We Care a Lot Part 10: The Symbiote Who Loved Me

April 15th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Previously in the Venom series, our anti-hero got in a dumb adventure with Wolverine that ended with Venom saving the life of a government guy by the name of Agent Daryll Smith. As you’re about to see, Smith would be a major part of Venom’s latter day good guy exploits.

There are only 11 months of his series left. The sad truth is, Venom has nothing to do as a character at this moment. He left San Francisco behind, his ex-wife has walked away from her supporting role and he doesn’t have any real long-standing villains to build up against. He’s just hanging out in New York City, dealing with whatever comes after him. Even the Hunger made a point of how monotonous it’s getting.

What Venom needs is direction.

On Trial (Venom #50-52) is again by Larry Hama, with Josh Hood doing art. It’s always interesting to see the change in the Marvel landscape through this series. If you look back, you see so much change in the previous four years. We saw Peter Parker’s fake parents, Scarlet Spider, Spider-Ben and now we’re back to a story with regular, old fashioned Spider-Man. Not only that, but we have several namedrops of the whole Heroes Reborn garbage.

The story begins with Venom crawling through the sewer, on his way home. He just came back from the whole Wolverine episode and is wondering why some vigilantes are beloved while the real heroes have to hide out underground. He gets to his bunker and finds that Detectives Clark and Steen have both discovered his hideout and booby-trapped it. They’ve installed giant speakers in his lair, which weaken him enough to give the SWAT team a shot at bringing him down. Venom escapes them, but is then stopped by Detective Clark, who carries a magnum with armor-piercing bullets. He warns Venom that it might be enough to kill him, but it’s just there to waste his time as Steen hits him with a loud, concentrated sonic blast.

They chain him up and put him in an armored van with Flight of the Bumblebee cranked out to deafening levels. After Eddie’s tossed into a cell, a Dr. Yao appears with a special dose of dopamine blocker, which causes both the symbiote to become dormant and causes Eddie to lose his mental and nervous connection to the creature. Of course, even with this, the guards proceed to torture him with the stereo system for the sake of torturing him.

Government official and mutant-hating X-Men villain Bastion appears for a moment to make sure Venom is in no way a mutant. With him is Agent Smith, who tells Venom to quiet down on recognizing him for now.

Speaking of government, with Eddie being a hobo, he can’t afford a lawyer. That means he’s appointed none other than Matt Murdock. Matt explains that Eddie’s in deep shit. His list of charges go on for 200 pages and he’s probably going to get the death penalty. The best course of action would be to take the insanity plea, but Eddie’s completely against it.

Yeah. Totally not insane.

Murdock lists some of the prosecutions many witnesses, including Carnage. Eddie laughs at that, wondering why they didn’t just get Spider-Man. As Matt explains, 1) they haven’t been able to subpoena him and 2) he’s going to be used as a witness for the defense. Trying to come up with other witnesses to help out, Eddie brings up Wolverine and Agent Smith. Wolverine can’t work because with all the Onslaught stuff that just happened, mutants are too touchy to deal with. Agent Smith… well, Eddie doesn’t remember the guy’s full name nor what secret branch of the government he works for. So yeah, Eddie’s kind of screwed.

Further screwed, as it turns out. Back when he first became Venom, he murdered a police officer and hid him under a church’s floorboards. Wouldn’t you know it, Detective Clark has uncovered the body. When asked by Murdock whether or not he killed the guy, Eddie sidesteps it by saying that “Eddie Brock” didn’t do it, but the alien costume kind of did. Eddie never was good at making excuses.

Unlike most trials, this doesn’t take all that long. I mean, it starts in the second issue and goes to hell before the cliffhanger. Cletus Kasady is used as a witness for the prosecution, telling lies about his time as Eddie’s cellmate. Like how Eddie would brag about all the people he slaughtered, like that cop. Murdock is quick to cross-examine him enough to prove he’s lying.

Outside, Spider-Man swings by to check up on things. He won’t be needed for weeks, but with Carnage being questioned, he’s being cautious. Then Dr. Yao runs over, panicked. He just found out that symbiotes can break through his dopamine blocker if their hosts generate enough adrenaline.

Well, shit.

Spider-Man brings him in and just as expected, Cletus is all Carnage’d out. Way to go, Murdock! Spider-Man fights with Carnage and Eddie Brock can take no more. Despite his lawyer’s warnings, Eddie becomes Venom and busts into the fight. This leads to a great cliffhanger image.

