Way back in 1993 Venom changed the game with his first solo series titled “Lethal Protector.” It was a story that attempted to give the character a bit of grace, complexity, and heroic value. It nailed all of these things, of course, and without this six-part series, we probably wouldn’t have an upcoming Venom film or the recent crossover events wrapped around this Symbiote loving hero.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Venom – alien symbiote! Deadly foe of Spider-Man! Defender of the innocent?! Eddie Brock and his symbiotic “other” have decided to turn over a new leaf and become a hero! But when Venom heads west, there’s no shortage of enemies waiting to test his new resolve – including the Jury! Plus: Spider-Man meets Venom’s father! And the Lethal Protector gives birth to a whole new horde of sinister symbiotes! But will any of them follow in daddy dearest’s “heroic” footsteps? Doubtful! Get ready to experience the original Venom in his first -and deadliest – solo series!
Can I jump in easily?
Most definitely. This series stands alone not only putting the character in a new location but giving him enough space from Spidey to do his own thing. One might argue you need to know Spider-Man and Venom used to have a tumultuous past, but who doesn’t know that?
Reason 1: Eddie Brock gets a childhood origin story.
A surprise backstory section of the book features Spider-Man confronting Eddie’s father and learning a great deal about him. The father is, of course, a real bastard but the housekeeper fills Spider-Man in. Sure it’s a bit strange she divulges these personal details to a masked superhero, but it does help readers understand maybe Eddie is a sympathetic character and not some revenge seeking madman.
That doesn’t look very heroic.
Reason 2: He’s crazy, but in a funny and unnerving way.
Right off the bat Venom is pretty dang kooky. The first issue has Venom saving a damsel similar to how Spider-Man does it but instead of webbing the crook up and leaving a note for the police, Venom kills the guy right in an alley of San Francisco. Completely unaware of the terrible thing he just did, he says to the woman, “Your joy is reward enough — and sends me leaping happily on my way.” He doesn’t quite have this comedic persona these days, but back when David Michelinie was writing him he had a comical angle that made him completely wacko but also quite refreshing. Throughout this collection, he lays down kooky one-liners and insane barbs back at the villains which helps convey his insanity. You never once think he’s level-headed or right in the head and yet he can do the justice thing quite well. Well, as long as breaking villains’ necks and screaming he’ll eat your face is justice.
Reason 3: The introduction of the five Symbiotes.
By the time this series came out Carnage was already introduced and this collection reveals Venom had five more symbiote offspring after the Life Foundation squeezed them out of him. They all had slightly different powers and went by the names Lasher, Riot, Scream, Phage, and Agony. With names like that you wouldn’t know their original intention was to become police officers for a new world order. Why did these Symbiotes get Venom right? Because it showed how dang cool Symbiotes could be in multiple colors! It also further complicated Venom’s life with his children all of whom ended up being major players in comic stories and even more recently, Scream will be part of Hasbro’s Marvel Legends Spider-Man line this spring. Given how Marvel is showcasing how complicated the Symbiote world is on Earth this was the start of something truly special. Plus artist Ron Lim designed these characters to look super cool and even gave their introduction to Eddie Brock a solid comedic turn.
Reasons to be wary?
There are some strange ideas thrown into this book that probably made more sense in the ’90s. We’re talking a secret society living under San Francisco for decades that face the threat of a billionaire businessman who wants to steal their gold. Or how about the Jury, a team of ex-soldiers who want revenge for Venom killing their buddy and are now retrofitted with super suits each with different powers? Admittedly they do have cool designs by Mark Bagley (or maybe that’s my 11 year old nostalgia talking) but they’re more of a cool idea than a story worthy element in the comic. Then you have Spider-Man who seems to be in this comic simply to help sales as he bounces around the story never doing much.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I never read this collection in the ’90s and I’m glad I had the chance thanks to the new printing. The book doesn’t come with any extras aside from a single page showing off a few covers, but that doesn’t matter. There’s images in this book that prove why Venom has one of the coolest designs in comics, with his drooling green spit (where does this come from?) and razor sharp teeth (that somehow break off when punched). Most importantly there are themes in this collection that are being explored even today in Mike Costa’s recent run about Venom trying to find a place in the world and wanting to do right even he’s killing to make that happen. He’s also completely insane in a funny and surprising way that Marvel has abandoned for a more brooding and serious Venom. Bring this version back!
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