Gwen Stacy just arrived at Aunt May's house at Queens needing help from Peter to curb the Carnage symbiote within her. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock has threatened to reveal Spider-Man's secret identity to the world unless Peter helps him re-acquire the Venom symbiote.
We're back at the park where we began the story arc with Eddie. He has a rather cryptic conversation with a fellow bench-warmer.
Time shifts back 24 hours to our cliffhanger form last issue. Gwen needs Peter's help in the worst way. She considers Aunt May and Peter to be family. She concentrates and the visible traces of the Carnage symbiote disappear from her face. Peter finds out she was being held at the Triskelion home of the Ultimates and S.H.I.E.L.D. As depicted in the last issue, Gwen was able to escape due to an explosion caused by the Green Goblin.
The Parker house ereceives a late night visitir in the form of Eddie Brock. Aunt May answers the door and distrusts Edddie to the point where she points a gun at him. Eddie takes away the gun and threatens Aunt May. Fortunately, Peter swings into action as Spider-Man and socks Eddie across the front porch of his house. Spider-Man leaves with Eddie to knock some sense in him while Aunt May receives a mysterious visitor.
Gwen comes with Peter to interrogate Eddie. He blames Peter for his current misfortunes. Peter orders Gwen to show what is inside her to try and dissuade Eddie from obsessing avbout the Venom symbiote. But instead, Gwen attacks Eddie who quickly transforms into Venom. He reveals that her presence is what he needed to transform. With that the two symbiotes battle while Spider-Man tries to fruitlessly intervene. The battle goes on for some time until Gwen is engulfed by Eddie's symbiote. Venom absorbs the Carnage symbiote and becomes bigger than ever.
Spider-Man leaps back into action and attacks Venom. Gwen watches the battle intently but is interrupted by the arrival of Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Venom reveals that he does not want to fight anymore as he has what he wants. He leaves through a sewer grate much to Spider-Man's consternation.
Later, Gwen is back at the Triskelion. Tony Stark, Peter, and Aunt May observe her through a window. The Carnage symbiote has been purged of her body. Tony reveals she is a molecular copy of the Gwen that died back in Ultimate Spider-Man #62. Peter demeands that she stay with him and Aunt May, proclaiming she is like a sister to him. Tony convinces acting S.H.I.E.L.D. head Carol Danvers that Peter is up to the repsonsibilty of watching Gwen. Eddie is still out there, wheereabouts unknown.
Back in the present we return to Eddie. He transforms into Venom and attacks his fellow converser. Unfortunately for Venom, it is revealed that the innocent parkgoer is the Beetle. The Beetle blasts Venom with his arm gauntlet, sucking up the symbiote in his suit. He then leaves for his benefactor in Latveria.
This story arc started out promising enough but derailed around the mid- point. I would have to say the main problem was the introdction of too many characters. I never felt able to say we got into the character's heads too much. There was plenty of action but perhaps too much at the expense of storytelling.
Gwen Stacy's character suffered the most. It took me a long while to be able to empathize with the character as she mainly is more of a deus ex machina for the resolution of the Venom plot. Hopefully, future issues of USM will delve more into her past and current psyche as well as expound upon the Carnage symbiote.
I was a fan of the Ultimate depiction of Eddie Brock but Bendis has chosen to inject more of the 616 personality of the character this time around. I am not entirely convinced this was a wise choice as I liked the direction of his character arc until he started blaming Peter yet again.
The Beetle was thrown in almost as an afterthought, no doubt being a set-up for a future story arc. I am a fan of serial storytelling but his appearance by the story's end just smacked of being obvious. I prefer subtlety whenever possible and this arc certainly was not subtle.
That being said fans of symbiote slobberknockers will no doubt be pleased as a huge fight erupted between Venom and Carnage. Immonen did a nice job of pacing out the battle but was a little too inconsistent in his pencils for my taste this time around.
This story arc had all the potential to be intriguing. However, for every good part there were at least two bad parts keeping this from having any cohesion issue to issue. The conclusion fails to bring all of the disparate parts together. While I admire the ambitious scope of Bendis this was not one of his best writing moments.