It’s not just the dialogue. I find something so amusing about Carnage’s facial expression there.

At first, Venom is able to bring down Carnage. He ignores Spider-Man’s pleas not to murder the villain. Daredevil shows up and makes the same request, claiming that he, Spider-Man and the police have everything well in hand. Carnage pops back up, now with an adrenaline high that makes him near invincible.

Amongst the fighting, Venom tries to sneak away until the prosecutor gets on his case for being a coward. Venom points out that Spider-Man and Daredevil have things under control, only to discover – whoops! – not so much. Carnage is so energized that a full-on punch from Spider-Man doesn’t even faze him. Before Carnage can get at Daredevil, Venom pounces on him and delivers a harsh beating. Then he pulls out a needle he borrowed from Dr. Yao.

After bitching Cletus out, Venom delivers another dopamine blocker injection just to make sure he’s powerless. Cletus is pulled away in chains, leaving Venom surrounded. They ask him to take some of the dopamine blocker and revert to Eddie Brock for the sake of the judge’s consideration. As he’s deciding, Agent Smith enters the courthouse, making sure to be out of earshot of all the curious reporters.

He has signed documents from the President, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense to put Venom in their custody in the name of national security. All charges are to be dropped.

“Uncle Sam came through! How do you like that? The feds know who is really on the side of the angels! There is fairness in life, after all!”

Venom is asked to revert to Eddie and be taken away in handcuffs, which he does reluctantly. That leaves everyone else in disbelief.

Once they’re in transport, Eddie asks about what all this is. Smith hands him a badge. For amnesty, Eddie is going to be a secret agent for the government. Hm… What’s the best way to react to that plot development? Oh, I know!

Where were you guys when Venom and Carnage were inside the internet? I could have used you all ten times over!

Isn’t that something? Venom working for the government in return for amnesty ten years before Marvel tried it again in a more high-profile setting. As you’ll find, Mac Gargan is arguably far better off than Eddie Brock was.

Larry Hama continues on with License to Kill, along with artist Derec Aucom. It’s such a strange, yet easily forgettable story arc. More than anything, it’s the most “UnVenom” of Venom stories. Then again, this is Larry Hama, Mr. GI Joe himself, so it’s par for the course. You can tell he really just felt like telling stories about guns and explosions and stuff instead.

We begin with a plane hijacking. Behind it are members of the Neo Crypto-Fascist Right-Thinkers Party, out to… oh, who knows. The funny thing is that when they eventually deal with Venom, they’re less scared and more offended that he’s a foreign alien-hugger.

Back when I was a kid, I didn’t see much difference between someone like the Punisher and someone like Venom. After all, they wore black and were good guys who killed lots of bad guys, right? Sure, Frank used his guns and Eddie used his costume, but they’re basically the same. Well… no. No, they aren’t and this pretty much explains why.

Let’s say the government made Frank Castle play ball and take care of this terrorist situation. After being deployed by a higher plane, he’d glide onto the jet, attach to it with magnetic devices, figure out some stealthy way to actually get inside the plane, sneak around undetected, snap one terrorist’s neck from behind, slit another one’s throat, throw that knife into the third one, disarm the last guy and then strangle him to death before quietly jumping out the emergency exit and parachuting down to land. You know, something like that.


Venom would.

This doesn’t go over too well with his superiors and they want him eliminated. Smith talks them down and makes a better suitable suggestion. He ends up shooting Eddie with a tranquilizer dart and has his men operate on him. Eddie wakes up to find out that a thermite bomb has been implanted in his chest. If he doesn’t follow orders like a good psychopath, he’s fried. Seeing what’s left of the last guy to disobey those orders, Eddie consents to playing nice.

So Venom’s working for the government and if he acts out of turn, they can press a button and take care of his behavior? This really is the prototype for Venom in the Thunderbolts.

And before I forget, the series has a weird problem involving Eddie’s hair. For about half of the series, he’s sporting the mullet and that’s all well and good, but it switches between long and short by the story. To put it in perspective…

Sinner Takes All: long hair.
Along Came a Spider/The Hunted: short hair.
The Hunger: long hair.
Tooth and Claw: short hair.
On Trial: long hair.
License to Kill: short hair.

Make a decision already!

