We Care a Lot Part 12: A Factory of Loose Ends

May 17th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last time on We Care a Lot, I covered the last days of Venom’s solo series. In my last few articles, I totally forgot to cover an obscure comic dedicated to him by the name of Uncanny Origins #7. Uncanny Origins was a somewhat short-lived series where each issue went into the backstory of a random Marvel character, featuring cartoony art by Dave Hoover. Each issue cost only a dollar, so you can’t really hate on it too much.

Bob Budiansky writes through Venom’s origins and story up to his Lethal Protector days.

“He thinks of himself as a superhero – dedicated to defending the innocent from evildoers everywhere. But the reality is that he is a grotesque parody of everything he believes himself to be, a superhero in his mind and his mind alone… for no good deed he does in the present can ever erase the evil of his own wretched past!”

Aw, come on. Don’t be so pessimistic.

The opening couple pages are interesting in that they’re new to us. We see Eddie Brock, smarmy as hell, visiting his ex-wife at a restaurant. He’s pretty high on himself for his successful Sin-Eater stories, but that just pisses off Ann and makes her leave less than a minute into their meeting. Everything always has to be about Eddie. Eddie defends himself, claiming that he’s doing the public a service with honest reporting, but she won’t listen.

Then we see Eddie being called to work and the subsequent firing. From there, it shows the events of his first appearance from his side. After his initial defeat, we get a montage page about how he has lost to Spider-Man again and again, until it gets into how Venom is out to be a good guy. It recreates the events where Ann gets Venom to leave Spider-Man alone and that’s the end of the issue.

I do like how Budiansky helps bring a little understanding to Eddie’s rage by showing another reason the Sin-Eater situation has ruined his life.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! What’s this about girls on girls?

Enough of that. Let’s get to the real article.

As I’ve covered, Venom is a character who had a demented righteous streak that led him to his own solo series under the guise of countless miniseries strung together. To last a full five years is definitely impressive, but even I will admit that ultimately, it wasn’t all that good. Intriguing – at least to me, which is why I’ve been writing all this – but it was a series of mostly bad comics filled with untapped potential and some really good ideas.

As for why it failed, I still think a lot of it has to do with how a lot of it felt like a revolving door of writers. A lot of cool ideas were brought to the forefront, but the next guy tossed a lot of it aside to write his own badass crossover story. Then when Larry Hama came around, there was more solidarity and any flaws came strictly from his flaws as a writer. He reused supporting characters and concepts, but they lacked the entertainment value of Venom’s chocolate addiction and the homeless society in San Francisco.

After Venom: Finale finished up, Venom didn’t appear in comics for almost two years. He wouldn’t be brought back until Howard Mackie’s dual run on Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider-Man. I was on my comic reading hiatus during this point, but I’m sure reading the series around then would have pissed me off something fierce.

Howard Mackie has had experience writing Venom. He wrote Venom: Spirits of Vengeance and Venom: Separation Anxiety, the latter of which I didn’t think was that bad. He wrote a big, incomprehensible crossover with Spider-Man, Ghost Rider and Johnny Blaze taking on Venom, Demogoblin and a bunch of demons. He wrote that abysmal comic about Venom and Wolverine running around in the dream world. He also wrote a comic that gave us this.

You know what? I’m not even going to give you context. You already know that an explanation will water it down. But Goddamn, look at that piece of awesome.


I guess Howard Mackie personifies my fears of my own writing. I’d like to think I have great ideas for my own comic and all that, but there’s the nagging feeling that a great idea will only go so far. You have to write it competently and see it through. Mackie can’t do that. He’ll come up with a good idea and put it in motion. Then he gets distracted and moves on to something else. The man can’t write endings. People rag on Grant Morrison for being bad at payoff, but he has nothing on Howard Mackie.

All the issues discussed here take place between late 1999 and late 2000. Peter and Mary Jane are having some major relationship troubles, compounded with some psycho stalker pestering MJ with creepy phone calls. Most of these issues are drawn by John Romita, Jr., with others drawn by John Byrne, Lee Weeks and Erik Larsen. JRJR’s Venom is an interesting specimen. The classic depiction of Venom is to be a buffer and taller version of Spider-Man. He’s supposed to give the idea that not only is he the dark shadow of Spider-Man, but he’s bigger and stronger. He’s the Sabretooth to his Wolverine or the Wario to his Mario.

