Amazing Spider-Man #298-300
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #298, Amazing Spider-Man #299, Amazing Spider-Man #300
This doesn't happen right away, and especially when MacFarlane is paired with strong writers, like Peter David on Hulk and David Michelinie here, the net effect is positive. But the popularity of McFarlane's art will result in a change to Marvel's house style that will ripple all throughout the line, so we'll see lesser artists trying to mimic the style of MacFarlane (and other new hot artists).
In addition to the art change, for the #300th anniversary we'll have a change in Spider-Man's status quo as the marriage to Mary Jane begins to create changes in Peter Parker's life, and of more immediate significance we'll be introduced to a very significant new villain and also the return of Spider-Man's classic red and blue costume. So there's a lot going on in these issues, and that being the case, it's probably a surprise that we're starting things off with the minor villain Chance. He's been hired to kill a mobster that was cooperating with the police (or in his parlance, he's made a bet with an interested party that he can kill the guy, for $10,000).
Meanwhile, Mary Jane's modelling career continues to pay off, and she's pushing Peter to move into the Bedford Towers, which house expensive new condos on the west side of Manhattan. Peter continues to feel inadequate about it. They also continue their weird sex games, which now include scandalizing a third person...
..before engaging in the Venus Butterfly.
When that's all over with, Peter goes down to the docs to take photos for a story assigned by Joe Robertson, and he runs into Chance, who is there to steal a shipment of military weapons. Before engaging, he tries to figure out the best way to maximize his income, but he's interrupted by a blackout caused by the events of Fall of the Mutants.
He finally engages after Chance injures a guard, and he's kicking himself the whole time for waiting that long.
Chance manages to get away, but Spidey hits him with a spider-tracer (with his new launcher) before going back to helping the guards. And that takes longer than expected, so he ends up going home. When he explains to Mary Jane what happens, she does a good job berating him for trying to compete with her monetarily and Peter seems to be coming around.
When Chance goes back to pick-up payment from his employers - the Board of Directors of the Life Foundation - they zap him unconscious with an electrified pen.
Spider-Man tries to track down Chance the next day (no sign of all of the damage to the city that happened in Fall of the Mutants), but gets blocked when a police officer calls him out for lurking on top of the truck that Chance's unconscious body is being transferred in. Since Spider-Man doesn't have any evidence, the policeman won't open the truck and he sends Spider-Man on his way. MJ cheers him up by taking him to a party with Eddie Murphy and Paul Shaffer.
Meanwhile, the Life Foundation people try to get Chance to reveal how his exoskeleton works. Later, Spider-Man does a lot of research at the Bugle and ESU and eventually tracks down the location of the Life Foundation's secret lab, called Sanctum Maximus. He finds Chance and agrees to release him. Chance says that the Life Foundation people are wealthy survivalists that are setting up expensive "escape condos" for when the world collapses, and their interest in weaponry is to defend their community. Spidey teams up with Chance...
..and they fight their way through the Life Foundation's goons and eventually blow the place up.
At the end of issue #298, we got a glimpse of someone very interested in Spider-Man and pretty clearly wearing the black symbiote suit.
And in #299 he shows up to harass Mary Jane while Spider-Man is out with Chance.
When Spider-Man gets home, she's a quivering mess.
She says that someone that looked like him, but bigger and bulkier showed up and asked where her "boyfriend" was (not aware that they are married now). He didn't physically hurt her, but he made her feel helpless. Peter notes that MJ is one of the strongest women that he knows, and it's true: we've seen MJ holding her own against, say, Alistair Smythe in Amazing Spider-Man annual #19, and it's very unusual for her to be this scared. This is exactly the sort of thing that Spider-Man always feared would happen if Peter ever revealed his secret identity to someone, but of course this isn't happening because MJ knows Pete's ID. It's because the symbiote costume knows his ID.
We then see her tormentor returning home and talking to the suit, and lifting a lot of weights.
Peter, meanwhile, figures out that whoever it was that terrorized MJ, he was wearing the symbiote suit. And if you want to see Todd McFarlane drawing a scene from Secret Wars, here it is.
That's a very bulky Spider-Man, especially noticeable in a scene that invites comparison with Mike Zeck's artwork.
Peter and MJ wound up staying at a hotel, and the incident gets Peter to agree to move into the Bedford Towers.
