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We Care a Lot Part 22: We Care Again

January 25th, 2011 by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been quite a while since my last We Care a Lot article and even longer since I had a Venom article that was about actual Marvel canon. Over a year, in fact. Even longer when it comes to a canon article about Eddie Brock! For forever, I seem to have been sitting on the potential Anti-Venom entry. Why haven’t I written it? Honestly, it comes down to needing a good ending. I’ve been waiting for that perfect ending to finish off the article. And, well, you’ll see how that went…

We all remember the infamous One More Day/Brand New Day status quo change. Devils and Harry Osborn and whatever. The whole thing’s been beaten into the ground to the point that I might as well skip it. The short of it is that I decided I was done with Spider-Man in general and despite all the claims of how great the series has become, I would simply put it at the bottom of my list of great things I should be reading. I wasn’t going to fast on it completely, since I agreed to myself that I would still check out any issue that included one of my favorite characters. In this case, those would be Eddie Brock, Deadpool and Juggernaut. The first one matters the most here, though I suppose Deadpool’s issue plays a role too.

The story New Ways to Die begins eight months after the new status quo of three issues per month. It starts off at Amazing Spider-Man #568 and ends at Amazing Spider-Man #573. It’s got Dan Slott on words and John Romita Jr. on art.

Of all the various plots going around, the two of importance for me are that of the Thunderbolts and Mr. Negative. The Thunderbolts is in its Norman Osborn phase, where the team is made up of Songbird, Moonstone, Swordsman, Bullseye, Penance, Radioactive Man and Mac Gargan as Venom. For one reason or another, Swordsman, Moonstone and Penance get the story off. They’ve been training by attacking motionless dummies for the sake of going after those who are unregistered. Venom goes nuts and starts tearing into all of them. Before Songbird can chastise him for it, they’re given orders to head to New York.

The Daily Bugle has since been taken over by Dexter Bennett, who has renamed it “the DB” out of narcissism. The man is worse than Jameson ever was, removing all the journalistic integrity from the paper to make it strictly about scandals. He’s forcing the reluctant Betty Brant to investigate Martin Li, a philanthropist who runs FEAST (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter and Training), a series of homeless shelters in New York City. Bennett figures that someone as seemingly pure-hearted as Li has to have some dark secrets underneath, especially with the word that sick patients have been miraculously healed just from being there. Shockingly, Bennett is right on the money, as Li is actually the new criminal mastermind Mr. Negative.

Betty visits one of the FEAST centers and gets an earful from volunteer Aunt May, who knows damn well the real reason she’s there. Li takes it in stride and simply shows her around the place, maintaining that he has nothing to hide. Betty sees a bandana-sporting Eddie Brock carrying a tray and plays it tactless by going, “OMG VENOM!”

Li goes over how he met Eddie, seeing him praying for forgiveness in a church. Then he offered him a role in FEAST and got Matt Murdock to help exonerate Eddie of all his Venom crimes, blaming it on the costume. That’s like the third time Murdock’s been brought in to be Eddie’s lawyer. I’m kind of glad that he’s gone all demon nuts because it means Marvel finally has to choose someone else to be Lawyer of the Day. Now Eddie’s been spending his time at FEAST and Betty notes how he doesn’t look quite as cancer-ridden as he’s supposed to be.

As Li finishes his story, he puts his hand on Eddie’s shoulder and we see some interesting actions going on in Eddie’s biology. Whether Li has a healing power of his own or if the Mr. Negative powers reverse disease, Eddie’s white blood cells have been multiplying and merging with the remnant pieces of the Venom symbiote in his bloodstream.

As Peter Parker makes his way home, he’s mugged by some of Osborn’s goons and dragged into his apartment to see Osborn, Venom, Songbird and Radioactive Man waiting for him. Due to the One More Day fiasco, none of them remember that Peter is Spider-Man, but they do know that he’s working with Spider-Man, so they trash up his apartment and act like a bunch of jerks. Even Songbird.

But that’s a cliffhanger and we’re given a break from that in the form of one hell of a backup story. With Mark Waid on words and Adi Granov on art, we get the Fifth Stage, depicting Eddie Brock’s time in FEAST.

