Rave : 1997 : Comprehensive word from Joel Mathias
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Well it is official. The Venom "limited" series that started in February 1993 has finally come to an end after a fifty-eight month run. The current story-arc, Venom: "Finale" (reviewed below), abruptly ends the spin-off and puts the Venom character on the "we can bring him back from the dead if we need him" shelf. As a fan of Venom, the recent turn of events are both welcomed and despised.
As a fan of Venom I am glad to see the title cancelled. With the exception of a few story-arcs, most of the Venom books we either adequate, poor or simply not interesting. Instead of using the uniqueness of the character (i.e. the alien/human symbiotic relationship) as a building block for interesting stories, most plots involved "who is Venom going to fight/team-up with next" or "time to tangle with Spider-Man again" and mindless, violent action. "It was a fairly arbitrary way to go, and it was done solely because the Powers That Be wanted a Venom book" admitted Venom editor Tom Brevoort (Wizard #72).
To make matters worse, some of the artists chosen to draw the books did an appalling job as some of books looked so "rushed out the door" it seemed like they came with fries, soft-drink and free wind-up toy. There was a point earlier this year where even I was hoping they would put the book (or the artists) out of its (their) misery. Still, through the mediocrity, there were things I liked about Venom.
Personally I find Venom a fascinating character and wonder if the lack of quality was intentional. "Reader interest weakened enough for Editor in Chief Bob Harras to justify killing it. The return on the book had declined to the point where any immediate financial reward was overshadowed by Bob's discomfort with the character starring in his own title." - Tom Brevoort (Wizard #72). What better way to kill interest - provide something uninteresting. Venom was always in the top 100 sales and usually sold better than other headline titles from Marvel and even some of the Spider-Man books.
I hope that the availability of Venom as a Spider-Man villain gives the writers freedom to write some good stories but what is there left to write? The entire relationship is black and white: kill Spider-Man. Venom didn't have world conquest or getting rich or snagging sexy babes on his villainous mind. He wanted Spider-Man dead, period. How many times can you write about that? The only creativity involved is how Spider-Man is going to cleverly escape the lunatic then live to see another day. Another point, do the Spider-Man books really need Venom back? Marvel has already brought three villains back from the dead (the original Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Kraven the Hunter). Sounds to me like Marvel needs some new blood to interest people not quick but guaranteed fixes.
Snides aside, it's a done deal. Judging by survey response from a poll I had at my "Symbiote Site" web page (RIP), about thirty percent of you wanted Venom back as a villain. About fifty percent of you wanted some other company to take control of the character and thought Marvel was doing a poor job (oh, the expletives I had to endure). The rest of you were nuts (sorry, but if the shoe fits). This information came from about 74 people, so please don't take it too seriously.
Oh well, what's done is done. More money for Taco Bell and art supplies.
Believe it or not, there are some Venom or related books that are worth reading.
- "Venom: The Hunger" was a gory, disgusting, four part series that interested the heck out of me. Written by Len Kaminski (who also wrote the Venom flashback "Seed of Darkness" a lot of people seemed to like), is only one of two books that I every grew impatient waiting for (the other being "Kingdom Come" by the way). The ending is predictable but the type of story encapsulates what the Venom limited series should have been - in interesting look at an outcast fighting against and dealing with unnatural circumstances and a dead-end life.
- "Venom: The Mace" is another typical "who are we fighting this week" series but for some reason I just liked it and I can't put into words why. Maybe it was they inky art?
- "Venom: Sinner Takes All" and "Venom: The Hunted" written by Larry Hama both feature wonderful ideas (the return of the Sin Eater and a symbiote predator) that are poorly put to words. Duncan Rouleau and Greg Luzniak get credits for decent art on these titles.
- "The Exile Returns" two-title Spider-Man crossover features the birth of the Scarlet Spider and some wonderful ideas, all at the expense of Venom who is defeated by the inexperienced and lucky Ben Reilly.