Spider-Man Special Edition #1
Issue(s): Spider-Man Special Edition #1
To get a copy, you'll have to mail in a donation of at least $5.00 to the US Committee for UNICEF, and they'll send you back a copy of this special edition for each donation. Marvel will make no profit on this. All proceeds will got [sic] to the US Committee for UNICEF. So you win in two ways: you get a great story - one that is part of Spidey continuity - and you get to contribute to a worthy cause.
The emphasis there is mine; i just think it's noteworthy that in order to make the book desirable, they needed to stress that it was in continuity. This isn't like the Spider-Man & Power Pack free giveaway on sexual abuse. In fact, the story has nothing to do with UNICEF. And the book doesn't even have any ads or special copy talking about UNICEF. It's got the same ads as regular comics from this period, there's no mention of UNICEF anywhere, and the cover price is a normal $1.25 even though you had to donate $5 to get it.
The actual story is, as advertised, a trial of Venom. Eddie Brock, currently being held at the Vault, claims that the Venom symbiote has killed itself because it was still depressed and lovesick after Spider-Man rejected it. Now that he's just Brock, he's claiming that all along he was under the influence of the symbiote, and he's therefore getting a new trial to determine if he was culpable for what he did as Venom. Matt Murdock is asked to be Venom's lawyer, and Murdock basically forces Spider-Man to testify as a hostile witness.
Before we get to the trial, the story opens with a demonstration of a new rehabilitation program that the Vault is running. Prisoners on good behavior get to take advantage of a hologram system in their cells. We're shown Moonstone taking advantage of it by pretending that she's on the beach (allowing her to manipulate the guards). This isn't just to sneak some sex appeal into the book; the hologram capability will be a plot point at the end.
As for the trial, Murdock makes the case that while Eddie Brock may have hated Spider-Man before he was joined with Venom, he was intending to commit suicide when he found the symbiote. So this proves that Brock, by himself, was not the sort to go out and attack Spider-Man.
Reading the part about J. Jonah Jameson, my first thought was that JJ did try to kill Spider-Man, with the Spider-Slayers and by funding the creation of the Scorpion. But i guess that's actually covered in the dialogue. I suppose JJ always wanted to expose Spider-Man or see him brought to justice, not kill him. So that's probably what Spider-Man means about harassing him with almost deadly results. Spidey should have elaborated on that if he wanted to undermine Murdock's case.
Murdock wins the trial. But immediately afterwards, Spider-Man approaches him and harasses him, causing Brock, who had previously been hamming it up, pretending to be contrite, to lose his cool. He vomits up the Venom symbiote.
It turns out that to fake its death, Venom expunged some skin cells on the floor of the Vault, and no one was able to confirm if it was really the symbiote. The symbiote was really inside Brock. In addition to hiding, it was suppressing Brock's heart beat so that he could pass lie detector tests, and, fortuitously, fool Daredevil's radar sense.
So now Spider-Man and Daredevil have to fight Venom.
Venom says that he blames Daredevil for what happened to Brock, too, since DD was involved in the Sin-Eater affair. And that makes sense.
This actually seems like a fairly important point, but as far as i know it's the only acknowledgement of that. This story may be in continuity but i don't think it really ever got referenced or had an impact on future stories.
Spider-Man lures Venom into a cave outside the Vault grounds. Except it turns out to not really be a cave. It's Venom's cell, disguised by the hologram technology. So Venom has been tricked back into the Vault.
When it's all over, Daredevil tells Spider-Man that he still believes what he was arguing for. The fact that Venom was lying about the symbiote dying doesn't mean that Brock couldn't still be under the influence of the symbiote. Daredevil says that Venom's situation is actually a tragedy. Spider-Man says, "You mean I'm supposed to feel empathy for Venom now? Awwwww, Maattt...".
The following page advertises Venom's upcoming 6 part limited series. That said, the kind of rehabilitation that Peter David has in mind here is different than where Marvel generally goes when they start making Venom an anti-hero. It won't be about Brock exercising more control over the symbiote; it's just that Venom really does consider himself to be a protector of innocents, with only his hatred of Spider-Man getting a higher priority. So, again, this story has little impact going forward. But it does feel like an in-continuity book, with plenty of references (although only the first one gets a footnote). And it's smartly written by Peter David, who handles the legal aspects very well, including a scene with both lawyers talking about how they're satisfied that Spider-Man is who he says he is and things like that. I'm sure the legal aspects aren't accurate, but they pass the Law & Order bar (i.e., seems accurate enough for a layperson, and is also interesting). And David handles the friendship between Daredevil and Spider-Man, two characters with very different views, very well. The art by Jim Craig is pretty traditional, which is kind of surprising for a high profile comic like this featuring Venom where i suspect a lot of fans were expecting something more in the McFarlane/Larsen style, but i actually like the art a lot and wish more 90s books looked like this.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Venom has been held at the Vault since Amazing Spider-Man #363 (prior to that, he was living on an abandoned island). The story is context-free from Spider-Man and Daredevil's perspective. Moonstone is said to have been on her best behavior at the Vault "since the abortive breakout", a line that comes right after a reference to Deathtrap: The Vault. But by publication date Moonstone appeared in a couple of Captain America stories - Captain America #379 (Nefarius) and Captain America #387-389 (Superia Strategem) - after that. For what it is worth, Nefarius broke Moonstone out of prison in #379, and Moonstone was re-captured in #389. I suppose she could argue that she was broken out against her will and then came under Superia's influence, so even during that period she was on her "best behavior".