He volunteers to be worked on by Oscorp in one of their experimental trials, but the representative refuses and says her hands are tied. Eddie has a vision of himself as Venom strangling the woman for her heartlessness, but it passes, he picks himself up and leaves.

Screw Iron Man. Granov needs to draw Venom forever.

While he truly loves Aunt May and Martin Li for all they’ve done for him and the opportunity to redeem himself in his final days, he has a hard time working at FEAST because of Mike, a grizzled homeless man who acts like an asshole all the time and reminds Eddie of his father’s “nothing’s good enough” attitude. Mike knocks a tray of food into Eddie and Eddie indulges in another fantasy, this time beating the everloving shit out of Mike. Li puts his hand on him to snap him out of it. At first, Eddie apologizes for spacing out, but then we see that he wasn’t daydreaming.

Though everyone else takes Eddie’s side because Mike had it coming in every possible way, Eddie runs off, muttering about how sorry he is. By this point he’s completely defeated and is awaiting his death, but a stop at the doctor’s office becomes one major turning point. The doctor forces Eddie to look at himself in the mirror and for once he doesn’t see Venom. He sees himself, Eddie Brock, healthy. The doctor can’t explain it, but they’ve done every test they can and Eddie’s cancer free! Eddie excitedly leaves the office, proclaiming that he’s going to reflect, but we see the image of Venom staring at him from behind in the mirror.

Back to the main Slott/JRJR story, Eddie returns to tell Li and May the news that he’s cured. He doesn’t understand the miracle, but Li tells him not to question it. Just enjoy it. Then he does some exposition to point out that he’s Mr. Negative and doesn’t know it.

The Thunderbolts all scour New York for Spider-Man with Venom as the ace in the hole, since the symbiote can sense its former hosts. No, apparently it cannot because it was in the same room with Peter a half hour ago. Oh, whatever. Ill-defined magic and all that. Spider-Man proceeds to find Osborn and mess with him for a spell, causing the Thunderbolts to be called back in. Venom refuses Osborn’s command because he’s found Spider-Man! He’s at FEAST! Spider-Man is obiviously NOT at FEAST, but he overhears the conversation and knows that’s where May is, so off he goes.

Venom discovers that the costume has led him to Eddie instead and he proceeds to taunt the former host. Eddie pleads to be let go. Then the costume finds itself drawn to Eddie and latches onto him, much to the chagrin of Mac Gargan. A foamy white pus starts to form around Eddie’s skin in retaliation, burning the symbiote. He punches Venom back and among the onlookers, Li asks, “What are you?”

And shit has gotten real.

You know, there’s a shot of him in there with sparks coming out of his mouth when he talks. Why did this guy not take off?!

So Venom and Anti-Venom start strangling each other and push each other through walls and Aunt May distracts Eddie by pointing out that his fighting is going to get someone killed. JESUS FUCK, MAY! IT’S VENOM VS. ANTI-VENOM! THIS IS THE SWEETEST THING EVER AND YOU’RE ANGRY THAT A KID MIGHT GET CRUSHED BY DEBRIS?! GOD! You know who would have appreciated this front row ticket? Ben. Yeah, I said it.

Venom gets a suckerpunch in there and Spider-Man ambushes him from behind. He gets some licks in and takes a second to see our new special friend.

Now, now. White has been done before. You just don’t remember it because it was an alternate universe. Isn’t that right, Bizarnage?

Before Spider-Man can make heads or tails of the situation, the symbiotic warriors double-punch him into the distance and continue their brawl. Not that there’s any real drama in this fight. Anti-Venom has Venom’s powers plus the ability to hurt/kill Venom by touching him. Really, Anti-Venom’s main weakness is that he has no real weaknesses. He’s a little too powerful to work sometimes.

The fighting causes a truck to fall towards a bystander and Anti-Venom freaks out over his mistake. Spider-Man steps in to save the dude and Anti-Venom starts to realize that maybe Spider-Man isn’t so bad. After some three-way fighting, Spider-Man convinces Anti-Venom to fight with him against Venom and they curbstomp him pretty badly.

Whoa, now! Anti-Venom’s got a little Battletoad in him.

