SPIDER-MAN: VENGEANCE OF VENOM (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 332, 333, 346, 347, 361-363, 374, 375, Spider-Man Special Edition No. 1, and the Venom back-up stories from Amazing Spider-Man No. 373, Amazing Spider-Man Annual Nos. 25, 26, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual No. 12, and Web of Spider-Man Annual No. 8 (cover dates May, 1990- March, 1993).
Writers: David Michelinie and Peter David (Spider-Man Special Edition No. 1 only)
Artists: Erik Larsen (332, 333, 346, 347), Mark Bagley (361-363, 374, 375), Tod Smith (373), Jim Craig ( Spider-Man Special Edition No. 1), and Aaron Lopresti (Annual back-up stories).
I am in shock. I normally equate '90s comics with crap, but I was completely blown away by both the quality of the writing and the artwork. One thing became apparent to me after reading this book: Venom is clearly David Michelinie's baby. I was there from the character's inception, buying ever issue of the rack when it came out, from the alien costume's first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man No. 252* through his first appearances in issues 299 and 300 and subsequent rematch during McFarlane's now legendary run. I liked Venom at first but later associated him with everything wrong about '90s comics: totally !!!extreme!!! and rad.
*Many fans erroneously state the first appearance of the alien symbiote that became Venom was Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars #8. That is the first chronological appearance of the entity, but that issue came out 6 months after ASM 252. If you were buying comics weekly in 1984 (which I was) then you would know this to be true.
Michelinie had everything mapped out from start to finish. Venom is cool because he was the first foe that Spider-Man couldn't beat in a fair fight. Spider-Man either had help or came up with some eleventh hour cop-out victory. He never decisively beat Venom, ultimately calling a truce with him after the Carnage symbiote forced them into a reluctant team-up. This was when Venom jumped the shark, doing a WWF Wrestling-style defection from bad guy to good guy due to popularity. It's too bad, because he was a great villain in spite of the stupid tongue. The alien symbiote could evade Spider-Man's Spider-Sense and, coupled with Venom's superior strength and comparable speed, actually scared Spider-Man. Many of Spider-Man's defeats came from his own self doubt.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Bagley's early artwork, especially on the Carnage arc (361-363). Bagley's action sequences are fluid and beautifully choreographed, with each panel looking like a stop-frame of an animated sequence. Genius. Bagley of course went on to great fame for his run on Ultimate Spider-Man. Erik Larsen is a fan favorite. He is nothing more than a second rate Todd McFarlane in my book, though. Passable if unremarkable artwork. Rick Parker's hand lettering is incredibly effective. So many Letters during this era were producing crap (i.e. Janice Chiang).
In Spider-Man Special Edition No. 1 (The Trial of Venom) we learn that the symbiote can fool Daredevil's radar sense for detecting heartbeat and pulse rate to determine if a person is lying. It's the little nuances like that which makes these characters so interesting to me. Seeing Daredevil tackle Venom was also cool. In closing, this book was and is a complete blast to read. I have several more '90s Spider-man collections in my backlog and look forward to reading them.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.75 out of 5.
The OCD zone- The 2nd print variants for the issues are included. The cover for the old Spider-Man: Venom Returns trade paperback is included in the back of the book, but the cover of the old Spider-Man: Carnage trade paperback is not. This book is a beefed up upgrade over both of those books.
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5.If there's a mistake, I didn't catch it.
Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Ditto. Looks Masterworks-worthy to my eyes.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. This book uses the same “Goldilocks weight” dull matte finish coated stock that the softcover Marvel Masterworks use. Godlike!
Binding rating: 4.25 out of 5. These thick chunky Marvel trade paperbacks have a nice thick band of glue.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. The usual high quality thick wax coated cardstock cover found on all Marvel trade paperbacks.
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