Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spider-Man: The Birth of Venom by various authors and writers

(oversized pb; 2007: graphic novel)

From the back cover:

"The origin of Venom!

"The Beyonder's Battleworld might seem a stranger place to get new threads, but it's Spiderman who becomes unraveled when his shape-changing costume attempts to darken his life as well as his fashion sense! But ridding himself of his riotous rainment proves an even greater mistake when its alien enmity bonds with mortal madness to form our hero's most dedicated decimator! Plus: the first appearance of Puma and the Rose! Mary Jane Watson's startling secret! And the debut of the battling. . . . Bag-Man!? Guest-starring the Black Cat, the Fantastic Four and more!

"Collecting Secret Wars #8; Amazing Spider-man #252 - 259, #298 - 300,  #315 - 317 and Annual #25; Fantastic Four #274; and Web of Spider-Man #1 -- written by Jim Shooter, Tom DeFalco, John Byrne, Louis Simonson and David Michelinie; and illustrated by Mike Zeck, Ron Frenz, Rick Leonardi, John Byrne, Greg Larocque and Todd McFarlane."


Venom is an exciting, chock-full-of-action-and-personal-drama read that I burned through in two hours. Being older and being a writer, I prefer the earlier issues in this collection, whose publication dates span from 1984 to the early nineties. While nostalgia no doubt plays a part in my preference, it is ultimately that the older issues have more interesting takes on the characters, as well as stronger and more complex writing. Not only that, the artwork is more consistently excellent.

Later storylines are simplified and seem to favor Todd McFarlane's ultra-splashy artwork, which give the characters, their motivations and their actions a paper-thin feel. The characters are too cartoonish. This cartoonishness dominates the writing, as well. Bear in mind, I am not saying that McFarlane is not talented; I admire his work a lot. What I am saying is he should have reined in his page-splashes to allow for more nuance, complexity and consistency in his Venom work.

Having written that, this was a mostly-excellent, fun collection, one worth owning (for cheap) for three-quarters of its content. If you can check it out from your local library, even better.

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