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Spider-Man: Venom Returns (Marvel comics) Paperback – April 1, 1993
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Venom breaks out of the prison for super powered villains called the Vault and leaves behind a trail of death. He makes his way back to New York City and begins on a Spider-Man hunt. The wall crawler not only has to worry about Venom trying to bash his skull in, but another duo whom goes by the names of Styx and Stone are being paid to kill him. -summary
Venom was no doubt Spider-Man's most popular villain by this time and some even say the most popular of the 90's. So it really didn't make sense to keep the mad Spider-Man clone away from the fans any longer. Venom Returns written by David Michelinie reprints The Amazing Spider-Man #'s 332 - 333, 344 - 347, and Annual #25. Annual #25 only contains a segment involving Venom showing sparks of his anti-hero potential, while 344-345 only feature key moments. The rest are complete issues of alien costume and wall crawling madness.
One thing is for sure, The Birth of Venom was a tough act to follow. I could imagine Michelinie's predicament when approaching the character yet again and trying to keep the confrontations fresh. Admittedly, the first two stories were bland because Michelinie attempted to combine two plots by involving the duo of Styx and Stone, whom were very uninteresting by themselves. Therefore, mixing them together with Venom would no doubt create a bad blend because he would more than likely overshadow them both, which is exactly what happened. I remember not caring too much for these stories then, and I still don't care for them much now. Although the characters worked out well in the ending, the ride really wasn't all of that thrilling.
The following two stories see Venom make an escape once again out of prison but in a totally different way. He once again approaches Spider-Man as a civilian, and later on attacks in full costume. Here, Michelinie resorts to some rehashing to the point, where even Spider-Man himself mentions,"it feels just like that last time" or something in that ballpark. Normally, when the main character is making a note of redundancy it should spell disaster, however the redundancy does work here some.
Venom's main problem dealing with Spider-Man has always been the threat of an outside force. During their last encounter in issue 317, he was able to get Spider-Man alone for their fight, but was still defeated by a trick he didn't see coming. This confrontation here removes the possibility of that trick working again now or ever. Therefore, anyone whom remembered the outcome of their battle on the beach would more than likely wonder how Spider-Man is getting out of this, since there's no way he can beat Venom physically. I thought this was a good move here, because it added another element to their feud which increased the suspense.
The writing does a very good job providing the necessary action and wit, with intentions on hiding the weaknesses. No matter how you look at it though, Venom is an awesome character, and how he pursues Spider-Man during one segment of this arc makes up for a good amount of the blandness that can be found. The final portion of the story reveals new abilities of the costume, and examines Spider-Man pretty well as a desperate man who's trying to survive against hopeless odds. My only issue is that I've always been iffy about the ending. It just seemed a little hard to buy into.
The artwork by Erik Larsen isn't as flashy as McFarlane's, but I really did like the sick new look for Venom. That huge mouth with jagged teeth, and two foot long tongue was a nice add on there. I also thought the camouflage look for the symbiote was a nice twist. The action panels were good with some nice blows here and there, and there's a small bit of nastiness, when Venom licked the blood off his own face, after Spider-Man bashed him with a tree branch. However, they just weren't exactly on the same level as the earlier battles.
If this storyline is remembered for anything, then it's for planting a seed for the spawn of Venom, the psychotic killer Carnage, who would go on to be a huge threat to both Spider-Man and Venom. In closing, Venom Returns was indeed a solid effort and a decent enough follow up. The stories are entertaining and that's about it, but I cannot consider this among the best Spider-Man has to offer. Still, recommended to serious fans.
Pros: Second half is much better, solid ending, artwork
Cons: First battles not that great, uninteresting side villains
"The Return of Venom" really is a representation of the 1990's comics industry sensibility. That is: weak story, great art. It really doesn't advance our understanding of Venom or Eddie Brock to see Venom stalking Spider-Man, again. Showing up at Aunt May's house, again. Taking Spider-man to a deserted location, again. We are even reminded of the redundancy by Spider-Man himself over and over again as he says "This is like when we fought on Long Island".
If you already own "The Birth of Venom" TPB then there is no need to buy this, as it even contains one of the same stories already re-printed in the "The Birth of Venom" TPB of Venom defending "innocents" at a truck stop.