Amazing Spider-Man annual #26 Spectacular Spider-Man annual #12 Web of Spider-Man annual #8 (Venom)
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man annual #26, Spectacular Spider-Man annual #12, Web of Spider-Man annual #8 (Venom story only) Cover Date: 1992 Title: "First Kill" Credits:
David Michelinie - Writer
Aaron Lopresti - Penciler
Bruce Jones - Inker
Eric Fein - Assistant Editor
Danny Fingeroth - Editor
What is called on the cover of these issues only a "solo tale of Venom" is in fact the origin of Venom. I hate cutting up my trades, so i at first considered ignoring this as a kind of recap of what we already learned from things that Venom has told Spider-Man, but this story does give us insight into the direction that Venom's (co-)creator David Michelinie intended to take the character circa 1992 when this was published. Michelinie is establishing here that Venom has operated right from the beginning out of a sense of justice. That sense of justice becomes twisted due to the events of this story.
In terms of the creative team, this story is also notable for having some early Marvel work by Aaron Lopresti (although it's not his first appearance in my project) and the rare case of Bruce Jones, who i know as the writer of Ka-Zar in the 80s and then a much later run on Hulk, working as an inker. I do have another instance of Jones inking in my project, but it's for a story that he also wrote and penciled.
The story starts in the church where the symbiote is attracted to Eddie Brock. Brock was considering suicide due to the fact that his career was ruined, and he's come to the church for guidance or forgiveness. Instead, when he says that he hates Spider-Man, the symbiote comes down and covers him.
"Hours later", Brock is walking down the street, thinking to himself about how the symbiote is mimicking his clothes and talking to him inside his head about how it came from outer space, but means him no harm. Brock's thoughts are interrupted by a neighbor, Ernesto Mendez, who has just finished an invention he's been working on. He invites Eddie to come up and celebrate with him and his nephew Pablo, but Eddie declines.
While Pablo argues with his uncle, saying that Ernesto should sell the patent, Eddie discovers that he's got tremendous strength.
I've wondered about Venom's strength in other entries, but since i'm placing this continuity insert earlier in my project, let me reiterate: Spider-Man has the proportional strength of a spider. The idea that the symbiote costume gave Spider-Man any extra strength in the original comics is very subtle if it's there at all. It's really an idea that came from cartoons and movies and the like. So why is Venom so strong, even stronger than Spider-Man? As Andrew F notes in the comments, Amazing Spider-Man #332 provided an answer. It's odd to not see it reiterated here. I'd even want it to be explained better.
It's only after this that the symbiote tells Brock that it doesn't like Spider-Man. But their conversation is interrupted by a scuffle at the Mendez residence. Eddie goes to investigate and finds a thug attacking Ernesto. Using his new strength and the symbiote's gooey powers...
...Brock is able to throw the thug through a wall. But Ernesto dies. He asks Eddie to find his nephew Pablo, who has been kidnapped. Then the police show up. Notice Eddie switching to using "We".
Eddie finds out that he's immune to bullets.
He then flees the cops. He then tries to use his connections as a reporter trying to find information on the company, the Markham Machine Company, that he thinks was pressuring Ernesto to sell his patent. But since Brock has lost his job at the Daily Globe, he isn't able to use the Globe's files or go to the company directly. So instead he takes matters into his own hands.
Very Ditko-looking panel there.
Eddie breaks into Markham and fights some security guards. He then runs into Pablo, but it turns out that Pablo is not a prisoner; he's working with Markham. Pablo fires a gun at Eddie. Eddie isn't afraid of the gun, but Pablo's shot starts a fire. And that's how Eddie learns that the symbiote is afraid of fire.
Eddie is able to convince the suit to come back to him, promising that he'll keep it safe. He then escapes the fire and confronts Pablo.
Note that Eddie refers to himself as Venom. I thought this was a waste. "If we must do this tedious origin story, at least explain how he came up with that name", i thought. But shows you what i know. Just wait a few pages.
In the meantime, Venom learns that Pablo sold out his uncle. His plan was to get money for the patent and then share it with his uncle. But he learns that his uncle is dead, and is wracked with guilt. Note that Venom seems perfectly rational and restrained at this point.
