Graphic Novel Review: Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc; Venom/X-Men: Poison X

Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc

Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc - Credit: Archant

Symbiotes in space and on the streets of New York...

Venom/X-Men: Poison X

Venom/X-Men: Poison X - Credit: Archant

(Panini Books)

The autumn release of the Tom Hardy movie and the character’s 30th anniversary has seen Marvel thrust the Lethal Protector back into the spotlight this year, with a new ongoing comic series and assorted crossovers, including the recent dimension-spanning Venomverse epic.

These two books continue that trend with Eddie Brock, aka Venom, teaming up with old foe Spider-Man and the time-travelling team of teenage X-Men in two self-contained storylines which also further develop narrative threads in the ongoing series.

There is a similar theme to both of these books, the temptation of power through symbiosis with the alien Klyntar, but the outcome is wildly different in each case.

Written by Dan Slott and Mike Costa, the Spider-Man book wraps up the story of former Venom host Lee Price, a low-level hoodlum who used his powers for personal gain before Brock regained control of the symbiote. Having stolen the Venom spawn used by the heroic Mania, Price – now using the nom de guerre of Manic - finds he can take control of people by infecting them with symbiote-charged spit, and swiftly mounts a hostile takeover of the New York underworld.

Teaming up with Spidey, ousted crime boss the Black Cat, and the one-time Agent Venom, aka Flash Thompson, Brock and his unlikely allies spend a host of issues embroiled in high-spectacle fights with Mania and his mobsters, unfortunately stretching out this crossover far longer than was necessary.

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Granted, there are some nice character sequences between Spidey and Flash, and a long-running sub plot about the webslinger and the Black Cat is finally resolved, but by and large this isn’t the most thought-provoking of narratives, and suffers from noticeable padding and a lack of real emotional depth.

Those certainly aren’t criticisms which could be levelled at the superior Poison X, penned by acclaimed writer Cullen Bunn, which offers the unlikely team-up between the young mutants and the anti-hero… in spaaaaaaace!

The hijack and abduction of interstellar rogues the Starjammers – including Cyclops’ dad Corsair – by symbiote-powered bounty hunters prompts the X-Men to take extreme measures to rescue them, starting off with the reluctant recruiting of Venom as an expert in all things Klyntar.

After travelling to a distant spaceport with more than a few echoes of Mos Eisley, it’s not too long before the unlikely allies run into the mercenaries they’ve been hunting, an encounter which leaves Cyclops bleeding out from a stab wound to the torso.

Tracking down the dealer who has been supplying symbiotes on the black market, the X-Men become hosts to Klyntar of their own, a process which not only saves Scott’s life but enhances the powers of the entire team.

Venom and the supercharged mutants waste no time in tracking down the Starjammers’ kidnappers, but they are unaware that their actions have attracted the attention of far more dangerous adversaries, who will ultimately succeed in tearing the team apart…

The revelation of this new menace is a curveball worthy of keeping secret from readers who don’t like spoilers, but suffice to say it ups the stakes substantially for all parties, and turns what could have been a pretty pedestrian outer space runaround into an epic prologue to developments which will impact on not just Venom and the X-Men, but the whole Earth.

Having experienced the one-note characterisation of Eddie Brock during his 1990s hey day, I must admit to a degree of trepidation in hearing he was becoming Venom’s host again, but any reservations have been swiftly overcome by the run of storylines we’ve seen since his return, with even Venom Inc knocking spots off anything we saw back during his original run.