Spider-Man holds Venom back as Anti-Venom burns away the Venom symbiote with his touch. That’s right, Gargan. Anti-Venom was drawn into your magnet tar-pit trap. Now he wishes to eat your cancer when you turn black!

Sorry, I’ve been trying to work that Nirvana reference in for a while.

Things appear to be moving a little too smoothly, so Anti-Venom distracts himself from victory by noticing that Spider-Man has traces of symbiote in his bloodstream. Against Spider-Man’s wishes, Anti-Venom uses his healing mojo to eliminate the scant traces, then goes even further to decide that he can fix the radiation in there too. Osborn watches from afar and decides that maybe this isn’t so bad after all!

Songbird has Osborn’s armed henchmen take Mac’s half-dead body away during this while she and Radioactive Man take on Spider-Man and Anti-Venom.

They figure a mix of sonics and radiation-based fire would do the trick, since that’s how they’ve planned for the hypothetical “Venom goes rogue” situation, but no dice. Anti-Venom shrugs it off. On one side, Anti-Venom is going all-out on Radioactive Man for not caring that he regularly gives people cancer while Songbird gets extra pissy at Spider-Man for calling her a Nazi when she’s Jewish, then bringing up her freshly-dead mother. Spider-Man notices that the closer he is to Anti-Venom, the more his powers crap out on him, so he swings away. Songbird leaves with a hurt Radioactive Man and like in the Marvel Universe itself, Anti-Venom is left there as an afterthought.

Osborn briefs his team about how they found a camera at the site of the action, which should prove that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, but because of all the magic hoopla going about, they’re too stupid to figure it out and instead decide that Spider-Man’s been taking pictures of himself and splitting the money with Parker. What they do know is that 1) Anti-Venom makes Spider-Man weak, 2) though Anti-Venom doesn’t have Venom’s weaknesses, they do have a sample of the new symbiote and are hard at work at finding one and 3) Spider-Man’s got a tracking doohickey on his chest that works with his camera. They can use that against him. Either way, they’re putting Bullseye in the field.

Anti-Venom is there for the meeting incognito and steals back Peter’s camera. Bullseye and some armed goons track down Spider-Man at Harry Osborn’s coffee shop. They open fire and proceed to hit Spider-Man with some bullets specifically made to go after the tracking emblem on his chest. Anti-Venom shows himself, takes out some goons, tells Spider-Man about the tracking deal and takes out the rest of the gunmen while Spider-Man takes on Bullseye. Spider-Man simply throws a ball of web at Bullseye, watching as he catches it with his left hand and gets it stuck. Spider-Man reveals that the tracking device is in that ball of glue, causing the gunmen to accidentally open fire on Bullseye.

Anti-Venom and Spider-Man get their bearings and Brock also buys into the idea that Spider-Man was taking pictures of himself without a single thought that Spider-Man and Parker are the same person. While Spider-Man still doesn’t like him, Anti-Venom knows where Osborn’s hiding out. Off they go.

Meanwhile, Osborn has put on his Green Goblin duds. With Mac’s symbiote still weak and regenerating, he’s put together some special armor for Mac to wear. Something a little familiar. Mac wants no part of it, but does what he’s told.

Venorpion? Scorem? I’ll just call him Mac.

Spider-Man and Anti-Venom swing to Osborn’s headquarters with Spider-Man increasingly annoyed at how Anti-Venom’s presence causes his powers to short out. When they get to the rooftop, it’s agreed that they have to split up. The Thunderbolts are on the lookout for the two of them and come to discover Spider-Man.

OR IS IT?!

That last panel looks to be a cut-and-paste from the time Radioactive Man and Songbird walked in on Atlas when he was in the middle of whac—um… actually, pretend you didn’t read any of that.

The real Spider-Man goes off to fight the Green Goblin, take part in some drama with Harry and discovers a secret room where people are experimented on. It’s part of one of fifty other subplots that I don’t find myself caring about here, so let’s go back to Brock and the room of Atlas spunk.

