“You want to infect me with a snot parasite?”
What lengths will Gwen go to save Harry and get her powers back? And where does Wolverine fit in with this?
WRITER: Jason Latour
ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
COLOR ARTIST: Rico Renzi
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTIST: Robbi Rodriguez
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Harry is in Madripoor, being chased by The Hand. Gwen is back in the Manhattan of her earth and gets hassled by the police, of which her friends see on tee vee. Gwen makes her way to see her dad in jail, at the price of Matt Murdock telling her to meet him at Oscorp. While there, she gets introduced to Dr. Elsa Brock and her venom. Murdock sees the venom as a way to cure Harry of the Lizard formula and to restore Gwen’s powers. Norman pleads for Gwen to bring his son back safe, so she heads to Madripoor, where she is followed by not only The Hand, but The Wolverine…
THOUGHTS: I enjoyed the cover this month. It’s simple, yet still has a lot going on. The red background is evocative of a skull from a James Bond pre-title sequence, yet still hints at Matt Murdock’s involvement in the story, complete with Hand ninjas making up the jaw. The bloody handprints are an interesting touch, too, as Gwen begins her descent into getting her hands dirty. Plus, how can you not love Spider-Gwen with a sword?
Opening on the Earth-65 version of Madripoor, the moody noir vibe is set, courtesy of the rain and the distinct colors of Renzi. When last we saw Harry, he was given the mutagen suppressant by Gwen before he took off for parts unknown. He had also recently had his arm blown off by a pumpkin bomb, the same arm that is now all lizard. Guess he hasn’t been too successful in replicating the formula to keep his lizardness in check, or he’s giving in to it for survival.
Keeping in true Spidey fashion, Spider-Gwen is being harassed by an officer, for the daring crime of buying nuts in public in costume. Of course a news crew is there, capturing it live for all the viewers at home, including Em-Jay, who keeps insisting to her friends that Gwen is Spider-Woman. Rodriguez perfectly captures their shocked, incredulous looks as they text Gwen and see Spider-Woman get the message on tv. Even Murder-Face is surprised!
It was nice to see the same cop that pulled his gun on Gwen show up later in the story, getting chided by his actions by a veteran officer. Even better, the rookie turns it around later in the scene, when the vet fails to recognize that Matt Murdock, the Kingpin, is the one yelling at Gwen. Not only does it elevate the rookie from being a simple, throw away, generic cop, it demonstrates how powerful Murdock’s grip is in New York.
Feeling that Gwen isn’t living up to her side of the deal, Murdock has her meet him in costume at Oscorp. Props to Renzi for coloring the sky outside purple and the Oscorp logo green. I liked Murdock’s dig at Norman, “You’re going to crinkle your perm.” We do a quick flashback to when Harry visited Norman for help and even in this world, Norman is all about the Norman. At least he’s consistent across realities. Don’t get me wrong, he loves Harry, but just when I thought maybe this version wasn’t as self absorbed as others, he proves me wrong, worried about what Harry’s actions could do to him. He’s an interesting one, this Norman. He’s repulsed by the Kingpin of Crime, yet his dealings aren’t exactly on the up and up either.
One of his employees, Dr. Elsa Brock, has been working with Murdock in an effort to get Harry back. Presumably, she’s the gender swapped version of Eddie Brock, and not a renamed Anne Weying. Either way, both of those original characters weren’t scientists. I’m glad that a Brock is still involved with the creation of Venom, even if it is a convoluted process, involving the spider alien parasites that Cindy Moon used to develop Gwen’s powers that will now have a symbiotic relationship when paired with the lizard mutagen. I love how the explanation has totally confounded Norman. He’s so flustered he’s scrunching his head together, making him resemble Hammerhead.
It’s a pretty convoluted process to go from parasite, to mutagen, to radioactive goo, to Gwen being the only one immune and a possible cure for Harry in addition to restoring Gwen’s powers, but hey, comics. The important things are Norman’s reactions and he is begging for Gwen to help by the end of the exposition. BEGGING. Norman Osborn. Maybe he does have a heart, after all. It really feels like a deal with the devil for all involved as Murdock smugly explains it to Gwen. Rodriguez makes Murdock feel slimy and conveys Gwen’s frustration through her mask.
This felt like a promising start to the “Predators” arc. Latour winds the story in a way to get to Venom based on past events in this title without resorting to a Secret War, Rodriguez’s art is the usual awesomeness, especially making the venom look frightening and monstrous, and I enjoyed how Renzi colored the flashbacks to differentiate it from what was happening now. This was a strong first chapter with a lot of potential for this story.
MY GRADE: A
JAVI’S HUH?: That shadowy figure on the final page, is that a corn dog on a stick or a claw dog? For a second, I thought maybe Wolverine was eating off his claws!