Mayoral hopeful Randall Crowne has pulled some strings to allow Norman Osborn and his Thunderbolts to enter New York and hunt down Spider-Man. He expects a political favour in return. Meanwhile the faux-goblin, Menace, is still attacking Crowne's rivals. Spidey took the fight to Norman while Venom stumbled across his previous host, Eddie Brock, at a nearby FEAST homeless shelter. Venom attacks Eddie, but Brock (who has recently been cured of cancer by the mysterious Martin Li), transformed into an inverted version of Venom: Anti- Venom! Fearing for the safety of Aunt May, Spidey is rushes to the scene.
As Spidey swings across the city, Anti-Venom and Venom go head to head in the FEAST shelter. Eddie is determined to eradicate the stain of Venom from this life, but he is distracted by the innocents put in danger by the fight. A withering reproach by May Parker is enough to distract Eddie, and give Gargan the upper hand.
Fortunately Spider-Man arrives at this point, and barrels into Venom. Instructing Mr Li to get everyone to safety, Spidey turns to find that he is facing not one Venom, but two. Martin Li leads May and the homeless into his secret sanctum, and May is astonished to see the opulence of the place - and questions the reason for the reinforced tri-tanium door.
Meanwhile out in the shelter, Spidey's own unique style and luck compels both Venoms to team up briefly against him. He is punched out of the shelter and onto a nearby roof top. Meanwhile, flying across New York is the Thunderbolts' jet: the Zeus. On board is a host of soldiers with guns, the restrained and gagged Bullseye and Norman Osborn.
While all this is going on, we pause to look in on mayoral candidate Bill Hollister. He is in his home off Gramercy Park, going over campaign policy with a couple of assistants. It seems that good old Bill truly is the rarest of animals: an incorruptible and honourable politician.
However, this saintly nature has made Hollister the target of Menace. The faux goblin arrives, blowing a hole in the wall. He is here to tell Hollister to drop out of the running for mayor. Unfortunately, Hollister and everyone else in the room were knocked unconscious by the force of the explosion.
Menace is a little put out that there is no-one to hear his demands. He is wondering what to do when the police guarding Hollister burst in. One of the police officers is our friend, Vin Gonzales. He does get around doesn't he? Menace throws Hollister's unconscious body at the police and easily makes his escape.
Meanwhile, the Venoms have carried their fight out of the homeless shelter and into the street. Spidey webs his camera to a nearby rooftop and prepares to rejoin the battle. Brock wants to save Gargan from the symbiote and doesn't realise until its too late that he's hurled a parked car at an innocent bystander. Spidey saves the bystander, placing himself back between the Venoms. But Brock is now uncertain how to react to Spidey.
By this time, the Zeus is above the fight. Osborn is lowered onto the roof of a nearby building and is surveying the scene. He tells the rest of the Thunderbolts to wait until Spider-Man has dealt with the Venoms before intervening. Spidey has a way of exploiting the weakness of groups.
Case in point: Spidey uses the fact he just saved an innocent to convince Eddie to team up with him and take down Gargan. Between the two of them Gargan doesn't have much of a chance. Spidey webs him up and holds him as Brock beats the stuffing out of him. Then Anti-Venom grabs Gargan and burns the symbiote away. The Venom symbiote explodes in Spider-Man's hands.
Cut to the offices of the Front Line. Ben Urich rejects the idea of covering the Spider-Man fight at the shelter to concentrate on some real news. Ben wants a sit down meeting with Sally's "source" - the one who leaked the link between Crowne Industries and the sweatshop that Spidey stumbled across in #568. Sally says that she will do what she can. Ben is also curious about the mysterious lesions on the faces of most of the migrant workers in Peter's pictures.
Back at the fight, Brock has all but finished off the Venom symbiote. A naked and helpless Mac Gargan is lying in the street. Now Anti-Venom turns to Spidey. You see Eddie blames the symbiote for most of the bad things that happened in his life. Everything went wrong after he got it. Coincidentally, all the problems he had with Spidey happened after Spidey got the black costume... so, logically all of that must be the symbiote's fault as well! What if Spidey still carries a little of the symbiote around with him?
Eddie lashes out at Spidey. He can sense a little of the Venom symbiote in Spidey and begins to draw it out (gosh it looks painful). He is convinced that he is doing Spidey a great favour by doing this. Then he senses something else... radioactive blood! Well, might as well clean up that while we're here, right?
Osborn is watching all of this from a nearby roof top. He is in communication with the Radioactive Man, but he doesn't want to drag the Thunderbolts in just yet. He wants to see what Anti-Venom does first. But his conversation is cut short by an interloper shouting out his name. It's Menace! And he doesn't look pleased.
Okay, I'm going to be the first to say it. What happened to Norman Osborn's hair in this issue? It looks as though he's developed a nasty case of galloping alopecia since last week. JR, jr. has drawn Norman with the side and back of his head shaved short and the bizarre striped motif on top. Unfortunately, the sides and back haven't been coloured as hair, they've been given flesh tones. Frankly, it looks weird and definitely needs to be cleaned up before the subsequent reprints.
Setting the hair to one side, this isn't a bad little issue - and certainly less offensive to be than the one that came before. The fight is a well choreographed and amusing romp. Even though I can't bring myself to like Anti- Venom, he is at least being given a distinct and interesting role to play in Spider-Man's rogue's gallery. However, having Brock start to drain Spidey's radioactive blood was a bit silly, and doesn't seem to have been put in for any other reason than to provide a cliff-hanger.
I'm also not convinced by the characterisation of the mayoral candidates. Every time we see Crowne he is sneering and being Ever-So-Evil at people. By next issue he'll be tying unsuspecting women to railway tracks. Conversely, we never have any scenes with Bill Hollister that don't seek to present him as a saint. There is no subtlety here, and I would like to see a bit more depth given to two characters who are extremely important in this arc.
The scene with Menace was well done. It's nice to see the villains screw it up now and again, rather than painting them as near omniscient chess masters. We're provided with more clues as to Menace's identity in this scene. He calls Hollister "Billy", and then says he is "...only doing all of this for (Hollister's) benefit"? Read into that what you will. I don't think there have been enough clues to do anything but guess as to Menace's identity. But then, in the age of the Internet message board, I am sure Marvel is quite cagey about giving too much away.
After all the things they have been through together, and everything that Spider-Man has done for him in the past, it takes a random act of heroism on Spidey's part to convince Anti-Venom that Spidey may not be a horrible villain? That can't be right can it? We know that Eddie has moved on from all this. He doesn't blame Spider-Man for all the bad things that have happened in his life anymore. Why should becoming Anti-Venom force such a gargantuan backward step in Eddie's personality? This didn't ring true for me at all.
A mixed issue. A good fight with some snappy dialogue, and the necessary subplots are advanced to my satisfaction. For the middle of an extended arc, this isn't bad. But I'm still not convinced by Anti-Venom, and some of the plot twists were a little forced. Three webs.