Eddie is briefed on a group of river rafters who were sprayed by a plane. They all died of some kind of plague. It was an example set up by Dr. Sergei Yesenofsky, a former bio-weapon engineer for the USSR. Since the fall of communism, he’s been on his own and he’s threatening to destroy the world unless he gets $20 million. To tread water on the situation, the government wants Eddie to pay him off.

Driving on the way to the meeting, Eddie is followed by Smith in an exterminator van. The bomb in Eddie’s chest doubles as a microphone and speaker so they can keep in touch. Things are going all right until a couple dope dealers in the midst of a gun fight drive around them. Shit, I hate it when that happens! Even though they’re in the middle of a lonely stretch of road, Eddie knows that these guys can make the next exit and take their gun fight into a heavily-populated area. Despite Smith’s warnings, Eddie turns into Venom and forces them to crash their cars.

Now that that guy mentions it, I would love to see a miniseries where Spider-Man and his enemies are re-imagined as pro wrestlers.

“Because of Spider-Man’s interference, the innocent fan-favorite Eduardo Brock has lost his ‘Loser Leaves Town’ match against the Stanley ‘The Sin-Eater’ Carter due to disqualification! But although Eduardo can never show his face in the Amazing Wrestling Federation ever again… that will not stop me and my mask from getting our revenge as the unbeatable luchador EL VENENO! We’re gonna pin you two out of three falls!”

Man! This idea has legs! I know I should be talking about that secret agent crap, but think about how great this would be! Like, Commissioner Osborn coming out with a microphone to put Spider-Man in a handicap match against “The Stampeders” Rhino and Ox. And if Daredevil even thinks of interfering, he’s going to lose his title shot against Bullseye at the “Brand New Day” pay-per-view.

…yeah. Never mind.

Smith gets Venom under control with threat of exploding him and they get back to business. They go to a beach, where Eddie is to take a raft out, meet some of Yesenofsky’s contacts and pay them off. He meets a handful of armed women in wetsuits and gives them the money, but due to Smith’s orders, Eddie asks them for a receipt, which causes them to laugh him off and open fire at him. Smith is shocked – SHOCKED – that Eddie would respond to this by firing back at them.

If it hasn’t hit you yet, the villain’s name in this story is Dr. Yes. Yikes.

Dr. Yes hears about the ensuing firefight and sends “Kostya” up for assistance. Kostya turns out to be a bigass mech that stares down the swimming Eddie, all while Smith is giving Eddie strict orders not to turn into Venom. So instead, Eddie is beaten into paste by the robot, then dragged underwater towards Dr. Yes’ hidden lair. Along with the money, of course. Upon hearing the robot’s name, Smith informs Eddie that Kostya is not a robot, but Dr. Yes’ son in a giant suit of armor.

Due to being underwater, Eddie and Smith can no longer communicate, which sucks for Eddie, because Smith is giving him full permission to become Venom again. Eddie meets with Dr. Yes, who explains his motivations. The nerve toxin he’s using to threaten the world is something he had created years ago, back when the USSR was still around. His son Kostya accidentally got exposed to the gas and started dying. Dr. Yes created a containment suit, which became his giant robot armor. It’s very expensive and with the fall of communism, he has to take jobs with lesser countries and occasionally blackmail the world.

Get it? His son’s name is Kostya. Double yikes.

Kostya doesn’t have too long to live and when he dies, Dr. Yes will destroy the world out of revenge. He shows off Kostya’s new Red Flag containment suit (a giant, red suit of armor with a hammer and sickle on the front) for a bit until one of his pet assassins informs him that the money Eddie brought was both counterfeit and with a tracker. Dr. Yes leaves Eddie to be killed by his heavily-armed ladies.

Eddie simply becomes Venom and tears into the attackers. They all appear to be cyborgs, which Venom considers to be a let down.

The situation changes things for Dr. Yes. With a symbiote, he might finally have a cure for his son. Kostya sends an army of androids after Venom, but Venom just mows through them all. You would think that introducing a giant Soviet mech villain would lead to a Venom vs. giant robot fight, but strangely no. You see, Smith and the other government guys have figured out where Dr. Yes’ underwater hideout is and have sent a nuclear missile at them. Kostya senses this and flies off to grab the missile and move it away from the base. As he sinks deeper into the ocean, he talks about how now that he’s so near death, he realizes how important life is and that his father is wrong.

