After unintentionally bringing an alien life form back to earth the crew of the shuttle, John Jameson included, are hospitalised, with misleading photographs taken by former disgraced photographer Eddie Brock linking spider-Man to the national tragedy. A citywide man hunt is set in motion by J. J. Jameson, forcing Spider-Man to go to ground. However, while saving the crew Spidey unknowingly becomes host to the alien which bonds to him in his sleep. The new black suit endows Parker with newfound strength and agility, along with shape shifting abilities and organic webbing, which he uses to evade the constant flow of bounty hunters. However the suit is discovered to be a symbiotic organism that increases aggressive behaviour and is gradually becoming inseparable from Peter’s DNA.
Mean while the Kingpin, in an attempt to sell the powerful interstellar isotope Promethium X (liberated from the shuttle that excavated it and home to the parasitic symbiote) to black market bidders, has contracted the Rhino and Shocker to carry out certain tasks - from retrieving the Promethium X and removing any trial linking him to the theft – which brought them into conflict with the remorseless Black Spider-Man. When he unintentionally nearly kills the two mercenaries Spider-Man realises the suit is changing him, and after a desperate struggle he is able to remove it using sonic vibrations. However, the symbiote has found a new host – the man who despises Spider-Man as equally as it hates Peter: Eddie Brock.
His apartment a scrapbook of his Spider-Man obsession, Brock pumps heavy weights while having a one-sided conversation reminiscing over how the Wall-Crawler destroyed his old life and rejected the symbiote who was only trying to make him stronger (or so it wants Brock to believe). Now the two have united in their hatred to form the monstrous Venom. Spider-Man however is far more optimistic – happy to be back in the red and blue costume as he swings. Plans are put on hold when he notices Rhino watching him from a rooftop and drops down to confront him, unaware it’s an ambush – he incapacitates Rhino but is struck from behind by Shocker, ignorant to the fact the two are both working for Kingpin. Their quarry trapped beneath a pile of rubble, Shocker and Rhino close in to finish the job when Venom appears and overpowers them effortlessly for interfering with his/their prey. When Spidey eventually frees himself the two attackers are bound unconscious in a web. Eddie helps Spider-Man to his feet, and when he refers to him as ‘Peter’ Spider-Man lashes out in disconcerted surprise – the swing blocked by Brock as if it were nothing, taunting him for being aggressive when it suits him. He reintroduces himself as a new man to the Brock he knew, mockingly shaking his hand as he transforms into Venom. Too horrified for words Spider-Man leaps away and attempts to take Venom down in a single blow, but is readily countered and pinned by Venoms’ superior strength. The symbiote slithers back to reveal Brocks face as he informs Spider-Man that while he rejected the symbiote and all it offered, Brock has embraced it – the two have fully bonded. Returning to full Venom form, Spider-Man is hurled away so the cat and mouse game can continue. Spidey was certain he’d killed the parasite, perplexed as to how it found Brock in the first place, and calls out to the disconcertingly silent rooftop that the Symbiote doesn’t stop at bonding with the host but takes complete control – he has to separate from it now. Lunging from the shadows Venom dismisses the warnings – as far as they are concerned Brocks’ hatred and rage make for the perfect breeding ground, as the creature feeds off negative emotions and adrenaline. The symbiote has seen a thousand worlds, a million cultures, with the one key thing it has learnt being to survive – taunting, or perhaps threatening that now it’s sharing all its knowledge with Brock. Venom leaps from the roof into the night. Distraught at Brocks madness and the dangerous situation he’s entangled in Spider-Man jumps after him in a desperate attempt to get through to whatever remains of Brocks’ humanity. This however, turns out to be another trap – the symbiote knows how Parkers body works at a genetic level and can evade his Spider-sense – allowing them to grab Spider-Man from behind. They web up Spidey, telling him that it’d be too simple to just kill him; they are going to destroy his entire life first, made easy as they share the symbiotes’ intimate knowledge of Peter: memories; friends; loves; ambitions; secrets. They can’t be stopped, he won’t see them coming yet they’ll be everywhere he looks. With that Spider-Man is tossed back onto the roof and Venom disappears into the city.
Spidey admits he’s up against a formidable foe; that if it nearly drove him to madness then what it’s doing to Brocks’ warped mind is unfathomable. His best chance is to attack the human side of his enemy and begins by investigating Brocks’ old apartment. Amidst the trash he finds a discarded receipt for gym equipment which he uses to try and track him down. As he investigates he is plagues by nightmarish visions of Venom. He phones the equipment company under the guise of Brock to confirm the address of their last dispatch, along with the profile the Daily Bugle had on Brock while he still worked for them. Jameson diverts their attention as he wheels in John, who has been given a clean bill of health despite his nightmares about the crash and black ooze. In honour of his achievements a satellite due for launch the following day is to be named after him.
Peter nervously walks the streets, knowing that Venom is watching him somewhere. He slips into an alley to change into costume when he hears Brocks’ voice calls from above with sarcastic compliments about his costume. Brock sits atop a ledge across the street, musing about what the world would think if they discovered who Spider-Man really was, excitedly announcing that they should tell Jameson about it. Spider-Man takes the bait and follows Venom to the Bugle roof. The two brawl until Spider-Man strikes a critical blow to Venoms face that forces him into hiding. From his cover Venom taunts Spider-Man that he is in no hurry to see his revenge through, preferring to pick his life apart piece by piece, savouring every moment ; going after both Parker and those close to him: Aunt May; Mary Jane - no one is safe. In his fury Spider-Man is easily caught off-guard and thoroughly incapacitated with Venoms’ webbing. People gather in the street below, Jameson and Robbie among them as Venom hangs Spider-Man from the ledge. Pleasantly surprised at the audience Venom decides now is the time for the grand unveiling and tosses Spideys’ mask to the crowd. Jameson swipes a camera from one of his crew and franticly attempts to zoom and focus in on Spider-Man’s face as he dangles helplessly in Venoms clutches. Venom promises to keep good company with Mary Jane as she mourns her lost love as he lowers Spider-Man into the street, but gets cocky – Spider-Man passes the shard of metal embedded in the wall which Venom through earlier in the fight, using it to cut free and swing to a flag pole. He tears a piece from the flag and ties a make-shift mask before disappearing from the eager cameras.
