We Care a Lot Part 18: The Sammy Hagar of Cannibalism

October 13th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Oh, no. No no no. That’s—that’s Venom. That’s Venom as me. That’s—and it’s not even the good one. It’s Mac Gargan.”

— Spider-Man, New Avengers #50

Due to popular demand, I guess I have to dedicate one of these installments towards Mac Gargan, the current Venom. First, a quick refresher on who Mac Gargan is and what he was up to before donning the hungry goo spandex.

Mac Gargan used to be a greedy private investigator, doing just about any job as long as the price was right. Jonah Jameson hired him to figure out the link between Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Mac wasn’t getting anywhere due to Peter’s spider-sense indicating when to slip away, so Jameson pulled out the big bucks for more desperate measures. Using an experimental serum and a cybernetic suit, he transformed Mac into the Scorpion. On the plus side, he was granted strength and agility to counter Spider-Man, along with a cool tail that shoots stuff. On the minus side, it drove him completely mad.

I think we need more villains who are only evil because whatever gave them powers also made them fucking crazy. A lot of the early Spider-Man villains had that going for them.

Scorpion existed for decades as a B-list Spider-Man villain. He was one of the many, many villains who in some way existed as the dark shadow of Spider-Man. Due to his insanity and his insatiable hatred for Jameson, Gargan tended to fail as a team player. Also, some of his insanity came from his inability to remove his costume.

Mark Millar reinvented Gargan for the better during his run in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, which I covered earlier in this series. At some point, Gargan had become a top henchman for Norman Osborn. His armor was gone, though with many operational scars left behind, and his sanity had been more or less restored. Sure, he was still a bad guy, but he was a coherent bad guy. Under Osborn’s orders, he orchestrated the kidnapping of Aunt May as a way to mess with Spider-Man and get Osborn out of prison.

As we know, the Venom symbiote – having skipped on its latest host – decided that Gargan was ideal. Perhaps it was how Gargan’s Scorpion powers are notably comparable to Spider-Man’s. Perhaps it was Gargan’s hatred of Spider-Man, spiked with his lack of Eddie Brock’s morals. But by the end of the day, Mac Gargan had become Venom.

The new Venom lost his first fight with Spider-Man, but even incarceration doesn’t bring down the new one-form duo. Mac Gargan has what he needs to kill Spider-Man, get revenge on Jameson and make his way to the supervillain A-list.

So what did I think of the big change? At first, I felt it was a double-edged sword. I was glad to see some kind of new direction for the Venom concept, after the complete clusterfuck of storytelling they had just run Eddie Brock through. They took the hero aspect out of Venom, meaning that he would only have to exist as a straight up villain to drive sales and look cool.

Unfortunately, for a long while the lack of substance was disheartening. There became a Boolean between Gargan and the symbiote, turning each of them into a sum that was nothing but what they had in common. Gargan hates Spider-Man and is evil. The symbiote hates Spider-Man and is evil. Therefore, Venom is just an evil guy that hates Spider-Man. The unique qualities of Mac and the costume were lost in the streamline.

I should talk about Venom’s next comic book appearance, but instead I’m going to take a second to wax poetic about his non-appearance. It’s what I call The Mark Millar Venom Comic That Almost Happened But Not Really.

What am I talking about, you ask? As Millar’s run on Marvel Knights Spider-Man came to an end, Marvel.com put up a poll. At the time, Millar was writing Wolverine and the website’s poll let the fans choose the future of the series. With a list of characters, the fans would vote on who would face Wolverine in a Millar-penned story. The choices were Blade, Bullseye, Mystique, Silver Samurai and Venom.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Venom was killing in the numbers. Silver Samurai? Who cares? Mystique? It’s been done. Blade and Bullseye are interesting opponents for Wolverine, but Venom is shoe-in for popularity contests like this. With little time left to go, Venom had the lead. Then Millar made a post online about the poll. Truth is, he hated the idea of having to write another Venom story – especially when he just wrote Venom’s big role in Marvel Knights Spider-Man. Nah, what he really wanted was to write Wolverine vs. Blade, or at the very least Bullseye.

Millar’s fanbase took his words to heart and by the next day, the poll ended with Bullseye as the winner. So why do I call it the comic that almost happened but not really? Because Millar pretty much left the title without ever giving us that Bullseye fight. I have to wonder if that scene in Old Man Logan where Wolverine hallucinates fighting Bullseye for an hour when he’s really murdering Jubilee had anything to do with that.

Beyond! would be the new Venom’s only appearance during his aimless limbo. The series, written by Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by Scott Kolins, came out mid-2006, about a year after Venom’s last story had tied up. Beyond! is easily summed up as, “Sort of a sequel to Secret Wars, but with B-listers.” While Secret Wars featured the A-list of Marvel’s heroes, like the X-Men, the Avengers and most of the Fantastic Four, Beyond! is a complete mishmash of Marvel characters who never get their day in the sun.

