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4thletter’s Guide to Carnage USA #1′s Cliffhanger

December 15th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

This week marks the release of the first issue of Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain’s Carnage USA. This 5-issue series is a sequel to last year’s Carnage. Originally set to be called Astonishing Spider-Man/Iron Man, Carnage told the story of how Cletus Kasady and his alien costume came back from having the Sentry tear them in half in space back when New Avengers was first starting up. Cletus was shown to be alive, albeit with a robotic bottom half and proceeded to give both heroes a headache while unintentionally creating a new hero with a living costume.

As a guy who never cared for Carnage and had no desire to see him come back, I consider the miniseries shockingly good. It’s definitely worth checking out. The end showed that Carnage was biding his time for his next move while keeping his mindless and loyal pet Doppelganger on a leash. That leads right into Carnage USA where the serial killer has manifested his powers in a scary way that makes him more megalomaniacal than he’s ever been shown. He tussles with a couple members of the Avengers and the fact that this is the first issue should tell that it doesn’t work out so well for the good guys just yet.

It’s the final page that sells me on the series. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll blot out the bottom part in the preview, but click to see the full glory.

Hey now! Someone call the doctor because it’s been well over four hours! Zeb Wells obviously wrote this entire comic for me specifically. I’d imagine that there are a lot of people confused by some of the names here, so as the world’s foremost expert on all things Venom, I thought I’d give a quick who’s who.

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We Care a Lot Part 24: The Antihero’s Journey Concludes

July 9th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s so weird to see this article come full circle. As I said long ago in the prologue, We Care a Lot gained its genesis in a series of posts in a forum that no longer exists. David Brothers was new to blogging and asked me to join him many years ago, citing that I’d be able to repost my Venom essays, finish them and write junk like it. I may have done that latter part, but I never could get back into writing about Venom. At the time, the character I once loved and saw things in that few else ever did had become a dummy used in various stories that for the most part weren’t very good. Unlike the “weren’t very good” stories from the 90′s, these stories actually went and destroyed my interest in him.

Look how far everything’s come since then. As Venom, Mac Gargan became a major star in the Marvel Universe for quite a while, got his own miniseries and was a wheel in one of Marvel’s top selling books at the time. Now Venom is worn by Flash Thompson and stars in his own comic that has definite staying power (I was going to say that it has legs, but, well…). Eddie Brock has been reborn in a new form with appearances in Spider-Man’s main comic here and there, as well as an upcoming Venom crossover. Carnage has come back from the afterlife with a couple miniseries that make the character kind of sort of worth reading. Not only did his return give us yet another symbiote hero character who will fall off the face of the Earth, but a preview of Carnage USA suggested that there’d be some kind of task force made of obscure symbiote characters only remembered by me, the people who’ve read these articles and maybe six other people. I can only hope.

The whole Venom Family is thriving and comics have evolved in the way that modern writers have a better grasp on what to do with these guys. I’ve seen a lot of criticism on Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, but I can’t fault him on his use of Anti-Venom. The dude just plain gets it. Or he at least gets what I get.

I suppose with Venom, my enjoyment of the character has been almost defining for me. I know some people online might consider me “the Venom guy”, for better or worse. I never set out to make readers fully agree with my delight with the character/concept, but I at least wanted to make them understand where I was coming from. I hope that I’ve at least succeeded in that.

He’s a Silver Age concept painted with a 90′s extreme paintbrush. Look at the whole symbiote idea. Tell me that that isn’t a Silver Age idea that nobody got around to using until they were decades too late. It’s a plot device that writers continue to pull new tricks out of their asses for (might I remind you that symbiotes can kill people through the internet?). Yet in the end, it’s Eddie Brock who anchors it all. I’m not one of those fanboys who wants him to be Venom again because, “That’s the only way it can be.” No. I’d rather he be Anti-Venom forever.

When done right, Eddie is someone that writers have yet to scratch the surface of. He isn’t like the Punisher. He may kill and justify it, but he isn’t dead inside. In fact, he’s more optimistic about what he does than most superheroes in their saner exploits. He thinks he’s right and sometimes he is, but he’s occasionally capable of understanding that he’s wrong and can indeed agree with logic every once and a while.

Over the years, Venom has been treated like the redheaded stepchild of Marvel. Tossed around from writer to writer and making appearances that treat him as more of a money-making accessory than an actual character. He’s been in some good stories, he’s been in a lot of bad stories and he’s been in a few incredibly terrible stories. I recognize that. I’m not blind.

I also recognize something else.

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We Care a Lot Part 21: Back in Black to the Future

April 18th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Sorry for the long break there. For the past few months I was more busy writing about Eddie Guerrero and Brock Lesnar than Eddie Brock, so I had to let the whole We Care a Lot thing fall to the waysides. Now, then. Where were we? Ah, yes. I was talking about alternate reality versions of Venom for the sake of completion. Now it’s time to look into the future.

I was originally going to call this installment “Brock to the Future”, but I noticed that no matter what alternate future you look at, Eddie’s days are almost always numbered. Even in the futures where he could still be theoretically alive, he’s not only dead, but they don’t feel the need to explain how he bit the dust. Same goes for Mac Gargan, except for when he appears as Scorpion in Spider-Man: Reign.

