When Spider-Man discovered his new costume was actually an alien parasite, he quickly discarded it. Enraged by this rejection, the symbiote sought a new host and soon came across Eddie Brock, a man close to suicide due to his woes (all of which he blamed on Spidey). Together they are Venom: a being of all-consuming rage and a vendetta against the wall-crawler. After their last battle the symbiote was thought dead and Brock was incarcerated, but now they are reunited and ready for revenge.
In the dead of night, Sly Fenster is pulling confidential reports form The Daily Globe database. Catching the reflection of large eyes and a toothy grin on the screen he wheels around to find Venom hanging from a web above him. Stating how he had always assumed Sly hadn't held his position as a reporter in the same reverence as he [Brock] once had, Venom webs up Sly's face and begins to trawl the database for any experiments which may be of help in his quest for "justice". Settling on one, Venom returns his attention to Sly only to find he has suffocated. Despite his dislike for the man, Venom apologises that his death held no glory - which will not be the case when he kills Spider- Man.
Having heard of Brock's recent escape, Peter is desperately attempting to get MJ on a train so she can lay low at her sisters. She is indignant but eventually Peter persuades her, though she still hates the idea of leaving Peter alone against the mad-man. Making his way back through Soho, Peter runs into Flash Thompson and Felicia Hardy, who ask if he wants to hang-out. Knowing this will only place them in more imminent danger, Peter tells them he has work to do at the university. Though Felicia offers her help, he tells her that its something he has to handle alone. Musing on his history with Venom, Peter goes for a coffee - only to find Brock waiting for him on the next seat. The two leave the café and Brock explains that the cancer that Styx induced in the symbiote merely placed it into a coma while it battled the malady. When it won it returned for him, and Parker knows why. Peter leads them to an alley way - if he must fight, there should be as few casualties as possible. Suddenly a gun-wielding man steps from the shadows and demands their money, an threatens to shoot Peter for his meagre $30, to which Brock responds by throwing the guy against the wall, infirming the man that no-one has that right but Him. The man faints and he is released, all for the best Brock decides - too many have died already, but none as deserving as Spider-Man. He realises that he is now alone in the alley, but no matter - he is patient and it's a small world...Above, Peter is ashamed of his decision to hide - its time he found a way to permanently put Venom out of commission.
Awaking the following morning in a run-down hotel, Peter checks his phone messages. Professor Swan from the university called to inform him that there has been a breakthrough in cryogenics at Moleed Labs, who can now successfully and safely quick-freeze a human, and would he be interested in hearing his input having read his published paper on the subject. The other message is form Brock; wishing him a good nights sleep. Slamming the receiver down, Peter puts two-and-two together...
Spider-Man swings through the Bronx, the quickest route to Moleed Labs (and, he dwells, the first place he met Venom), while an unseen Venom peruses. Venom punches Spidey in the face with a cry of "TAG!", sending him tumbling into a wall. Spidey tries to regain himself, but Venom is already launching the second blow form above him. Spider-Man grips the wall to slow the fall and waits for the next attack, ducking out the way as Venom's fists land and quickly following up by kicking him from his perch whilst his balance is off. Venom crashes into a water tower, admittedly impressed by the spider's underhanded strike. Hoping Venom is now in a blind enough fury to simply peruse without the games, Spider-Man continues his way to the lab, speeding up as he notices his quarry gaining. Confused as to why his spider-sense has activated when the symbiote doesn't trigger it, he narrowly avoids the steel girder that Venom threw from the construction site below, causing him to loose hold of his webline. Angling himself, he lands safely on the wall of the Bronx zoo, only to have Venom barrel-roll him through it instantly, which breaks the bars of the lion cage behind it. Venom saves the crowd by webbing up the cat, and resumes the chase. Realising he'll not survive long enough to get Venom to the lab, Spidey decides its time to take the offensive. As Venom swings under a Brooklyn Bridge arch, Spider-Man leaps from his hiding place and landing a blow on his face that sends Venom crashing into a support cable. He quickly regains himself, no longer willing to waste time with games.
Spider-Man arrives at a deserted Moleed Labs, hoping he didn't loose Venom - who then tackles him through the door. Not waiting for Venom to regain himself, Spidey runs off in search of the cryo-labs, eventually finding a man who points him in the right direction. Spidey thanks him and sets off, the man telling him to think nothing of it as the symbiote's disguise peels away. Spider-Man sees the door to the control centre (assuming that the controls on the outside must be for auxiliary power) and swings inside - only to find the room is empty. The door slams shut behind him, and Venom observes his captured foe from the viewing window while discarding the makeshift sign that covered the door's "Danger: Cryogenic Chamber" warning. As Spider-Man becomes increasingly immobile with cold, Venom explains that he read that this installation has since been closed down due to budget constraints, and that it was He who made Professor Swan call Parker. The horror seeps in, and Venom concludes that he knew Spidey would take the bait. "Yesterday, we told that mugger you were ours! And now you are!".
More-so than ever before is Spidey at Venom's complete mercy, making for a great cliff hanger. I gotta say, there isn't a thing wrong with this whole issue. The story never fails to get side tracked with side plots that would detract from the main issue - namely, the cat and mouse game between our two main players. Venom once again uses his brain and know-how as a reporter, something I always felt a bit lacking in the characters later appearances considering Bock's back-story. Spider-Man is forced to finally take the initiative and no longer run form his determined nemesis. The eerie way Venom stalks Parker reminds me why I love the character so much: not since The Green Goblin has a villain been so persistent and hounding of the web-head. Spidey has also wised up, for the first time avoiding seeking any help (always ending up backfiring in prior issues) and getting MJ safely out the way.
The art here is phenomenal, and particularly the design of Venom, now a much more monstrous visage; all sharp out-growing fangs in a constant grin, warped eyes turned up into cruel points, saliva flying, tongue twisting madly, muscles bulging. The panel in which Brock is pinning the mugger whilst the symbiote drips through his pours like black sweat is a fantastically creepy image, and the close up on the last panel is possibly the greatest Venom image ever drawn. There are so many good panels in this issue, I would have to spend the rest of the review describing them, so I'll spare you the tedium (as you really ought to own this issue anyhow).
The fight scene on the wall that begins the seven page action scene is easily the best part due to the choreography of the whole thing, against the game of Tag Venom is playing.
There really is no reason why you shouldn't own this issue. Venom-lover or hater, this issue will appeal to all spider-fans due to its fast pace, great characterisation, beautiful illustrations, and heart-pounding action.
Styx was thought to have killed the symbiote after a four way battle in Amazing Spider-Man #333.
In the PS1 game of Spider-Man (2000), the writers pay homage to part when Venom says "tag", only this time it is Spidey who says it as he pounces on Venom.
Thanks to the member of Spiderfan that helped me to update this review.