Oh, sure, there’s Spider-Man on the cover, but his inclusion is really a lie. Venom acts as a selling point, though he needed to make a comic appearance regardless. Also there are Firebird, Medusa, the Hollywood-style Kraven the Hunter and Gravity, whose name was used to hype the book. Hank Pym is there, a Skrull imposter according to retcons, but I’m sure McDuffie had no idea. The Hood gets a pretty major role, which is nice, considering it’s the only time anyone has used him in-between his initial miniseries and Bendis’ campaign to make something out of him. Last but not leas… wait, no. Last and least is Wasp, the only one to truly be involved with both Secret Wars and Beyond! It’s not a bad idea, considering that scene of hers in Secret Wars where she stands up against the X-Men and Magneto is the only notable thing I’ve seen her do other than get smacked by Hank.

Hey, guess which one of those two gets a mention in this miniseries!

It makes sense to toss Venom into the mix. After all, Secret Wars was the origin of the black costume. Not that it’s ever brought up.

It begins much like Secret Wars, with all of those on the cover taken from Earth (and wherever else) to appear on a ship in the middle of space. Venom shows some surprising restraint despite being a few feet away from Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Scott Kolins’ depiction of Venom isn’t quite my favorite.

He really looks sloppy in any panel he’s in. Kolins, to his credit, does try out some visual gimmicks with Gargan Venom that didn’t catch on. For most of the story, he has a black scorpion tail sticking out his spine. His fighting style is more Carnage-like, as he stretches around a lot and turns his hands into weapons. None of it is ever used again, but I give him points for trying.

A bright light appears before the heroes and villains, booming that it is from beyond and that it will grant the heart’s desire towards whoever can slay their enemies. Already, it looks like something is up, since back in Secret Wars, Beyonder made it Team A vs. Team B. Now he seems to want some kind of superhero Battle Royale.

The heroes are immediately against the idea, but there are two villains in the set. Hood makes a go at capping the others, but is defeated soundly by Kraven. Then Venom deciphers the Beyonder’s speech to mean only killing his actual enemies. He doesn’t give a crap about Pym, Gravity and the rest. He only cares about Spider-Man. He engages his nemesis and surprisingly gets some success for once. For the first time, he grows his symbiote scorpion tail and impales Spider-Man with it.

Spider-Man dies in Medusa’s arms, thinking that she’s Mary Jane as he goes under. Venom yells towards the Beyonder, demanding to get what he deserves for killing Spider-Man. Medusa, crying, decides to give him just that.

She overpowers Venom and binds him with her hair. As part of the Inhuman code, she begins to deliver 50 lashes on his back… again, with her hair. Pym brings up how the sonics generated from the lashes might kill Venom, but Medusa figures that it isn’t her problem. The argument gives Venom the break needed to escape confinement, burst through some walls and breech the hull. The ship crashes onto Battleworld – recently recreated by the Beyonder – and everyone gets out to figure out what’s next.

Venom takes the back seat for a while. It turns out Spider-Man isn’t actually Spider-Man, but the Space Phantom, an evil shape-shifter. I guess that by taking someone’s form, he steals their mental information too, considering he was able to namedrop Mary Jane. The crew meets up with Dethlok, get in a fight with Space Phantom and chase him into Limbo via a shrunken portal machine Pym had on him. He grows it into regular size, they all run in and Venom proceeds to destroy it, ruining their chances on returning and therefore making him the winner of the contest.

Space Phantom takes the form of Northstar and bugs Venom for a bit, until escaping back to Limbo. He’s threatened by Kraven and Hood, which convinces him to teleport them back to Battleworld. They’re ready to smack around Venom, but instead see Uatu the Watcher standing nearby. At first, Venom thinks that the Watcher is the Beyonder and continues his attempted mass slaughter. Pym fires a ray gun at him, seemingly vaporizing the villain. Then he turns it on all the others, meaning he’s the only one left and therefore the winner.

He asks for three wishes. One, he wants to go home. Two, he wants to know who this guy REALLY is, since he knows it can’t be the actual Beyonder. Three, no more of these Battleworld experiments. The false Beyonder reveals himself to be the old cosmic X-Men character, the Stranger. For those who don’t know him, he’s most famous for kicking Billy Joel right between the eyes. The Stranger is a scientist, not unlike DC’s Metron, only with less sitting down and more ripping off the Beyonder for the sake of knowledge. And for that, he refuses to give into Pym’s final wish, since there’s more knowledge to be gained from this exercise. Besides, he figures out that Pym didn’t actually kill the others anyway. He only shrank them down.

