Though I have not been reading Venom or up on the current status quo of the character, much less who is actually running around as Venom right now, I’ve decided to give “Venom Inc.” a shot. This is 100% driven by the fact that this crossover event will be taking place in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man as well. With how early on we are into Peter Parker and Spider-Man’s new status quo this could turn into another big step for the character. Or maybe that is just to high of an expectation. Who knows. But at the very least “Venom Inc.” should help the stage for what Spider-Man and Venom’s standing with one another is. Given that Venom has been out on his own with an ongoing series for the last few years we haven’t seen much interaction between the two. So how will things go for Spider-Man and Venom? Let’s find out with Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha #1.
Writers: Dan Slott and Mike Costa
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Colorist: Brian Reber
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: A week earlier in Philadelphia Mania (a symbiote host) stops a mugging with some guidance from Flash Thompson.
Afterwards Mania comes across some gangsters robbing a jewelry store. Mania tries to stop them but is blasted from behind by an electric blast by all the thieves. They then steal the symbiote Mania was wearing.
In the present, Spider-Man sops the Ringer and his gang from robbing a museum. He is then attacked from behind by Black Cat. Black Cat is able to pin Spider-Man down and gives her a chance to rob some of the artwork.
After recovering Spider-Man gets a call from Flash about meeting.
A little later Flash is surprised that Peter Parker came to meet him instead of Spider-Man. Flash goes over how his friend Andi (Mania) was attacked and left in the hospital. He asks if Spider-Man can help him out. Peter is not sure since Spider-Man would probably want to destroy the symbiote suit. Flash knows what Peter means and thanks him for the advice.
Elsewhere, Venom (Eddie Brock) stops Looter from robbing a bank truck and threatens to kill the villain. Eddie starts losing control of the Venom symbiote, giving Looter a chance to escape.
Eddie ends up going to Alchemax and makes his way in without a problem. Flash notices this and tries to get into Alchemax but is told to leave. When Flash doesn’t the secretary gets the security guards to throw him out the building.
In the middle of being thrown out Flash is able to steal one of the security guards access card and sneaks back into the building.
On a nearby building Spider-Man sees what Flash is doing and follows from the shadows.
Inside Alchemax Eddie yells at his doctor for lying about his treatments keeping his outbursts in check. The doctor says that they are still trying to figure out a “cure” for the symbiote using the Anti-Venom though it is not easy given its constantly changing biology. Eddie notices the large amount of the “cure” and thinks that the doctor is insane with how far he has gone with it.
Flash enters to stop what is going on. Flash says the symbiote is back where it belongs with him and transforms into Venom.
In another part of Alchemax Spider-Man enters and easily dispatches the security guards he comes across.
Back at the lab Flash is able to confuse the symbiote on who it wants to be its host and goes between Flash and Eddie. Spider-Man enters the lab as this is happening and tries to keep Flash and Eddie from succumbing to the symbiote’s influence. While he does that Spider-Man accidently throws part of the symbiote into the “cure” vat.
Spider-Man notices that the symbiote disintegrated in the vat and learns from the doctor that it is supposed to be a cure for the symbiote. Spider-Man pushes the vat over and covers the symbiote Flash and Eddie are fighting over with the cure.
After everyone recovers Flash stands up in his new Anti-Venom costume while Eddie still has some of the normal symbiote on him.
At a bar Looter is talking about how terrified he was of Venom. Suddenly someone comes up to him and throws something on his face. The substance turns out to be a symbiote and he begins to transform.
It is then shown the mysterious person is called Maniac and he has transformed the entire bar into symbiote hosts as well. End of issue.
The Good: While this Alpha chapter of “Venom Inc.” features Spider-Man in the title it is clear that this a Venom story that happens to have the web-slinger along for the ride. That may be exactly what Venom fans want from this story arc. Unfortunately if you are looking for more of a balance between Spider-Man and Venom this “Venom Inc.” crossover may not be that.
The one intriguing thing that Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha #1 does is briefly highlight the current status of Spider-Man and Black Cat. The relationship between Spider-Man and Black Cat was a close one that was completely ruined by Doctor Octopus when the villain took over Peter Parker’s mind and body. During that Superior Spider-Man era we saw Doc Ock turn Black Cat over the police and completely destroying her relationship with Spider-Man.