As that goes on, Venom finishes off the cyborgs and goes up against the end boss cyborg, in the form of a big, fat woman with a plasma cannon. Venom quickly dodges the blast and decapitates her before commandeering the plasma cannon and using it to blow apart the walls and breach the underwater base. He swims out and surfaces, the nuclear missile explodes with the shockwaves destroying what’s left of the base and everything seems fine. Of course, Venom is pissed at Smith for both trying to nuke him and leaving him with only an inflatable raft to get back to shore instead of opting for a helicopter rescue.

We see that Dr. Yes survived the adventure by piloting the containment armor Kostya wore prior to the Red Flag armor. Dr. Yes talks about how he’s going to get his revenge on Venom by killing him very slowly sometime in the future, but we all know that nothing will ever come of that.

The new status quo then takes us to this…

Our last stop tonight is Sign of the Boss, a two-issue arc by writer Ivan Velez Jr. and artist Tom Derenick. This is a very amusing couple of issues featuring a Ghost Rider crossover, which makes sense, since Velez was a regular with that hero’s series.

The first few pages make me wish Velez got to write more of the character because I feel like he got Venom. We see Venom swinging through the streets of New York City, carrying a sack over his shoulder, happily singing his own theme song (“Venom Man! Venom Man! Friendly Symbiote Venom Man! Spins a web, any size! Catches thieves, makes them die!”) and musing over hiring Madonna to sing it on the radio, all while completely unaware that people are running for their lives and nearby cars are crashing into each other. He goes into his hidden apartment and opens the sack to reveal a mountain of candy bars, which he gluttonously digs into.

I really miss the whole chocolate factor of Venom. It really added to the fun and absurdity of the character. Brian Michael Bendis will have my eternal gratitude and respect if that thing Norman Osborn fed Mac Gargan Venom in Dark Avengers #1 to keep him under control turns out to be nothing more than a bar of chocolate.

Smith shows up in Venom’s home and introduces him to Agent Jones, a woman who outright hates Venom and would like nothing more than having him killed in the line of duty. Venom’s given the mission of protecting Franco Santera, the soon-to-be-recognized president of a South American country San Gregorio. Against government opinion, he’s going to do a speech about human rights at St. Jude’s Church and since the government isn’t officially behind him, Venom is to protect him in an unofficial capacity. Eddie just has to wait for the signal before he can spring into action.

Daniel Ketch, the Ghost Rider of the time, goes to the church with his friend Melissa to see the speech. Santera is a horrible dictator who has killed many, but thanks to his new wife and finding God, he’s turned over a new leaf. He’s protected by a mutant bodyguard named Stigmata. Melissa thinks Santera should be locked up, but Daniel thinks he deserves a second chance.

I’ve gone too many paragraphs without showing an image of something. How about Eddie Brock in drag, reacting to a choir of children singing too high?

I think I’ve made up my mind. Velez’s Eddie Brock is the best Eddie Brock. Sorry, Kaminski.

As can be guessed, Santera’s speech does not go so well. Several in the audience stand up with machine guns, claiming that they’ll kill Santera for all the evils he’s done. The bodyguard Stigmata leaps into action, taking apart the small army, but is then faced with this motherfucker.

Robot spider legs and beautiful rock and roll hair. Two things I’ve always wanted to have. Though his villain alias is about as retarded as my online handle, so there’s always that.

Teraknid stabs Stigmata with one of his legs and injects her with a poison, knocking her out for the rest of the issue.

Downstairs, Sister Venom plays along with the hostage situation until finally getting the signal from Agent Jones. With a sigh and muttering of, “Praise the Lord,” he busts into action and kills a gunman for scaring the children. In front of the children, of course.

He busts through the floor and goes up against Teraknid. Teraknid stabs Venom and injects him with poison, but Venom simply vomits a bunch of green gunk and claims it gave him a nice buzz. He incapacitates Teraknid and moves on to prevent President Santera from becoming a martyr at the hands of the terrorists. In all the confusion, a priest is shot.

Venom doesn’t agree with the priest’s views, but before they can debate, Ghost Rider finally shows up and attacks our toothy anti-hero.

“They will be punished… just not destroyed.”

“You’re wasting time. They’re bad guys. They’re disposable.”

“It’s that sort of reasoning that makes you so dangerous. And that’s why the Hellfire inside of me calls out your name.”


“There is much latent and misguided evil inside of you. You reek of neurotic wrongdoing.”


“It’s time to put an end to your sins… punish you for the past. Prepare as my Penance Stare burns the evil from your soul.”