Romita’s Venom is less about muscles and size and more about lankiness and being outright creepy. His fingers look like rakes and he appears constantly distorted. I’m not sure I’d like that to be his regular look, but I can still dig the effort to give him a new twist.

Mackie and Romita start the show with Peter Parker: Spider-Man #9. As we last saw Venom, Agent Daryll Smith separated Eddie from the symbiote in a process that killed the symbiote. Then they arrested Eddie Brock. I guess that symbiote must have been sleeping or something because without any reference to it supposedly being dead, it’s alive and well on the first page of this comic.

Maybe not well. It has no host and doesn’t seem to enjoy its attempts at taking over random, crazy homeless guys. He wants his crazy homeless guy. He wants Brock… or Parker. Yeah, Parker is probably better for this. Besides, the symbiote remembers where Peter lives.

Aunt May tells Peter about the wackjob calling up Mary Jane with threatening phone calls. Peter immediately believes it to be Eddie Brock, who had recently escaped prison. The guy has no powers or anything, so he’d probably just pick on MJ. Since Eddie isn’t the easiest guy to find, Spider-Man visits Arthur Stacy for help. We see the hungry symbiote is following Spider-Man around during all of this.

It confronts Peter in his bedroom later on.

Peter refuses the symbiote and says that he’ll fight it and destroy it if he has to. The symbiote accepts this right off the bat and leaves to go find Eddie. Peter is about to go follow it in hopes of tracking down Eddie himself, but then he gets a knock on the front door and has to deal with company. After that’s dealt with, he finds out that Arthur Stacy has a lead on Eddie. He swings off to find him and we see that the symbiote is following him.

Eddie lives in a dank hotel, spending his time praying for an end to his constant suffering. The dude has nothing going for him these days. His landlord breaks into his room and tells him he wants both the rent money and blackmail money to keep him from telling the cops about him. After the landlord leaves, Spider-Man shows up. Eddie breaks a chair over Spider-Man’s shoulder, but it does no damage. Spider-Man grabs him by the throat and demands to know why he’s been torturing Mary Jane with phone calls. Eddie has no idea what he’s talking about.

Then we see that the symbiote is there. It had followed Spider-Man to find Eddie. Surprisingly, Eddie is completely reluctant. He yells at Spider-Man for bringing the creature with him and runs for his life to get away from it.

Spider-Man searches the rivers for hours and finds nothing. Unseen by him, Venom crawls out from the river and with his mind again clouded, Eddie wonders why he was running away in the first place.

We’re off to a pretty good start, to tell the truth. Other than the symbiote not being dead with no explanation, Mackie gives us the character back over the course of one issue in a way that makes enough sense. Let’s watch him botch it.

The next issue, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #10, begins with Carnage in prison. What I’m about to go over is arguably the only Carnage situation that’s even stupider than that time he and Venom fought inside the internet. Ready?

Underneath a massive prison complex, there is a special cell dedicated to Cletus Kasady. It’s heavily guarded and the personnel are all heavily armored and armed with enough sonics to knock him back if he ever tries to escape. A janitor is mopping the floor and is told to be wary for Kasady’s cell. He then reveals himself to be Eddie Brock, who fully becomes Venom and disregards his mop. Cletus is confused, wondering if Eddie’s there to break him out or what. Rather, Venom wants to steal away the Carnage symbiote and absorb it back into himself, I guess to make himself Super Shin Venom.

Cletus points out all the armed guards pointing their sonics and flame throwers at Venom. Venom tells him to wait for a moment and one panel later we see him standing over a pool of dead bodies. Yes, a bunch of guys especially trained to kill Carnage at a moment’s notice and armed to the teeth with everything that can put Venom and/or Carnage down are effortlessly slaughtered in a way that Mackie doesn’t even feel like showing us. What the fuck?

Even more confusing is that Carnage doesn’t even choose to fight back when Venom comes for him. He just pleads with him to let him be his partner. Venom says that the Venom/Carnage team will be unstoppable, but Cletus will have no part in it.

