Sunday, April 5, 2015

Quick Comic Reviews: Venom: Lethal Protector

We are Venom! And we HATE Spider-Man...for stealing our first solo series.

Who do you consider to be Spider-Man's greatest villain? The Green Goblin? Doctor Octopus? Both are potentially correct answers (though we all know Goblin is the clear winner) but back in the late 80s to early 90s, there was a new villain in town making waves, and quickly occupied that spot in many readers minds (for better or worse) and that was non other than Eddie Brock, AKA Venom. Having bonded with the symbiotic costume that Peter picked up during the Secret Wars, Eddie gained the ability to mimic Peter's powers, and nullify his spider-sense, plus he also gained access to all of the memories Peter shared with the symbiote. Following numerous story arcs with Venom as the bad guy, the character proved popular enough that Marvel decided to give the character a shot at his own book, and was it good, or was it yet another example of the symbiote oversaturation that people eventually grew sick of?

Having struck a mutual deal with Peter to stay out of each other's way Eddie Brock has relocated to San Francisco California in order to start a new a superhero. A respectable choice, however his actions from his previous campaign against Spider-Man are catching up with him in the form of the law and a vengeful vigilante group known as The Jury, throw in a conspiracy that threatens an underground homeless civilization Venom has sworn to protect, and some painful memories from Eddie's past, Venom may end up needing his greatest enemy's help to survive.

Now, if you picked this trade up from a bookshelf, you'd think this would be a Venom solo series right? Well...not really; while Venom is a heavy focus in this mini-series, it still ends up being heavily bogarted by Spider-Man who takes over about 50% of the book, which to me makes the title seem like false advertising given that this feels more like a Spider-Man/Venom team-up rather than a mini-series ABOUT Venom. The parts that actually are about Venom are decently done, for example, one of the highlights of this series come in the first issue when Venom is trying his hand at some superheroics, like when he hilariously traumatizes his rescuee with his brutal, brand of justice-dealing despite his chivalrous intentions, or when he politely apologizes to a hotel clerk after KOing some police officers in the hotel lobby.

Our hero ladies and gentlemen!

Okay, false alarm, he politely gave her purse back. Now she won't need years of therapy, right?

We do get to see some more backstory for Eddie Brock...but it's so generic, and so cliched that I feel absolutely no shame in spoiling it...Eddie's entire neurosis is because his dad never hugged him despite his accomplishments...seriously. This could have made for some decent story-telling if we learned this through Eddie's actions, and it was the focus of this whole story, but no, we learn this because SPIDER-MAN is told this by Mr. Brock's maid ( what is it with servants in Spider-Man fiction being the exposition dealers). In fact Venom actually spends quite a lot of the series getting knocked around like a chump by almost everyone, and  has to be rescued by Spider-Man on numerous occasions which once again kinda gives the impression that Venom is just in this series as opposed to it being about him, and when Spider-Man isn't around to save him, Venom reuses the whole "get em talking long enough to recover and run" trick 3 or more times in a row, practically turning it into a running gag.

Not gonna lie...that's a friggin AWESOME variant cover!

For a ninties comic, the art actually isn't bad in my opinion. While there are some proportion and perspective issues, and often Bagley makes it look like Venom is biting his own tongue, the art is still well defined, it's easy to discern what is happening, and it makes for some dynamic and highly entertaining action sequences. Though I will say there are a few too many empty gradient backgrounds (especially in outdoor panels) which can make some panels feel a bit lifeless.

Venom: Lethal Protector is nowhere near the best use of Venom (mostly because it's not really about him), and it has a LOT of problems both in writing and art, but it's still an enjoyable team-up story with some good action, and some rather funny quips, 

Oh yeah, this story also introduced Riot, Agony, Lasher, Phage and Scream. You remember them right? Of course you don't!


  • Good action
  • Several funny moments and quips
  • One or two excellent covers
  • Title is false advertising with Spider-Man getting as much if not more panel time as Venom
  • Lifeless backgrounds
  • Too many dangling subplots
  • Repetitive moments
  • Eddie's backstory is incredibly cliched.

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