The cool thing here is that Venom seems legitimately spooked at Ghost Rider. I guess that should be expected when he’s a character whose origin involved him going to a church to pray. I’m surprised there’s no mention of that here.

Meanwhile, we see that Santera really isn’t as righteous as he suggested. He’s angry at Venom and Ghost Rider ruining his plans and gets in an argument with his wife about the “script”. Teraknid comes to and through his flashbacks shows that he and Santera had this all planned out. Santera was supposed to attempt to martyr himself to the terrorists, causing them all to see the light and let him live. The US would eat it all up and back San Gregorio, thereby making Santera even more powerful. Teraknid figures he might be able to save the situation by taking out Venom and Ghost Rider, but then a nun bangs him in the head with a statue of the Virgin Mary from behind.

I don’t care how cool you look. When a nun beats you up, you have to quit the villain game forever.

Ghost Rider finally chains down Venom and prepares for the Penance Stare. The mask retracts, as the symbiote is afraid of the Hellfire.

This part makes me kind of sad in that it’s such a great moment for Venom in terms of trying to be a good guy, but to have it so late in his hero run hurts. If this scene took place maybe three years earlier, it might mean something.

Since Ghost Rider would be a hypocrite about his talk about second chances earlier, he lets Venom go for now. Venom thinks about how he wants to get his revenge on Ghost Rider for that humiliation, but… he’s… um… busy now. Yeah. Busy. They’ll fight another time, but if they don’t… you know, it’s not the end of the world. But he’d totally kick that scary fire skull guy’s ass. But he won’t. Because he’s busy and stuff.

(By the way, a Ghost Rider vs. Venom story from years earlier showed that the Penance Stare doesn’t work on Venom. Shhhhh!)

Santera has lost his patience and wants all the witnesses killed. A nun wakes up Stigmata, who turns into some kind of energy angel being and screams down at Santera for his sins. Santera opens fire, but the bullets won’t hit her. I don’t even know why they even introduced this never-again-used character when this happens next.

Cool! I wonder how much damage Parasite Stare does in Ultimate Alliance.

Outside, all the different agents and officers finally finish the usual dick-waving contest of who’s in charge so they can finally go in there and take care of the hostage situation. Upon opening the door, Ghost Rider rides out on his bike and Venom swings away, causing them all to wonder what the hell just happened.

Venom later debriefs Agents Smith and Jones at his place. All while he’s lying on a couch, eating a chocolate cake and there’s a Spider-Man poster in the background with darts sticking out. As they discuss, Stigmata was supplied by the Vatican as both a bodyguard and a spy to see if Santera was on the up-and-up. Now they have custody of him and keep him in a hidden prison in the mountains, where Santera spends his days atoning and praying while Ghost Rider’s handprint is etched in his face.

I always forget about this story – probably due to it being two issues long – but it’s easily one of the better Venom stories. It’s so damn wacky. Like this segment, which just about sums up the entire series:

Venom is a WAY better role model than Sting from the WCW comic.

Sadly, Sign of the Boss #2 is really Venom #57, meaning that there are only three more issues to go. Well, three more issues and a Spider-Man one-shot that leads into it. Join me next time as, with a heavy heart, I go into Venom: Finale.

Plus I’ll cover the lamest Venom comic you’ve never heard of!

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6 comments to “We Care a Lot Part 10: The Symbiote Who Loved Me”

  1. Nice Dredd homage on the Licence To Kill cover.

  2. You know Gav, you’re right. Venom is pretty great when his over-the-top extremeness is deflated by his mental image of himself as a wholesome Adam West good guy. Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire would dominate with that kind of premise.

    Ostrander/Mandrake could make a good run, too. “Come on you tar-faced son of a bitch, come to Papa!”

  3. I’m probably mistaken, but besides the short (but funny) bit with him ironing his clothes in the Toxin mini-series, isn’t the trial scene the last time Kasady appears in a comic?

  4. @Boselaw: Nah, he showed up several times in Howard Mackie’s Spider-Man run. But that’ll be for another time.

  5. “Once they’re in transport, Eddie asks about what all this is. Smith hands him a badge. For amnesty, Eddie is going to be a secret agent for the government. Hm… What’s the best way to react to that plot development? Oh, I know!”

    Haha, that’s almost exactly like what happened in the fifth season of The A-Team!

  6. These blog entries are so great because Venom is the only Marvel character i give a shit about lately, and you approach them with a great sense of humor.

    Again, great blog.