I’ll go farther out into the future and inch my way back towards the present. That means starting with All-New Savage She-Hulk, a miniseries by rocking writer Fred Van Lente. The new She-Hulk is Lyra, who has come to Earth from an alternate future, hundreds or thousands of years from now. Her mother is Thundra, a warrior leader in the never-ending war between barbarian men and amazon women. Thundra went back to the present, scraped some DNA off the Hulk’s face during a fight, went back to her time and created Lyra. Lyra is the bane of her people for having a father, despite her great strength. That strength, by the way, comes from a zen mentality. If she gets angry, she becomes increasingly weaker.

So what does she have to do with Venom? In her time, the men are mostly split into tribes that worship the long-dead superheroes. Since her reality seems to be based on Osborn never being dethroned, the tribes are mostly copycats of different Dark Avengers. They have the clawed Howlers, the Goblinkin, the Men of Gold, the War Gods and, of course, the Crawlers.

Not only that, but the Venom symbiote still exists in her time. Man, what kind of life expectancy do these creatures have, anyway? The women warriors have their home protected by a moat with the creature now known as “The Black Bloom” residing. The women are treated with a pheromone that renders them invisible to the symbiote, meaning that when the tribes of Crawlers, Goblinkin and so on chase Lyra, they end up getting devoured by the hungry pool of black.

Later on the story, when Lyra is in the present, she fights the Dark Avengers. She’s amused that Venom wears the Black Bloom and easily disposes of him. After all, her pheromones make her into Venom’s kryptonite.

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We Care a Lot Part 20: Creatures on Infinite Earths

December 30th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

It’s time for the second part of the journey to check out the other alternate universe takes on Venom. We should probably start off with—wait, a sec.

What about Exiles? That’s a series that’s all about different Marvel universes. From what I’ve seen, Venom got shafted throughout. There was an inclusion of Peter Parker with the Carnage symbiote (I think), but Venom wouldn’t appear until the very last issue.

You see, Marvel always has to give Chris Claremont something to do… or else. He’s like the incompetent nephew that Quesada always has to give work to or else his sister will give him hell. They tend to give him stories that take place outside of Marvel 616, such as Exiles. The series became New Exiles and Claremont ran it into the ground, all while fulfilling his rampant [insert female X-Men member] fantasies. They relaunched it with Jeff Parker at the helm, where Morph would lead a team made up of Blink, Scarlet Witch, Beast, Black Panther, Forge and Polaris. It was fun, but nobody cared because of the stigma attached to the previous run. It was canceled by #6.

Venom appeared for a single panel. Why did I go through all that explanation to cover a single stinking panel? Because in it, the team sees another Exiles supergroup and I just know that Jeff Parker made the wrong choice.

Look at that team! I swear, if Parker went with that lineup instead of mutants and wacky Black Panther, it would be outselling Blackest Night.

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We Care a Lot Part 19: We Are the Worlds

December 3rd, 2009 Posted by Gavok

One of the themes of We Care a Lot has been that Venom has been written so differently over the years, including stories coming out at the same time. A good deal of the frustration comes from how all of his stories are one shared continuity. People disagree, but I love continuity. I think, when done right, it adds a special dimension to stories and empowers them.

But what of other continuities? The alternate realities and all that? Hell, you can do all the damage you want and it won’t have any affect. Have Gambit as the third Summers brother? Sounds stupid, but go ahead. Have Batman kill the Joker? Go for it! Have Richard Fisk become Daredevil? Sure, why not? Because at the end of the day, Gambit isn’t a Summers brother, Joker’s still kicking and Matt Murdock is still wearing crimson. If you can make a good story out of it, even better!

So let’s look at Venom in the other worlds. This will be a two-parter, followed by a similar look at alternate futures. What better way to start than Marvel’s go-to series for alternate storylines and one of my personal favorites: What If!

I’ve covered What If issues like wildfire before – and I do plan to reprise my Top 100 list a bit after the new batch or releases are finished – so I won’t go too in-depth. The first alternate story for Venom is What If the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man (#4 in the second series) by Danny Fingeroth and Mark Bagley.

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

October 13th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

“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.

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We Care a Lot Part 17: The Hollywood Influence

September 15th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

The status quo for Venom had been changed, perhaps forever. The Venom symbiote had moved away from Eddie Brock, leaving a cancer-filled husk of a human being. While Mac Gargan found success as the new Venom, Eddie would be nearly forgotten about, suffering in a hospital bed. Eddie Brock himself was never a match for Spider-Man from the start. What hope would he have as an antagonist when he’s weakened by a disease?

Around that time, directly after Civil War, Marvel was making a big deal out of Spider-Man’s new look. Or old look. Whatever. The third Spider-Man movie – which featured the black costume – was on its way to theaters and Marvel chose to capitalize it in a way that really didn’t work. Spider-Man would start wearing a black costume again. The whole thing was a list of letdowns.

