VENOM #21 REVIEW


Position: Left Field. That’s where the Crime-Master’s secret backstory comes flying out of.

My reverse-chronological trip through last month’s Venom issues continues here. Please leave a comment!

 

VENOM #21
“Savage Six, Part 4: Best Laid Plans…”
WRITERS: Cullen Bunn & Rick Remender
PENCILS: Lan Medina
INKS: Pallot, Soto & Kesel
COLORS: Chris Sotomayor
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ART: Tony Moore & Edgar Delgado

PLOT:
Bennett “The Crime-Master” Brant explains his villainous origin to his sister, Betty. After Bennett got shot, he woke up in a secret location full of Crime-Master costumes and equipment. “They” had chosen him to be this generation’s Crime-Master.

While Bennett tells his story, Venom invades his hideout. Venom fights Megatak until Toxin bites Megatak’s head, saying “he’s mine.” Apparently, Toxin must consume Venom to gather strength for “the spawning.” Venom rips Eddie Brock out of Toxin and ignites the Toxin symbiote. The Toxin symbiote pulls Brock back, and Venom cannot save Brock from burning with the symbiote due to Venom’s aversion to fire.

Venom reaches the room where Betty, Crime-Master, and Jack O’ Lantern wait. Venom easily bests Jack, who slips into a vat of chemicals. The Crime-Master attacks with “sonic gas” and “vaporized napalm mist,” rendering Venom helpless. Betty saves Venom by shooting her brother, who then also falls into the chemicals. Betty forgives Flash, saying that even if Flash never became Venom her brother would have found her. Betty nevertheless declares that she never wants to see Flash again.

THOUGHTS:

One element here disappoints me so much that it overwhelms the rest of the issue in creating my opinion. I’ll address that soon, but first I need to strain for objectivity by emphasizing this issue’s positive aspects. Primarily, the art delivers the astounding level of quality I have come to expect from Lan Medina. With so many villains for Venom to fight, the book looks especially colorful and diverse. The action itself generally looks vivid and exciting.

I also enjoy how Remender writes each of the secondary villains. A little Jack O’ Lantern goes a long way, so I am glad he did not try to steal the show this time. I have even warmed to Eddie Brock Toxin. Sure, he disregards everything that made Toxin a unique symbiote, but I am starting to get interested in whatever symbiote reckoning he has been rambling about. I also like how Lan Medina draws Toxin like he’s Godzilla molded out of ground beef. I wish I was being sarcastic, but I’m not. It’s a unique look for a symbiote.

Can Venom ever hope to defeat Meatwad?

 

But one cannot ignore this issue’s major fault: Bennett Brant. Look, after issue #20’s shocking revelation that the less fair Brant did not die in Amazing Spider-Man #11, I eagerly awaited this issue’s explanation. The Crime-Master’s identity was, after all, this run’s longest-running mystery, and resurrecting a character thought dead by readers for almost fifty years is a rare move, even in comics.

Color me dissatisfied. First of all, the explanation itself answers nothing. Who chooses new Crime-Masters? Why the hell would they pick a loser like Bennett Brant? How did they bring Bennett back from the dead? How did Bennett go from pathetic gambler to criminal mastermind? I suppose some of these questions serve as fodder for future stories, but such a bizarre move as bringing back Bennett freaking Brant demands some explanation so that it makes sense in the mean time. Without that, the plot seems like it came out of left field.

What use is made out of the Crime-Master being Bennett? Hmm. Well, it gives him a reason to kidnap Betty. Though, he already had a motivation to use Betty as a hostage against Flash. He did exactly that early in Remender’s run. We need something better. Oh, I know! It deepens Betty’s character by forcing her to deal with the psychological ramifications of killing her own brother. On second thought, she seems to write the whole thing off by declaring that Bennett already died “a long time ago.” She cries a little but nothing screams “this experience will change her forever.” Okay, how about this: bringing Bennett back as a crime lord creates a dangerous new villain with strong ties to the personal lives of both Flash Thompson and Peter Parker. Maybe that works, assuming Bennett didn’t really die from Betty’s bullet. Honestly, I believe Bennett’s dead about as much as I believe Eddie Brock burned to death with Toxin. Bennett survived one bullet wound, so why not another? Regardless, the writers have at least sent Bennett to temporary character limbo, so whatever potential future writers realize in him does nothing to improve THIS anticlimactic story.

Speaking of Betty, throughout this arc I have been jonesing for a more substantial confrontation between the two regarding Flash’s double life. This run has focused extensively on Flash and Betty’s relationship, so fans deserved at least a meaty scene, rather than just one page, of them talking about and coming to terms with how the recent events in their lives have been built on lies.

Betty saving the day by shooting Bennett from behind was a good twist, though. That chick and her guns…

There can be only one personification of evil in THIS family, bro.

RATING:
2.5 fratricides out of 5 (neutral). I hope Venom keeps Bennett’s hilarious weapons. He wouldn’t want sonic gas falling into the wrong hands.
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(5) Comments

  1. carcharodon

    Actually, all symbiotes (with the exception of Anti-Venom before brock lost that symbiote) are vunerable to sonics and flames. That part of the comic was pretty true to the story. What dissappointed me about this story was the fact that we don't get any detailed explanation for the fate of toxin's previous host (Patrick Mulligan). As for the behavior of the symbiote, Toxins new found aggresiveness may be due to the absence of Patrick, who was trying to make the symbiote into a noble, spiderman-like hero.

  2. Kevin Cushing

    ...I don't think fire is a weakness of Toxin's... ...not that that would be the most wrong thing about Toxin here. Far, far from it...Oy...

  3. Hobo-Goblin

    Yeah, I agree that the "Bennett as Crime-Master" revelation was kinda weaksauce. Humorously, I read that Remender said that Dan Slott gave him the idea. In cases like this, sometimes I think Steve Ditko was right (in spirit, at least) decades ago, when he insisted that the Green Goblin be someone Peter had never met before. It's a comic book, I know, but "every masked villain has to be someone connected to the hero" wears really thin sometimes. And heck, if it absolutely had to be someone we knew, Ned Leeds might have made slightly more sense. At least we knew he was already half-mad at the time of his death.

  4. Donovan Grant

    "Oh, I know! It deepens Betty’s character by forcing her to deal with the psychological ramifications of killing her own brother. On second thought, she seems to write the whole thing off by declaring that Bennett already died “a long time ago.” She cries a little but nothing screams “this experience will change her forever.” Exactly. I have a real problem with Betty not only killing a man but HER BROTHER, and it being forgotten about right after it happened. Insanity.

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