It’s a strange direction, but let’s give it a shot.

What is amusing is that Venom has a notepad of stuff he needs to do. He’s already killed his jerk landlord and he’s stolen Carnage’s symbiote. He has “Kill Spider-Man!” listed several times, but up next on the agenda is destroying the Daily Bugle.

Venom goes to the Bugle and kidnaps Jameson. Back when the Sin Eater scandal happened, Jameson wrote a scathing editorial about Eddie Brock that ruined his credibility even more. He brings him to the top of a bell on the roof of a church, telling him that if he can climb down himself, he’ll let him go. Spider-Man rescues Jameson and fights Super Shin Mega Venom.

Super Shin Ultra Mega Venom starts with the taunts about how Spider-Man seems to know how much stronger he is now and how that must scare the hell out of him. They get into their brawl and it’s pretty much every single Spider-Man vs. Venom fight you’ve ever seen. There is nothing about it that tells you that Super Shin Ultra Mega Killing Intent Venom is all that much stronger. By all rights, he should be punching out Thor or juggling garbage trucks, but all it is is another fight where Venom has the edge because he’s the stronger Spider-Man.

Hold on. So Mackie’s going with the plot thread that Venom can’t remember Spider-Man’s secret identity? This doesn’t even make sense. When Hama wrote it, I could at least assume that his memory was so messed up that even the symbiote forgot about it, but last issue we saw that the symbiote still knows Peter and where he lives. Why the hell doesn’t Eddie know?

Anyway, as you can see in that art, the Carnage symbiote is starting to disagree with Venom. He lets Spider-Man live for the moment so he can go off and deal with his problem alone. And so, Super Shin Ultra Mega Killing Intent God Ultra Neo Venom X swings off into the night.

After that, Jameson finds the unconscious Spider-Man and considers peaking under the mask. A later issue has Peter unsure if Jameson saw his face or not, but I didn’t see the resolution to that. Did they ever explain that or was that just another forgotten plot thread?

Speaking of forgotten plot threads, that’s the last time they ever bring up the whole merged Venom/Carnage thing. Yes, all eating Carnage did for Venom was cause him to put off killing Spider-Man. In terms of Venom, it’s never brought up ever again.

With Cletus, it leads to an issue where he escapes prison, goes to a hardware store, strips to his underwear and pours red paint all over himself. Then in a later issue, he gets a new symbiote that looks and acts exactly like the original Carnage symbiote while in the Negative Zone.

It’s like when Landfill died in Beerfest and his twin brother showed up at the funeral.

“And if I could just ask one favor.”

“Name it.”

“If it wouldn’t be too uncomfortable, I was hoping maybe you guys could call me Landfill, in honor of him.”

“Yeah, sure, sure! It would be like… we never lost Landfill.”

Venom next appears in the new Sinister Six arc in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #12 and Peter Parker: Spider-Man #12. I’ve already covered this two-parter a year and a half ago when I discussed instances of Venom vs. Sandman. Because of that, I’ll just gloss over the main parts.

The Sinister Six are experiencing some inner-conflict. Doc Ock is at odds with the others. Sandman becomes the new leader and there’s this big clusterfuck of a battle with Spider-Man, Senator Ward and Arthur Stacy. At the end of the first issue, Venom shows up out of nowhere, strangles Spider-Man, and asks to join the team. Spider-Man escapes and although Sandman doesn’t want anything to do with Venom, Mysterio figures he should be of help.

So for just a few minutes, the Sinister Six is made up of Sandman, Mysterio, Kraven, Vulture, Electro and Venom. By the time they get to where Spider-Man and Senator Ward are, Sandman turns on Venom for no reason whatsoever. Then everyone starts fighting, Senator Ward’s powers awaken, he shocks everyone, and everyone just goes home like their baseball game got called for rain.

Why not just go after him now? What, because the issue is almost over?

“We were going to kill Spider-Man today, but then he just kind of swung away and we were like… eh, fuck it.”

