This comic book is an homage. It’s an homage to those great Spider-Man stories in the 80s including Peter David’s phenomenal Sin-Eater saga featuring the death of Jean de Wolff. Any Spider-Man fan worth his salt knows the significance of that event in continuity with the web crawler wearing his black and white threads prior to Venom’s first appearance.
Yet this comic book series is more than that; it takes what other Spidey writers like David, Danny Fingeroth and J.M. Dematteis have wrought and attempts to expand on these great stories to weave together a highly expanded origin story featuring Eddie Brock who was the original Venom. The book even follows the old comic book format of sticking the credits in the back instead of on an opening splash page.
The only problem is that the plot is highly decompressed. Wells’ story telling is very thin with each issue moving at a terribly slow pace, this issue being the most problematic of the three published thus far, in as far as this aspect of the book is concerned.
The central action of the comic doesn’t even feature Spider-Man, which is understandable as the web crawler is only a bit player in the drama as Eddie Brock and his menacing alter ego take center stage. But by recounting their origin in the church harking back to Web of Spider-Man #1, Wells seems stuck in neutral as far as plot development is concerned, devoting as much time as he does to the creature’s already well known genesis.
The artwork is another thing altogether. Angel Medina’s pencils are deliciously good in this comic. He’s one of those talents with a distinct style all of his own and his take on the dark Spider-Man and Venom are a treat for die hard aficionados of the character. While every artist seems to have put his own stamp on the character since its inception, Venom has been devolving into a monster with clawed feet and his current incarnation almost makes him look like an entirely different character.
There are also entire pages detailing events first chronicled in the Secret Wars mini series. Normally I am opposed to so much space being given to large panels devoid of text, but in this case I will make an exception because these familiar events are made fresh again by Medina’s wonderful renderings.
Medina does an excellent job of not only capturing the original look of the character, defined by the masked features of his black and white clad nemesis, but also of evoking his original motivation: His bond with Brock born out of pure hatred of the web crawler and a delusional belief that Spider-Man ruined his life following the events in the “Sin Eater” storyline. For this reason alone I have to up the ante when it comes to a bullet grade for this comic as I feel Medina is at the top of his game.
In my opinion, Marvel ruined Venom a long time ago by overexposing the character and by diluting his initial characterization, going as far as to turn him into an anti-hero for the purposes of using him in comics outside of the Spider-Man continuity. It’s good to see a comic that at least tries to get back to basics. By doing so, it evokes the old feelings of witnessing a fresh concept and the birth of great new villain for Spider-Man. Also, kudos to the House of Ideas for bringing back a part of my youth. I just wish the execution of the narrative portion of the comic would have been handled with a little more precision.