Mac vs. Anti-Venom isn’t the most exciting fight, as it’s just the two of them standing face-to-face and grappling at a standstill. Even the banter has nothing going for it. During this, Spider-Man sneaks in, frees the two gooped Thunderbolts and goes off to help save some of Osborn’s patients before the place goes up. Finally something happens in the symbiote slugfest as Mac uses his Scorpion tail to inject Brock with some anti-Anti-Venom-venom that has Brock on the floor.

Mac wants to finish Anti-Venom off, but the Venom symbiote won’t let him. It grows back to full form, shattering the Scorpion armor and Mac reluctantly says that he’ll have to figure out some other way to kill Eddie at a later time. Weak and barely holding together, Eddie warns Mac that he’ll kill him first.

So a lot of non-Eddie stuff happens. Songbird lets Spider-Man get away, Osborn acts all evil and so on. One thing of note is how the miraculous cures going on at FEAST have ceased while Martin Li has become both sick and irritable. One has to wonder if it’s his change of mood doing this or if Eddie was unknowingly helping everyone all along just by being there. Either way, Eddie knows he has to get to stepping.

This last page… Hm… Something familiar about this.

A couple months down the line, Anti-Venom would show up in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Extra #2 in a story by Dan Slott and the sexy art stylings of Chris Bachalo. It has a little recap page as “written” by Ben Urich and I notice that through Slott’s characters, Anti-Venom gets made fun of a lot for his name. It’s annoying at first, but then you realize the brilliance inherent. It isn’t that Marvel thinks Anti-Venom is a cool name when it’s really lame. It’s that Eddie Brock himself thinks it’s a cool name and can’t understand why anyone would hate on it.

Twenty years from now, Spider-Man’s going to laugh at Eddie for the time he called himself Anti-Venom and Eddie will go, “What?! No way! Anti-Venom was the COOLEST! You don’t even know!”

Our story starts with Anti-Venom stalking a teenager named Jenna through an alley. Jenna is a punk rock girl and a huge drug addict. Anti-Venom painlessly impales her with his tendrils and forces her into complete sobriety. It’s like that scene from The Crow, but without making him tired for the sake of physical vulnerability. Jenna feels different, but still believes she’s tripping out because Anti-Venom’s morphing next to her and she’s in a Bachalo comic. I’m straight edge and I’d do all sorts of drugs if my world was made of Bachalo art.

Eddie goes back to his normal form and hands her a card with directions to the FEAST center. Timidly, Jenna eventually goes there, decides to back away at the last second, but then gets coaxed to stay by Aunt May. Eddie believes that the city is sick and that one person at a time, he’ll cure it. I dig this mission statement.

The rest of the story has to do with Mr. Negative’s forces. Since Osborn’s experiments have been busted up by Spider-Man, many of the survivors have become henchmen for Mr. Negative, joining his personal army called the Inner Demons. Although Anti-Venom is okay with giving some drug abusers a second chance, he doesn’t share the same mercy for those who deal the drugs. He tracks down some of the Inner Demons purchasing a supply and overhears one casually mention, “No man crosses Mr. Negative and—” before deciding to steal away the money and drugs with his tentacles and responding.

Anti-Venom’s plans to kill the bunch of them hits a couple snags. First, these guys have Wolverine-style healing factors. Second, their blood burns him. Yes, just like that special serum the Scorpion used against him. Anti-Venom has some serious old school Superman aspects to him. He’s overpowered and conventional weaponry has no effect on him, so they pull stuff out of their ass to hurt him. At least it’s suggested that the Inner Demon blood and the anti-Anti-Venom-venom from the Scorpion fight are the same formula. I guess that makes enough sense, since the Inner Demon guys and the serum both came from Osborn’s experiments, but I can’t see such a thing coming up so often. It’ll likely be too contrived to see it come up again, especially if he’s fighting someone who isn’t Osborn-related.

His reaction to the acidy blood allows some of them to escape. He gets his hands on one of them and demands to know what’s so special about their blood, but doesn’t seem to get much of an answer. He does, however, get some info on some of Mr. Negative’s other plans. Later that night, he stops by when they’re stealing a truck of Osborn’s medical supplies, where Mr. Negative is waiting for him. Negative suggests that they shouldn’t be working against each other because they’re both out to mess with Osborn.

