After forming an uneasy truce with Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #375, Venom winded up in San Francisco where he got himself involved with a group of homeless people living under a park targeted by businessman Roland Treece. While investigating Treece, Venom was tricked into the hands of the Life Foundation who used his symbiote to create their own symbiote warriors. Spider-Man and Venom defeated the symbiotes, but were separated when the Life Foundation destroyed their base. Now, both are on their way to San Francisco to take care of some unfinished business.
Venom breaks into Treece’s compound and chases down his head of security. Cornered, he reveals how in 1906 a foreign power sent gold bullion to finance a group of anarchists against the United States. When the earthquake hit, the men died and the gold was lost. Treece came into possession of a map showing where the gold was, and calculated where it is now. Upon revealing Treece’s plan to blow up the homeless people living in the sunken city, Venom knocks him out and races to the park.
Spider-Man arrives at the park and finds Venom. After a brief skirmish, Venom incapacitates Spidey long enough to ask for his help. Together, they begin to interfere with Treece’s construction operations, dismantling his equipment and Diggers. Treece flees to his trailer to detonate the bombs, and a gas spill accidentally catches fire blocking the trailer off. With Spidey busy fighting, Venom pushes his symbiote past the flames to bring Treece out and away from the controls. With Treece and his men defeated, Venom disappears again before Spidey can capture him.
Later, Peter Parker calls Mary Jane to let her know he’s on his way home, deciding that Venom could actually do some good and that he can’t spend his whole life chasing him. Meanwhile, the council calls Venom back to the sunken city. Having witnessed his heroics in protecting them, they have decided to reverse their decision and allow Venom to stay among them. Although not all are happy about it, Venom promises never to abuse their trust, finally having a place to belong.
It took six issues, but we’ve finally come full circle. Lethal Protector was the first mini to feature Venom’s new status quo as an anti-hero. He came to San Francisco, met up with his future supporting cast, and then spent the next five issues doing everything that didn’t involve them. The story was all over the place, bringing in villain after villain and subplot amongst subplot with no rhyme or reason. Granted, it could be said this was all in an attempt to establish Venom’s universe apart from Spider-Man, but there had to be a much cleaner way to do it. It might not have been so bad if the new symbiotes got proper introductions, The Jury had not just disappeared, or the Treece plotline had not gone unaddressed for numerous issues beyond a page or two and been resolved far too quickly and cleanly. If things were more organically connected, perhaps, it might have played out much differently. But, instead, all it seemed like was a bunch of ideas crammed into one story.
Overall, the mini was average. It is in no way horrible (that honor will go to future Venom books), but with no clear direction the story really offers nothing remarkable beyond generic one-note characters and enemies that get no proper page time to generate any kind of connection with the audience. Not to mention, thanks to their plotline being neglected, the homeless people set up as Venom’s supporting cast are left completely forgettable. It would have been nice to see a little bit about life underground, and a further explanation as to why they all ended up there.
The biggest unnecessary element was the addition of Spider-Man. Spidey was used as a plot device to further introduce elements of Eddie Brock’s past to the reader in order to make him more sympathetic and believable as a hero, giving excuses for his past sins as a villain in the form of a dysfunctional family. He served no real purpose in the story except to further blur the lines attempting to be distinguished between his and Venom’s universes. Spidey was just a reader draw, and it shows.
One and a half webs. What started off as a promising beginning to Venom’s hero career quickly degraded into an average adventure lacking direction and purpose, much like its titular character. It was loaded with too many characters and too many storylines for six issues. There also wasn’t much to distinguish it from a standard Spidey yarn, and as the introduction to a new franchise it was a poor springboard for it.