Spirits of Venom
W: Howard Mackie
(Spirits of Vengeance)
(Web of Spider-Man)
There isn’t a whole lot of favorably memorable 90’s mini-series. Most of them are downright laughable when you start to think about them – but there is one that I don’t think gets enough credit. Now, hold on to your hats because here’s the crazy part – this doesn’t feature the Hulk at all – and I love this thing! No worries, I am not going soft, I just thought I would take a post off from the Hulk to revisit one of my favorite miniseries from good ‘ole 1993.
When Venom was introduced in the late 80’s he was an instant hit – mainly due to McFarlane using his rock-star status to create an evil, muscular, black-suited Spider-man that could fight with regular Spider-Man. In the beginning, you could tell Brock adored the power that the symbiote gave him – it wasn’t until Erik Larsen drew him that he started to show a disgusting, humongous, non-human tongue and started acting more like an monster than a man – claiming he wanted to eat Spider-Man’s brains. You’ll be pleased to know that his craving for brains is sedated by chocolate. Of course, it was only a matter of time that Marvel turned their newest fan favorite baddie into a watered down version who really wanted to do good.
In this excellent series – which spans across 4 books in 2 separate titles (Web of Spider-Man #95-96 and Spirits of Vengeance #5-6) – Venom is treated as the wild card he is – and truly should be. He isn’t ever a welcome part of the team – but sometimes used as a necessary evil – and he actually is more trouble than he’s worth. But I digress, let’s begin with the story. Spirits of Vengeance, which employs Ghost Rider and a total bad-ass, the non-superhero Johnny Blaze, were hot on the trail of the Deathspawn, an army of dark minions who, with the help of Hag and Troll, seek to bring their master, Deathwatch, back to life. They cross paths with Spider-Man as he is trying to protect the Hobgoblin from the Demo-Goblin, (with the cheesiest, best Spider-Man foe of the 90’s in tow, Spider-Doppelganger) who is trying to “cleanse” the world of the Hobgoblin’s existence, while also trying to turn the foe over to the authorities. Of course, things get real hairy when Ghost Rider and Blaze run into Venom… who, for some reason, is hanging out in the sewers.
The only thing this mini-series may be guilty of is having too many awesome side stories cluttering the plot. Spidey, Hobby, Gobby and Doppy all get dragged into the Spirits of Vengeance quest as they get intertwined and the Deathspawn, needing life force to reanimate Deathwatch, kidnap whomever they can. Venom is in full force here as he has a hankering to kill Hag and Troll but then gets sidetracked when he notices Spider-Man has joined the fray. Everything else is a second priority to killing Spidey – but he continues to get denied – first by the Doppelganger who wants a piece of Venom for itself (this is a fantastic match up I would love to see play out in a full length comic), then by an accidental grazing of Blaze’s bullet, and finally, by Ghost Rider, multiple times, snatching his jaws away from Spidey’s skull with his chains. Venom is both a hindrance and a help the entire, action packed, four issues and it ends with another full-out brawl where Blaze has to weigh the options of letting Venom loose once again in order to save Spider-Man, even though, in turn, it will put Spider-Man in more imminent danger with Venom on the loose.
This mini-series not only hold up over time it also had me energized enough to begin picking up the whole Spirits of Vengeance run again. I can’t even tell you a whole lists of negatives because I think the only small criticism I have is that I wish Kubert did the art for the whole run. Since the installments traded between the Web of Spider-Man and Spirits of Vengeance (which was aptly switched to Spirits of
Vengeance Venom for two issues) he only graces the pages of parts 2 & 4. Every issue of the 4 parts sports an impressive cover. I have no other words to describe this forgotten gem from the days of “grunge” except: Absolutely Stellar. I mean, it is filled with awesome enemies with classic 90’s names Llike Deathwatch… and Deathspawn! Hag! Troll! Wait – those last two actually sound like things my mother called me back in the 90’s. Seek these issues out right away and enjoy the short but sweet taste of what the 90’s did right. Grade: A+