“Where did that new suit come from? And why does it remind me of …? Nah.”
Can Mary Jane overcome the Venom symbiote before it forces her to murder her husband for the death of Eddie Brock?
CO-PLOTTERS: Gerry Conway & Ryan Stegman
SCRIPT: Ryan Stegman
GUEST ARTIST: Juan Frigeri
COLORIST: Jesus Aburtov
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Ryan Stegman & Jesus Aburtov
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITOR: Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: A very enthused Spinneret takes Annie to school, with Spider-Man tailing her. Spinneret then takes down a crime violently, with Spidey stepping in before she kills someone. Peter heads to The Bugle, talking to Gloria about what’s going on, until Betty gives him a possible lead. Back at her shop, MJ is starting to lose her temper, with the symbiote starting to swirl around her civilian clothes. Spidey swings over to Mount Sinai to check on someone attacked by a “tar monster”. The man confirms his fears-MJ has the symbiote. Spidey catches up to Spinneret and a battle on two fronts ensues, one between Spidey and a venomous Spinneret, and the other an internal struggle between MJ and the symbiote. MJ prevails, gaining control and telling Peter that Liz Allan gave her the suit. Liz gets advised that Project M.G. is close to completion.
THOUGHTS: What a great cover by Ryan Stegman! I love Venom looming over New York with the symbiote trapping the Parkers! It just has a classic, old-school Silver Age feel to it, even if it makes Venom’s tongue so long Annie could use it as a playground slide!
Often times, I’ll flip through a book quickly to take a peek at the art before I read it. It’s a precarious habit if one wants to avoid spoilers, but if I can’t get to a book right away, I at least like to take a quick glance at what I purchased. So, I didn’t notice anything odd at first. When I finally did get a chance to hunker down and read I was surprised not only to find that Stegman’s pen did the scripting, but it DIDN’T provide the art this month! How could it be??? There was his name and art on the cover! It’s next issue that’s the Stockman fill in! Lo and behold, Juan Frigeri is actually the penciller this time out.
So, how does he fare on closer inspection? Pretty darn good. Obviously, I was fooled right off the bat, making him a perfect fit to step into Stegman’s shoes. Compared to Nathan Stockman, he is less cartoony and more in line with the tone that Stegman set. He might not be quite as dynamic as Mr. Stegman, but if you were to read all these issues in a trade paperback, the casual reader would probably not notice the change in style. Layouts are fairly similar and the thick white boarders continue. I really like the Symbiote-Vision he came up with, and the “Venom Giger Dark Side Cave” that Stegman established last issue is depicted very much in sync.
How does Stegman’s pencil fare when it’s spitting out words and not art? Just like Frigeri, he steps into his new assignment admirably. He captures the dynamic of MJ and Annie well, MJ the parent who just loves her child and won’t stop talking about her and Annie, the daughter who just wants her to stop talking so the embarrassment will end. Yes, sometimes we parents just talk and go on about our kids solely to embarrass them!
Stegman depicts a Peter who proves the old joke that denial is not just a river in Egypt as he can’t believe his own eyes-that MJ is symbiote infected. Not only does he witness her brutalize some thugs, not only is she acting erratic, but she has a new black and white suit, too! It’s not until another witness talks about the monster that attacked him does he finally allow himself to realize the awful truth. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Mary Jane’s reaction in Amazing #300 when her victim sees Spidey crouched above his bed and moans in fear, “Those eyes…” The man is literally in tears until Spidey finally gets it, but even then, there is still denial, or rather hope that one of his worst enemies hasn’t come back to life and taken over his wife. I appreciated the nod to the original Secret Wars: RYV mini-series. I just would’ve liked to have seen a little more Parker Guilt on Peter’s behalf that a villain he killed has now come back and invaded his family.
I thought Stegman and Conway came up with a unique take on the fight, that as Peter was struggling externally with Spinneret, we were taken inside to not only see MJ’s symbiote clouded vision, but that she was having a fight, too. I loved that Peter got to see the outside representation of said internal struggle, as “Veneret” tossed herself around like Tyler Durden in a one-sided fight. I can’t recall a symbiote bout where something like this has happened, but Venom and his ilk are so prolific maybe someone else can clue me in if I missed it.
The important part of the fight is MJ came out on top, that with all the hats she wears in life, they mean that she’s in charge. I love seeing a powerful and confident MJ. Sure, she got seduced by the symbiote, but so did her husband once and she only did it in an effort to make their family unit stronger. What makes this series so special to me is it focuses on two people that I grew up with, focusing on how they continue to grow together as they deal with life’s struggles, both normal and extraordinary. At the end of the day, they can admit their vulnerabilities to each other and find strength together, which they do, thanks to Conway and Stegman.
At the story’s end, Liz stands revealed to Peter as the one who gave MJ the suit. I understand her wanting to protect Normie by distracting Spider-Man with “domestic issues”, but I have to wonder if she knows. She’s been close to both the Parkers and the thought has had to cross her mind. Is she just leaving them alone, keeping their secret until it interferes with her son’s well being? With Normie’s plan coming to fruition, it looks like we’re gonna find out sooner rather than later.
As a stand alone issue, this was a pretty decent romp. It was well scripted and the art was solid and consistent with the style set by Stegman. However, stepping back and looking at the big picture, I felt the overall story was a bit rushed. I don’t mean to seem like I am complaining. I actually appreciate a story that is done in two or three issues, but I just assumed we’d be getting more out of this MJ as Venom story. Looking back at my youth, a lot of early Venom stories were a quick tease followed by a two parter (or three if you look at Carnage’s intro) and this certainly is in keeping with that. Heck, it adds to the late 80’s/early 90’s throwback sensibility. I was just hoping for a little more meat to chew on, especially given how Peter’s last encounter went. Having said that, this was another enjoyable issue and Frigeri is more than welcome to come back and pitch in on art duties if the need ever arises!
MY GRADE: B+
JAVI’S HUH?: How does Murph go forward, knowing that he saw A LOT of symbiote swirling around MJ? Does he ask her about it? Call the police? The way it’s depicted and the amount seen isn’t something one could blow off or easily explain.