|Cover Art:||Erik Larsen|
Back at Aunt Mays house, Peter puzzles over the current whereabouts of Venom - unaware that he is being watched through the window. May expresses her fears that Peters preoccupation maybe due to problems he is having with MJ. Peter stales this is not the case to May's relief, and she does into the kitchen to fetch some drinks. Suddenly Peter is tapped on the shoulder and spins round to find Brock there, who calmly informs him that the lock on the bathroom window appears to be broken. He gives Peter a map and says to meet him in an abandoned subway in 24 hours. Should he come early or go for help, Venom will know and ensure there are swift consequences. Peter tells Brock to leave May out of this, to which he replies that she is too innocent, agreeing to not harm her and shaking on it. Venom quickly disguises himself as a gas man as May comes to see who Peter is talking to, and walk out.
The next morning at their apartment, Peter (dressed in his Spider-Man outfit) asks MJ if she'd like to go on vacation - to which she refuses, saying she cant leave Secret Hospital half way thorough recording. Peter tries to talk her into it, and discovers that MJ has lost all her savings when she signed a no consent agreement against Jonny Caesar. Shocked, Peter yells that they could have won, but MJ is too traumatised by the event to want to spend another month with Caesar sneering at her in court. Deciding not to tell her about Venom, Peter tells her everything is going to be ok.
At Bedford Towers, Caesar is demanding to know why Spider-man still isn't dead. Stone informs him that they were too late to attack Spider-Man during his Battle in the park (Amazing Spider-Man 332), and that their attempt to trail Venom merely lead them through a maze of subway tunnels where they were easily evaded. Stone trails off as Styx kills another of Caesar's birds, and is told to wait by the hover car outside. Stone tells Caesar how Styx was one of many homeless people who voluntarily underwent paying pharmaceutical trials. However, one scientist pursued his own unauthorised project based on the theory that one could become immune to cancer, as one can become immune to snake bites. Although partially successful, in addition to immunity he became mentally unstable and akin to living cancer: instantly rotting everything he touches. Adopting the name "Styx", the only thing that brings him relief and pleasure is death. Stone is unable to give a concise answer as to why he helps him - only that Styx once did something important for him. Untouched be all this, Caesar sends the duo back to watch the tunnel.
Although wary of bumping into Felicia Hardy Peter heads to Flash Thompson's gym to get some advice and finds him teaching kids how to box. Curious to know why Flash is doing this, Flash tells Peter that its important for kids to have guidance; role models, and that there needs to be people like Spider-man to teach the children right from wrong, and not to give up when life gets too hard.
That evening Styx and Stone watch as Spider-Man enters the tunnel they are stationed at. Spidey finds Venom reclining on a stack of boxes and all to happy to give him a history lecture on the fallout shelter he has taken refuge in, as well as a recap as to why he is the victim of Spider-Man's actions. Although Venom cannot trigger his Spider-Sense, Spider-Man feels there is something wrong as Venom has chosen to talk rather than attack. Spidey leaps out of the way just as tendrils of symbiote lash out from between the floorboards, and webs Brock's Barbell weights, slamming them into Venom and sending him crashing to the floor. Deciding to take no more chances, Venom lunges at his quarry, only to be struck with a chain Spidey is able to duck to avoid. Styx and Stone enter the fry, hitting Venom with a sonic blast. Knowing the deadly affect of sound on the symbiote and not wanting Brock to die as a result, Spider-Man swings for Stone and is attacked from behind by Styx but manages to grab both his arms. Styx fingers elongate as he claws to touch Spider-Man, and Spidey throws him aside. Stone throws a couple of gas grenades at Spider-Man to slow him down, telling Styx to strike now whilst he keeps Venom busy. Stone blasts Venom with a Nova Beam which he quickly disables with a jet of water from a broken pipe. Meanwhile Spider-Man is attempting to fend off Styx's advance, throwing the bunkers food reserves at him - all of which instantly decay upon contact with him. Stone fire off a flash gun to blind Venom - only to find the Symbiote removed its eyes to protect itself. Venom is further enraged when Stone manages to hurt him with some darts, sending him into a wild fury. He crushes Stones Back-mounted cannons and goes for the kill.
Spider-Man watches as Styx rushes forward and touches Venom to save Stone. Screaming in pain, the symbiote liquidates and pools on the floor - lifeless. Worried for Brock's life, Spidey webs up Styx (disturbed to find him too pleasure-ridden to even attempt to escape) and knocks out Stone with a single punch to the face. Spider-Man stands over Eddie as he weeps for the symbiote.
Sometime later the authorities load Styx into a padded asylum cab, and Brock and Stone into an armoured car. Spider-Man stands, in the shadows, the dead symbiote hanging from his hands. It gave its life to protect Brock, and now the nightmare is finally over...Venom is dead.
WOW. This issue delivers it all. Drama in spades, peril, characterisation - particularly with an interesting back story for a Z-listing villain, and action, action, action. From the opening shot of Venom watching Parker through the window, to the last shot of the dead black costume, this story had me gripped.
All my hesitations towards Styx and Stone in the previous issue are no more; they convincingly come across as a genuine threat. I like the fact that Stone is the brains of the group and that he has (as yet unknown to me) reasons for being with the psychotic Styx, rather than just a pairing of convenience. As for Styx - he is an effectively scary foe, and incredibly creepy for a comic aimed at younger children. The scene in which he is covered in rotting oats, corpse-like fingers seeking out Spider-Man, grinning insanely is an image that will no doubt haunt me for some time.
The main shocker (although we know it untrue) is the death of the symbiote in the final panels. Its beautifully rendered - with Brock hunched over its form stretching into the shadows, and a little touching: here we have a man who lost everything - now the only friend he had is dead, and the one man he holds personally for all his woes was not the cause of its demise. Venom was on top form in this issue, playing both the creepy stalker and violent aggressor roles he does so well. This is also the first time we see berserker Venom; a state in which he seems to double in size and becomes a mindless monster. Were this to be his actual last appearance, they'd have done him justice.
Also, now we come to the time-line when Peter and MJ fall from grace: broke and struggling for finances - allowing us to better relate and sympathise with the characters when all they have is their love.
The art was again top quality, so there is no reason I can think of not to give this issue full marks.
There are so many good scenes in these 30-odd pages; Venom confronts Peter in his aunts house; The Parkers lose everything; Stone's recap of events to Mr Caesar; The 2 way final battle, the list goes on. This is 5 star material so go and get a copy now.