Friday, August 29, 2008

Undone (Marvel)
Spider-man Family #2 When: June 2007
Why: Sean McKeever How: Kano & David Lafuente

The Story So Far...
Nightly patrol for the web-slinger turns up an unfortunate sight when the screams of a limousine driver draws his attentions to one of the deadliest of his lethal foes - the alien costume clad, Venom!
The symbiote baring madman menaces the corporate passenger, seemingly without reason, but when Peter Parker researches the significance of Ione Damasco and her associates, he uncovers enough of the truth to receive a package from the lethal protector himself!

Venom's notes reveal the truth about Damasco and the pharmaceutical company she serves as a board member for, Devlin-MacGregor. Their greed led them to perform involuntary experiments on the homeless, a fact uncovered by Venom in his life as a Bugle reporter. Now empowered by the symbiote; Eddie Brock stalks the members of the board in an effort to exact brutal justice for their inhuman experiments, and vengeance for their threats to he and his wife.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Erik LarsenARTWORK: Frank QuitelyStrength: Venom 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Spider-man 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Venom 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Power: Venom 2 (Projectiles)

- A bite from a radioactive spider should have killed highschool nerd, Peter Parker, but instead it would irradiate his own blood, granting him extraordinary powers.

After turning to a life of profit, Peter is inspired to use his gifts for the greater good when his decision to allow a burglar to escape leads to the murder of his adopted parent and uncle, Ben Parker.
Ben's sage-like advice, "with great power comes great responsibility", becomes a mantra for Parker as he becomes Spider-man!

Spider-man possesses the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a spider. Adding to his arsenal is a precognitive spider-sense that warns him of pending danger. Self-made mechanical webshooters round out Spidey's abilities, allowing him to ensnare opponents in a variety of modes; travel through the city by web-line; and form basic constructs based on the available quantities of his own formula of web-fluid.

- During the secret wars staged by the Beyonder; Spider-man's attempts to repair his costume inadvertently released a bizarre alien creature from within the Beyonder's machines. The symbiote formed Spider-man's black costume, enhancing his strength and abilities, while also subtly influencing his character with a more aggressive persona. This aggression led Spider-man to discover, with the aid of Reed Richards, the truth about the creature's intent to form a permanent bond with Peter Parker as host.

Using the immense vibrations of a churchbell to disrupt the creature, Peter Parker freed himself of it's influence, unwittingly delivering the symbiote to a man whose bitter hatred of both Parker and Spider-man would make the perfect host for the rejected symbiote. Eddie Brock welcomed the bond of the costume which transferred facsimilies of Spider-man's powers, and all the intimate secrets the wallcrawler had revealed to the creature.

As Venom; Brock possesses superhuman strength, speed, agility, wall crawling, web-slinging, and a host of abilities unique to the symbiote, like; adaptive camouflage and basic morphing, multi-forming tendrils, and the ability to bypass Spider-man's danger warning spidey-senses.

When Brock learnt of his development of cancer not even the symbiote could cure, he opted to sell the alien at a supervillain auction with the hopes of using the profits to attone for his criminal activities. Deeply conflicted, Brock attempted suicide after opting out of a plot to kill May Parker, but the once lethal protector survived once again to fullfil a second chance at redemption. A chance meeting with the mysterious Mr. Negative cures him of his ailments, and transforms the remnants of symbiote matter in his blood to turn him into the white Anti-Venom.

Math: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Spider-man beats Brock to the swanky apartment of Max Fischer, where the web-slinger confronts the corrupt businessman with the intent of interrogating to a confession. Enraged by the unscrupulous practises for the development of a hair growth formula, Spidey accidentally places Fischer in the sights of Venom!

Venom reveals to Spider-man the last pieces of the puzzle, which ended threats on he and his wife's lives. Spidey makes attempts to appeal to the moral fibre of an Eddie Brock who refused the company's bribes, but finds only the murderous intent of a lethal protector.

Unable to pacify Venom's vengeance, Spidey prepares to challenge his physical superior in battle. The symbiote-enhancements of Venom offers him no spidey-sense warning as a black blur charges toward him, smashing his body through the structure of Fischer's apartment. Spidey strikes back with an uppercut, but suffers the blow back ten-fold from the super-strong Brock!