Pym drops the façade and reverts the others to normal size. They team up on the Stranger, though overpowered. Despite that, Dethlok makes an attempt to convince Stranger that he’s definitely going to lose because the Watcher is there. Why would the Watcher care if the Stranger killed off a bunch of B and C-listers? He’s only around for the important things… like, say, for example, the Stranger getting his ass handed to him by a handful of jabronies. The Stranger figures that either he’s right, or the Watcher is there to make sure he fulfills his word to Pym. Reluctantly, he surrenders and moves on. He’s fixed the space ship so the contestants can get in and fly off.

Unfortunately, once Stranger leaves the planet, it begins to break apart. Gravity sacrifices his life by holding it all together with his powers. They get home and hold a funeral for Gravity.

You know, the time Venom fought Kraven was a bust, but I wouldn’t mind seeing another shot between these two replacements.

A little bit later, Venom was used in Civil War: Choosing Sides. The comic is a set of short stories meant to springboard upcoming comics, such as Immortal Iron Fist, Omega Flight and Irredeemable Ant-Man with the Civil War situation as the backdrop. For Venom, it’s about hyping up the new roster in Thunderbolts, with the short written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by Leinil Yu.

With Capekillers circling his current home, Mac Gargan speaks to his agent on the phone. He’s discussing story rights and namedrops writers to handle certain mediums, such as Brad Meltzer for the book. He mentions Guggenheim for the movie, but then responds that it should be the other Guggenheim, who did the hockey movie. The joke here is that Marc Guggenheim’s brother Eric wrote the Kurt Russell movie Miracle a few years back.

Also, Mac follows it up by saying, “Love that flick,” which itself is a joke on Guggenheim’s behalf. As you probably already know, “flick” comes very close to looking like “fuck” when uppercased in comic books.

The Capekillers blow up the house and surround Mac.

Mac has the symbiote take control of one’s armor and causes him to shoot down the others. He lets the grunt call in the reinforcements, then snaps his neck. Soon after, Thunderbolts mainstays Songbird and Radioactive Man pop in to take Venom down. Mac makes fun of them, but says that he isn’t there to fight them. He’s going to surrender, join their ranks and make a mint off his own false redemption story. Transforming into Venom for an image that Marvel regularly uses for stock whenever they need a pre-drawn pic, he asks, “Where do we sign?”

Huh. That’s a rare thing to see Gargan Venom say “we”.

Venom appeared in the pages of Civil War as a member of the new Thunderbolts roster set to enhance the pro-registration side’s chances. He did nothing of note in the story, but at the end of the day, Norman Osborn had become the team leader. Once again, henchman and leader were on the same page. Did Osborn know this was going to happen? Did he give Mac the tips needed to know the Thunderbolts were the way to go? One could only guess.

Venom appeared as a member of the team in Thunderbolts #110. For the next twelve issues, Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr. took the helm. By adding Venom, Bullseye and Norman Osborn to the Thunderbolts roster, they followed up on one of the prime reasons Bendis’ New Avengers was such as success. By including the popular fan-favorites who wouldn’t normally be on the team to go along with the mainstays, they were able to get more readers to not only follow the series, but learn and care about the other ones who would usually get ignored.

Venom doesn’t really do much for the first story arc under Ellis. He does begin an interesting “Hulking out” habit that remains with Gargan to this day. Normally, he appears like in the Marvel Knights Spider-Man run. He appears as not so much a monster, but a big guy with sharp teeth wearing a tight costume. When he gets mad, hungry or just plain intense, he grows to being about 20-feet-tall and filled with bulk.

He only gets two real moments during the first six issues. For the first, there’s a scene of Venom in a locker room, reverting to a naked and cold Mac Gargan. Osborn comes to speak with him about the Venom experience, to which Gargan opens up about how a lot of it sucks. He always has the symbiote flowing through his insides, but he can’t puke him out no matter how much he wants to. That said, he can’t imagine life without it and refuses Osborn’s offer of being separated from the creature.

Later on, the Thunderbolts are up against a group of unrelated heroes who refuse to register with the government. Venom mainly goes after Steel Spider, a Doc Ock/Spider-Man hybrid of a crazed hero who is the only unregistered hero in the story who is totally asking for his violent comeuppance. Steel Spider holds his own against Venom pretty well until Radioactive Man is able to temporarily short out his systems and mind. Venom finally gets his hands on the creep and does a gesture that would define the Mac Gargan version of Venom.

Suffice to say, Steel Spider isn’t bothering anyone these days.

In the following story arc, the Thunderbolts go after more unregistered folk, only they mostly give themselves up instead of putting up their dukes. Songbird uses Venom’s incident with Steel Spider’s arm as ammunition. By joking about Venom’s cannibalism, she’s able to further intimidate their enemies. This actually makes Gargan uncomfortable and he wants to distance himself from the stigma of being a flesh-eating demon.

The main story of this arc, Caged Angels, is that some of the willing prisoners are telepaths. From their cells, they mess with the minds of various Thunderbolts so that they slaughter the guards and each other. Gargan gets a hard talking to from his symbiote, though it’s never quite clear whether it’s really the creature or just a psychic messing with him.

