Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Omega Spoils Itself

by Drew Baumgartner

Venom Inc Omega

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

How do we feel about Marvel’s “alpha” and “omega” strategy to crossovers? That is, mostly embedding the crossover in already-running monthlies, reducing the event series to just the first and last chapters of the story. They’re harder to skip by design — where you might be able to simply ignore an entire event series, you might be pulled into a crossover if a book you’re following is participating — but that can be frustrating to otherwise disinterested readers. Another downside that I hadn’t considered is that the stakes of an omega issue are kind of necessarily neutered — their inessential nature means they lack the ballast to make any changes that would be too earth-shattering to its participating series. Any big changes must have already happened in the series it would most effect, leaving the omega to tie up the loose ends with as little disruption to the status quo as possible. I don’t love to lead with these kind of meta-critiques of an issue (honestly, most superhero story arcs wrap up with the same kind of predictable return-to-normal), but Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Omega seems determined to keep it at the forefront of my mind, stymying any tension at every chance it gets. Continue reading

Heroes and Villains Alike Assemble Their Armies in Amazing Spider-Man 793

by Spencer Irwin

Amazing Spider-Man 793

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

By the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 793 — the fourth installment of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom Inc.” crossover — the many various players that have filled out this story have essentially grouped into two opposing sides. What’s interesting is the way these factions differ from each other. Continue reading

Middle-Chapter Blues in Amazing Spider-Man 792

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

The middle chapters of multi-issue storylines sometimes suffer a bit. They’re not a beginning, they’re not an ending — sometimes all they can do is move a few plot points forward, hopefully in the most entertaining manner possible. The Amazing Spider-Man 792, the second installment of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s “Venom Inc” crossover, is decidedly one of those middle chapters, but even in comparison to other middle chapters it suffers a bit. Continue reading

Everybody Wants to be Venom in the Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Legacy heroes (and villains!) always present a bit of a conundrum. The inheritors of the mantles tend to bring much needed diversity and fresh perspectives to their stories and quickly amass fanbases, but of course the original characters have lifelong fans who aren’t happy to see their beloved heroes pushed aside, even temporarily. To me, the obvious solution has always been to have multiple characters share names and roles: why not have two Captains America or two Hawkeyes, four Flashes or a million Green Lanterns?

Both this conflict and this solution seem to be the core of Dan Slott, Mike Costa, and Ryan Stegman’s new crossover event, Venom Inc. It’s a story that finds the various men who have been Venom fighting over their right to symbiote, and which, at least for the moment, seems to be finding great joy in including as many Venoms as possible. Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries Villains 7: Bebop and Rocksteady

bebop rocksteady

Today, Ethan and Patrick are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries Villains 7: Bebop and Rocksteady originally released October 30th, 2013. 

Ethan: If the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise were a film, it would be a little tricky to say what role Bebop and Rocksteady play. Not quite supporting actors, but more than extras, they fill an interesting niche in that world. They were originally conceived as a way to pack more mutants into the cast in order to sell action figures, but they’ve grown a bit past that, especially now in their own TMNT issue Villain Microseries 7: Bebop and Rocksteady. The story and art by Dustin Weaver and Ben Bates gives us a fresh take on their origins and follows their antics and induction into the Foot Clan, taking us right up to the events of TMNT #27, building out the characters into more than just the comic relief cardboard cutouts we saw in the cartoon series and somehow making them both easier and harder to relate to as we see their friendship and violence enhanced in step. Continue reading

Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special 1

superior spider-man teamup 1Today, Greg and Taylor are discussing Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special 1, originally released October 30th, 2013. This issue is part of the three-part Arms of the Octopus story.

Greg: Towards the end of Mike Costa’s swiftly engaging issue, Cyclops asks Bruce Banner a grim yet oddly understandable question: since the Hulk causes so much wanton, uncontrollable violence and destruction, why doesn’t Banner just kill himself and save the world the headache? Banner responds with a simple, poignant mantra he lives his life by: “Hulk smashes, Banner builds.” By performing humanitarian efforts like a water purification system, Banner seeks to provide tip the scales in favor of life, of constructive rather than destructive efforts. This issue, the conclusion to the Arms Of The Octopus trilogy, follows this line of thinking in its narrative construction. We see each faction come up with logical solutions to each problem they face (it’s telling that Octavius-as-Spider-Man’s plan to “pummel” Dr. Jude “with all my strength until he falls down” is met with a striking blow to the face), with one final Hulk smash to tighten the screw and save the day. Continue reading

All-New X-Men Special 1

all new x-men special

Today, Patrick and Ethan are discussing All-New X-Men Special 1, originally released October 2nd, 2013. This issue is part of the three-part Arms of the Octopus story.

Patrick: No matter how well superheroes puncture the zeitgeist, there’s always going to be a stigma around actually reading comic books. Both the medium and the genre have a ton of idiosyncratic problems, and even those of us willing to suspend our disbelief to read stories about muscly warriors putting on pajamas to punch each other in the face — a suspension which is largely worth it — struggle with the way stories are distributed. Extreme serialization leads to long epic, emotionally fulfilling stories, but it also means you get entire months where nothing really happens. On the flipside, extreme episodism leads to easily digestible stories that leave little lasting impact on the reader. Mike Costa’s Arms of the Octopus seems to have its sites set somewhere in the middle, combining the fun escapism of something like A+X, with the more meaningful stories from the series it borrows its titles from. Continue reading

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries Villains 6: Hun

hun 6

Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Microseries Villains 6: Hun originally released September 11th, 2013. 

Patrick: Redemption. It almost doesn’t matter how far a character has fallen – we want to believe they are capable of evening their karmic score. It’s a powerful idea, one that is almost a more effective motivator for the audience than the reader. We want Darth Vader to toss the Emperor into a bottomless pit because we know it’ll be satisfying to see him come full circle, back to being a hero. Whatever Anakin’s psychology in that moment, we cheer the act because we perceive Vader to be rejecting his inner demons and embracing something better. TMNT Villain Microseries 6: Hun asks us to bear witness to another redemption, but this time, we don’t get to dictate the terms. As Casey Jones’ father rejects one set of demons and gets his life in order, we have to wrestle with a redemption that’s objectively more destructive to himself and his family. Continue reading