“Please. I know from black and white. This city’s a living, breathing organism. And everything you do hurts the body and poisons the mind. And I will end you.”

It doesn’t work out so well for Anti-Venom, since a legion of Inner Demons dogpile on him. Presumably, he killed the goons from earlier in the day by smothering them to death, but there are too many for that now. He can’t fight back because of their acid blood. All he can do is sneak off and steal their stolen truck of supplies.

He delivers it anonymously to a FEAST building and sneaks around to make sure Martin Li is there to find it. He discovers Mr. Negative there, who then transforms back into Li. Anti-Venom angrily breaks a hole in the wall while leaving, which gets some surprised curiosity from Li, showing that he’s still not aware of his own double identity.

Eddie perches on top of his church in a pose reminiscent of Daredevil as he has an identity crisis. All this time, he’s had this faith in Martin Li. It’s all a sham. His beliefs have been shattered. He then starts to question his own actions as a murderous vigilante.

“I know now. I know the truth behind Martin Li. I’m the only one. And no one will ever believe me, because I’m… I’m… I’m a monster.”

Poor mass murderer. After about nine months of non-Brock activity, it was finally announced that Anti-Venom would be getting his own miniseries. Sweet! By Zeb Wells…? Uh oh. This is the guy who did the Dark Origin miniseries and we know how that turned out. I’m not sure if this is really a good thing, I mean—

OKAY, I’M SOLD!

Joining Wells on Anti-Venom: New Ways to Live is artist Paulo Siqueira. The Dark Reign is in full effect, so Eddie’s still on the run. Wearing a sports jersey for “A. Venom”, he enters an alley where Jenna from the previous story is being accosted by some punks. They threaten Eddie and he leaves them to their devices. They end up dragging Jenna to their boss, the Jockey. Jockey, coincidentally, has a big Venom tattoo on his shoulder.

Jenna and the Jockey go way back. Jenna is known pretty famously in their community for being a gigantic junkie who will do nearly anything for a fix. She wants a job with Jockey’s crew and it seems like she’s in until dropping a name that Jockey recognizes as someone who’s been killed recently. Once he pulls out his gun, Anti-Venom shows himself in and strangles some of his crew with his white tentacles.

Without having to take a single bullet, Anti-Venom sneaks a tentacle behind the Jockey, grabs him by the thumb and snaps it, disarming him. Anti-Venom demands to know about his bosses, which is given to him freely. It’s public knowledge because they aren’t scared of the likes of vigilantes. Jockey spits on Anti-Venom’s face, who is then able to decipher that Jockey suffers from hepatitis. Jockey laughs at how that would mean Jenna has it too due to shared needles and when Anti-Venom explains that she’s been cured, Jockey laughs even harder at the idea of a cured junkie. Anti-Venom strangles him until Jenna begs him to stop. He drops Jockey, swearing he only meant to scare him and Jenna leaves with tears in her eyes.

Turns out Jockey wasn’t off the mark. Jenna had stolen some of the supply during the mayhem and someone with a large gun discovers her sneaking away with it.

Eddie goes to Staten Island, where the Quintas are stationed. Their boss, Jorge Valdez, talks to them via laptop and a couple of the dealers are about to be killed for their failure. Eddie knocks on the door and gets himself kidnapped. As he narrates, he likes seeing how bad guys treat people they see as no real threat as it has bearing on how he treats them when he goes full symbiote. Before he can go crazy on them, the Punisher comes busting in and takes a handful out with a shield with skull insignia made to work like Captain America’s. This is during the beginning of Rick Remender’s Punisher run, so Frank’s been armed with various superhero and supervillain weaponry.

Lots of shooting and stabbing until they get outside and see the ringleader holding a gun to Jenna’s head. Frank doesn’t give a damn because she’s the one who led him there and he couldn’t care less about a junkie, but Anti-Venom obviously doesn’t want her shot. When Jenna screams for Eddie to help her, Frank puts it together that Anti-Venom is Eddie Brock and shoots him in the back of the skull with a shotgun blast. OW! He even mentions that they’re armor-piercing bullets too. DOUBLE OW!