“Stop complaining. Always complaining. It’s too cold. Stuff hurts. I didn’t mean to eat that guy’s arm. Whining little maggot. You don’t deserve me. You never did. Did I actually hear you say you didn’t want to be the scary guy? You used to be the Scorpion. You used to be a hard man. Why did you turn into a schoolgirl as soon as you tasted some fresh meat?”

“What’s… What’s going on…”

“I can’t sit back and wait for you to become a man. I get hungry. Look at me, you little girl! It’s time I took control of things. No more of you pretending you can’t hear me, up there in the driver’s seat. I’m hungry. We need to take care of that. Today. Now.”


“Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. We are going to get us an honest-to-God meal today. Or I’m just going to have to eat you from the inside out.”

Venom devours some guards and then crosses paths with Swordsman. Despite the size and strength on his side, Venom is still beaten. Swordsman shoves his sword through Venom’s spine and lets it glow with an energy that causes the symbiote to shy away. Venom is taken out of the story in this instance, though Swordsman is soon after beaten and humiliated by the Green Goblin.

As a Thunderbolt, Venom appeared in many comics around that time. Off the top of my head, there’s Sub-Mariner, Nova and Avengers/Invaders. They’re not really worth me going into these stories, since Venom appears as nothing more than a grunt. At least with Sub-Mariner, he gets a one-on-one fight and even a cover shot for his troubles.

While Ellis didn’t do all too much with the character in his run, there was a separate run of sorts that ran concurrently with Thunderbolts. The Ellis/Deodato run of Thunderbolts was delayed a bit and came out every other month for a while. To make up for this, Christos N. Gage wrote a series of one-shots that acted as character spotlights.

In the pages of Thunderbolts: Breaking Point (a Songbird and Moonstone issue with art by Brian Denham), I found Venom’s quick line during a Thunderbolts vs. Jury fight to be really amusing.

You remember those guys, right? The team that was created in order to hunt down Eddie Brock for revenge, fought him for two minutes and then moved on?

Anyway, Venom got his own one-shot in the form of Thunderbolts: Reason in Madness, where Gage is joined by artist Ben Oliver. They’re up against Biohazard, a giant nuclear pool of a monster. While they’re all trying to figure out what to do against it, Venom admits that his powers won’t do them too good here and volunteers on crowd control. That gets a resounding, “NO!” from his teammates due to that whole Steel Spider incident. While trying to debate with them, Venom is hit into the distance by Biohazard.

He gets up and sees Whirlwind. Back when Gargan was Scorpion, the two of them were part of the third Masters of Evil. Whirlwind admits that he and his friends helped cause the Biohazard rampage, but only to get Venom’s attention. Venom is given a serum that will let him leave Thunderbolts Mountain for two hours without setting off the security nanites in his bloodstream.

The whole Biohazard thing is wrapped up and the next night, Venom finds that the serum does work.

He finds Whirlwind backed up by Boomerang, Tigershark and Mr. Hyde. To show they’re meeting under peaceful means, they give Gargan a beer, which he hasn’t been allowed to ingest for months. They butter him up with promises that they can turn off the nanites completely and give him complete freedom if they join their team and turn on the Thunderbolts. Gargan isn’t certain, since he does love the money Osborn’s paying him. That’s when Whirlwind gets tough. He has documents that show that back in his private eye days, Mac Gargan was paid by Obadiah Stane to fuck over Osborn. Now Gargan is being blackmailed, and if he doesn’t comply, Osborn will see those documents.

Venom sees Osborn and insists that they speak in complete privacy, for the sake of their long history. He cooks up a story about how since Osborn’s political power comes from having dirt on others, he knows a guy who has dirt on a high-profile congressman. Osborn accepts the story, but wonders to Venom if there’s something else he’s not telling him.

They meet up with Whirlwind’s gang, who threaten Osborn with death if he doesn’t give them money and immunity from the law. Osborn hands them a data stick filled with his bank account information, but in actuality, it’s a bomb. Venom narced on them and told Osborn everything. With the bomb’s distraction, Osborn and Venom turn everything into a 1960’s Batman fight scene. The highlight being Osborn taking down Mr. Hyde by punching him in the balls, throwing bombs into his now-open mouth and punching him out while maniacally screaming that he’s not a clown but a goblin.

Osborn tells the beaten thugs that he isn’t going to kill or arrest them. Instead, they all work for him now, though off the record. If they ever try to fuck with him again, he’ll make them all pay horribly.

On the way out, Venom and Osborn discuss things between them. Osborn doesn’t care about the whole Stane/detective situation, since it helped lead him to where he is. Venom tells him that he told him the truth about the set-up because being a Thunderbolt is a smarter play than going back to the old days of costumed villainy.

I really, really loved that one-shot.

