Amazing Spider-Man and Venom: Venom Inc. Omega is ridiculous, in good and bad ways, but doesn’t really stand out.
There will be spoilers…
I’ve always liked Venom, for a number of reasons. The black and white Spider-Man costume is very classic in its aesthetic. It just looks cool. I loved it, and hated to see Spidey lose the Venom look. But then Venom became his own character, and various creators started adding monstrous tweaks to Venom’s appearance over the years, like the signature toothy grin and near-prehensile tongue, hunched but powerful frame, the gloopy tentacular extrusions, as well as the tendency to eat people, and Venom became a great example of the monster/horror genre invading the superheroic. I mean, look at his weaknesses: fire and loud noises! He’s totally a classic movie monster. Factor in the focus on issues of addiction, isolation, and co-dependence, and Venom becomes, in the right hands, a great vehicle for telling serious stories about misunderstanding, pain, need, and the general loneliness of the human condition.
But that’s not what kind of story this is.
Let’s start with that title. That is a wordy jumble of a title, for sure. But if they didn’t stick Spidey’s name at the beginning, it wouldn’t get stacked next to the Spidey comics on the rack. Since this issue and the accompanying Alpha are bookends to a crossover featuring these two characters, it seems legitimate to market it this way. I get that the Alpha and Omega bits indicate the beginning and end of the story; it’s not easy to clearly and stylistically delineate issue order for stories that are a mix of mini-series and crossover. Even so, the title’s a mouthful, and the seemingly important part, Venom Inc., is easily lost in the mix. But Spider-Man is written well, especially his banter with Flash Thompson, aka Anti-Venom. He’s goofy and self-deprecating and even though it’s an ensemble cast, he takes center spotlight. So I guess he deserves top billing. I just dislike the extended title; it’s clumsy.
The story is manic and light, mostly focused on the final conflict between Lee Pierce in the Mania symbiote and Spider-Man, Anti-Venom, Venom, Black Cat, and Andi Benton, former owner of the Mania symbiote. It’s a goofy but satisfying battle royale, with little care for explanations regarding Pierce’s ability to make the Mania symbiote enslave others, or grow gigantic. I’m not asking for John Byrne here, but give me something. Maybe continued contact with the hellmark Flash passed to Andi mutated the Mania symbiote? That would work. But nothing? Pierce just happened to figure it out? Pierce comes across as little more than a stereotypical raving super-villain, especially when he’s not winning, which feels like a waste of what had been an interesting character. Still, Spidey and Black Cat seem to have made up, which is nice, Flash Thompson’s a superhero again, and Eddie Brock and Venom are still working out their co-dependent relationship, so it’s a satisfying conclusion and reset to the status quo, for the most part.
Dan Slott and Mike Costa are obviously having fun with this story. It’s got an old school feel, with heroes quipping and joking in the face of danger, shrugging off damage and leaping back into the fray with abandon. Spidey’s funny, Flash is heroic, and Eddie’s all grimdark. It’s solid characterization and dialogue, with the exception of Pierce’s monologuing.
But it all feels a little standard, like Slott and Costa are just connecting the dots, rather than creating something new. There’s not a lot of tension, which seems like the wrong tone for a symbiote story. There’s a nice bit of wackiness, especially in Ryan Stegman and Gerardo Sandoval’s depiction of the symbiotes. I do love that crazy grin, slimy substance, and wagging tongue. But this is definitely not a serious story about misunderstanding, pain, need, and the general loneliness of the human condition. It’s just a kinda fun extended fight scene, that feels more like setup for future stories than its own narrative. Hopefully those stories will be more satisfying than this one.
Amazing Spider-Man and Venom: Venom Inc. Omega, published 1/17/18 by Marvel Comics, features writing by Dan Slott and Mike Costa, lettering by Joe Caramagna, and art by Ryan Stegman, Gerardo Sandoval, Jay Leisten, and Brian Reber.