Reading Experience: The Brutality of Venom (and Kicking off Venom Week)

I thought we’d get a bit thematic here at Chasing Amazing and spend the week talking about one of Spider-Man’s most polarizing villains, Venom. In recent years, I’ve found that Venom has become a “love him or hate him” character in the Marvel universe, which makes sense given how he’s evolved and changed over the years – some would say for the worse. However, I’ve always maintained a fondness for the character and his alter-ego, Eddie Brock. Keep in mind that when Venom was first introduced in 1987, I was just getting into Spider-Man and comic books. A character that had all of the same attributes as Spider-Man but was terrifyingly evil was a fascinating concept. Then, as Marvel initially evolved the character throughout his first few appearances, Venom/Brock became even more of a draw. He had all the characteristics of a perfect villain – someone who was undoubtedly evil, but who also believed he was justified in his actions. The fact that Venom/Brock spoke about protecting the “innocents” in his quest to kill Spider-Man, brought the character up another notch on the “crazy” scale.

As a result, the first four or five arcs that featured Venom during the late 80s and early 90s, felt like bonafide “events.” They were fun to read, and I looked forward to these appearances. It wasn’t until Marvel started to treat him like some kind of B-level movie monster who was obsessed with eating brains, and then changed who was wearing the alien symbiote suit that I think the character started to grow stale. I can certainly understand the disenchantment. But for me, whenever I think of Venom/Brock, I immediately come back to his initial run under ASM writer David Michelinie and artist Todd McFarlane. More specifically, I always think of the above panels from Amazing Spider-Man #316 and how everything that is both terrifying and fascinating about the character is on display just on that one page.

In the previous issue, Venom has broken out of prison, where he’s been locked up since his first epic encounter with Spider-Man in ASM #300. For those unfamiliar with the character’s origins, Venom is a villain who has been created out of sheer hatred for Spider-Man. His black suit is actually the same alien symbiote that created Spider-Man’s black costume during the 1980s. After learning that the suit was alive and basically feeding off him, Spidey/Peter Parker rejects the symbiote, birthing its intense hatred. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock is a reporter at the Daily Globe when he writes an article revealing the identity of a serial killer dubbed the Sin Eater. However, Spider-Man eventually captures the real Sin Eater and Brock’s subject is revealed to be a fraud. Brock is fired from his job and his personal life falls apart, leading to his hatred of Spider-Man. He contemplates suicide in a church, when a certain dejected alien symbiote finds him, and Venom is born – with the knowledge of Spider-Man’s true identity thanks to the alien’s experience feeding off Peter during his black suit phase.

So with Venom on the loose again in ASM 315-317, the reader is dreading the worst for Spider-Man/Peter. And because of Venom’s psychotic nature, he’s demonstrated that he’s not afraid to go after people who know Spider-Man/Peter intimately. Though he doesn’t physically touch her, he traumatizes the usually strong-willed Mary Jane during his first appearance in ASM #300. Here, in ASM #316, Venom has set his sights on the Black Cat, who used to date Spider-Man. Because the Black Cat initially tries to fight off Venom, the villain reacts with excessive violence and brutality, smashing her face into a wall and nearly ripping her in half. But after looking in her eyes and seeing she honestly doesn’t know where Spider-Man is, he leaves her in a heap, still alive, but very badly beaten.

So despite his insanity, Venom can still practice enough control that he can beat a person within inches of his/her life and still spare him/her if he believes he/she is not trying to protect Spider-Man. If Black Cat presented herself as a legitimate roadblock to Venom’s mission, he would have killed her instantly and without remorse.

And consider the excessive brute force on display here. Venom left such an impression on me as a kid, because I honestly don’t remember seeing another villain become so physically violent with another character as he does here with the Black Cat. Even when the Green Goblin kills Gwen Stacy by throwing her off a bridge, he at least doesn’t beat her senseless first and make her contemplate if he’s going to finish her off before doing the deed. The Goblin makes his choices so quickly, it just comes across as more sudden and borderline humane, than a character who is calculated, stalking and explosive as Venom.

So, I think Venom week should be fun. I’m going to look at the current Anti-Venom storyline in ASM, discuss the new Venom series which features Flash Thompson wearing the symbiote, and by the end of the week, I’ll do a remembrance post on a Venom-centric issue that I’ve always had a specific attachment to.

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