Comics : Venom: Lethal Protector #4

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Filling Gaps

This review was first published on: Apr 2011.

Background...

After forming an uneasy truce with Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #375, Venom winded up in San Francisco where he got himself involved with a group of homeless people living under a park targeted by businessman Roland Treece. While investigating Treece, General Orwell Taylor set his armored squadron, The Jury, after Venom for killing his son in Amazing Spider-Man #315. Treece helped Venom escape them under the guise of seeking a partnership, only to hand him over to Carlton Drake and the Life Foundation. Oh, and Spider-Man’s there too, looking to undo their deal and bring Venom in.

In Detail...

Venom: Lethal Protector #4
Date TBD : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man vs. Female Symbiote (First App.)
Editor:  Danny Fingeroth
Writer:  David Michelinie
Pencils:  Ron Lim
Inker:  Al Milgrom, Sam DeLaRosa
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Articles: Scream, Venom

With Venom in a sonic cage, Carlton has pieces of the symbiote taken off his suit and collected. Meanwhile, Spider-Man helps round up a couple of criminals before touching base with Mary Jane in New York. He informs her about reports of weird creatures being seen around town that sound like symbiotes attacking public places. He decides to check out the last place not hit yet, a new mall. Sure enough, Spidey arrives in time to discover a female symbiote running rampant.

Back in the desert, Venom deduces while the cage can hold Venom, it can’t hold Brock. Picking an opportune time, Venom exploits this weakness and frees himself, attacking the Life Foundation members present. But, Carlton has sonic guns ready that take Venom down.

Meanwhile, Spidey discovers the female symbiote can block his spider-sense as well, but she severely lacks in experience. Spidey exploits that enough to drive her off. He follows her to the roof where a hovercraft picks her up and hitches a ride. In San Francisco, Treece attempts to interrogate one of the homeless people, which goes slowly. But, he’s willing to put in the effort in order to retrieve the gold hidden in the park.

The hovercraft arrives at the Life Foundation base and Spidey begins the search for Venom. He fights his way through their agents, irritating Carlton. He has a removal process initiated which completely frees Brock from the symbiote. Carlton contacts Spidey to inform him Venom is dead, not realizing that five new symbiotes wait to be unleashed on him.

In General...

One thing this mini is good for is dredging up events from the past stories and making them relevant again. First it was the Guardsman killed by Venom, now it’s intentionally recreating the fact a piece of the symbiote left behind led to the creation of Carnage. And, like Carnage, the new symbiotes that debut here (one in-story, the other four in a panel) each have their own characteristics derivative of Venom.

But, as for the story itself, this mini is also good for something else: too many plot elements. The overall direction of this mini seems to skew back and forth. First, we have Venom seeking acceptance with the homeless people for a place to stay. Then we have Taylor’s revenge quest and the Jury. Now we have the Life Foundation and their symbiotes. The homeless plot wasn’t even addressed last issue, and is given only two pages here. As for The Jury, they’ve disappeared completely to introduce yet ANOTHER new batch of villains. If this was an ongoing series in which stories had room to breathe, they would be fine. But as a mini with a limited space to run and no guarantee of a continuation, that’s a little haphazard. Also, the Mary Jane appearances are pointless and feel more obligatory than organic, which is sadly a trend exhibited by most of the Spidey writers at one point or other.

The artwork switches over to Ron Lim with Bagley remaining for the covers only. Fortunately, Lim’s style isn’t so completely different to be jarring to the reader, but many of the backgrounds in this issue end up very flat and bland.

Overall Rating...

Two and a half webs. The main focus of the mini seems to waver as plot lines are introduced then dropped. A lot of elements being thrown into the mix that have no real relation to each other, plus a slight decline in art quality between issues.

Footnote...

The female symbiote receives her real name during Venom: Separation Anxiety and the name “Scream” from her action figure in the Planet of the Symbiotes line by Toy Biz, later made official in the Civil War: Battle Damage Report. Scream is also featured as one of the Sinister Syndicate in the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios Florida.