Anti-Venom lays dormant with splattered red and white on the back of his head and Frank goes back to aiming at the bad guy. Again, he doesn’t care one iota about Jenna’s survival. It’s then that the bullets pop out the back of Anti-Venom’s head and he leaps at Frank, screaming that she is NOT a junkie. During the fight, the thug gets away with Jenna and heads to Mexico to his boss Valdez. Considering how overpowered Anti-Venom is, it doesn’t take long for him to turn the tables on Frank.

Jorge Valdez breaks up the tension by taunting the two via computer monitor. He has no fear of either of them and says that he’s going to do rather nasty sexual things to Jenna. Frank decides to go after him and Anti-Venom wants to join. Casually, Frank explains that it’s not going to happen and that despite Anti-Venom’s claims, the only cure for a junkie like Jenna is death. He then pulls out a flame thrower and lets loose, which does nothing to Anti-Venom’s white blood cell symbiote. He grabs Frank by the neck and threatens to cripple him, but lets go because he really wants to ride in Frank’s van.

They’re joined by Henry, Frank’s resident tech guy and estranged son of Jigsaw. He and Eddie get along pretty well, but Frank just wants them to shut up. When they reach the border, Frank tells Eddie to make himself look human so he doesn’t spook anyone. After being promised that he won’t be murdered, Eddie gives in.

I wish this sequence could have gone on for two more issues. Oh well.

They get to Valdez’s complex, which is hidden in a canyon with one building blocking the entrance. Anti-Venom goes on his own with Frank and Henry discussing the strategy. Frank is dead set on killing Eddie no matter what and figures that for the moment, he’ll make for a good attack dog. He’ll absorb all the bullets, kill a bunch of bad guys and when he lets down his guard and retracts the white mask, Frank will shoot him in the skull.

Eddie goes into his human form and enters the seemingly deserted shack. In there, he finds a dozen thugs silently waiting against the wall. There’s a phone in the center of the room that starts ringing and one thug suggests he answer it. Eddie picks it up and finds Valdez on the other end, telling Eddie that he’s late. In Valdez’s room, we see several women strung out.

As Valdez taunts Eddie, his men hold up their weapons in preparation. Eddie’s symbiote takes over and he goes on a bloodthirsty rampage. The panels cut back and forth between Jenna having the time of her life and Valdez’s people having, well, the final times of their lives. Valdez caresses Jenna’s face while Anti-Venom shoves his thumbs into one man’s eye sockets. Valdez shoots heroin into Jenna’s arm while Anti-Venom breaks a man’s arm in two. This goes on until Anti-Venom’s killed them all. He and Frank plan their assault as Valdez summons an entire army of his people to protect him.

While Anti-Venom runs headfirst into the cartel army, Henry outfits Frank with all sorts of weaponry. He has some makeshift Wolverine claws, some grenades, a Goblin Glider and “ghost gauntlets” that will give him three short spurts of intangibility.

Anti-Venom shrugs off bullets and throws trucks over while Frank glides behind him, allowing bullets to whiz through his intangible body. He’s used his gauntlets twice by the time he makes a run for Valdez himself, but when he activates them a third time, nothing happens and he gets stabbed. He curses Henry’s incompetence and uses the glider to bring himself back to safety.

By the way, remember that great cover of Anti-Venom with the gattling gun?

Aw… shucks.

Anti-Venom sees Jenna and the other drugged up girls trying to escape and gets distracted. Valdez runs him over in a jeep and instructs his people to shoot the girls for trying to run off. While giving these orders, he silences Anti-Venom by beating him upside the head with a sledgehammer. Jenna and the others are saved by Frank Castle with a sniper rifle and it drives Valdez crazy. He swears that these guys will NOT be leaving with the junkie.

Anti-Venom suddenly stands up strong with the jeep over his head. “She’s not… A JUNKIE!” Then he throws the jeep down on Valdez. He sees Jenna and runs over to her, but she’s still strung out and seeing this monster causes her to panic. Anti-Venom pulls back the mask to reveal Eddie and Jenna takes to him.