Peter then borrows a sonic gun from the Fantastic Four and then heads back to their old apartment where he checks his messages, including a reminder to have dinner with Aunt May. After leaving the apartment, he starts to suspect that he's being followed, but gives the guy the slip instead of finding out who it is.
While Peter and MJ are eating with Aunt May and her boarders (including Nate Lubenski, who we haven't seen much of lately and who had been on the outs with May)(in fact we haven't seen much of Aunt May, either, a point that MJ pushes on and finds that she's deliberately been giving the newlyweds some space), Venom is killing a security guard in the church that was Spider-Man's last encounter with the symbiote.
The next day, Peter and MJ move into their new condo with the help of a ton of old friends, including friends of MJs that we've never met before, but Peter is lured away by Venom.
He catches up with him in an abandoned building.
And it's revealed that the man wearing the symbiote suit is... Eddie Brock!
Sure, you know Eddie Brock. That long time supporting character in the Spider-Man books who was always bumping into Peter Parker because he was a reporter at the Daily Bugle's rival paper, the Daily Globe? No? Not ringing a bell? Well here's a little continuity insert for you.
Now to be clear, i didn't need for Venom's human half to be someone we knew already, but it's weird how Spider-Man is made to recognize the guy.
After falling on hard times, Brock decided to commit suicide, but since he was raised Catholic he first went to a church for guidance, and it happened to be the church where the symbiote was lurking, and they found each other.
While Brock is talking, Spider-Man manages to get to the FF's sonic gun, and he blasts Venom with it.
But the sonics don't fully do the job, and it's said that it's because Brock and the symbiote have already fully bonded (it's worth repeating what i've said in the past, which is that the original purpose of the sonic gun was to safely remove the symbiote from Peter Parker without hurting Peter. It's not that the symbiote was supposed to be especially vulnerable to sonics. That's not directly contradicted here, but the use of the gun in this story will continue to add to that perception).
Spider-Man would have to kill Brock to kill the symbiote, and he doesn't want to do that, so he tries to flee. But Venom doesn't recognize Spider-Man's mercy, so he renews the attack and manages to capture him, putting him inside the church bell that nearly killed the symbiote.
But Spider-Man escapes from that, and the fight continues. Wracking his brain to think about what he has that Venom doesn't, Spider-Man eventually remembers that Puma once told him that the webbing that his symbiote costume shoots is organic, and Spider-Man now realizes that means its coming from the symbiote's body, and must regenerate over time. Since that's the case, Spider-Man gets Venom to use up its webbing (it had already used a lot trapping him in the church bell), and is then able to knock him out.
Peter brings Venom to the Fantastic Four for safe keeping.
Long term, the plan is to transfer him to the Vault.
When it's all over, Mary Jane is very uncomfortable around Peter in his black and white costume, so he switches back to his red and blue version.
Actually, this is the replica that he bought in Germany. Can't tell if it still says Die Spinne on the back...
...but we will see the Die Spinne lettering in Thor #391 and Spectacular Spider-Man #138 before the costume is replaced in Web of Spider-Man #39.
Definitely a story worthy of an anniversary issue, with a new home for Spider-Man, a return to his original costume (sort of), and a new villain that will go on to be a major part of Spidey's rogue gallery. Whatever you think of what happens to the character long term, it's a nice pay off here to finally see what happens to the symbiote suit, a source of intrigue since Spider-Man first got it in Secret Wars. The previous final battle in the church felt a bit anti-climatic and it's much cooler to see a villain get the costume. I could have done without the backstory insert for Eddie Brock, but it's really fairly harmless.
