“The Return of Anti-Venom Part One: The Ghost of Jean DeWolff”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Klaus Jansen
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Anti-Venom arrives to break up a drug shipment, only to find that he’s been beaten to the punch by Wraith, a mysterious figure that has been tearing through the New York underworld. Upon witnessing Wraith unmask herself to a criminal, Eddie recognizes her as the long-dead Jean DeWolff. Meanwhile, we’re treated to a few pages explaining why it’s awesome to be Peter Parker, culminating in the reveal that he’s been published in the American Science Journal. Aunt May encounters Martin Li/Mr. Negative at the homeless shelter (apparently for the first time since ASM #618) and passes out, after which she is rushed to the hospital. As May’s ambulance leaves, Eddie (as Anti-Venom) attacks Li’s car. Because this is a comic book, Spider-Man picks that exact moment to arrive and misconstrue the situation. However, as Spidey fights Anti-Venom, he is reminded (painfully) that Anti-Venom’s powers also nullify his own…
- Aside from a couple panels in which Anti-Venom takes on near-Liefeldian proportions, Camuncoli turns in some very solid work.
- Through the Mr. Negative storyline, Slott is addressing plot points that he’s been working with since the start of Brand New Day.
- Of course, by the same token, those “plot points” center around a villain who (despite being one of the more interesting BND villains, at least at the outset) has existed for just shy of 120 issues with fairly little development. Indeed, the Aunt May thread that is picked up in this issue marks the first time that particular story element has been directly referenced (with the exception of the tiresome “Anti-May” sub-plot) in almost forty issues.
- The issue was a little too heavy on Anti-Venom, to the point that it almost felt more like an Anti-Venom book than a Spider-Man book. I suspect that this will improve somewhat in the next issue, but the fact remains that this is setting up the latest in an increasingly ridiculous string of team-ups.
- Skott of Fables mentioned this in Friday’s Bullet Review of this issue, but regardless of quality, the past several issues have felt very much like filler, as though Slott is just killing time before Spider-Island.
It’s not specific to this issue, but I have a very schizoid opinion of Anti-Venom. While I do appreciate that Slott is doing something with Eddie Brock, the fact is that Anti-Venom calls to mind the worst aspects of Venom’s portrayal in the ‘90s. If you’re interested in my more in-depth thoughts on the subject of Venom, you can find them here. But suffice to say, Marvel’s desire to turn Venom into an anti-hero is part of what drove a very cool villain face first into the ground way back when, and “Eddie Brock as anti-hero” is Anti-Venom in a nutshell. And while I do appreciate the attempt at progressing the character, the fact is that Slott has done so by embracing the very things that destroyed him. That being said, as ambivalent as I may be regarding the specifics of what Slott does with Eddie Brock, he nonetheless seems to get the character, and as such I don’t mind some slightly wonky developments.
While this issue’s Infested backup pales in comparison to last issue’s, we still got a glimpse of the the Jackal’s continued plotting, and that is enough to keep this Clone Saga fan interested (for now…). Since we’re on the subject of the Clone Saga, the real surprise of the issue was (for me) the second backup. The story itself was fun, albeit nothing special (Though really, what do you expect in eight pages?), but what really caught my attention was the creative team of Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck. A fantastic artist and a writer whose Spider-Man work I grew up reading (Because I haven’t said it enough times in this review, “Clone Saga”!)? Sign me up!
Bottom line, despite some faults this was a solid issue. However, the story is hurt primarily by being yet another team up and by the feeling that we are just marking time until the BIG STORY that is Spider-Island. But in spite of that, it was still a distinct improvement over the bulk of Slott’s previous arc.