Once Ellis is gone from the series, Gage takes over Thunderbolts for the tie-in arc for Secret Invasion, drawn by Fernando Blanca. This is the arc that people neglected to read and instead went on rants about how Norman Osborn became head of HAMMER only because he blew up Skrull Spider-Woman’s head. Anyway, in the beginning, the Thunderbolts are up against Swarm, a Nazi skeleton surrounded by a mountain of bees that are controlled by his meta-physical mind. Nobody is capable of stopping it and while the restrained Bullseye wants to try killing every single bee one-by-one, Osborn instead sends in Venom.

Venom is bulletproof, so what chance do bees have against him? Successfully, he wades through the insects and finds the skeleton, which he gladly devours. What’s cool is the banter between Moonstone and Osborn behind the scenes. Moonstone is against the idea of using Venom at all in the field due to his mental deterioration, but without going into too many details, Osborn says that he and Venom have an understanding.

Later in the story, the Skrull Captain Marvel shows up to start a fight. Venom gets in his face and…

Let’s not talk about that.

Thunderbolts fight a bunch of Skrulls. Osborn gives Venom and Bullseye free reign to kill as many Skrulls as they’d like. Go nuts. For Venom, it means going on an eating binge, up until a Super-Skrull with the powers of the Masters of Evil goes after him. Venom is knocked into a highly populated area, believing that the Skrull didn’t have enough time to run. He starts covering the nearby civilians with the symbiote, as if he’s to eat every one of them just to make sure.

Osborn tries to talk Venom down. Not Gargan, but the symbiote itself. Finally, the Super-Skrull shows itself and vents its disgust that Venom would slaughter the humans like that. Venom reveals that it was just a trick to get the Skrull to reveal himself. Is that the truth? Who knows. But none of the humans were killed, so there is that. Venom jumps back into the fight and this time comes out the winner.

After that, Venom’s role in Thunderbolts is on auto-pilot. In the following arc, he helps Moonstone and Bullseye go after Songbird, but he doesn’t do all that much. Also, wouldn’t Songbird – whose powers are sonic constructs – be living death to Venom? She should be his Kryptonite Man. Instead, we see him pounding his fists on her sonic shield without a hint of pain.

From there, with Osborn given free reign in the Marvel United States, Venom is given one hell of a promotion under the words of Brian Michael Bendis and the art of Mike Deodato.

The first issue of Dark Avengers shows an amusing scene where a Skrull is tossed into Venom’s cell. Venom says that if he wants to live, he’ll transform into Spider-Man. The Skrull complies and is eaten by the hulking Venom.

Osborn comes in and offers Venom a special treat.

Venom ingests it, freaks out for a second, then appears like a slightly taller version of Symbiote Spider-Man. He even copies the same pose that Spider-Man had on the iconic Secret Wars #8 cover.

“You know what, Normy? I take back everything I’ve ever said about you. Well, almost everything…”

The continuity fan in me wants to believe that whatever Osborn fed him was at least mostly chocolate.

The Dark Avengers team is initially made up of Norman Osborn as “Iron Patriot”, Venom as “Spider-Man”, Bullseye as “Hawkeye”, Moonstone as “Ms. Marvel”, Daken as “Wolverine”, Noh-Varr as “Captain Marvel”, Sentry as “Captain Batshit” and Ares as… well, he’s just Ares. To make this simpler, I’m going to just refer to them as their pre-Avenger names.

Osborn calls the shots. Sentry and Ares are tiered far higher than the others. Moonstone seems to be hiding on the outside, watching the crazies within. Noh-Varr escapes from the team before anyone can even remember his name. That leaves Venom, Bullseye and Daken as some kind of Three Stooges of Avengers Tower. Osborn says on day one that he won’t put up with their petty, macho bullshit and that acting like that will get you kicked off the team immediately. He never follows through of course. Those three smack the shit out of each other over the span of various comics.

What I always found interesting is the Venom/Bullseye dynamic in the first arc of Dark Avengers. When fighting Morgan Le Fay, she produces a spell that makes Gargan lose control of the symbiote, which grows to be about 20-feet-tall and goes on a rampage. Gargan keeps screaming for help and that he doesn’t want to do this, but Bullseye doesn’t care. Later, once Le Fay is dealt with, Venom goes to Bullseye to apologize.

Venom later tells Victoria Hand, the team’s coordinator, that Bullseye threatened to kill him. Yes, he tattles. Not to be an asshole, but because he’s afraid. It’s funny, because on paper, Venom outclasses Bullseye. Maybe part of it is because he and Bullseye have been killing alongside each other for so long that he doesn’t want their creepy little bond damaged due to something he had no control over. I don’t know. Consider it open to interpretation.

Now, as a Thunderbolt, Venom got to appear in a good amount of comics. As an Avenger… Jesus Christ. I’m not going to even try and cover all of those. Again, off the top of my head there’s New Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Incredible Hercules, Dark Wolverine, Ms. Marvel some of the The List comics and I’m sure a load of others.