As he hugs Jenna and comforts her that everything will be okay, he notices that he’s in Frank’s crosshairs. Frank aims his sniper rifle at Eddie’s unprotected head, sees him frown and surprisingly does nothing! Eddie smiles and says that Frank can’t do it because he knows he’s a good guy. Henry also adopts this outlook, but Frank angrily gives him the rifle and says that they didn’t pack enough bullets. Haha, that’s our Frank!

Valdez is still alive, despite having a jeep tire crushing his ribcage. Jenna weakly apologizes to Eddie for falling off the wagon and he forgives her. She promises that from now on, she won’t mess up. While she’s telling him this, Eddie puts the heel of his boot into Valdez’s mouth. Jenna says that she’ll be a good person starting tomorrow. Eddie smiles in response, though looks grim for a second as there’s a loud snapping noise under his heel. Then he smiles again and agrees, “Starting tomorrow.”

We got into a car
Away we started rollin’
She said, “How much you pay for this?”
I said, “Nothing, Jen, it’s stolen.”
PUNK ROCK GIRL!
You look so high
PUNK ROCK GIRL!
How ’bout one more try?
Give sober life a whirl
Just you and we!
Mac Gargan ate a squirrel!
Just you and we!
Beyonder has a jheri curl!
JUST YOUUUU AND WEEEEE
PUNK ROCK GIIIIIIRL!

It was on the reread for this article that it finally hit me. Anti-Venom, at least to me, has always seemed a bit lacking in respects. There’s no dynamic between Eddie and his costume, at least not yet. After all, it took a long while before Spider-Man’s alien costume showed any true sentience of its own. But I always had this feeling that as cool as Anti-Venom is, he still feels like less of a character than Eddie Brock Venom. I also felt somewhat annoyed that the New Ways to Live miniseries had nothing to do with his opposition of Mr. Negative.

Except, when I looked back at the final pages of that Amazing Spider-Man Extra story and Anti-Venom’s friendship with Jenna, it all clicked. Suddenly, Anti-Venom made perfect sense to me as a character and as the antithesis of Venom as a villain. Venom was defined for his delusional scope of how he sees others. Or one other in particular. This is a guy who looked at one of the most pure-hearted, altruistic men on Earth and could only see the evil in him. This skewed hate is what drove him and gave him definition. Without his hate for Peter Parker, Venom was just an aimless killing machine.

Flip that. As Anti-Venom, he does the opposite. He looks at flawed or even evil people and sees inspiration. He found direction from the example of a superpowered gangster and held onto his image like that of hero worship until stumbling upon the truth. Rather than stand up for himself, he wallowed in self-doubt until somehow using Jenna as his beacon. She’s his angel because somebody has to be. It’s rather disturbing when you look at it. He saves her life, cleans her veins against her will and sends her on her way and the next time we see them together, they’re in cahoots. Without seeing any transition, you have to wonder: how much of this pairing was Jenna’s idea and how much of it was Eddie’s?

The delusional eye of the beholder continues. I don’t think Jenna is an evil person, but she hasn’t done much of anything that points to her as a good person or the angel that Eddie believes her to be. All she has is her innocent good looks. She’s abused drugs and betrays Eddie’s trust by continuing to do so. Just like when he was trying to eat Spider-Man’s brains, Eddie is as pathetic and foolish as ever, but at least he’s on a better path. If Jenna’s truly serious about turning her life around as she states at the end of New Ways to Live, then it isn’t Jenna who’s the inspiration. Eddie is the real hero of his story and he doesn’t even know it.

That’s Anti-Venom’s last major appearance, though there’s been some notable mentions here and there. In the first arc of Bendis’ Avengers, time travel has caused reality to become completely screwy. Out of nowhere, the Avengers have to fight Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen from a possible future. Here’s the lineup.

Wolverine as Death, Red Hulk as War, Scarlet Witch as Famine and what appears to be Anti-Venom as Pestilence. That’s completely brilliant. Usually, the idea of Famine and Pestilence in any mashed together Four Horsemen come off as the Ringo Starrs of the group. Death is cool and important. War is cool and important. Making people hungry and sick doesn’t have the same punch to it.

