Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #663

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Return Of Anti-Venom"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This review was first published on: Jun 2011.

Background...

Way back in Mark Millar's extremely entertaining Marvel Knights: Spider-man run, Eddie Brock, after being diagnosed with cancer, decided to auction off the Venom symbiote to the criminal underworld, the proceeds of which would go to charity (talk about doing a wrong to make a right). Later, while hanging out at Martin Li's (aka Mr Negative) F.E.A.S.T shelter for the homeless, Brock was cured of his cancer by Li's touch, but the residual symbiote traces in his body mutated Brock into something else: Anti-Venom, who has the ability to strip whomever he touches of their powers.

Meanwhile, in Amazing Spider-man #656, it was shown that there's a new vigilante stalking and terrifying the criminals of New York.

In Detail...

"The Ghost Of Jean DeWolff"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #663 (Story 1)
Aug 2011 : SM Title
Summary: Wraith, Anti-Venom appear
Arc: Part 1 of "The Return Of Anti-Venom"
Story:  Dan Slott
Artist:  Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker:  Klaus Janson
Cover Art:  Frank Cho
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Matt Hollingsworth
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Senior Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
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 Reprinted In: Amazing Spider-Man: Infested #1

Anti-Venom is swinging to the Queens East River Waterfront, where he's gotten wind of an opium shipment. He finds some of Negative's goons there running away from and shooting at someone or something. The Wraith has set upon the thugs, and is interregoating one, wanting to know how Li is getting his drug shipments past the authorities. The thug is terrified and asks who the Wraith is--laughing, the Wraith unmasks. Anti-Venom catches up to the scene to see the Wraith unmask as--Jean DeWolff? Wraith disappears in smoke, leaving behind the thug and an incredulous Brock.

At Peter's Tribeca apartment, Carlie is just getting up to leave for work, and Peter is overslept in bed, having streched himself too thin as Spider-man in recent weeks. Upon rising, Carlie informs him of the case she's on: a new vigilante using the identity of the Wraith. Peter thinks to himself that he'll add it to his list of things to look in on. On her way out, Carlie congratulates Peter, and he says he totally forgot "that is today, isn't it?"

Peter drops in at Horizon Labs. Max Modell asks if Peter has a new tech project to show him, which Peter does: a heavy-duty motorcycle helmet based on the bulletproof armor Peter developed for himself as Spider-man when he recently fought the villain Massacre. Modell notes that he saw footage of Spider-man wearing the same armor weeks ago (Peter recently conned a suspcious Modell into believing that Peter merely designs tech for Spider-man), but congratulates Peter on the results, and also on his "other achievement".

Changing into costume, Peter webs himself a copy of American Science Journal from a newstand (and webs down some cash to pay for it, natch), and we finally see what everyone is congratulating Peter on: an article in the magazine about himself and his work in "micro-molecular chemistry" at Horizon Labs.

Clinging to the side of a building, Peter phones up Aunt May on his in-mask comm. Peter informs May of his article, and May, who is at the F.E.A.S.T center, plays dumb as to what Peter is talking about, even while she's handing out stacks of the magazine to people with hubby Jay at the center. Jay takes the phone and tells Peter May has had a crate of the magazine sent over. While they talk, May runs into Eddie Brock at the center. In a back room, Li's thugs are telling him that Anti-Venom and The Wraith blew another of Li's drug shipments. Li says he has a plan to implement, but time is short as he has limited control of his form as Martin Li.

Coming out of the back office with his goons, Li greets May, who takes his hand. Upon touching him, she is reminded of seeing Li killing one of his goons awhile back (which turned her into "Anti-May" for a time). Upon remembering this shocking event, May collapses. Peter, who's still on the phone with Jay, overhears and tells Jay to call an ambulance, and starts swinging to the center as Spider-man. Brock thinks it's finally time to act on taking out Li.

Carlie Cooper is at last night's Waterfront crime scene. The thug the Wraith had is telling Captain Watanabe that the Wraith revealed herself as Jean DeWolff. Overhearing, Carlie reminds Watanabe about Mysterio's plans to fool the public that people were coming back from the dead (in the Mysterioso story arc), and that next on his list was DeWolff. Watanabe tells Carlie she's overthinking things. Carlie slips her cell phone into Watanabe's coat pocket for some reason.

Outside the shelter, paramedics are loading May into an ambulance as Li and the shelter people look on. Li takes off in a limosine, and Brock decides to spring into action as Anti-Venom, jumping on top of Li's speeding limo and tearing into the roof. Spider-man arrives on the scene to find Anti-Venom. Still on his mask-comm with Jay, Peter tells him there's a car accident up ahead and he doesn't know what to do. May, now awake in the back of the ambulance, grabs the phone out of Jay's hand and tells Peter she's okay, that she has her husband, and if there's something Peter can do to help the accident, he'd better do it.

Peter signs off with May and kicks Anti-Venom off of Li's limo, who is grateful (Spidey still doesn't know of Martin Li's dual idenity). Spidey and Venom battle for a bit. Anti-Venom's powers interfere with Spider-man's, and Venom quickly gets the advantage over Spidey, who begins to lose conciousness. As he's passing out, he thinks he can't let Anti-Venom get his claws into him, or he'll be "cured" of his own powers for good.

In General...

After what seems like issue after issue of Spider-man running around with the Future Foundation or training nascent Avengers, we finally get back to the core supporting cast and villains of the Spidey universe, and it's quite a relief to get a story like this.

This issue draws on and calls back to several past stories by writer Dan Slott, from Mr. Negative to Anti-Venom (who hasn't been seen in these pages since the New Ways To Die arc), to the aforementioned Mysterio story involving faking Jean DeWolff's return. It all creates a nice throughline continuity for Slott's Spider-man work and really shows off what he's brought to the table with his time on the book. I really like the look of the pencils and inks by Camuncoli and Janson, which have a sketchy but crisp style that sometimes reminds me of Lee Weeks' art. The colors here, with moody purples, greens and grays for the Waterfront scenes contrasted with the bright, popping primary colors of Spider-man in action in the daytime, complement the story perfectly.

Finally, having Peter get an article in the science journal and his excitement of it was a nice character moment for him and the rest of the cast. It doesnt' seem like readers get too many moments like this in the book lately, but it's part of what makes Spider-man great.

Still waiting for Slott to elevate Mr Negative beyond "secret scourge of the NY homeless shelter" and into the bigger crime-boss threat that he seems to be threatening to become. Will this be the story that does that?

I'm interested to see what bringing back Jean DeWolff amounts to, who was one of the few characters in comics that actually stayed dead until now. Come to think of it, its a bit inspired to have Eddie Brock appear as well, as his origin as Venom was tied to a false reveal of DeWolff's killer, a misstep that ended Brock's journalism career and set him on the path of hating Spider-man. I'm not the biggest fan of Anti-Venom, but the connection between all the characters here is well set up.

Overall Rating...

A solid, back-to-basics entry in a series that was starting to lose its way in recent months. There's a few good character moments, and Slott's getting back to a less cosmic-level tale that draws on threads from many of his past stories.

Footnote...

The original Wraith, who also happened to be Jean DeWolff's murdered, beat cop brother Brian, first appeared in Marvel Team Up #48.