SPOIER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc. Omega #1 by Mike Costa, Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman and Gerardo Sandoval. On sale now!
We’ve reached the end of the six-issue crossover “Venom Inc,” which saw the return of Venom, the birth of a new Anti-Venom and the rise and fall of a new symbiote menace: Maniac. When Lee Price manages to tear the symbiote away from Mania, he uses its mind-controlling abilities to conquer the criminal underworld. He would have succeeded, too, if not for the intervention of that meddling crew of Spider-Man, Venom, Flash Thomson, Mania and Black Cat. Ultimately, not even the gargantuan form Price amassed in the end, could stave off his defeat. After the climactic battle, the members of the unlikely superhero team went their separate ways.
In the end, Spider-Man went off to keep fighting for the innocent, the new Anti-Venom decided he’d be the mediator between Venom and Spider-Man the next time they encountered each other, Mania went back to Philly, Black Cat is now back to her life of crime and Venom… well, Venom has decided it’s time he became a real superhero and not the lethal protector he once was. Ultimately, while this was a fun crossover event, its ending made one thing clear: The Venom symbiote really isn’t what it used to be.
When Venom first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (by David Michelinie, Todd McFarlane, Bob McLeod and Bob Sharen), he was filled with nothing but hatred for Spider-Man. Eddie Brock felt his life had been ruined by the wall-crawler, and the symbiote was still hurting from Peter’s recent rejection. The villains’ motives allowed for the perfect character-defining relationship to occur, one that would emphasize the qualities that made Spider-Man unique among superheroes.
Where Venom was driven by pure anger and vengeance, Spider-Man was driven by compassion. That was just one among a number of qualities that helped to define what it was Venom meant to Spider-Man from a narrative perspective. He’s the result of great power without any of the responsibility or restraint, he’s the dark side that Spider-Man fights against and quite famously rejected when he tore the black suit off using a church bell.
Being that dark reflection of Spider-Man, Venom grew to immense levels of popularity throughout the ’90s and appeared in Spider-Man’s comics quite often. Back then, he still served his purpose as a great villain, challenging Spider-Man in every way a person can be challenged. This was particularly true in the crossover event “Maximum Carnage,” in which Venom actually fought alongside the web-head. Both their similarities and differences became blindingly clear as they argued with one another while battling Carnage’s twisted family.
By that time, Venom had already been going in a different direction and his path, had taken him quite far away from Spidey. The pair had struck a deal: So long as Venom didn’t commit any crimes, Spider-Man would leave him alone. To ensure that, Brock moved to San Francisco. This, of course, was done because of his popularity as a character. He was given his own miniseries with “Venom: Lethal Protector” (written by Michelinie, with art by Mark Bailey, Ron Lim and Sam DeLarosa) which would expand on the symbiote and introduce the Life Foundation symbiotes. This where Venom began to lose his significance as a character, and the symbiote became more a gimmick than a worthy narrative device.
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