He had a role in the Dark Avengers/X-Men crossover Utopia, where he started a rivalry with Colossus. I can totally get behind that. More so if Colossus was able to do that “RAAAAAAARGH!” explosion attack from the X-Men arcade game. That would make things even, I think. What I didn’t like was how there’s one part where Venom is engulfed in flames and mostly shrugs it off, claiming that it only gets him riled up. No, man! You’re underselling it! Fire + symbiote = fatal pain.

As you may notice, Venom doesn’t do all too much as an Avenger. He’s just kind of there. Though I do enjoy how Bendis really has made him the Spider-Man of the Dark Avengers. While he isn’t all too important to the overall story, he still just hangs back and makes annoying jokes.

Venom would finally get his chance to shine in the Dark Reign status quo. Wielding the typewriter is Brian Reed. Wielding the pencil is Chris Bachalo. Wielding the pencil for pages that Bachalo couldn’t finish in time is Rob DiSalvo. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sinister Spider-Man

I was cautious when I found out about this comic. I don’t know why. Maybe because the idea of a Venom miniseries brings back memories of fighting inside the internet and fighting fake Ghost Riders in the realm of insanity. I read reviews of how fun it was and decided to give it a shot.

Personally, I consider this to be one of my top miniseries of the year.

The Avengers lifestyle is all but perfect for Venom. Both parts of Venom. Mac Gargan gets money, fame, sex and freedom from the law. The symbiote gets adrenaline and living, breathing meat. To see them work perfectly in unison makes Venom scarier than usual. For instance, the first scene shows Venom beating up General Wolfram, a new would-be supervillain who almost got away with a hundred thousand dollars. Once Wolfram is beaten, Venom makes out with a random woman, poses for his fans, swings away with Wolfram, steals his money, eats the guy’s arm and leaves him for dead. Then he goes to a strip club with intent on hooking up with a stripper, introducing her to his symbiote goo and then ingesting her.

Venom has only two things keeping him from absolute bliss. Spider-Man is still alive, but then again, he isn’t in the mini at all, so we’ll ignore that. The other thing is that J. Jonah Jameson has become mayor of New York City. That pisses Gargan off and he wants to do something about it.

Venom decides to mess with Jameson in every way he can outside of outright killing him. First, he murders a stripper and tosses her in Jameson’s bed for the bad PR. Second, he takes an existing gang war and helps instigate it to an explosion of horrific crime rate. Again, it makes Jameson’s tenure look mighty awful. So awful that Osborn lends him an Avenger to put a superhuman face on the attempt to clean up New York. Unfortunately for Jameson and Venom, Osborn’s choice is the Sinister Spider-Man himself.

Meanwhile, a Dr. Shep Gunderson pitches his idea to Jameson of supervillain rehabilitation. Jameson shuts it down immediately because the suggestion that supervillains need rehabilitating suggests that there’s crime out there and nobody needs to hear such an idea. Gunderson uses his frustrations to transform himself into the Redeemer and puts together a revenge squad of those criminals Venom has stopped and dismembered in hopes that they can kick the crap out of him and rehabilitate him for the better.

His team includes the aforementioned General Wolfram. Then there’s Demontoid, whose ability to inhibit insanity by touch didn’t do him well against someone already nuts. The Hippo is a hippopotamus evolved into something more human by a disturbingly perverted-sounding High-Evolutionary (just take my word on it. It’s creepy). Eleven is a punk girl with a sonic scream, now missing a leg. Then there’s Doctor Everything, who is… er…

I feel like such a hypocrite for hating on Red Hulk so much, but loving the hell out of Red Doctor Manhattan. At least Dr. Everything has no impact on anything. He’s just kind of tossed in for the hell of it. Just so they can make jokes about his red dong.

There’s this one little scene in the story where Venom eats an innocent, little squirrel. Before this, he talks about how he used to be with a girl who absolutely loved squirrels to the point of obsession. I don’t know if it’s insinuating anything, but the idea of Mac Gargan and Doreen “Squirrel Girl” Green going out before they had powers tickles me. That’s a retcon I can get behind.

When Venom fights the Redeemer’s gang, there’s a part where Eleven hits him with a sonic scream.

First he’s no-selling fire and now sonics? Come on, guys! You can do better than that.

Ha! I just got the joke behind naming her Eleven. That’s great.

By the time Venom’s done with them, all that’s left is General Wolfram, Demontoid and a quadriplegic Redeemer. Dr. Everything is simply tossed to the cops, never to be heard from again.

Jameson holds a Big Apple Festival, which is where everything funnels together. The Redeemer and the remnants of his gang work together with the warring street gangs to deal with the one who wronged them all. Osborn has decided that Gargan is more trouble than he’s worth, so he sends Bullseye and Daken to take care of him.