Venom snatches Spider-man by the ankle and tosses him through a wall, sending Spidey helplessly tumbling through a hail of plaster, tile, and rubble! The web-slinger comes to rest in the bathroom where he launches a counter attack on the raging bull that is Venom, thrusting his kick into the jaw of his counterpart!

With the powerhouse on the backfoot, Spider-man takes full advantage with a hammer lock and drives Venom's fanged face into a nearby mirror! Spidey loiters deep within his own mind, contemplating the constant threat posed by his dark shadow, but before he crosses any moral boundary, a cry for help snaps him back.

The carnage wrought by Venom's charge had ignited an electrical fire in the apartment, threatening the safety of Max Fischer, who was helplessly webbed to a wall by Spider-man in his interrogation. The web-slinger turns his back on personal grudges, diving through the flames to rescue the vile businessman.

Venom marches furiously behind his arch-rival, but finds the intensity of the flames too damaging to the fire-sensitivity of his alien costume. As the flames engulf more of the apartment, Venom is forced to make a hasty escape, diving through a window to avoid the licking sting of growing inferno!

Spider-man successfully rescues Fischer and turns him over to police, while also delivering Eddie Brock's research to Bugle reporter, Ben Urich. The headlines tell the damning story of Devlin-Macgregor with a credit to the fallen reporter for his groundwork on the story, but for Venom, it is a hollow victory.

ARTWORK: Erik LarsenThe Hammer...
Mmm, it was a tough call this week, folks!
Both got their licks in, but we're going to equate Venom's retreat to a forfeit, and hand the eventual conclusion to Spider-man!

Regular readers will know this win comes two-fold as we put an Olympic pause to our post-One More Day Spider-Boycott, which has seen the top ranking 2007 character absent since the beginning of the year [last seen in the Infinite Wars' Marvel Knights: Spider-man #1 review].
This story was actually right at the top of the to-do list before we opted out of the Spider-business, so it seemed like a fitting choice, even if there isn't any particular connection to the themes we've explored around the Olympic Games.

Throughout August we've been watching developments in the three-times weekly Amazing with our regular instalments of the weekly shipping lists. It's been interesting to observe a swing that might very well have been planned from the beginning of Brand New Day, but seems to undermine much of the described intention to re-establish Spider-man with a new vibe and relatable world.

The reintroduction of Spider-man into the Marvel Universe has been a pleasant change, to be sure, but I'm not sure snipping the ties of matrimony have made Spidey's battles with Venom and Anti-Venom any more relatable. In fact, as welcome as the reintroduction of old foes into the mix is, it seems somewhat counter productive to the BND initiative to throw in a concept like Anti-Venom - which builds upon and defies so much of recognisable mainstream Spider-history.

So much about Brand New Day stirs debate about the validity of reboots in modern American comics.
I recently came across European sentiments which bordered on bemusement when attempting to decypher the history of Wonder Woman, which, really, is no more garbled than the Spider-man saga and it's clone-related twists, and Mephisto-dealing turns [for the worse].

DC Executive Editor, Dan DiDio, recently acknowledged the folly of constant reboots that had served to reinvigorate franchises for short periods, at best, and largely alienated the core audiences that support and care for characters. It was an admission that was welcome, even if it lacked sensitivity to the creative requirements of these lasting properties. Requirements that, as found by our unnamed European friend, could really benefit from some kind of tempered consideration for consistency.

Spider-man Family, from which our review is taken, is an anthology comic that reprints Spidey classics and presents new stories that don't appear to have any ties to a particular era of Spider-man.
This, embarassingly enough, along with titles like Marvel Adventures: Spider-man and Ultimate Spider-man seem to present the obvious counterpoint to any argument that suggests Brand New Day was a good, or necessary idea.

