As a general rule, I won’t purchase comics that I would not purchase otherwise because they cross over with books I am reading. Doing so financially encourages more crossovers, and I happen to think comics—especially fledgling comics—should tell self-contained stories. An infant book needs to establish its own identity, not get hijacked by some other book’s plots. I will not to make an exception just because I review Venom. Thus, this review will come from the perspective of someone refusing to read the main Spider-Island storyline in Amazing Spider-Man by Dan Slott. It’s an important POV because in an earlier letters column the editor assured readers that they could enjoy Venom’s Spider-Island tie-in independently. We’re testing that proposition today.
WRITER: Rick Remender
ARTIST: Tom Fowler
COLOR ARTIST: John Rauch
LETTERING/PRODUCTION: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ART: Tony Moore & John Rauch
Hold on to your hat, reader, here comes exposition! People in New York City have spider-powers! Chaos! There’s a SPIDER-BEAST! Venom’s going in. He has to bring the Spider-Beast back alive! Flash’s dad’s dying! Betty’s in the hospital with Flash’s dad and wants Flash to be there, too!
Venom teams up with Gravity to KO the Spider-Beast. At the Project Rebirth headquarters, scientists run tests on the monster. Suddenly, the beast coughs up thousands of spiders. It turns out the monster spreads the spiders, which in turn infect humans with spider-powers. The monster breaks free before Flash can reach the symbiote. General Dodge gets knocked out while he, Flash, Flash’s handler, and some scientist named Aaron scramble for shelter in Aaron’s lab. Flash determines that they must self-destruct the base before the monster can escape. Flash announces over the intercom that all base personnel should proceed to the nearest panic room.
The monster breaks in, but the symbiote saves the humans by bonding with the general’s dog and mauling the beast. The symbiote then bonds to Flash and he and the monster battle. Before Venom can kill it, Aaron finishes analyzing the monster’s blood and declares that the monster is really Captain America.
Venom hits the self-destruct switch, but shields himself and Spider-Cap under some metal. Everyone important survives the explosion, and they contain Spider-Cap in an unharmed part of the facility. Venom must now shape-shift into Spider-Cap and infiltrate whomever engineered the infestation.
Can one enjoy Venom #6 independently of Amazing Spider-Man’s Spider-Island story arc? Kind of. The comic will entertain those who don’t mind rapid-fire exposition and the sense that this story is peripheral to the real adventure depicted elsewhere. Remender and Fowler produced a pretty cool slugfest with fun action choreography. Some killer fight ideas show up, like Flash collecting Spider-Cap’s acid squirts on Flash’s webs and slamming the gunk back into the monster. Remender depicts Flash as courageous when he declares that destroying the base with him and his comrades inside iss the only solution, and humble when he narrates that his brave front is “fake courage.” Also, the subplot finding Flash absent from his father’s deathbed has emotional poignancy. In fact, I wish Remender focused on the latter point even more. I read Venom for Flash’s story, not to see Flash acting off to the side of Spider-Man’s tale.
The spider monster’s identity left me unphased. Because I refuse to read Amazing Spider-Man, I was not aware that the monster existed until I read Venom #6. Therefore, the mystery of the creature’s identity never captured my imagination. Venom #6 presented me with a monster, told me it was Captain America, and expected this to shock me even though I am certain that Captain America will regain his humanity by this story’s end. Weak.
I loved Tom Fowler’s art last issue, but I think his style suited that issue’s atmospheric tone better than it suits this action-oriented issue. He uses a grainy, pencils-without-inks technique that portrays grit and misery well but lacks the crispness and gloss needed for over-the-top crazy battles between superheroes and bug-spewing monsters. At times, the art tells the story unclearly. In one scene, the dialogue implies that Venom dislodges a metal wall with a shotgun blast, but the art makes it difficult to visualize the logistics of that. Also, it is unclear what portion of the military base survived the explosion.
RATING: 3 out of 5 webheads. The problem with crossovers is that they often take good comics off track right when they start flirting with greatness. That’s what happened here. Remender and Fowler did a decent job, but there’s a limit to how great of a comic can be made from scooping up Dan Slott’s leftovers. The comic gets bonus points for the cool cover, though.
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