The destruction of Spider-Man and Black Cat’s relationship has been one of the best twists Dan Slott has done during his run. And in Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha #1 Slott and co-writer Mike Costa are able to tap into the hate Black Cat has for Spider-Man. By tapping into it we were able to get the best action sequence of this issue. It also further builds on a potential bigger storyline that will be centered around Spider-Man vs. Black Cat.
Ryan Stegman was at home with Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha #1. Stegman’s artistic style fits well with how Venom is supposed to be an imposing figure within the Marvel Universe. Whether it was Venom, Mania or Maniac, Stegman was able to get across how intimidating the symbiote characters are. At the same time, Stegman does a good job drawing the brief Spider-Man fight with Black Cat. He got over how fluid both characters move during a fight.
The Bad: The first mistake that Slott and Costa make with Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha #1 is that it is not new reader friendly for those not reading the Venom ongoing. There was never a point in this issue that Slott and Costa spent to catch us up on the current status quo of Venom. The meeting between Flash and Peter is a great example of that as Slott and Costa just assume that readers are up on the current status quo of the symbiote characters within the Marvel Universe. That is simply not the case and by leaving out some key information there isn’t enough of a reason to connect to the current status quo of the Venom symbiote.
This lack of execution is made even worse by the fact that Flash Thompson, Eddie Brock, Mania and Maniac do not come off interesting characters. Each of these characters are completely one-note. This is especially bad for the opening scene given that we are supposed to feel bad for Mania when she gets sent to the hospital after having her symbiote stolen. Given that she just came off as someone let the symbiote power make her overconfident it was not surprising to see her lose her symbiote. And when she does there is very little sympathy to the event since there was very little backstory to the character.
The same goes for Flash, whose partnership with Mania was made to elicit some sort of connection for the reader. Instead it fell flat and just made Mania’s loss of power seem to be done to drive Flash rather than make you care about the partnership. That in turn makes it harder to identify exactly what Flash is actually involved in with the symbiote since we aren’t keyed into his current operation. And since we aren’t brought into what Flash’s status quo is it is hard to understand why he is going after other symbiote users.
This lack of information also extends to what Eddie Brock is currently up to. Everything about the character, from appearance to attitude, made him come off as a crazed muscle head. There was absolutely no depth to Eddie’s character to make the reader understand his motivation. Even his battle to not lose control of the symbiote fell flat since his dialogue was mostly him screaming at other characters.
In failing to successfully get over the status quos of Eddie and Flash, Slott and Costa failed to make the two characters clash actually come off as an important event. There was very little reason to care about this or how Spider-Man ended up getting involved. Given how much backstory Spider-Man and Eddie have it would’ve been good for Slott and Costa to play that up. Instead all they did is make Spider-Man’s involvement a plot device to give us Flash’s version of Anti-Venom.
Speaking off, the Anti-Venom hook landed with a big thud. Anti-Venom has always come off as a version of the symbiote that was created because there was nowhere else to take the Venom character anymore. It lacks any sort of inspiration that Flash as Anti-Venom will lead to anything significant. This new form for Flash just adds to how silly the character is rather than someone readers should take seriously.
That only goes to hurt the Maniac character we see introduced. When the character was introduced Venom was a character you were terrified for Spider-Man to face. Not only was the character physically imposing but given the suits capabilities Eddie, when he was Venom, could attack him at any time. That sense of fear is what Maniac lacks and because of that there is very little reason to care about him or his symbiote gang. And since there is very little reason to fear from the gang Maniac just comes off as a plot device for Spider-Man and Anti-Venom to team-up. Because of that lack of caring Maniac just added to how badly executed the entire issue is.
Overall: Venom Inc. Alpha #1 failed to create excitement for the crossover between Amazing Spider-Man and Venom. For Venom fans this may be what they were looking for since the character is at the front and center of the story. But for everyone else the lack of proper execution makes it hard to be interested in the plot Dan Slott and Mike Costa created. Everything about the “Venom Inc.” story, from the symbiote villain to reintroduction of Anti-Venom, lacked inspiration. So unless you are a hardcore Venom fan this is one crossover you can pass on completely.