I could not argue against the fundamental principles of a reboot, or revamp.
Many fine examples exist to paint a positive reflection on a creative shake-up, but more often than not, I believe we see the great examples deliver something informed and based upon the logic established by history.
Grant Morrison's work on New X-Men is one such work that comes to mind, building upon the overdue progress of many facets of the X-brand, including; human-mutant relations, field operations of the team, the next generation, and personal struggles for characters like Cyclops, Beast, and Wolverine. Despite it's many asthetic shifts, everything about Morrison's work on X-Men, if not his superhero work in general, was firmly routed in logics derived from other references. It was change - but with an informed basis and exciting energy.

In the Monthly Punch-Up, we've watched as sales figures for the droll Spider-Reboot continue to gurgle downward. Early plunges mean the revamped book is already approaching figures that would traditionally be associated with yet another reboot, as has been seen in recent years with the erratic direction of the X-Men franchise, which has long since deconstructed anything contributed to the canon by Morrison and his collaborators.

I'll be very interested to continue to watch with some scepticism as we absorb the statistics for this month's issues of Amazing Spider-man. I wonder if the reappearance of familiar characters will sponsor a slight upward turn in sales, and if this will at all contribute to the inevitable return to pre-OMD Spider history.

The Infinite Wars is typically a site reluctant to summarily dismiss companies or creators, but with their recent history, that lingering lure of a time before Mephisto really does seem like an all too familiar construction for sales boosts. If it isn't a radical change from the norm, it's a radical change back to the norm.

In recently digesting massive amounts of Akira Toriyama's classic martial arts epic, Dragon Ball Z, one notes the joy of a simple formula of accumulation. While the organic nature of some devices might be questioned, Toriyama's approach to writing that he admits was an unplanned flow of consciousness, allows characters to develop relationships and mythology with a delightful consistency. Forward momentum allows for change, but constantly calls upon in-built logics.

Toriyama's work suffered from the crippling effects of rapid escalation, but with Marvel's disappointing promotions-heavy output, their problem feels far worse as consequence and history fade from relevance.

The happy medium was a foundation for my hopes to enter independent creation with Nite Lite Theatre. Robert Kirkman is now calling upon similar principles to encourage more big-name creators to turn to self-promotion and original intellectual properties.
Lost on some creators was the unspoken logic of Kirkman's call to arms, not just an effort to inform the obvious of many writers and artists who have already embarked on self-publishing, but as an effort to create a mass movement that would force change within the industry and fanbases that have been reluctant to sufficiently support independent enterprise. He suggests a movement not unlike the alliance of artists that allowed the birth of Image Comics in it's original inception/insurrection, from the shadows of the Marvel offices.

Creators like Brian Bendis; who in interviews showed no awareness or consideration for this subtext; have been reluctant to speak-out in favour of these efforts that buck against the treadmill trends of stories like BND.
It's undeniable that Kirkman's point relies heavily on mass commitment from already prominent names. It needs that level of dedication to steer away from the churning mass market of the Spider-mans and Batmans, but, if self-preservation can be put aside by some very bold men and women, we may yet see a new era that forces the kind of consideration we've described upon the companies that are again all too often relying on cheap tricks and poorly considered gimmicks.

Suffice to say, Amazing Spider-man and Brand New Day is yet to win us over, but as the book continues to return to the familiar, we hope this might eventually lead toward a stronger creative direction for Marvel overall. Anti-Venom? Believe it or not, I actually think this is a real step in the right direction!

The Fight: 4.5 The Story: 7

Symbiote naysayers need to pick this comic up!
Sean McKeever delivers one of the finest Venom stories I've ever read, balancing the lethal anti-hero qualities of the character, with the villainous aspects that antagonised Spider-man in Brock's early career! Our brief glimpses at the artwork provided by master penciler David Lafuente (with flourishes by Kano) cannot begin to communicate how beautiful the artwork in this story truly is! Everything comes together - even the unique lettering treatment from Nate Piekos - to tell a truly atmospheric tale that's both creepy AND mysteriouso! Shades of noir detective work make this not only a great Venom story, but also a terrific outing for Peter Parker! You'll find the collected digest in the Amazonian Gift Shoppe which also includes other fantastic tales - and - by using purchase links provided you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! Check it out!

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