Chris Bachalo is a Modern Master — is there a TwoMorrows book about him yet? — but he’s only as good as the story he’s given to tell. Well, I suppose that’s not exactly true, as he’s had a history of taking mediocre stories and making them look like something from the cutting edge of comics. But, at the end of the day, even with all the Bachalo flourishes, they’re still mediocre stories. Much of his career at Marvel has been like this. He’s rarely been given things that are worthy of his dynamic talents.
“Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man” #2 is another one of those halfway decent stories with some great-looking art. Unfortunately, as great as Bachalo’s art is, he isn’t given a whole lot of interesting things to draw in this issue. It’s a lot of bulky Venom poses, J. Jonah Jameson yelling, some gang-bangers, some scantily-clad ladies, and a silly gang of costumed bad guys. That might sound like a heap of interesting visuals, and Bachalo never draws a dull page, but there’s nothing particularly dramatic about any of it. And that loss of drama, that feeling that this is just a throwaway story, sucks the life out of whatever passion Bachalo injects into the pencils.
This story certainly doesn’t aim very high, and it can be enjoyed at that mid-range, silly/fun level. It’s a violent comedy about Venom’s thirst for squirrel and the dead stripped that contaminated the mayor’s bed. So, if that’s your thing, then you might find a lot to enjoy here. It’s like that Peter Berg movie where Happy Hogan and the gang accidentally killed that stripper at the hotel and dark hilarity ensued. This comic is that kind of thing, but with a weirdly placed ‘”Watchmen” parody — a so-called “Dr. Everything” whose hairless red form is obscured only by the “censored” bar over his (presumed) boy parts — and a Venom who thinks that he’s the coolest badass in the Marvel U.
It certainly doesn’t take itself seriously.
Yet, the fragmented story is bit of a mess, like something that burst out of the mental recesses of the world’s most enthusiastic Keith Giffen clone. Still, the Bachalo art makes it all look like it’s worth your time, even if it may not be.