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Venom Inc. Omega – REVIEW

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Followers of this site and the Amazing Spider-Talk podcast know that my partner/co-host Dan and I haven’t been terribly impressed with pretty much every facet of the “Venom Inc.” crossover. So with that caveat as some context, the conclusion of this arc, Venom Inc. Omega (by Dan Slott and Mike Costa, with art from Ryan Stegman and Gerardo Sandoval) really had no landing to “stick,” but did have the potential to minimize some of the damage the six-part storyline has caused over the past few months (though it’s difficult to really peg any serious “damage” when the story has been mostly dogged by the fact that nothing of significance happened).

Omega satisfies the minimum criteria for the most part — though often in spite of itself and its absurdities. Again, it’s difficult to validate a comic that was merely “okay” enough to allow me to move on from this arc in a fashion where I don’t harbor any long-term resentment for it (see: “Spider-Verse”). But it’s undeniable that despite a story that manages to be both dull and obscenely over-the-top in a way that would make the 90s blush, Omega does do some interesting things with its characters for future stories. But, it can be debated if an outlandish “crossover” event, published during a period where event fatigue caused Marvel to promise a reprieve on such events, is truly the most appropriate and efficient way to rearrange some certain character pieces on the game board (namely Flash Thompson, Eddie Brock and Felicia Hardy).

But before we get into those character arcs, let’s first address the resolution to “Venom Inc.’s” main conflict. When we last left our heroes, Lee Price, a character I still maintain, nobody cares about and should have never been the focal point of a Spider-Man/Venom crossover, had staged another comeback after losing the “Maniac” symbiote for a hot minute. This brings the reader to the first of many ridiculous situations in Omega — a knockdown, throwndown fight pitting Spidey, Brock, Anti-Venom Flash and Black Cat against a 50-foot tall Maniac-ified Price.

Let me repeat the last part of the sentence: in order to ratchet up the conflict another notch, the creative team of this book choice to go the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man route with Lee Price. Hey, at least they’re trying to make us care about this guy and value him as a threat.

The battle itself mostly consists of Price brushing off the hero’s individual attacks, all while exchanging some fairly awkward dialogue featuring turn of phrase like “You’re as smart as you’re Gigantic!” and “Hurts like a sunburn … as in, not much.”

In the midst of those sick burns, are a slew of action sequences that are inconsistently rendered by the Stegman/Sandoval art team. A critical scene in the very beginning — that was supposed to the convey the possible death of one of the heroes — mentions a “tree” being used to assault the hero, and yet nowhere on the page do words and actions synchronize. Beyond that, one would think having Stegman visualize a 50-foot tall Venom (as asinine as a concept as it is), would be one of the most overzealous things ever, and yet for the most part, the art team delivers just a  …. bigger version of Venom. The potential for maximum carnage (no pun intended … or was there?) is right there — we’re talking about a giant symbiote and all that entails. But the art team, as it has often done throughout this series, plays it too safe.

The ultimate resolution to the arc’s main conflict (re: Giant Venom) is a textbook (read: lazy) deus ex machina involving antibodies and antigens and Spider-Man and Flash doing an bro-mantic handshake to aid in its execution. There’s really no explanation or build as to how such a solution is even possible, but at least it’s a means to the end as it comes to “Venom Inc”.

The good news is, in the aftermath of the story itself, the creative team does introduce some interesting new status quos for Flash, Brock and Felicia. The most seismic of these changes relates to Black Cat, who has been horribly miscast as a mob boss by Marvel since the end of the Superior Spider-Man-era, and was in desperate need of being realigned with her more anti-heroic ways. Flash appears to be slated to remain a costumed superhero in Marvel’s universe for the foreseeable future, but has reached a point of mutual respect and equal standing with Spider-Man, which could make the character a more interesting supporting player going forward. Brock is going to be Brock — always an enigma in terms of his alliances — but Omega at least hints that the character will now be unencumbered by all the fits and starts that have bogged  him down since he was reunited with the symbiote in the first place.

Spider-Man, of all the main players, seems to have regressed the most. The reader gets a reminder at the very end of this issue that prior to “Venom Inc.” Spidey had a new status quo too (in a scene that was one complaint about a toilet seat being left up away from being a TGIF sitcom), but the sequence functions more as a demonstration of how this overblown arc stalled all of the Web-Slinger’s momentum from the past six months. Getting Flash, Eddie and Felicia back into a “better” place is an admirable goal for Marvel, but it seems counterproductive to execute that at the expense of Spider-Man and his overall arc, especially after such a consistent run of quality stories.

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