Friday, October 19, 2018

The Boneyard Hop! (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #347 When: May 1991
Why: David Michelinie How: Erik Larsen

The Story So Far...
When Spider-man's costume was damaged fighting the Secret Wars of Battleworld, he mistakenly chose the wrong repair machine, unleashing an alien symbiote that masqueraded as his new black costume!

Freeing himself from the parasite using its weakness to sound, Spider-man inadvertently created his greatest nemesis when the symbiote bonded with a Peter Parker-hating journalist: Eddie Brock! Sharing the symbiote's knowledge of Parker's secret identity, host and parasite combined to create a deadly Venom!

Using the symbiote's ability to alter his appearance and negate Spider-man's danger sense -- Venom succeeds in luring the web-slinger to the Moleed Labs cryogenic facility. With his mortal nemesis frozen and helpless, Venom transports him to a deserted island so the pair can have their final showdown!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Venom 5 (Super-Human)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathoner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-Like)
Fighting: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Venom 2 (Projectiles)
Total: Spider-man 29 (Metahuman)

It's finally time to return to one the great comic book rivalries of the modern age! Venom is the distorted reflection of Spider-man, possessing equivalent powers thanks to the alien symbiote originally bonded to Peter Parker!

With a range of additional skills, Venom is arguably Spider-man's superior in physical combat, but that didn't stop the web-slinger winning their only previously featured encounter: an obscure battle from Spider-man Family #2!

The living black costume enhances Eddie Brock's speed and agility, generates webbing and extending tendrils, imitates materials and surfaces, mimics wall-crawling, and increases Brock's natural size and strength to surpass the brute force and endurance of Spider-man!

Venom's superior strength is one of his most obvious offensive advantages. He's used it to overpower Spider-man on countless occasions, and even gone head-to-head with powerhouses like Iron Man [Iron Man #302], Demogoblin [Venom: The Enemy Within #3], and even Superman, in the controversial crossover battles of DC/Marvel: All Access #1!

Fortunately, Spider-man is no stranger to a physical mismatch! With proper motivation he's out thought, and out fought, the likes of: Juggernaut [Amazing Spider-man #230], Rhino [Spider-man: Blue #2], Tombstone [Spectacular Spider-man #142], Scorpion [Spectacular Spider-man #215], Grey Gargoyle [Marvel: Heroes & Legends #1], and even DC's New God Mantis (and Juggernaut), with a little help from Wonder Woman [Unlimited Access #1]!

So what makes Venom more dangerous than all the other heavyweights?

Because of the symbiote's time attached to Peter Parker, it knows all that he knew - and shares it freely with Eddie Brock! There's an obvious tactical edge to knowing how Spider-man fights, but the psychological toll is just as great!

Brock has used his knowledge to prey upon Spidey's vulnerabilities, and torment those closest to him, like his former wife Mary-Jane Watson! At the time of this fight, Venom's personal warfare had arguably put him on the level of the presumed-deceased Green Goblin! A physical and mental double threat!

The symbiote's already managed to trick Spider-man into being cryogenically frozen! The thaw could prove an added problem, along with the unfamiliar arena. This has all the makings of a Venom win, but can you ever rule-out a spectacular Spidey comeback? Let's check it out!

History: Spider-man (1-0-0)
The Tape: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Chilled to the bone by cryogenic freezing: Spider-man opens his eyes to find himself sweating in the sun on a deserted island! Venom looms above in a tangle of webbing and palm leaves, waiting for his prey to thaw for the hunt!

Spidey cuts a lesson in the island's history short, webbing Venom's face to buy himself precious seconds to escape! He uses them to flee the open beach for the cover of dense jungle growth, while the symbiote briefly explodes off Eddie Brock's head, clearing the obstruction to its human host's vision!

With no fear of exposing his identity, Peter Parker sips at a cool stream sans mask. He tries to clear his head and prepare for combat when the water stirs!

Two massive, camouflaged arms reach from the water and grab Peter Parker by the throat! The alien symbiote both mimicks its visual surroundings, whilst negating any warning by Spider-man's preternatural spidey sense!

Dragged beneath the water, Spidey struggles to find his footing as a massive fist collides with his face! Spying a sunken tree branch, he desperately shoves the makeshift weapon into Venom's face, then swings for the fences!

The web-slinger makes a break for the surface and escapes the deep pool for the open sprawl of the canopy. Venom is in hot pursuit -- a fact that plagues Peter's mind as he web-swings his way toward an abandoned mining village.

At the settlement edge, Parker uses his fleeting time to improvise a trap and plan to lure Venom to it. Then he remembers: Venom always finds him!

Once again the landscape appears to come alive as the camouflaged symbiote extends from the jungle! It's almost as if the trees themselves are reaching out to attack when that massive fists sends Spider-man staggering!

With no way of knowing when his opponent is coming, Spidey briefly considers his plight is hopeless. He rallies as the tongue-wagging killer rapidly descends upon him, running back in the direction of his trap.

With the sound of a snap - Venom triggers the trap and is snared by the ankle like a rabbit on a rope! Dangling upside down from the trees, he's like a living piƱata. Parker rips a door off one of the nearby buildings and hits him!

The wooden door shatters into a cloud of splinters as it collides with Venom's super-humanly strong body! It sends his body swinging, but that's nothing he isn't used to thanks to the symbiote's imitation of Spider-man's abilities. He uses another of the skills to turn the tables, blasting Parker's eyes with web!