I didn't buy these issues in real time, and i later got a trade with a bunch of early Venom appearances to catch up on the character, which of the issues in this entry only included #300 (as well as just tiny excerpts from Venom's previous behind the scenes appearances in Web of Spider-Man #18 and Web of Spider-Man #24), and i was definitely shocked by the art. Mary Jane was virtually unrecognizable, and Venom is actually pretty primitive looking and tame compared to what he'll evolve into. Reading this now in the proper order, it's interesting how much of this run, including the inclusion of Chance, is just picking up where David Michelinie's Web of Spider-Man got cut off. I still have mixed feelings about the art, and i'm actually looking forward to seeing Venom evolve since he's a character that artists can and should go crazy with. But i'm pretty impressed with Michelinie's plotting, and McFarlane so far is complementing that despite his major deviations from Marvel house style.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The early part of this story takes place during Fall of the Mutants, but it takes place over the course of a few days, and it must end after Fantastic Four #312 after the Thing is mutated and back at FF HQ. It's not said who (if anyone) is at the Fantastic Four's headquarters when Spider-Man earlier goes there to get the sonic gun. The change in costume here means that all black costume Spider-Man appearances have to take place prior to Fall of the Mutants.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Spider-Man Legends vol. 1: Todd McFarlane Book 1 TPB
Inbound References (17): show
David Michelinie intended Venom to be a woman who lost her husband and unborn child as a result of one of Peter's battles:
Posted by: Michael | May 26, 2014 11:41 PM
Venom is a puzzle. His concept was perfect for a very rarely used villain - the Bizarro for Spider-Man's Superman, so to speak. Interesting in small, well apart doses.
Yet he developed into a completely unlikely direction. Much to my disgust. People talk about how Doctor Strange's actions in 1988 should have had consequences, but Venom is a casual and hypocritical murderer from his very first issue.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | May 27, 2014 3:03 AM
I didn't get around to seeing McFarlane's art until around 1989 (The Assassin Nation's Plot) and I didn't like it at first. To this day, I'm still undecided about it. On one hand I like the big eyes but the weird poses put me off.
Those issues you've scanned were well written and Todd's art still had some decent storytelling but you're right, we'll be heading towards a horrible new direction in terms of pin ups and panels being all over the place...if only Jim Shooter was still there, I'm sure he'd reign it in.
By the time I encountered Venom (early 90s) He had all that teeth and slime (I think that was an Erik Larsen thing)and he became a monster. That's how I remember him so it's interesting to see his early beginnings here.
Posted by: JSfan | May 27, 2014 6:19 AM
The "Venom has to be a man so he can be a physical threat" thing might help explain the satirical amount of weights Eddie Brock is lifting. I didn't include a scan, but there's a part of Brock's origin that reads like a Charles Atlas ad, where he spends his last few dollars on a workout set, because all it takes is a couple months of weightlifting before you're 300 lbs of solid muscle.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 27, 2014 8:34 AM
"because all it takes is a couple months of weightlifting before you're 300 lbs of solid muscle." I wish!
Posted by: JSfan | May 27, 2014 10:46 AM
this was pretty much the beginning of the end for me. I started to lose interest in comics and I blame Macfarlane's influence. (and I never came back, at least to modern comics) I felt like I was the only guy at the time who hated his artwork (as you say, less storytelling more pin-ups and each artist trying to be different, putting their own "stamp" on characters to make them unrecognisable from each other.
Should these take place between Spectacular 137 and 138 due to the costume change? Not sure, just asking.
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 27, 2014 2:27 PM
And reading between the lines here, I thought there was an implided rape of MJ by Venom. Which would make her scared state more reasonable at least.
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 27, 2014 2:33 PM
I mention the costume issue in the Chronological Placement Considerations section for Spectacular #137. Basically there are enough other factors that Spectacular #137 should go after this, even though Spidey wears the black costume there.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 27, 2014 2:34 PM
sorry I just found that but you'd already replied
Posted by: kveto from prague | May 27, 2014 2:38 PM
Even with how overused Venom became (and the later depictions making him with the slobber and huge tongue), that first introduction is cool, with a beefy "Spider-Man" with that massive grin going "Honey, I'm home!" towards (amazingly massive hair and growing) MJ. Just the whole idea he looks like an evil-Spider-Man who happens to have everything the Symbiote had...
And considering how easily superheroes bulk up in this universe, its not that surprising to see Eddie Brock go from nothing overnight.
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 27, 2014 3:23 PM
I bought issue #299 in real time and remember its interesting cliffhanger, but Venom did as much for me as Chance had in the same issue. I later flipped through #300 at the supermarket comic rack and can only recall the red and blue costume's return on the last page before putting the comic back.
I went back to the series not long after but things would never be the same again: McFarlane's stylistic take on Spider-Man spelled the end for the more muscular and realistic 70's Spidey that John Romita, Gil Kane, and Ross Andru had made legendary. Spidey had already begun to thin out into Ditko territory after JR JR left Amazing but McFarlane took things to the extreme and then some.
That's when I realized that the main reason I had enjoyed McFarlane's Hulk run so much was mostly due to Peter David's writing.
