Ultimate Spider-Man #34

Background

In the wake of the devastation that is Peter's life after being dumped by Mary Jane, Peter finds his father's old things, which include photos, notes on something called the "Venom Project", and, more importantly a videotape. This videotape reveals that Peter's dad was partners with a man named Ed Brock. This man is married to May Parker's sister and is father to Eddie Brock, Jr, who was also Peter's best friend at the time. Both Peter and Eddie were orphaned years earlier by a plane crash.

At Aunt May's encouragement, Peter looks up Eddie Brock and finds out he's now a bioengineering major at Empire State University. After some bonding and some slightly bitter advice from Eddie, Peter gives him the tape. Touched at this act of kindess, Eddie reveals to Peter that he's been continuing work on the Venom project. At an ESU Lab, we see a jar of black ooze, referred to by Eddie as their inheritance.

Story 'Inheritance'

Eddie explains that "the suit", as the ooze is called, is tailored to a patient's DNA code and intended to exponentially increase the body's ability to eliminate disease...potentially even cancer. However, the suit also increases the natural abilities and strengths of the patients. Eddie explains that he's being helped by a certain Doctor Connors.

So why couldn't Parker and Brock, Sr. finish? It turns out they ran out of cash and had to take jobs at Trask Industries. Once the company realized the potential military applications for the suit, they took it away from Parker and Brock. Gearing up for a potentially long and arduous legal battle, the partners also began work on a suit of their own. But on the way back from a big shot lawyer's office, their plane went down.

Expressing real optimism in the project, Eddie calls their parents ahead of their time, claiming only the technology (which they now have) was lacking. When Peter asks whose DNA this suit was tailored to, Eddie says that the DNA belonged to Peter's father.

We next see Peter hanging around outside after school with Gwen. He sees Mary Jane, with Liz Allan, for the first time since the breakup. Gwen insists that since Mary dumped him, that she must be the first to initiate contact. Eddie Brock rolls up in front of the school in a red convertible. Eyes gleaming, Gwen almost begs for a ride. It being a two-door, Gwen has to sit on Peter's lap and makes a comment about Peter's muscle tone. Left to walk, Liz asks Mary Jane what's so special about him. She can't answer, but it's just as well, since an exasperated Liz sees the look on Mary's face and says she doesn't even want to know.

At the mall, Eddie is explaining why he'd never join a frat when he gets a call from Doc Connors, who is apparently upset that Eddie showed Peter the Venom Project. Gwen shares that she'd never go to college since it's what everyone says she should do. Eddie brings up a free reggae concert. Gwen's big on reggae, so she says she'd love to go. Peter can't, since he says he has work.

Out of the blue, Peter asks Eddie if he thinks their parents were murdered. While admitting the timing is suspect, Eddie insists that he couldn't imagine that someone would be evil enough to sacrifice a plane full of people just to get at four people. Peter doesn't seem convinced.

Back home and watching more of his father's tapes. One is a video pitch of "the suit" by Peter's dad as "the ultimate natural medical treatment". The second is Parker's regret at losing the suit to Trask and what a mess his life has become because of it.

Peter vows not to let another scumbag like Osborn, Fury, or Octavius turn his father's dream into a nightmare. Swinging above the city as Spider-Man, he vows to take back a sample of the suit and finish his father's work. He ends up swinging over the same reggae concert that Eddie and Gwen went to. Spider-Man breaks into the lab and takes just a small sample of the suit. But he spills some of it onto himself. On making contact with his skin, the black ooze spreads all over Peter, his transformation juxtaposed with images of joy and mirth from the concert. Once completely consumed by the now-smoldering ooze, Peter breaks out from it, finding himself in a spiffy new black costume.

General Comments

This is simply phenomenal. The Venom story is now no longer a plotless import from a crass commercial crossover event. It is now the story of two sons taking very different paths in honoring the dream of their fathers. While Eddie toils day after day in the lab with Doctor Connors, Peter uses his extra abilities as Spider-Man to take a piece of his inheritance without telling his fellow heir.

It is also the story of how different Eddie and Peter are as people now. As Eddie seems deadest on impressing a couple of teenagers, his words become suspect. He laments not having sufficient money to take a girl out on a decent date, but seems to have enough to maintain a 2- door convertible. He tries to wow teenagers with his words of wisdom, and is clearly trying to pick up Gwen. And in insisting he cannot imagine someone killing a planeful of innocent people, he seems insincere in that that innocent people in planes have very recently died, and Peter doesn't need his experience with people as evil as Norman Osborn to doubt Eddie.

As far as the other supporting players: Same Gwenny goodness, coupled with the first decent Liz sighting in months, and the implied admission that Mary is still very much in love with Peter. And the off- page introduction of Doc Connors is intriguing in terms of what implications he will have before this story is done. Sure, I'm not all that familiar with the Ulitmate Version of the Lizard, but it's all very exciting nonetheless.

In fact, the only thing I didn't like about this issue was the sudden retcon. Apparently Peter's dad's name IS Richard. Since when is Ray short for Richard? Still, the art shines, particularly in the birth sequence of the black costume and the aftermath. As for Bendis, this is clearly his strongest work on the title to date. He has woven an intricate yet understandable tale here, one that could potentially be remembered as the way Venom SHOULD have come into the world.

Overall Rating

Car trouble or no, I just can't bring myself to give this issue less than 5 webs. I enjoyed every last page of it, and particularly the fact that Bendis seems to be better with science than a lot of authors I could name. And the art is it's usual level of awesome, so I can let the "Ray" thing go. Pat yourselves on the back, gentlemen, you deserve it. But try and keep up the good work, I don't want to be made a fool of next issue, should Eddie utter the despicable sentence: "I wanna eat your brains."