Spidey desperately rips at the webbing as Venom frees himself, clearing it just in time to flee once more! The Spider swings from the trees on his web, while the lumbering Venom opts to hoist a nearby jeep and toss it down the path!

The airborne projectile is narrowly avoided by its target, but the momentum of his swinging sends Spidey's twisting body tumbling earthbound! Rather than smash to the ground, the soaring truck falls through the grass -- revealing an abandoned mine! Spider-man crawls by the entrance, detecting a pocket of gas presumably responsible for the disaster that destroyed it.

Venom quickly finds the mineshaft as well, blocking the entrance as he descends upon Parker. The web-slinger has to think fast, pulling the support struts with his web to collapse the entrance under Venom's feet!

Parker keeps one step ahead of his nemesis, leaping out of the mine to swing his way back to the beach. He becomes concerned for web fluid reserves as he notices a shipping boat on the horizon. Before he can chance the waters with spider-strength -- black tendrils explode out of the sand beneath his feet!

The strands of symbiote drag Peter Parker across the beach toward an exposed Eddie Brock. Rather than resist -- Parker shoots webs past Brock and launches himself at speed towards his predator! The diving tackle sends Brock hurtling through the trees back in the direction of the center of the island!

The gambit gives Spidey the chance to go on the run again. He conserves his final web cartridge, hoofing it on foot across a makeshift graveyard, while Eddie Brock takes a break, lighting a campfire to keep warm as night falls.

The Hammer...
I thought we'd be following this battle to its famous conclusion, but it turns out an hour elapses before the final showdown even begins! Comic Book Fight Club rules clearly determine this brings an end to Round 1!

A largely exposed Eddie Brock took a pretty heavy hit before the break, but there's very little to suggest he couldn't continue fighting. He merely chooses to light a campfire and take a breather! That's enough for me to call this one an inconclusive draw!

It reminds me a little of the unexpected pause in Spider-man vs Juggernaut [see also; Round 2], but in this case, Spidey is specifically using the time to prepare for the next encounter.

Who wins an island fight if Spidey has prep time? To be answered when we return to Amazing Spider-man #347 at a later date!

Rather than dwell on what didn't happen in this epic showdown - let's just marvel at the pleasures of the collaborative teaming of David Michelinie and Erik Larsen! A couple of modern greats!

My deepest nostalgia for the pairing goes a little earlier, prior and during the time Spidey got cosmic and took on the likes of Graviton, Magneto [Amazing Spider-man #327], and the magically melded Tri-Sentinel [Amazing #329]!

I particularly appreciate the slightly grittier finish to Erik Larsen's pencils in that period. I think of his '89 work being tighter, with darker blacks, and sharper lines. Some of that might come down to the change from Al Gordon to Randy Emberlin on inks, but it might be artistic choice. That grittiness and weight seemed to return in the early years of Image [Savage Dragon #7].

The eyes and jaw of Venom warp more than I'd probably like. It's a strong, unique visual that compliments these early years when Venom was more readily characterized as a villain, but the sketchy eyes, and ever-extending mandible look too out of control here. I ultimately prefer the aesthetic of the smooth, more rigid Venom that became the model in the years following.more readily characterized as a twisted villain.

Michelinie and Larsen went down some wild roads, but they never strayed too far from a classical core. A big part of the fun of today's featured fight is seeing them take Spider-man out of his classic environment and playing with that.

It's a little silly that the murderous Venom would go this far to catch and release his nemesis, but for the sake of the high-concept of having them duel on a desert island, you've kinda gotta give them the means to deliver the conceit. At a time when third-stringers like Styx and Stone were getting tangled up with the fan favourite rivalry -- I don't think too many would've minded!

The slick black appearance, and toothy drooling maw of Venom sometimes draws comparison to HR Giger's Alien, but there's a little Predator in this story, what with its isolated location, dense vegetation, guerilla warfare, and the exploitation of the symbiote's ability to blend in with its surroundings.

There've been long stretches where the alien symbiote's ability to mimic other materials goes overlooked. Imitating clothing was inherent to the creature's first appearance in Secret Wars! It's a day one play, yet there is something slightly against the grain when Venom turns into things like water, concrete, or even the trunk of a palm tree. It makes sense, copying colour and texture, but it's not something I want to think about too often with this character.

Venom's psychological warfare with Spider-man has always been one of his best qualities as an arch-villain. Spidey can can't trust his sight or his spider-senses and never knows where Venom's coming from! That's enhanced further by the unfamiliar terrain of the island, where there are no tall buildings to swing from!

Taking Spider-man out of Manhattan can be a bad call for some stories, but you know Michelinie and Larsen deliver, getting the most out of the excursion by milking it for its tension. When Parker's inner-monologue starts to doubt his ability to stay ahead of Venom - you're almost believing it! Great stuff!

It all boils down to the chemistry and history between Eddie Brock and Peter Parker. That's going to be one of the biggest challenges facing Sony as they attempt to launch a Spider-Verse of films with Venom - now in theatres! Just one of the inspirations behind today's featured fight!

After you see the movie, get a pure injection of Venom by using the purchase link provided to read this story and others in collected edition! Market symbiosis means you'll be helping Secret Wars on Infinite Earths live at no cost to you!

You can find even more Venom by following relevant links throughout this post, or by diving into the Spider-Verse of the Secret Archive! Every featured fight is indexed by publisher, series, and issue number. Be sure to share your favourite links, and follow on Twitter or Facebook to help find more hosts!

Winner: Inconclusive (Draw)
#2 (--) Spider-man
#17 (--) Venom (Symbiote)
#67 (+1) Venom (Eddie Brock)

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