These two issues signal the return of one of the all-time classic Spider-man villains, Venom. In case you forgot, Spider-man and special agent Smith defeated Venom in Venom: Finale after fighting in Spider-Man: The Venom Agenda. The conclusion of "Finale" left the symbiote dead on the street in a steaming puddle, Eddie Brock in military custody with selective amnesia (not knowing Spider-man's identity), and Spider-Man thankful the whole thing was "finally" over.
Except it isn't... as we saw last issue.
|Pencils:||John Romita, Jr.|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Jr.|
At Manhattan Correctional Facility, cell of Cletus Kasady, in front of six or so fully armored and armed guards, a lowly man with a mop works his way to Cletus's cell then morphs into Venom. A page later, all the guards are (probably) dead allowing Venom to rip Kasady's carnage symbiote off then digest it. Back to the Parker place where Pete and Jill Stacy work their way into a "close moment" while preparing for Mary Jane's return.
Later that night, Venom scratches "Kill my landlord" and "Get symbiote back from Carnage" off his "Kill Spider-man" dominated to-do list. Next on the list: "Destroy the Daily Bugle". Back at the Parker palace, Jill Stacy leaves Pete to face Mary Jane (after a quick peck on the cheek). While wandering about inside and outside his place, thinking about Brock and the possible return of Venom, he notices - gasp - Venom! Spider-man leaps into action leaving the romantic dinner table behind. Elsewhere, Mary Jane gets into a cab with a mysterious cabbie with a "throat thing" (I'm sure this means something, but then again the way things are going it might not). At the Daily Bugle, Brock dumps a container of bottled water on jolly Jonah before morphing into Venom then kidnapping him.
Venom takes J.J. to the same church where Peter originally shed the symbiote and Venom was born. Spider-man appears from nowhere, saving Jonah and engaging Venom. Venom blames Spider-man for everything, they fight, Spider-man tries to use the bells (sound being the big weakness of symbiotes) but, awww, Venom stole the clappers earlier. Just as Venom is about to kill Spider-man (not bothering to look under the mask to learn Spider-man's true identity, by the way), Venom starts belching with some red (Carnage symbiote) tendrils escaping. Venom exits, leaving Spider-man stunned and Jameson about to remove Spider-man's mask.
To end it all, Mary Jane returns to the romantic dinner setting only to get a phone call threatening Peter.
First of all, let me start by saying that I was a big Venom fan. I always liked the character. I also do not follow the Spider-man series as religiously as others do, mostly relying on sites like this to keep up with things. Needless to say, I was interested on how Venom would be integrated back into the Spider-man comic book series.
The story was a huge disappointment. Mackie's "writing" was filled with holes, inconsistencies, and many questions were left unanswered. Oh, lets start with the inconsistencies first, eh? Venom doesn't seem to know Spider-man's identity (selective amnesia, good grief) yet the symbiote follows "Parker" when he is Spider-man. Forget the amnesia thing (stupid idea to begin with) but you would think the symbiote would go "hey Brock, that's really Peter Parker, wink wink, nudge nudge" at some point? Also, wasn't Carnage left in a shell of ethereal energy by Silver Surfer (aka Carnage Cosmic)? Didn't the Carnage symbiote die way back when only to become part of Casady's blood (able to regenerate over and over again) in the Maximum Carnage fiasco? Then you have some wonderful things Mackie never explains like: how does Brock escape from prison without his symbiote, and how did the symbiote come back to life? It seems Mackie's "style" is to have the reader just accept events that occur outside the art and the story. Uh, Brock and the symbiote fall out a window into the convenient dark river at night, Spider-man eventually gives up on keeping his worst enemy from appearing, then -boom- Venom appears. My biggest laugh came when Eddie, disguised as a lone unarmored mop-boy, infiltrates a maximum security prison past six fully-armored guards to mop the floor in front of Carnage's cell, morphs into Venom - then, a page later, all the guards are dead. No fight, just -boom- they are dead. I could go on, and on, and even on but why bother. Stuff just happens. Accept it.
As far as the art goes, I've always been a casual fan of Romita Jr. and have picked up the occasional PPSM book just to see how he is doing. Romita Jr. did not disappoint with his Venom rendering. In fact I might go so far as to say that the new, half-demonic with a little Carnage (with the stray tendrils and symbiote extensions) look is probably what Todd McFarlaine's Venom would have eventually looked like, if y'all can remember back that far. Scott Hanna's inks are acceptable but look very rushed (I think he's doing a couple of other books, too). Of course I always compare to the Romita Jr./Janson look so I'm probably not being fair.
To summarize, how can anybody really be happy with these two stories? No build-up whatsoever. One panel in issue #8 for the escape to set up the confrontation, a page of Venom in issue #9, four pages to "kill" Carnage (yeah that's believable), then the fight scene in issue #10. There was no real explanation of anything.
All in all, two webs giving the fact that the decent art was tethered the mediocre, predictable and anti-climactic story.
By the way, there is a horrible cameo by Venom in the last Eric Larsen (name rings a bell) Nova book, making the exploitation of the character complete. How freakin' embarassing.