Thursday, 24 February 2011

New Beginnings - Amazing Spider-Man #654.1

I have been an on and off Spider-Man fan for quite a while now. There have been many ups, which I have enjoyed, along with several downs, which have marred my opinion of the comic. No matter what I think there are always elements that bring me back. Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 is therefore a good place to pick back up, have a look around and generally see how things fit right now.

One of my favourite parts of Spider-Man has been the symbiotes. Whether it was Venom, Anti-Venom, Carnage, Toxin or any of the “home-grown” symbiotes, the stories have always caught my eye. #654.1 is no different... well mainly. For a comic titled “The Amazing Spider-Man” the wallcrawler's appearance on the cover and ONLY the cover certainly makes for an interesting twist. This issue is solely about Venom, or should I say the NEW Venom.

Written by Dan Slott and drawn by Humberto Ramos the issue explores a new beginning for the most infamous suit with a killer instinct. Now due to a marketing “slip” by Marvel, it was no surprise that Flash Thompson is the new owner and companion for Venom, albeit at the US Government's expense. However, what I really liked is that Slott has made you question if Flash - or indeed this scenario - is really right. The premise provided is that Flash, who has idolised Spider-Man for many years, now has the power and the tools to live up to standards that his icon possesses. But, due to the nature of the symbiote, the government has also enforced a strict limit on how long and often he can don the new guise.

Combined with the added benefit that Flash gets his legs back as a result during his bonding it makes a great grounding for what can turn into a terrible addiction and no doubt ongoing psychological trauma. Early signs of this are already apparent by a certain episode that occurs during this issue as well as a change in his demeanour.

Ramos has done a fantastic job in capturing this, especially towards the end of the issue. The artwork feels slightly cartoony but still works really well. It has a really good variance to it, soft and fine with openness when required but also heavy, hard and almost claustrophobic in others which is in tune with the mood. But this has all been set by Slott’s story which carries the weight in the beginning.

My fondness of the character attracted me to this issue and it was well rewarded. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it comes across as a self-contained teaser, essentially another one-shot which is further compounded by the final double page “Coming Up” trailer. Admittedly Venom is present alongside Spidey and Black Cat, against what could be a new Sinister Six, but I am still left feeling that things will die down again. Additionally, the advert mid-comic for the new Venom series starting in March confuses things further as once again storylines don’t mix and match, as we have a more traditional Eddie Brock behemoth-style Venom drooling over the cover art.

It shows great promise and is a great issue to have but I can’t honestly say I will be back on the Spidey train. I will however, be picking up Venom next month and will also be following the beautifully created Carnage mini-series (slightly hard to come by but at only 3 issues in VERY worth asking Ben nicely to get it for you). As a fan, pick them all up, but as a jump on point I think it jumped and fell short.

Matt Puddy and Ben Fardon clearly disagree on Ramos' artwork.

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