I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
I'll just get this right out of the way. . .I'm not a Spider-Man fan. As a comic book fan, I've absorbed the basic knowledge of Spider-Man by comic osmosis. I've seen some of the movies and cartoons. I own some Spidey comics that just sort of came into my collection by buying random boxes full of comics at auctions. He's crossed over into other comics I've read, but I've just never been interested in following any of his regular titles.
My awareness of Venom is similar to that of Spider-Man. . .mostly absorbed by comic fan osmosis. I knew the bare basics and that's about it. In other words, when I got this mini in a box of auction comics a few years ago, I bagged them, longboxed them, and forgot them. . .I never read them and wasn't interested in reading them.
BUT. . .
That's what this blog is all about, right? Digging deep and making discoveries lurking forgotten in their cardboard prison. So here we go. Let's do this!
VENOM: LETHAL PROTECTOR (Marvel)
I'd say the best thing about this first issue is the outstanding 90's-tastic red foil cover. Very nice!
Venom travels to San Francisco to get out of Spider-Man's way and try to be a hero in his own right. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a warm welcome and immediately finds himself hounded by the police.
He saves some homeless people from mobsters and they take him in, showing him the secret hidden city beneath San Fran. . .and before he even has the chance to say "Niiiice", he's attacked by guys in giant robot suits.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man sees news reports of Venom in San Fran and he decides it's his responsibility to take him in, so he jets off for the west coast.
The story is. . .okay. Lots of setup. It gets a bit wordy and some of Venom's "witty" quips are real clunkers. On the good side, we get a nice recap of Venom's origin.
The art is extremely hit and miss. Some panels are very nice, while others just seem unfinished with bland, almost nonexistent backgrounds. Also, the art is victim to a strange 90's trope of top-heavy, super-muscular characters with tiny feet. It just looks weird now.
Overall, this first issue is just okay. It seems a bit half-hearted and the art has some issues. I get the feeling this was a rush job to capitalize on Venom's sudden popularity.
Venom finds himself underground in a strange subterranean city of hostile hobos who don't want him there. Venom decides to find out what's making them be so mean to him and walks into a trap for his trouble. Meanwhile, Spider-Man gets a door slammed in his face by Eddie Brock's dad. And there's giant robot punching!
Once again, the awesome cover is the best part of the issue. The interior art is so 90's "edgy" that just looking at it makes me want to throw on some Nirvana for background jams while I try to ignore Venom's tiny feet supporting 600 pounds of muscle.
The story still seems to be in "setup" mode, with Spider-Man and Venom dancing around each other while they both do their thang. Once again, it's okay and not much better than that.
Venom is attacked by a squad of heavily-armed and armored mercenaries that he finds out were put together by the rich father of some rando he killed escaping custody a while back. He pretty much gets his ass handed to him as he's hounded across the city, barely escaping with his life. . .only to walk straight into ANOTHER trap set by the guy behind the hobo-hunting activities elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man hears the sad tale of little Eddie Brock from his nanny. It seems his dad never paid attention to him. Spidey feels sorry for him. We're supposed to feel sorry too. It's hard, though. . .considering Spider-Man doesn't even HAVE a dad. Now THAT'S sad.
Venom comes off as an entitled brat who needed validation for his every action and turned bad when he didn't get enough attention. A millennial in 1993. This comic was ahead of it's time!
I don't think that was what they were going for. I think they were trying to make Venom a sympathetic anti-hero. It might have worked then. It doesn't now.
All in all, once again this issue was okay. The art remains dodgy in that special 90's way, and the whole thing feels a little cheap and thrown together on short notice.
So I guess there was a meeting in the Marvel Bullpen where the discussion was how GREAT Venom and Carnage were going over with the kids. But NOW how to best capitalize on the new symbiote craze?
"Boobs?" came a quiet answer from the intern bringing in coffee. Loud cheering erupted and the intern was carried around the room on the shoulders of the delighted editorial staff.
And so they added boobs.
This issue is mostly taken up with a fight between Spider-Man and a female symbiote. After the battle, Spidey follows her as she escapes and ends up in the same desert base where Venom is being held prisoner.
Turns out they're pulling pieces of the alien off him and breeding more symbiotes to. . .er. . .be policemen in post-apocalyptic bunkers built for rich people who survive the end of civilization. Okaaaay. . .whatever gets the boobs on the page and Spidey on the scene, I guess.
This story has been skirting the edge of ridiculous from the first issue. It takes a step over that edge this time out. I don't think it's going back. . .
Spider-Man discovers Eddie Brock is imprisoned in the same secret mad scientist bunker that he followed the female symbiote back to. . .my, my, what a coincidence! So he helps him break out and regain the Venom symbiote so they can fight the FIVE other symbiotes that want to eat their faces. Yep. . .it's time for a Marvel RELUCTANT TEAM-UP™!
While making their escape, they discover that the hobos under San Francisco (remember them?) are protecting a huge stash of gold from over 100 years ago, and THAT'S why they are coming under attack. Venom decides to attack before they just blow the whole hidden city up to get at the gold.
The story here just seems like they were making it up as they go. Why would a group SO wealthy it can afford hidden apocalypse bunkers, giant robot suits, secret super-science laboratories, fleets of armed helicopters, and so on, need to bother homeless people in their secret underground city for their gold stash? I mean. . .the super secret laboratory itself must have cost enough to outweigh any gold gained by their plot unless the hobos are guarding a friggin' mound of gold that Smaug would be envious of.
It just feels like the Marvel powers-that-be were yelling "BUT HOW DOES IT END? THERE'S ONLY ONE ISSUE LEFT!" and the creative team came up with the back half of this mini during a five minute huddle while the secretary stalled the editor's phone call.
And so we come to the "epic" conclusion!
Spidey and Venom have a Marvel "Big Misunderstanding Fight That Turns Into A Team-Up™" as Venom tries to stop the villain from blowing up the underground hobo city and Spidey thinks Venom is the problem until they talk it out a bit. After they misunderstanding is cleared up, they team up to punch giant robots until the situation is resolved.
At the end of it all, Spidey leaves Venom in San Fran and returns to his hot redhead wife back East, Venom is pleased that his first outing as a hero killed a minimum of innocent bystanders, and the hobos change their mind and welcome a homicidal alien/human hybrid into their midst. All is well. . .happy ending!
Overall, this was a decent ending and it tied up the loose ends, leaving Venom set up in a base for Comic Code-Approved anti-hero shenanigans to come.
This mini is like a time capsule of 90's art and storytelling. . .and not one of the good time capsules with all sorts of awesome things from the past. No, this is like one of those time capsules where people scratch their head and wonder just what the hell they were thinking back when they made it.
I'm not saying it's all bad. I'm just saying it's definitely a relic of its time. If someone tried to pass this story off today, the internet would mercilessly let them know that 1993 called and they want their comics back.
But like I said. . .taken for what it is, it's not BAD, it's just not very good. It's okay at best. It just feels like something that was rushed out to capitalize on Venom's sudden popularity.
Up next. . .
I don't have the full run of this series, just some random issues, but like the Brave and The Bold that I reviewed a while back, each one is pretty much a one-shot story anyway. I'm talking Marvel's What If?
Daredevil, Phoenix, Wolverine, Punisher, Iron Man, Captain America, and Civil War. . .OH MY!
Be there or be square.
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