Ultimate Spider-Man #37

Background

Two sons quarrel over how to use their inheritance. It is neither money or nor property, but rather a black organic liquid, a "suit", that enhances one's natural abilities--healing, strength, etc. One of the sons, Peter Parker, tried it by accident and found his existing arachnid powers greatly enhanced. But with the power increase came the revelation that the suit has an extremely violent consciousness of its own. Before the suit drove him to kill, Peter struggled and managed to zap it off of himself.

Peter warned the other son, Eddie Brock, of the suit's deadly tendencies and insisted that they destroy it. In the process, Peter revealed that he is Spider-Man and explained the dangers of the Venom Project, as the liquid is codenamed, falling into the wrong hands. Eddie reluctantly agrees to let Peter destroy the sample. Peter does so, but it turns out Eddie had been keeping another sample of the liquid. Enraged by what he saw as a betrayal, Eddie deliberately exposed himself to it.

Story 'Still'

In a nightmare, Peter, as Spider-Man, is overcome by the Venom suit. He savagely wraps his tendrils around his victims, who transforms from the burglar he nearly killed, to Uncle Ben's killer, to Peter's father, to Eddie. Peter wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, and looks out the window at the pouring rain.

Next door, Mary Jane is sleeping until she hears Peter tapping on her window. Peter and MJ meet in the garage, talking for the first time since they broke up. Peter asks MJ if she misses him; She admits that she does. MJ fears that Peter and Gwen are an item; Peter assures her this can never be the case. After a silence, Peter tells MJ that he nearly killed a man. He says he needs her in his life, he says he loves her. But MJ is afraid. Peter's life isn't a normal one. And so, he walks back to his house in the pouring rain.

Back at the ESU labs, a janitor makes her rounds, listening to opinions about the recent Hulk attack on New York. She finds a fused pile of black goo and flesh moaning panfully before her. When she leans forward to help, the pile's tendrils and tentacles consume her alive. Smoke emerges from the pile and so does Eddie, struggling against it. He expresses thoughts of homicidal rage towards Peter and arrogance that he can control the suit. By the time security arrives, Eddie and the suit are the sharp-toothed, long-tounged muscular hulk of black matter known as Venom. Venom easily disposes of the rent-a-cops.

The next day, at school, the Geometry teacher details his plans for the rest of the semester when Peter's spider-sense stars flaring and won't stop. Not seeing any immediate source of danger, Peter fears that the suit warped his powers somehow and that Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. may finally lock him away. MJ, by the way, is in the class and notices his concern. When Peter looks out the window, he sees the black costume waiting for him. Peter leaves the class to confront his nightmare outside.

In the driving rain (which apparently never let up since last night), Peter confronts the suit. To his horror, the black mass reveals its wearer as Eddie Brock. Brock leaves his childhood friend with the chilling words: "Our fathers died to create me--and now you will, too."

General Comments

First off, I must give props to the art of the opening dream sequence. The boldness and lucidity of it contribute to the level of geniune terror this issue strives for. Make no mistake: Bendis and company are dead-set on making Venom scary again. So far, I would say they're successful in script as well as in art. Bendis has spent the past four issues building up Eddie to be a darker mirror of Peter, tied into his past more convincingly than some washed-up reporter ever could be. Think about it: Eddie is a manipulative, arrogant, vengeful jerk who has now been given the ultimate means to exact his revenge. And, make no mistake: Eddie was betrayed by a less-than-perfect Spider-Man whose own arrogance led, in part, to Eddie's physical transformation. On the pencils side of thing, Mark Bagley, an expert in penciling the everyday and ordinary side of things, has crafted an extraordinary rendition of Venom that looks scarier and more dangerous than anything pencilled in the 90s.

The use of pouring rain is great symbolism. There are two clouds hanging over Peter's head: the mess with the Venom project and the mess which his relationship with MJ has become. And we never see the rain relent: it's a constant presence throughout the issue.

I can't review the issue fairly without looking at the conversation between Peter and MJ. Reading this reminded me of how much I, as a reader, missed "hearing" them talk. Keeping her mostly out of the arc up to this point was a great idea that gave power and significance to this moment. They still love each other, but the complications that come with Peter's life are still too great for MJ. Still, it's a step forward towards reconciliation, as Peter swears up and down that, for all Gwen's recent presence, Peter still loves MJ deeply.

Overall Rating

I think four is a fair grade. I did fawn over the issue alot in my review, but this is still a middle chapter that coasts somehwat on the merits of the earlier chapters of this arc. But the issue is gorgeous to look at and, as always, a great read. Let's hope the concluding chapters deliver the promise of a Venom worth reading.