man is unable to catch Angelo and the kid splatters on the streets below. An hour later, Angelo’s father and the rest of his mob family look over the corpse with an air of respect. As for Eddie? Well…
A lot of you readers have been following this We Care a Lot series since the very first part. For that, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I know some of you may have been wondering about how I, the guy who cares too much about Venom, reacted to this panel. How angry was I?
Not very. The sad truth was, I felt relieved. I was so sick of seeing Eddie used so badly. It isn’t just the cancer thing or the knowledge that he was never going to become the Lethal Protector ever again. Marvel Knights Spider-Man, Daniel Way’s Venom and Venom/Carnage were all coming out at the same time. Each one had Eddie Brock in it and each one had him written completely differently. It’s a sad state. Eddie Brock stopped being a character and was reduced to being nothing more than a name labeling something hollow and shapeless.
In the outline for the Hero’s Journey, I believe they call this stage the “ordeal”. The hero must hit rock bottom before he can come back stronger in the third act.
At least with Eddie dead and gone they can move on. And move on they do! That issue ends with Peter Parker getting a call from a mystery man. We can’t see much of him, other than that he is a white male with the ability to hang off the side of a water tower. All we know is that he has been making Peter’s life a living Hell. Hm… perhaps it’s Ben Reilly or some other clone?
It’s Mac Gargan, otherwise known as the Scorpion. After all these years, he’s finally free from that green armor due to a series of surgeries. He’s been working for Norman Osborn this whole time, which is how he knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. He informs Peter that he needs to spring Norman from prison or Aunt May will die. With his work done, Mac goes home.
He has a visitor, who makes fun of the new Scorpion costume that’s been built for him. Mac Gargan will always be a b-lister at best, unless he steps up.
“Who is this? Who’s saying that?”
“Me? Oh, I’m your new best friend, Mac. I’m your ticket out of the gutter. Just say the word and nobody’s ever going to laugh at you again, Mister Scorpion. Aren’t you embarrassed how your body looks after all those painful operations?”
“I know who you are and I ain’t interested, creep. I got enough best friends.”
“Oh, but Mac, Mac, Mac…” The symbiote appears from the shadows. “You never had a friend like me before.”
At the end of the next issue, the Green Goblin has led Spider-Man and Black Cat into a trap against the newly-formed Sinister Twelve. Goblin is annoyed that Scorpion never showed up. That’s when we see just why Scorpion isn’t coming.
Osborn is absolutely pissed that Gargan isn’t wearing the new armor, even though being Venom is a step up. Still, the twelve battle the two and the numbers game starts to win out. That is, until a bunch of superheroes rush the area and save the day. Spider-Man goes off to rescue Mary Jane from the Green Goblin, but Venom gets in his way. The two have a very entertaining fight above the streets of New York, ending when Spider-Man knocks Venom into an abandoned pest control building and makes it collapse onto him.
At the end of Millar’s run, we see Gargan in a straightjacket, locked up but promising not to tell anyone about Spider-Man’s identity. That’ll be his weapon as the new Venom.
That’s well and good for him, but you still have to feel bad for Eddie being dead. I mean… he is dead… right?
Wait, what’s this? From the Amazing Spider-Man issue where Peter revealed his identity to the public?
He’s alive! Eddie’s alive after all!
…Edwin?! Jesus, JMS. You put him in one panel and you still can’t get him right. Then again, you do write the worst Tony Stark, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
Join us next time as we get back to the comic mud puddle that is Daniel Way’s Venom. You ain’t seen nothing yet.