Sometime later Peter heads for his date with MJ. She’s waiting for him outside and forgives his lateness as his good friend Eddie has been keeping her company. Reminding Peter that he can strike anywhere at any time, Brock compliments MJs’ acting abilities but Peter refuses to let her get drawn into his game – pushing Brock back he leads her forcefully away. Eddie simply smiles and calls out to them that they’ll miss the show. Peter tries to make an excuse that MJ can understand, settling on Brock being unstable and disarmingly dangerous. She fails to see the threat – the street is empty and no one is following them. Peter however is still haunted by images of Venom no matter where he looks. They enter the subway and board a train as Brock steps onto the platform. Relieved that they gave Brock the slip, MJ demands to know what is going on but Peter refuses to drag her into this mess, simply asking that is she trusts him she should not ask any questions - she agrees to his wishes.
May is surprised to see Peter home so early from his date but is prevented pressing things when the door bell rings – Brock attempts to invite himself in, charming May as Peter shoves him outside. With May safely out of the way he warns Brock that he’ll never get that close to her again. Brock transforms into Venom goading Peter that he doesn’t have the power or authority to stop him as he topples a tree into the house. Peter only just catches the falling tree in time, allowing Venom to escape. He realises that Venom won’t stop until beaten – and he knows just where to start.
Brock returns to his apartment to discover Parker has replaced all his anti-Spider-Man articles with clippings reporting on how Eddie was fired and disgraced for liable and slander – the cause of his mental instability. Enraged, Brock turns to the window where Spider-Man is taunting him, becoming Venom and giving chase, blinded by rage. Despite his calmer head giving him the initial advantage Spidey is caught off-guards by Venom’s inability to trigger his Spider-sense and thrown into the street where he tumbles into the subway, boarding a passing train as Venom closes in. Venom leaps aboard the last car and crawls toward Spider-Man, using the cover of a steam vent to slide to the undercarriage and catches Spider-Man unawares – or so he thinks, as Spider-Man blind sights him with an overhead bridge while he is distracted. Knocked from the train Venom resumes the hunt by road – stealing a truck and following up alongside until he is close enough to hop aboard again. Fortunately he has played right into Spider-Mans’ hands; the train passes the shuttle launch pad for the John Jameson satellite due for launch within the next few minutes. Spider-Man jumps the fence and heads towards the shuttle and climbs the scaffolding with Venom right behind him. All of Spider-Mans’ delay tactics help enrage Venom further, causing him to blindly follow him deeper into the trap. At the boarding bridge Spidey has a moment to dwell on whether or not this will kill him too, but if considers it worth it if it means taking Venom with him. Finally catching him, Venom arrives at the bridge just as the rocket fires into life, the noise rending Brock from the symbiote, allowing Spider-Man to bind up the defenceless alien and web it securely to the shuttle. He escapes as the military police turn up to secure the two intruders, relieved that he’s saved Brock and defeated his most relentless enemy.
Later that night Peter and MJ sit star gazing; Mary Jane hugs close to Peter as she wonders aloud if they really are alone in the universe – Peter agrees that’s what he’s thinking to –in his head seeing the snarling face of Venom glaring down at him.
At this point in the series there is no sense that the story is backtracking – each new foe brings with him an increased danger and menace that ups’ the stakes for Spider-Man and forcing him to push ever harder to win out. With Venom he has an enemy willing to go to the extremes to make sure that Peter and his costumed alter-ego’s lives are utterly destroyed, content to slowly draw out his methodical revenge rather than simply ending it at once. Brock’s blinding hatred is something that has been build upon over since the first episode, so it comes across well developed and perhaps even a little justifiable – nothing about Venom feels contrived or forced, although perhaps the sense of looming danger could have been played out to more effect had this story come as the season finale and The Alien Costume arc been reduced to 2 episodes, allowing Venom/Brock to cameo in every other episode between as he stalks Spidey (but that’s just the opinion of this reviewer).
Throughout the episode Venom holds the upper hand as Brock and the Symbiote know every detail about Parker/Spider-Man’s life, allowing them to haunt Parker as much as beat on him. They are only defeated by their primal rage, which Spidey manages to turn to their disadvantage once he works out that by attacking the weaker Brocks’ already frail mental state he can drive them to make mistakes that ultimately lead to the Symbiotes’ exile. The best aspect of this episode is how out of his depth Spider-Man is for the majority of the narrative; he is utterly at Venom’s mercy and this tension is something lacking from many other episodes, except possibly when he faced Dr. Octopus.
As a side note, it was a nice touch to see Venom being handled well during the 90’s, as this was THE period in which the character was so misused – the Clone Saga of Villains, until the Maximum Carnage debacle dethroned him (arguably he is still a joke today – although the Mac Gargan Venom brought something new to the character, even if he was a joke to Spidey and the Thunderbolts/Dark Avengers). Here we have a well-rounded and genuinely threatening Venom, the likes of which have not been seen since.
A great end to a fantastic story arc that truly pushed Spider-Man to his limits.
Ironically, my wish came true thanks to a delightful mistake – this is actually the 9th episode but is input as the 13th for this site, technically making it the concluding story.