Posted by: Clutch | May 28, 2014 7:23 AM
I still think McFaralane's Spider-Man, whether you like it or not, is among one of the definitive Spider-Man artists. I think if the editors and EiCs had some balls and reigned him in instead of looking for the quick buck with all the sales then McFaralane might have actually been very good. Instead, storytelling was thrown out the window for pin-up shots, cheesecake and Splash Page galore. Still, at least we're not in Liefeld territory...yet.
Posted by: JSfan | May 28, 2014 8:31 AM
When Venom is used right he is damn cool and scary, this story and the next, Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon and Ultimate Spider-Man comic are good.
Brains mod/lethal protector are pretty crap. Now I would have been all for Venom being a woman out to avenge her family and I bet that would have been pretty neat.
Posted by: david banes | June 12, 2014 1:12 AM
The main problem with Venom is the same thing anytime you have a villain who knows the hero's secret identity. The villain has to use it to his advantage. However, since that is such a major advantage (and crucially, something that can destroy the entire title since it should lead to the destruction of the secret identity completely) they need to reduce the threat in a different way. For Norman Osborn, it was to make him an amnesiac which ultimately made the Green Goblin a contrived villain who was ill used after Ditko.
Knowing the hero's secret identity can make one awesome storyline. But it more or less destroys the villain for any real long term viability.
Venom would be far better had the symbiote kept the secret of Peter's secret identity from its host. Yes, find someone who hates Spider-Man that the symbiote can use. However, ultimately the symbiote hates Peter not because he wants to kill him, but because Peter rejected him and it wants to return to Peter. It'd be a far more interesting character if the symbiote was seen as manipulating the host to actually keep Spider-Man alive even while allowing the host to hurt him, and eventually the host would notice it (while never learning Peter's identity).
Posted by: Chris | June 22, 2014 9:38 PM
Terry Austin was originally announced as inking a chapter of #300.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 5, 2014 5:33 PM
Todd MacFarlane stated in Comics Interview #81(3/90) that he had very little communication with Michelinie while on the book. He also said he took the "spaghetti webbing" from a Defenders plate Michael Golden did in a 1980 Marvel Portfolio that also featured Spider-Man.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 3, 2015 12:19 PM
Does it bother anyone else that Venom's origin doesn't fit the actual events of the Sin Eater story, especially regarding how the fake was captured? Because that has bugged me for decades.
Posted by: Andrew F | May 12, 2015 11:31 PM
I admit that I remember these issues quite fondly... I read them when I was 12 or something and I loved them. And, even today, I still think they are quite solid story-wise. I really don't like what Venom evolved into in his later appearances, but in his introductory story he was genuinely scary.
Also, I admit that I liked MacFarlane's art quite a lot as a kid... These days, not so much. One thing I really don't understand is how he could get away with redesigning MJ - his version really looks like a completely different character. Unfortunately, other artists had to run with that version, too - which led to Larsen's awful MJ with her big eyes and extreme pouty lips, or Bagley's MJ, who looked like a Jean Grey clone. I actually like Bagley very much, but his MJ was nothing like MJ from earlier decades...
I really wonder if there was any reaction to MacFarlane changing MJ's looks, when these issues originally came out?
Posted by: Piotr W | May 17, 2015 10:06 AM
I don't know if there was a different reaction in the fanzines, but the letters published in the lettercols were extremely positive.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 17, 2015 11:08 AM
Hm. I guess that sexiness won with continuity...
On another note, a funny story: I'm not American, so all the cameos by American celebrities were going over my head when I was reading these issues. When I was reading #299, I didn't know who Paul Schaffer was, so I was wondering what the point of this scene with him was. And I had strong suspicions that this "weird guy" was going to be revealed as Venom! After all, what could be another reason for including him at all? Heh :)
Posted by: Piotr W | May 17, 2015 2:34 PM
On the one hand, I really like how MacFarlane draws Spider-Man in both costumes and Venom. But I really don't like how he draws anyone else and he should get more of the burden that all seems to fall on Liefeld, especially since it's clear from interviews that MacFarlane himself is a complete and utter ass.
That said, the first introduction of Venom I thought at the time was really friggin cool, and I still pretty much think so. Of course such a cool intro would lead to complete saturation, but this was really impressive. I still think it should have been Lance Bannon though.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 26, 2015 2:21 PM
I have never liked Venom, right from the very start. Okay, yes, he has a cool, distinctive visual. But I have always thought that Eddie Brock had the most ridiculous motivation to be going after Spider-Man...