Then in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #16, Spider-Man gets involved as Venom and Sandman fight it out at the Bugle. Due to the humiliation Venom suffered at the hands of Sandman’s villain team, Venom is out to go kill every member of the Sinister Six. He takes a big bite out of Sandman’s stomach, which causes Sandman to escape and temporarily die off in a later issue.

With Sandman out of the way, Spider-Man and Venom fight some more. Spider-Man – speaking for Mackie – goes on a tirade that basically is there to shit on Venom’s hero run. Yes, because this is so much better.

Well… okay. I will say that the idea of the Spider-Man vs. Venom vs. Sinister Six dynamic is a very cool one. But as you can already tell, it isn’t going to pan out very well.

Remember how super powerful Venom is supposed to be? Yeah, well, now a simple lighter gives him the willies.

Come on. That’s like having Dracula react like a Tex Avery villain because he just picked up a calculator and there’s a plus sign on one of the buttons.

(Note to self: pitch vampire/calculator idea to Perry Bible Fellowship)

Lame writing or not, Venom’s taken out Sandman for the time being. He continues his wrath in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #17. Mysterio hangs out with Electro on a rooftop and they discuss how Venom is kind of a threat to their plans. Electro says that he can take care of Venom, which causes the new leader Mysterio to vanish with the message, “Do this for me.”

The instant Mysterio is gone, Venom jumps Electro from behind and taunts him about how he’s the one who will die. Venom mauls Electro and… just kind of leaves him there. He just runs off after punching and slashing the guy a bit. Uh… yeah. Way to beat up and not kill that guy you hate, you evil, bloodthirsty monster.

At least the story’s going somewhere. Sandman’s out of the picture and Electro is, uh, disposed of. That leaves Mysterio, Vulture and Kraven. That last one shows promise, doesn’t it? Venom is hunting Kraven the Hunter. This has potential.

Kraven refuses to allow this and decides to hunt down Venom himself. This will be his most challenging prey, and his first course of action is to ambush Spider-Man with blow darts and a net. Then he ties him up in the middle of the park and uses him as bait. Venom shows up, but already knows what Kraven is up to.

Spider-Man breaks out of the bonds and reluctantly goes off to stop the bad guys from killing each other. Venom and Kraven are out for each other’s blood in the forest, with Venom showing respect towards Kraven. He thought he’d be the easiest one to deal with, but he’s still standing tall. Kraven presses a button on his remote and causes a wall of flame to explode nearby Venom in an attempt to trap him. Venom reacts by slicing Kraven across the stomach, badly wounding him.

Spider-Man comes to the rescue, but is quickly overpowered yet again by Venom. Spider-Man steals Kraven’s remote and causes a full circle of fire to erupt around Venom, completely trapping him. Kraven, despite injury, wants to walk through the flames and finish the job, but Spider-Man won’t let him. He punches Kraven out and has no choice but to get him medical attention while Venom will be able to escape.

So where does this leave Venom? I’m going to let you guess this one. Does he:

A) Go after the Vulture.
B) Go after Mysterio.
C) Finish the job on Kraven the Hunter.
D) None of the above. The story is completely forgotten about by the next time we see him two issues later.

*sigh* Do I even have to tell you this one?

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #19 takes place during the time Peter thinks Mary Jane has died in a plane crash. He’s pretty mopey about it and to make matters worse, someone stole his Spider-Man costume. Since he doesn’t have any spares around, he goes to Aunt May’s place and finds an old black costume he hasn’t worn in years. At least he’s wearing it out of necessity and not because, “RARRR! I’m hardcore now! I’m coming to kill you, Kingpin!”

Eddie Brock has the love of his life on his mind too. He’s sick of his Venom lifestyle and sick of the shitty places he’s forced to live. He shows that by murdering a rat in his apartment. Maybe that rat joined the Sinister Six when we weren’t paying attention.

For the first time in a while, we see Ann Weying, Eddie’s ex-wife. We haven’t seen her since Along Came a Spider. Nowadays, she’s a total shut in with extreme agoraphobia. She just can’t handle opening the door as apparently being She-Venom has caused her to live in a constant state of fear.