If you ask me, the absolute highlight of comics in 2009 is Bullseye throwing a yapping dog into Venom’s left eye, causing him to scream, “AAAAAAH! DOG IN THE EYE! DOG! DAMMIT!” He then proceeds to fight Daken, Bullseye, the street gangs and the Redeemer villains with a dog shoved into his eye socket.

If you notice, Bullseye stuck him with a corndog during the melee.

The police chief steps in and sees that Venom has helped apprehend all these criminals, including the nefarious Bullseye. Venom and Jameson are both given credit for making the streets a better place, while the Redeemer is tossed into prison for his role in the chaos.

One complaint I have is that he transformed into full Venom mode during that sequence, right after the dog in the eye. You’d think more people would notice that he’s not really Spider-Man after that stunt. Then again, it’s not like Venom is public enemy number one anymore. The public loves him regardless. As a Thunderbolt, he even had his own action figure.

Osborn says that things are smoothed over for now, but if he gets out of line again, he’ll break out the pumpkin bombs and take care of him himself. Venom scoffs and leaves for a date. He swings off with three smiling women latching onto him and narrates.

“Whatever life holds in store for me… I’ll never forget this simple fact – I can get any chick in this town. This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? Baby… I’m Spider-Man.”

Brilliant end to a fun comic. There’s even more fun to be had in the bells and whistles of the miniseries. Each recap is done in the form of Mac Gargan’s diary and each issue ends with Mac-N-Sleeze where Mac and his costume Symby answer reader mail. It’s very Strong Bad.

Symby. It took them 25 years to name that character.

And that’s about it from Mac Gargan these days… Oh, wait! There was that thing in Amazing Spider-Man Family #8. In a story called Dark Reflection by Marc Sumerak and Javier Pulido, a guy talks about how a few years ago, he tried to jump off a building and kill himself, but Spider-Man saved him. He got his life back on track, got married, had a kid and now life’s great. He goes back to the same rooftop in hopes of maybe seeing Spider-Man again to thank him. Instead, a gust of wind knocks him off and he barely holds on with his life. He sees Spider-Man again, only it’s Venom, who would rather snicker at his situation than help. Venom goes home and the guy falls to his death.

What a dumbass.

It’s too bad that Dark Reign has to wind down. I can’t imagine the next step for Mac Gargan and Symby will be quite as fun as it is now.

God, that went on forever. Join me next time when I’ll finally look at Venom in different realities and continuities.

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18 comments to “We Care a Lot Part 18: The Sammy Hagar of Cannibalism”

  1. …I don’t get the “Eleven” joke.

    I imagine if there’s an “Avengers Battle Royale” to finish off Dark Reign, Venom will be a sitting duck. Possibly the new government will continue to use him as a backup weapon, like an H-Bomb except you have to occasionally feed it?

  2. “Our dials go up to 11.”

    Theres also a Spider-Man Family short where the new Scorpion takes on the Gargan symbiote…

  3. Ending his last fight scene in a noogie? Well played, Mac.

  4. Aw you’re not going to talk about New Ways to Die where Symby gets hurt so Osborn makes him a Scorpion costume?

  5. How did Gargan go to the bathroom when he was the Scorpion? Hell, how does the Rhino? Did they install little doors?

  6. @LurkerWithout: Oh yeaaaah…

    Stop me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Gargan-Venom a bit like Carnage at times? Did they get rid of Carnage because one cackling serial-killer-for-pleasure Symbiote villain was enough?

  7. Wasn’t there a Spidey/Gargan switcheroo in Amazing Spider-Man a while back as part of Dark Reign? In one scene, Venom tentacle-rapes a hooker while Bullseye kills a rat by flicking a booger at it.

    Uh… okay.

  8. Loving the “We Care a Lot” series. It’s nice to see Venom get a bit more face time lately, but not so much that he’s completely overexposed.

    Are you going to do anything about our new friend AntiVenom?

  9. @Endless Mike:

    He’ll probably cover that when he gets to the Anti-Venom column.

    Great entry Gav, Sinister Spider-man was easily the best mini to come out of Dark Reign.

  10. My feelings about Gargan Venom are about the same as yours, Gavok. Gargan has so much potential, but most writers use him as just a psycho without any quality.

    Loved the Sinister Spider-man series. It was really really fun!

    As for Venom’s diminished weaknesses, maybe Gargan’s Scorpion powers make the symbiote stronger, so Gargan-Venom can resist damage that Brock-Venom couldn’t?

  11. Mark Millar reinvented Gargan for the better during his run in Marvel Knights Spider-Man

    That sentence is not remotely true. Millar’s run was an abomination.

    This is the arc that people neglected to read and instead went on rants about how Norman Osborn became head of HAMMER only because he blew up Skrull Spider-Woman’s head.