Venom then chases after the head of the Markham company, who burns up Ernesto's blueprint to avoid prosecution. And this, "a moment that will change Eddie Brock's life forever", is where Eddie snaps.
The text makes it clear that this is murder, so i don't think we're meant to see this as a righteous killing, even in the sense of, say, the Punisher. I mean, if Eddie were a little smarter he could have convinced Pablo to testify that he conspired with Markham; it's not like the only option for justice was killing this executive.
On the other hand, Eddie still seems perfectly rational after this is all over, much more so than he'll seem as Eddie Brock in his later appearances.
Then Eddie goes home and accepts the symbiote's offer to bond with him permanently. And you'll see him coming up with the name Venom again, as if it's the first time.
Probably the most important thing is the fact that a Venom mini-series will be coming soon. Despite the "murder" line, it's pretty clear that this story is establishing Venom as a kind of hero when it comes to matters other than Spider-Man. He doesn't explicitly kill anyone in this story except the Markham exec. I mean, he does throw a guy through a brick wall and is pretty rough on the Markham security guards, so in real life he probably would have killed people, but Michelinie doesn't make a point of Venom killing anyone. And then he's very lenient on Pablo at the end. So more than providing us details about Venom's origin and first outing, which we didn't really need, the point of this seems to be establishing that Venom has the potential for a certain kind of heroism, however "twisted".
In my view it would have made more sense to say that Venom was indeed as twisted and evil as he always seemed to be. Yes, with the warped idea that he needed to protect the innocents, but not in such a nice and fluffy way as we see here. And then his mini-series could have been about him evolving into a more heroic role. It wasn't necessary to establish that Venom always had this in him.
So i don't have much use for this story. I am also annoyed that there wasn't more about Eddie learning about the symbiote, like why it grants strength, or why it seems to be able to communicate telepathically with Brock in a way that it never did with Spider-Man. Or why Venom waited months between his two initial anonymous attacks on Spider-Man and his full debut, since Venom seems perfectly capable of using his powers at full strength at this point. In fact, i wish that Venom looked more like he did in the early McFarlane appearances here. He should have been less monstrous than the Erik Lasen version. As i said, the main point of this seems to be establishing Venom's positive sides, which is why it's not delving into these sort of things. But it would have been nice to see them incorporated to some degree. Again, if we must have this at all.
Quality Rating: D+
Historical Significance Rating: 1
Chronological Placement Considerations: This would have to take place after Web of Spider-Man #1, when Spider-Man gets rid of the symbiote in the bell tower, and before Web of Spider-Man #18, the first time that Venom makes a (mostly behind the scenes) appearance. It also has to take place after Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110, since that's the story where Spider-Man exposed Eddie Brock's article regarding Sin-Eater's identity as false (retroactively speaking; it wasn't something we saw in that story at the time).
I don't remember where this was revealed, because I had basically every Venom appearance when I was a kid, and now I'm old and tired: the symbiote is able to augment the wearer's strength exponentially, so Eddie's "Olympic-level" build gives him a lot of bonus power...but it didn't work that way for Spider-Man because his strength was already artificially superhuman. Maybe it comes up in one of his limiteds or something, but that's the explanation I remeber. It might have even been on a trading card.
Thanks Andrew. I've added scan on that entry and updated some of my comments.
March 8, 2016 6:54 PM
I just watched a recording of the "Childish Things" episode of Supergirl last night- the one where she encounters the Toyman. The Toyman is given an origin as having been a good man and a good father until his boss stole his inventions and fired him. So you might think the episode would portray him sympathetically.
But you'd be WRONG! We're constantly reminded just how evil and twisted he is throughout the episode.
And that's exactly the problem with this take on Venom. Instead of embracing the fact that Venom has killed whoever got in the way of his revenge, and ultimately villains are villains because they make monstrous choices, Michelinie tries to get us to take the villain's sob story seriously. It's like the Daredevil issue fnord mocked where Ann Nocenti expects us to feel sorry for a serial killer because he had a bad day of the office but this isn't just one forgettable story-it's the main take on Venom from now on.
March 8, 2016 10:25 PM
Had no idea Lopresti went back this far. One of my favourite underrated artists.