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showDaredevil, Eddie Brock (Venom), Grey Gargoyle, Moonstone (Karla Sofen), Spider-Man, Venom Symbiote
I loved the UNICEF comics. The Hulk one was also good, IMO. They absolutely felt like more than just "charity" work comics.
Posted by: clyde | April 19, 2016 9:27 AM
If this was only available through a five buck donation to UNICEF, why did Marvel put a $1.25 price on the cover, or bother with a cover price at all?
I suspect this was originally done for some other purpose, and became designated for UNICEF later on.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 19, 2016 3:02 PM
Just speculating, but there may have been a legal reason for the cover price (i.e. tax-related).
Posted by: Andrew Furdell | April 19, 2016 4:53 PM
I liked the fact that Venom (or rather, Brock) has a beef with Daredevil too. He was involved in the Sin-Eater affair that ruined Brock's journalistic career. Brock's hit list should have been the real Sin-Eater, fake Sin-Eater, Daredevil, Spider-Man and his boss that fired him. It didn't make sense for Brock to ONLY hate Spider-Man. I'd like to think that when Brock first met his symbiote, it, since it only hated Spider-Man, convinced Brock that only Spider-Man was to blame and therefore they went after him and spared the others.
I dislike Venom but I like what Peter David did with the character and with Brock in this storyline. The only other writer I found that handled Venom competently was his creator, David Michelinie. Before he ever bonded with his symbiote, I see Brock as a self-delusional narcissist who can't take responsibility for his actions and has to blame others for his failures. He deserved to get fired from his journalistic career since he was naive and unethical in covering the Sin-Eater who turned out to be the wrong one. No one else was at fault, including Spider-Man. Brock sees the world in black and white and anyone who ever allegedly wronged him deserves death. His symbiote gave him the power to act on his murderous anger issues. He wants to convince himself that he is still a good guy by going on to protect innocents, but he is not. He is delusional that murders innocents that has "wronged" him or prevented him from carrying out his revenge on Spider-Man, while at the same time, protected other innocents so that he still thinks of himself as a good guy.
Posted by: OptimusFan | April 19, 2016 5:10 PM
It's complicated, because Eddie's recollections of the Sin-Eater story (as he tells it in ASM #300) are way off. He says he revealed the fake's idenity in the papers, but that didn't happen; the fake was unmasked when he attacked the Daily Bugle. And he claims Spidey didn't need to find the real guy because maybe the real guy wasn't going to kill again anyway, but that's wrong too; he was caught in the act. So, who knows what's going on in Eddie's head...
Posted by: Andrew F | April 19, 2016 6:43 PM
"He says he revealed the fake's idenity in the papers, but that didn't happen; the fake was unmasked when he attacked the Daily Bugle. "
Actually, this is the series of events - Per Wiki entry on Eddie Brock -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Brock
"As a reporter, Brock investigates the serial killer Sin-Eater and is contacted by Emil Gregg, who claims to be the killer. Pressured by the authorities to reveal the killer's identity, Brock writes an exposé announcing Gregg as the Sin-Eater. However, the real Sin-Eater is caught by Spider-Man and Brock is revealed to have been interviewing a compulsive confessor.
Posted by: clyde | April 19, 2016 8:11 PM
@clyde If Brock or anyone else revealed the identity of the serial killer they were desperately searching for, nobody in the original Sin-Eater story noticed. They didn't know who Emil Gregg was until he was captured attacking the Bugle. ( http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/peter_parker_the_spectacular_s_42.shtml )
It's hard to come up with a no-prize-worthy way to integrate Eddie's version of events into what we saw actually happen.
Posted by: Andrew F | April 19, 2016 9:12 PM
Depending on the time that "Sin-Eater" went to the Daily Bugle, the issue that contained Eddie's piece would be going to news stands to be sold. It could easily have been too late to pull them before they were circulated. That would mean the issue would be out after the fact of Emil Gregg's unmasking. That's just my theory.
Posted by: clyde | April 19, 2016 10:20 PM
That still poses a plot problem, though, which is that Spidey and DD spend a lot of time trying to shake people down for the Sin-Eater's identity, but it never occurs to them to ask Brock. They're so desperate they go to Kingpin for help. Spidey even crosses some ethical lines, smashing up Josie's and putting a parolee in danger to get info. If anyone knew who the Sin-Eater was at that time, it seems like it would have been a major plot point.
Posted by: Andrew F | April 19, 2016 11:00 PM
That panel of Matt yelling at Spider-Man looks more like the artist forgot who they were drawing and drew Gyrich instead.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 28, 2016 11:55 AM
Andrew - I think the point is that Brock didn't announce that he knew who the Sin-Eater was. It was meant to be a "scoop". You don't go around telling people this big of a story in advance. When they wee the headline on the paper for the first time, it makes them want to buy the issue. Therefore, Spider-Man had no reason to go see Brock (assuming he even knew who that was).
Posted by: clyde | April 28, 2016 1:13 PM
That should be "When they "read" the headline on the paper for the first time".
Posted by: clyde | April 28, 2016 1:14 PM
I don't think that explanation fits with Brock's description of events in ASM #300. Brock specifically says that he was writing a series of articles, and that he was "protecting Mr. Gregg's identity through my rights under the first amendment" (don't try this at home). He says the police were putting a lot of pressure on him.
Posted by: Andrew F | April 28, 2016 2:04 PM
I've always felt that his memory of that particular timeframe is a bit hazy, after all, he's not firing on all cylinders at that point.
Posted by: D09 | April 28, 2016 10:26 PM
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