    THANK YOU. This has been a peeve of mine for a while. Osborn became the boss because he saved Washington DC from an alien invasion!! Of course all the Senators or whoever would approve of his appointment. He saved their arses.

    To be fair, no one would know about this unless they read Thunderbolts. I don’t think Marvel mentioned this anywhere else, not even in the Secret Invasion series or Dark Reign one-shots.

    Moving on, the Sinister SM mini was pretty good, but that part where he shrugged of the sonics just threw me out of the story. Come on, it was only in the previous panel where he was complaining about how much the sonics hurt, then he bites the girl in two just like nothing.

    Hey, speaking of which, I’m not the Venom-ologist that you are, but I’ve read more than my fair share of appearances. Am I incorrect in thinking that Venom never ate anyone until Ellis got his hands on him? Venom certainly didn’t start out cannibalistic; all the talk about eating brains and whatnot was simply Brock’s twisted humor, and to creep out Spider-Man.

    But I don’t recall him ever taking an actual bite until the face-off with the Steel Spider. (Shame, man; I liked that kid.) Am I wrong?

  12. He did start eating brains for a while, though it was a case of Brock resisting and the symbiote forcing him to. I can’t remember what brought it about, some biological need of the alien, ot something.

  13. @versasovantare: I do recall Venom specifically talking about gleefully eating people during the early 2000s when he was killing off the Sinister Six. He bit a piece of the Sandman and mentioned that “I Thought I’d Have To Get Knee-Deep In Brains” when killing Electro.

  14. @clay: That sentence is not remotely true. Millar’s run was an abomination.

    Say what you will about Millar’s run, but he most certainly did reinvent Mac Gargan for the better. You know what Gargan was doing before Millar got his hands on him? He was looking like a complete joke in She-Hulk’s comic. He was built up as an issue’s guest villain, only to be taken out with one suckerpunch. Now he’s not only replaced Eddie Brock in Spider-Man’s “Big Three” of villains, but he’s become an Avenger with a major role in the current status quo. Millar ultimately did Mac a whole lot of good.

    Hey, speaking of which, I’m not the Venom-ologist that you are, but I’ve read more than my fair share of appearances. Am I incorrect in thinking that Venom never ate anyone until Ellis got his hands on him? Venom certainly didn’t start out cannibalistic; all the talk about eating brains and whatnot was simply Brock’s twisted humor, and to creep out Spider-Man.

    But I don’t recall him ever taking an actual bite until the face-off with the Steel Spider. (Shame, man; I liked that kid.) Am I wrong?

    Eddie Brock Venom hasn’t devoured anyone whole, but he has in fact eaten pieces of people. Namely the brains. The symbiote forced Eddie to feed on brains due to a deficiency as part of the Hunger arc. I went on about it in We Care a Lot Part 8.

  15. @Gavok:

    Hey did you miss the part in the dark reflections story that it was the Dark Avengers ship that created the gust that knocked him off? Or did I imagine that?

    So it wasnt just natural selection but more bad luck and bad timing for the poor guy. Making him more sympathetic then an idiot who shouldnt have been on a roof

    To the other guy.

    Venom ate brains in the Hunger because he needs phelenamyne (sp?) or whatever, but found he couldnt get it from choclate which is easier.

    Thats why I dont really buy the whole canibal Gargenom thing. Surely even if you are morally “evil” (the sheer concept of and labels of good and evil and corny stupid and over simplistic but thats another issue) it’s still easier to buy a choclate bar, with no risk of being caught on camera and losing your job as an avenger?

    Good post, liked the bit about people not reading T-bolts SI arc and then bitching on the internet.

  16. Say what you will about Millar’s run, but he most certainly did reinvent Mac Gargan for the better.

    Ah. I probably read too quickly, and thought you wrote that he invented *Venom* for the better. Which, no. Replacing a somewhat nuanced crazy-villain-who-thinks-he’s-a-hero with a wannabe cannibal-Carnage is not an improvement.

    Anyway, it could be argued that the Mac that appears now has very little relation to the one that was the Scorpion. Gargan was crazy, but he was never mass-murder, eat-people crazy. It’s pretty much a whole new character.

    The symbiote forced Eddie to feed on brains due to a deficiency as part of the Hunger arc. I went on about it in We Care a Lot Part 8.

    Oh, I see now. I’ve only read Venom’s appearances in Spider-Man, not his solo stuff. I still say that the original character was never intended to be cannibalistic, but instead was just Brock’s version of smack talk.

  17. Venom saying “I did it!” during Beyond is probably my favorite panel of the symbiote ever.

    As for Beyond, I think we can massage the timeline to allow Pym one adventure post-Disassembled, pre-Civil War.

  18. Gargan is a failure. He’s just Carnage, minus the philosophy, and plus the cannibalism. He just randomly kills and eats people. Whoopdy fucking doo. I’ll have the original any day. -_- sadly I must deal with Anti-Venom….. which is just OK.