"I'm going to kill Spider-Man because he revealed me to be an incompetent reporter! Spider-Man must pay for actually thinking it was more important to capture a dangerous serial killer than it was to protect my career! He's a bad man! And if I have to murder a bunch of innocent people along the way, well, no biggie, because that's small potatoes compared to the horrible crimes that Spider-Man committed against me!"
Maybe, just maybe, this might just have worked if it had been clearly explained that Eddie Brock was completely insane, or that the alien symbiote was seriously distorting his perception of reality. But as it is, it just makes Venom look like a petty lunatic.
Also, I agree that Michelinie having Mary Jane become a famous supermodel who moved in high-society circles (as opposed to just a runway model who still struggled to make ends meet) was a bad miscalculation that would eventually contribute to the retconning away of her marriage to Peter. It wasn't being married that made Peter not relatable. Rather, it was having his wife become the comic book equivalent of Cindy Crawford that did the job.
As for the artwork, well, I have never been a huge fan of McFarlane. I like the art on the first two chapters, but that is probably because Bob McLeod is inking them. I've actually read that McLeod was doing finishes over McFarlane's breakdowns but was only getting paid for inks, which understandably led to him getting fed up and leaving ASM very quickly. That's when started doing full artwork, at which point his work became extremely exaggerated.
Posted by: Ben Herman | July 26, 2015 3:39 PM
Just had a thought: How could Venom be convicted and sent to the Vault based on this storyline? Spidey is pretty much the only person who could testify against him, and, well, he wouldn't.
Posted by: Thanos6 | July 26, 2015 5:30 PM
I always assumed they found the dead cop in the church and since Eddie's fingerprints were in the church, they arrested Eddie. But Larry Hama acted like the cop's body had just been found in the Venom: On Trial series. In any case, in the Spider-Man Special Edition: Trial of Venom series, Peter IS allowed to testify without revealing his identity.
Posted by: Michael | July 26, 2015 6:37 PM
Comics Journal #146 pointed out an apparent swipe by MacFarlane in #298 from Akira Volume 3(a big boat coming into a harbor).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 28, 2015 3:01 PM
I think Venom is portrayed a raving loon in this story, what with the whole "mad laughter" bit. And in his first few stories, Venom is definitely supposed to be a self-deluded hypocrite; the story goes out of its way to have him kill innocents and then shed crocodile tears over it. There's a distinct shift in the way Michelinie writes Venom after Erik Larsen comes aboard, as he starts trying to give Brock a legitimate, albeit twisted code of ethics. I like this version better; it makes for a more terrifying villain.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 25, 2015 8:51 PM
Didn't Peter get the little black ball costume in Secret Wars #8, not #9?
Anyway, I remember ASM300 being "big anniversary" in Marvel history and it paid off, more than FF300, Avengers 300, or Uncanny X-Men 300 (although I did love Hulk 300).
In many ways it is the zenith of Spider-Man and in around two years the beginning of the nadir of Spider-Man and Marvel Comics in general for me as an old fan.
By the way, I do not care if Venom was "originally supposed to be a villain and Marvel is sexist" as the 1st poster parroted from Dave Michelinie. Eddie Brock had the backstory and personality to be a great rival.
Venom, in his original form and character, is superior to how he evolved. The code of ethics? Garbage. The anti-hero? Garbage. Brains? Garbage. Carnage and a whole planet of these things? Garbage. Deadpool retcons? Garbage. The one million mini-series and appearances? Garbage.
Regarding Mary Jane- although the supermodel bit did not end well for the marriage, it was at least a natural evolution of the character, and in many ways kinda predated the whole reality show Instagram stars of today's age. Hot chicks get a lot of press.
Posted by: Damian | January 16, 2017 8:26 AM
It was Secret Wars #8. The footnote in issue #300 was wrong. Noted it, thanks.
P.S., Michael wasn't "parroting" anything, he was expressing his opinion, just as you are entitled to yours. Please be civil here.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 16, 2017 2:46 PM
Paul's little baby hand
Posted by: Tedbundysniftyshack | March 15, 2018 6:47 PM
Interesting note: The name of the club in #299 is the Spawning Club.
Posted by: Vancelot | March 28, 2018 3:15 PM
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