Was it the Venom symbiote? No. It was just a spandex costume he wore because he wanted to kill the Kingpin. Wearing black means he’s totally hardcore now.

So he’s going to kill the Kingpin? Ha! Come on, this is Spider-Man. The only people he’s killed are Gwen Stacy and Wolverine’s spy girlfriend, both unintentional. Spider-Man’s too much of a pussy to even kill Darkseid with a god-killing gun if he had the chance.

Okay, but the black costume will have some kind of storyline blow-off, right? No, not really. He wears it for an arc or so of his different comics, confusing people who will pick up and read World War Hulk for years to come. Then he simply stops wearing it. Like, at the beginning of One More Day, where it would make sense for him to still have it on, he’s back to his regular tights. Everyone was too distracted by the, “Jesus Christ! Really?!” aspect of that story to give a damn.

But what does that have to do with Eddie Brock outside of cosmetics? The reason Spider-Man was so cheesed off at the Kingpin in the first place was because a hitman accidentally shot Aunt May when going for Peter. Now she’s in the hospital in critical condition.

Aunt May in a hospital bed? Huh. I guess that’s one thing cancer-ridden Eddie Brock could take in a fight.

It’s a nice reference to the famous Kraven’s Last Hunt cover of black costume Spider-Man rising from beneath the earth in front of his own tombstone.

The Last Temptation of Eddie Brock takes place in Sensational Spider-Man #38-39. It’s written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and drawn by Lee Weeks.

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We Care a Lot Part 16: Toxology Report

September 1st, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Venom was certainly making himself known in late 2004. Not only did he have his ongoing series and his role in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, but Marvel decided to give him top billing in yet another miniseries! This time, we got Venom/Carnage, or Venom vs. Carnage. At least, the latter is how it appeared in the solicits, but the former is how it shows up in the book. I mean, I guess the slashed one makes it easier to type, but adding “versus” makes anything sound cool. Would people be that interested in “Freddy/Jason” or “Aliens/Predator”? No. Not at all.

Venom/Carnage came out in September, 2004, only weeks before the Venomous storyline, which would seemingly kill off Eddie Brock and make Mac Gargan the new Venom. A couple months later, Carnage would be flown into space and torn in half by the Sentry in the pages of New Avengers. So why would they be making a miniseries about these two characters who are about to be changed so radically? Why, it would be for an introduction!

The series is written by Peter Milligan with the art by Clayton Crain. Crain’s style is very unique, looking like an ultra-glossy wax museum made of CGI. His human characters can look very off at times, but when someone’s face is covered and they’re in costume, they look pretty rocking. This goes double for the symbiote characters, such as Venom and Carnage on that above cover. The symbiotes get by on being made to look cool and this guy makes them look cooler, so give them a minseries, why not.

From writing up these articles and having to reread these stories, I think I’ve noticed a hiccup in the storytelling process. In the Spider-Man story The Hunger, it ends with the Venom symbiote saying that it’s pregnant. Daniel Way’s Venom series ends with Venom becoming a huge monster that’s meant to unleash some kind of world-ending output that can’t be described. My own educated guess would be that Toxin, the character this installment is about, was meant to be that offspring. Only, Peter Milligan was plotting Venom/Carnage and thought, “Eh… fuck it, we’ll make it Carnage’s kid.”

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Here’s Your Obligatory Marvel/Disney Joke

August 31st, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Now it’s time to say hello to corporation say…

E-D-W…
(When there’s trouble you call DW!)

A-R-D…
(Brains are delicious!)

B-R-O-C-K…!

Ah, fun. Check in tonight for a new installment of We Care a Lot. Ha ha!

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We Care a Lot Part 15: Way Too Hard to Comprehend

July 20th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Last time on We Care a Lot, I discussed Eddie Brock’s cancer retcon. Before that, I was talking about Daniel Way’s Venom on-going series. To refresh your memory, the Venom symbiote is on the loose up in Canada. It killed off all of army girl Patricia Robertson’s friends and is on its way to a more populated area. Robertson is allied with an alien life form named the Suit, who fights with a cell phone gun. They are being antagonized by a pair of spy chicks who want Venom for themselves. Although they have already been killed, another couple of them have popped up. Venom has finally settled on a host that he can live off of forever.

And that’s where we left off. Venom #10 begins with the Venom-controlled Wolverine attacking Vic and Frankie’s ship and forcing it to crash. The two suit up in their armor and reveal to the reader that they’re probably into each other sexually. Of course they are.

They don’t last a minute. Frankie is stabbed to death by Venom-Wolverine and Vic stumbles upon her doppelganger’s corpse from earlier. She realizes that she’s nothing more than a clone, puts her gun to her head and pulls the trigger.

The torso remains of the Suit give Patricia a new cell phone he has created. He says that he placed the original in a special place and that the new phone acts as a detonator. Venom-Wolverine busts in after her and she presses the button to activate the first phone. As we see, after Wolverine was knocked out by that nuke, the Suit tore open his chest and shoved his phone in there. Now the cell phone goes off, electrocuting Wolverine from the inside and forcing off the symbiote.

BOOOO!

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