As of this writing, forty-two replies grace my last review. FORTY-FREAKING-TWO! Folks are giving New Ways To Die a ton of attention. Well, I’ve got your third helping of criticism right here, and all you’ve got to do is click the link, read the entry and comment when you’re done. Let’s go for forty-three!

“The Killer Cure” (Part 3 of “New Ways To Die”)
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILS: John Romita Jr.
INKS: Klaus Janson
COLORS: Dean White

Spider-Man, Venom and Anti-Venom fight while Norman Osborn observes from the sidelines, instructing the Thunderbolts to let the battle play out for now. Anti-Venom nearly destroys Gargan’s symbiote with his healing power, but gets distracted when he senses traces of the alien in Spider-Man’s system. Brock decides to purify Spidey’s blood, radiation and all.

Meanwhile, Menace strike’s Bill Hollister’s home, but with an apparent hidden agenda as he claims his mayhem somehow benefits Hollister. When the police arrive, Menace flies away to go “menace” someone else instead: Norman Osborn.

My synopsis’ brevity suggests that Slott curbed his tendency to pack issues with plot in order to get the inevitable Brock vs. Gargan grudge match out of the way while readers still care. Unfortunately, the violence stays mindless and unexciting until near the end. The most visceral fights in Spider-Man’s recent history, like the Electro battle in Marvel Knights or Spidey’s first encounter with Morlun, conveyed a real sense of unpredictability and brutality. Here, the Venoms look like big pillows knocking each other around with no real impact or consequence.

The script, not the art, deserves all the blame. Spider-Man writers have to balance the character’s humor with knowing the time for straight-faced storytelling and action. The dialogue errs too much on the goofy side for a fight between badass monsters. Also, references to Spider-Man “blowing [his] wad” and Venom calling Anti-Venom “whitey” make me wonder if Dan Slott spends hours on Urban Dictionary, collecting kernels of dialog without worrying how silly they sound or what they really mean in most contexts.

I’ll reserve judgment on Anti-Venom until someone clarifies his origin and motivation. A healer whose remedies are often worse than the disease is a great, unique idea, but I’m not yet sure how it jives with Brock’s recent character arc.

Menace got a bit more interesting here. He works better when the writers quit taking him seriously and just use him as a minor nuisance to make other characters’ stories less predictable. Slott slips in some juicy hints toward his identity, but how long do the writers plan to drag the mystery out?

John Romita Junior just plain rocks. The splash page is, as the kids say, made out of win, and Anti-Venom standing over the conquered Gargans with finger-tubes running into him makes for a classic visual. What the hell went wrong with Norman’s hair, though? The colorist only bothered to fill in the place where Romita drew his curls, so it looks like he has a horrible cornrow Mohawk.

3 webheads out of 5. Worth it for Junior, but not as exciting as the build-up.


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