I’ve long loved villains with no restraint. The guys and gals of the comic world that are completely unfettered. They may have principles, but they have few if any morals. Stab a guy in the back? Of course! Eat his arm? Yum! Bonus points if they actually revel in the evils they participate in. They who meet these standards are truly frightening.
What all this says about me is not a discussion I care to engage in, either!
Few villains truly intrigue me enough to lead me to hunt down anything and everything in which they’ve appeared. Guys like Bullseye (maybe my favorite baddie of all time…and its a crying shame what the 2003 Daredevil movie did to him), Carnage, and Venom (who was also mishandled in 2007’s Spider-man 3) – just to name a few.
And it’s Venom I want to rant about for just a second, if I may.
Who is the new Venom?
The first time I caught a glimpse of the Flash Thompson Venom, I was admittedly excited. I kinda dug the tactical look. It wasn’t hulking or particularly scary – both aspects I love about all of Venom’s previous incarnations and hosts – but it was still cool. I was more than willing to queue the title up in the Marvel Unlimited app.
However, once I started reading the run, I grew more and more disappointed. Flash’s Venom is neutered in a sense that just doesn’t make him Venom in my opinion. The symbiote’s influence on Flash is kept in check via chemical suppression and sedation with the stick-in-the-dark threat that should Flash “lose control of the symbiote,” a fatal (to both Flash and the alien) measure would be triggered.
Super strength, tendrils, webbing…elements of Venom are evident, but those things do not a true Venom make. I’m just more than halfway through the run, and the “real” (my term, not Marvel’s) Venom has only broken out once or twice – always appropriately in response to Flash’s anger flaring. I found myself wanting Flash to devolve; rooting for him to slip from hero to villain. I no longer wanted him to possess qualities that The Avengers saw fit to have on the team (albeit the secret one). I wanted him to be that against which The Avengers assembled.
When I pitched this rant to Clave as possible post fodder for Nerds on Earth, he responded that the move from villain to hero makes Venom “more palatable for…solo books” and is “a total marketing thing.” Which we both understand, but lament. When the power of a character lies in his lack of restraint and downright scariness, you don’t put a leash on the character. At least not for long.
Let the dog off the leash!
In a stretch of The Thunderbolts, both Venom and Bullseye had restraining contingencies in place, but they were also allowed to “do everything up to killing.” Sure, they do the “heroic” thing (at least from the public’s perspective), but they do so in truly villainous ways – staying true to what keeps them interesting and frightening. Bullseye takes pleasure in paralyzing Jack Flag, and Venom…well:
And later in that run Venom straight up eats a bunch of dudes…you know…because he’s hungry.
In Flash’s run, the symbiote is still respected and feared to a very high degree. So much so that Hank Pym limits Flash’s access to the suit. Flash has to call Pym in order to suit up. However, despite the symbiote’s capabilities, Marvel chose to neuter it and make it “nice.”
A toothless Venom
They’ve taken Venom’s teeth – both literally (as evidenced by Flash’s look) and figuratively.
I mean, they’re getting the name out there with this new direction more than they could with, say, a mini series or as someone’s villain in an arc…but at what cost? In my humble opinion, its at the cost of the character itself. This Venom is just Spider-man with guns. Had Venom been introduced as such initially, I’m not confident he would have the acclaim he does now.
What do you guys and gals think? And who else has fallen prey to marketing efforts in your opinion?