But this right here is a pretty inspired roster. Anti-Venom is a white mage superhero, so it’s completely fitting that he’d be twisted into the role of Pestilence. Red Hulk himself is a general, which makes the idea of him being War equally fitting. Scarlet Witch… um… she used her powers to forcefully remove stuff from mutants’ biology so… I guess that kind of works for Famine?

The white and black horseman didn’t get any lines in the ensuing fight and Spider-Man didn’t even recognize him. Once the Four Horsemen left the present, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman talked over how that was probably a future version of Spider-Man that they just fought. So either I was way off or Spider-Man’s just dumb.

Like I said at the start of this article, I wanted to wait until a good ending before writing this. I had heard about the ensuing ending of Spider-Man’s Brand New Day and figured it would be worth it to wait. Especially since one issue of Amazing Spider-Man, the one that I read because it featured Deadpool, had a quick cameo of Eddie Brock saving a child. The insinuation from Kraven’s daughters made it look like Anti-Venom was going to have a big role in the upcoming Grim Hunt storyline. Then I saw Anti-Venom featured in a pile of corpses for the cover to Grim Hunt: Kraven Saga and got excited. Obviously, he’d have to have some kind of role in this story.

That didn’t pan out. I don’t know if he was originally supposed to be in the story and got cut or if he was never intended in the first place. Either way, Anti-Venom’s only other appearance would come in the form of the What If issue for Grim Hunt.

The short version is that Spider-Man has killed Kraven, goes nuts and has inexplicably becomes Kraven. Truth be told, the issue is sort of okay until riiiiight… abouuuut… NOW.

Those four panels are the best microcosm for Anti-Venom and those like him. The Dr. Voodoos and the Toxins and the Ryan Choi Atoms and the Manhattan Guardians and so on and so forth. He gets a cool introduction, makes a play, nothing happens and before you know it, he’s being killed in the background. I could have asked for a better ending, but I could not have asked for a more fitting ending to this installment.

Dan Slott claims he has plans for the character down the road and Rick Remender’s new Venom series will surely have him pop up if it lasts long enough. At least, I hope so. I still wish they’d toss him on Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts. It’s my favorite Marvel book as is, so that would only improve it.

Here we are, caught up on everything Venom. It still isn’t the end of We Care a Lot. I have two more installments in mind, not counting the occasional checking in with what’s going on in Remender’s series. As for the next entry, I think it’s about time I go back and take a look at the one 90’s Venom story I was too afraid to revisit. Then again, it’s not all about Venom. It’s more about that one guy he hates. The one dressed in red. No, not Spider-Man. The other red guy. The gooey one. Yeah, him. I’m going to read the story about the highest total amount of Carnage there can be.

The upper limit. The ceiling. The most. The… hm… I’ll figure out a good word for it later.

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3 comments to “We Care a Lot Part 22: We Care Again”

  1. Can’t wait for the next article. I’ve got my Green Jelly cassette rewound and ready to play.


  2. I’m a huge fan of the ‘We Care a Lot’ articles. Great recap of Anti-Venom. I love the idea of him being a Thunderbolt; Eddie’s interactions with a team of ‘bad guys’ could be a very interesting story.


  3. As always Gavok, I love your articles. I’m loving Anti-Venom and am sad as well that he hasn’t been more utilized. Your point on him being inversed with his views on Jenna is very interesting. For a long time I’ve said that having Jenna could be a major boost to Brock’s character. Giving him a continuous supporting cast gives him someone to play off of, and care about. His connection to her can give him purpose. Oddly, he can be a big brother or even father figure to her (he could view her as a surrogate daughter and give her better care than his father gave him etc) The point being, there’s tons of directions they an go in.

    One thing that’s disappointing is that Slott said there was going to be an Anti-Venom vs Gargan mini a while back, but it never seemed to materialize. I think time just ran out on that and Grim Hunt. A lot more “spiders” could have been used, but even amongst the ones they chose, some were an odd fit. I really do hope that Slott has something in store for Brock. I mean, with all this new talk of a NEW and IMPROVED Venom, it’s a bit sad that other than a sentence, Brock has been awol in this recent string of symbiote mentions.

    Keep up the good work man.! :)
    -Shockdingo