Eddie shows up at her door, completely dapper with a nice suit and a bouquet of roses. He wants her back in his life and claims he’ll do whatever it takes. This would be a nice gesture if he wasn’t completely ignoring how Ann is lying on the floor in fetal position during all of this. He thinks it’s just his awkwardness with talking to women.

To snap her out of this funk, he opens up the windows to let some sunshine in. Ann freaks out even more, as she sees Spider-Man swinging around the city in his black costume. She thinks it’s the symbiote and screams.

Ann tries to tell Eddie, but he’s already gone. She tries to tell him that it’s his symbiote causing her to act like this. It’s calling out to her, wanting to be with her again. She looks out the window and decides that she’ll make sure it doesn’t happen ever again.

Venom, meanwhile, attacks Spider-Man for giving Ann the heebie-jeebies. Spider-Man’s pretty cool with this, since it does away with the trouble of having to track down Venom on his own. The fight goes to the streets and when Spider-Man discovers that Eddie merely wants to have a normal life with Ann, he gets soft. In a very rare instance, the two have a civilized conversation. Granted, they’re having this conversation while Venom has an entire bus pressed over his head, but it’s something. Spider-Man will let Venom deal with his ex-wife in peace, but he will eventually have to track him down and bring him to justice. Venom agrees to those terms.

Then they hear a scream in the distance. Venom can tell it’s Ann. Spider-Man decides to high-tail it out of there and leaves Venom to run back to Ann’s apartment. He sees that she had taken her own life by jumping out the window. Being Venom, you can figure out how he handles something like this.

“He did this! If it wasn’t for him this never would have happened! He took my wife from me! Now… we are going to take everything away from him!”

Great. Mackie killed off a halfway decent character for no reason other than making Venom hate Spider-Man. As you might recall, Venom already hates Spider-Man more than pretty much anyone else. Then again, this is the same guy who had Venom – who is stronger than Spider-Man – eat Carnage for the sake of making him stronger than Spider-Man.

You know what? Fine. Let’s pretend that this is a good idea. Venom has a super mad-on for Spider-Man and now he’s REALLY going to make him pay.

Venom shows up next in Amazing Spider-Man #22, where he visits Ann’s grave and swears revenge on Spider-Man. Good, good. Then someone in the shadows interrupts him and says that he needs the symbiote for study. Venom runs at our mystery man off-panel and gets dominated. The symbiote is separated from Eddie and kidnapped.

Later on, Spider-Man sees Eddie Brock fighting police officers. Eddie has nothing left and demands to be able to enter the nearby church. When Spider-Man makes himself known, Eddie lashes out at him, only to get punched unconscious.

The symbiote is shown to be in the custody of Senator Ward, who Mackie had been setting up as a big villain. Ward has an alien virus inside him, so he’s kidnapped the symbiote in order to “learn” stuff from it. What that actually entails, I don’t know. All I know is that in the next issue, we get these panels.

“Welp. Done learning! Time to let you go!”

And the symbiote is free to rejoin with Eddie. Surely they will merge again and go kill Spider-Man, much like Venom has been frothing over since his ex-wife died. Right? I mean, we’re going to get some attempt at violent revenge. We have to!


Not even! After this pointless cameo in the Senator Ward arc, Venom would not appear in the pages of Marvel’s comic library for two and a half years! This is a guy with priorities, eh?

Let me tell you something about being a fan of Venom. Actually, this goes with being a fan of any character that is regularly written badly, so I’m sure some of you can understand this. When it’s been a while since your character has shown up in any story, you get very optimistic when you find out about a future appearance on the horizon. Maybe this time they’ll get him/her right! And you get that first issue and… it’s not so good. But you hold out hope, because this is one of your favorite characters and you really want it to work out. So you keep going. And it still sucks. In fact, it even gets worse. There is no hope. At one point, you have to cut your losses and decide, “Fuck this.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Daniel Way’s Venom.

We’ll start on this 18-issue horror next time.

Hey, anyone else suddenly in the mood for Twizzlers?

