For those keeping count, the release of this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #793 pushes the “Legacy” crossover between it and the Venom book past its halfway point. Yet, it seems that the ultimate plot is finally starting to take shape. We’ve not been a fan of “Venom Inc.” so far, specifically calling it out for its inappropriate placement at the beginning of the new “Legacy” run on the title and deep miring in the more niche continuity of the B-title Venom and controversial mechanics of the symbiote characters.
Amazing Spider-Man #793 begins with a big status quo shift as Spider-Man now finds himself under Maniac’s control, sporting a symbiote mask after presumably being turned evil between issues. I found this to be a strange choice to not show this turn for the character as it definitely created an emotional distance between my inherent sympathies for Spider-Man and his actions in the issue.
Spider-Man acts so different under the mask that he might as well be another character named Peter Palmer. I feel like some internal dialogue/narration depicting the struggle that Peter Parker is going through under the mask would have helped to sell me that the Spider-Man I care about still exists under the mask and finds his forced actions reprehensible, but I’m also a stalwart champion of Peter’s internal dialogue. On the surface Spider-Man seems incredibly gung-ho and almost giddy about following Maniac’s orders that its strange to see one of Maniac’s featureless goons finding success in briefly disobeying his violent orders on a later page. If we are going to be reliving a story we already got in the pages of Superior Spider-Man, specifically an evil, Venom-powered Spider-Man, it would have been nice to at least include the same, interesting complexity of Peter’s innate restraint to acting violently.
Elsewhere, the details and complexity of this specific scenario are overdone and rather exhausting. Writer Dan Slott reintroduces the obscure Venom character of Mania back into the “Venom Inc.” story, after appearing in the Alpha issue, but also spends over half a page explaining all the laborious details of how she was able to come back, use her powers, and more, all before having the characters themselves acknowledge how needlessly “complicated” all those details are. It’s moments like this that made Venom such an uninteresting and water-down villain in the years since his fabulous debut; every time his cast of characters show up its like reading a D&D rulebook that’s being made up as it goes along (did you know that the symbiotes could be used for saliva-based mind control?).
When the book moves away from dialogue and focuses on direct action it comes to life, which makes sense considering how much its a nod to the action-oriented comics of the 90s (where’s the Green Jelly soundtrack?). Spider-Man is confronted by Flash/Anti-Venom on the rooftop of The Daily Bugle and quickly it becomes a hire-wire slugfest, allowing penciller and inker Ryan Stegman to let loose with his trademark visuals.
Stegman and colorist Brian Reber fill the images with heavy particle effects, snowflakes, debris, and the violent reds of the Bugle’s sign and Spider-Man’s costume. In a particularly cheeky moment, Stegman draws a “BOOM” sound effect large enough that it seems to momentarily replace the giant-sized “The Daily Bugle” letters atop the skyscraper. Even letterer Joe Caramagna gets in on the fun, using word balloons to showcase characters’ turns from dark to light and vice versa. This crossover’s visuals have been stuffed with detail and goodies for fans of McFarlane’s original vision for the Venom character; don’t miss the appearance of Venom with a machine gun and belt!
It’s only at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #793 that readers start to get an idea of the ultimate plans of Lee Price/Maniac and a glimpse at the high-concept pitch of this series. Lee makes a move on the Five Families in order to kick off a gang war in New York City, where he can maintain control. The seeds for his ultimate defeat have already been sewn in this issue, but the idea of combining a Venom story with a Spider-Man gang war drama is certainly intriguing. The downside is that readers likely will have never heard of the Five Families before other than a scant mention here and there in this short story arc. It’s hard to feel fear from a threat that only popped into existence at the exact moment they were needed to invoke fear. Who’s to say they won’t just pop back into nonexistence in the forthcoming issues?