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16 comments to “We Care a Lot Part 12: A Factory of Loose Ends”

  1. You knwo who would make the perfect room-mates?


  2. There was a later issue, horrific in quality, where Mackie realised he’d never resolved the issue about the unmasking – so, while Jameson had been sold the S-Man’s mask and immediately sent it off for forensic testing, there was a moment wherein he turned and something along the lines of “Blah blah Parker I didn’t unmask him blah because I’m the biger man blah blah I don’t even care, I just want him dead, I’m not even going to ask the forensic people any more blah harumph.” More notable was that thanks to the artist, everyone’s hair resembled a solid plastic piece glued to their scalps, Randy Robertson turned into Ebony White with dreadlocks, and the above scene took place with Peter’s hands bewilderingly locked in the Vulcan salute even while he was meat to be holding a camera.

    It’s a pity about how stupid Venom looks in Peter Parker: Spider-Man #16, because it’s the only issue ever written by Mackie that seemed halfway decent. No thought bubbles, introspection, metafictional examination of character – it actually seemed quite promising! They even managed to keep the character called The Squid in an issue written terribly even for Mackie (as a youth, Richard Parker apparently humiliated random strangers by spitting out sequences of non-sequiturs at them while they were trying to peacefully abuse their children), and he still makes cameos in recent issues.

  3. Also, that issue where Carnage paints himself red was funny as hell. It was meant to be establishing the tragic occurrence of MJ’s “death”, but it mainly involved a crazy guy running about dressed in paint trying to stab people. This was then topped when one of the guys fighting him in the street turns to find the Kingpin, randomly sitting in a cafe, trying to get his attention in order to indicate that he was abut to be attacked by Spider-Man.

    That was the sum total of Kingpin’s appearance in the story. Presumably, he just finished his coffee and left.

  4. You know, Eddie Brock having to write content-devoid bile articles to pay the bills after the Sin-Eater fiasco cost him his job has always been part of his backstory. In his first appearance, he states that it’s where he took the name “Venom” from.

    I haven’t read all these articles yet Gavok, but after reading that last paragraph, I was wondering if you’d ever stated why you were a fan of Venom in the first place.

  5. Re: The cover of Uncanny Origins #7

    Seeing “Spider-Man” rendered “Spiderman” is so common it’s hardly worth quibbling over, but it is kinda funny to see it on the cover of an actual Marvel Comic, even if Uncanny Origins wasn’t exactly a jewel in Marvel’s crown.

  6. I never realized that that entire red thing on the cover of Way’s #1 was his tongue. Good god.

  7. @Ryan White: You think that’s bad. SPOILERS: the series features Venom french-kissing Ben Grimm with the cavalier cry: “It’s Slobbering Time!”. Afterwards, the tongue becomes detached and Reed Richards holds it in a jar for further study.

  8. @Salieri: I’d read the shit out of that idea. “Single mercenary with mental issues looking for fellow shades-of-gray murderer to share apartment with. Must hate cancer. Please, no skulls on chest.”

    @VersasoVantare: I think I’ve stated it clearly enough in the last 11 articles (plus prologue). It’s just in-between 1998 and 2004, there were absolutely no halfway-decent Venom stories.

  9. @Salieri: You’re wrong about the tongue. They do something even more stupid with it, but that’ll be for a future article.

  10. @Gavok: I threw away all my back issues. Yet I still recall Mackie-era stuff that I didn’t even own more accurately…possibly the badder the writing, the more it seers itself into your memory?

  11. So who would be a good writer to start a new Venom (I guess Anti-Venom) series?

  12. Dear God, what is happening to Spidey in those She-Venom panels? His head is tucked under his knee, for crying out loud!

  13. Yeah, I stared at that panel for quite some time wondering what is going on with Spider-man’s body, there. I’m still not sure.

  14. @Rick Wears Pants: I know Zeb Wells is supposed to write a miniseries for Dark Reign: Anti-Venom, but I was really turned off by his Venom: Dark Origin series. Dan Slott has done a good job with the character so far, so I wouldn’t mind him doing more with Anti-Venom.

  15. That She-Venom bit was drawn by Erik Larsen and yeah, his artwork on Spider-Man during that period was pretty bad. According to him, he found the stories they were giving him so boring, he couldn’t work up any real enthusiasm and just phoned it in.

  16. Man, I loved that Landfill twist.