Monday, May 10, 2004

Comics I Shouldn't Own, Part 1:

Venom: Nights of Vengeance #3

I'd like to state up front that I didn't pay for this comic. At some point in high school a friend of mine gave me a big pile of comics — I assume bought for cheap — because... I read comics. Now, you don't give someone who watches movies just any old video cassette you find laying around, so the "here's a pile of random-ass comics, 'cause you read comics" gift always baffles me. In some spirit or another, then, I rescued the aforementioned mouldering old comics (one entry down) and found along with them a stash of, uhm... less-than-inspiring mid-1990s Marvel Comics.

This guy here, this is Vengeance. You know Ghost Rider, right? Kind of looks like this guy here? You can think of Vengeance as Carnage to Ghost Rider's Venom — a "kewl" version of an established character created to hep up a series. And that's all I really know about Vengeance. Take Ghost Rider, add horns and tusks, bigger spikes, bones instead of chains, and, if this issue is any indication, make him talk like a dipshit tough guy, though that may have more to do with Howard Mackie than the character himself. Except I'm pretty sure Mackie wrote the Ghost Rider series and probably "created" Vengeance, so... dipshit tough guy. Fire horns tusks spikes bones.

And Venom. Poor Venom. Once the coolest cat on the block, a spit-dripping, brain-eating, Mary Jane Watson-Parker-frightening psychopath, reduced to the role of limp-dick anti-hero, saving hoo-mans and protecting bums who live underground in the ruins of the 1910 San Francisco earthquake. That happened in the Venom: Lethal Protector (Lethal Protector!?) mini-series that I threw away some years back. This issue stands as the sole survivor of my "Venom" collection, part of a series of mini-series that began with Lethal Protector and ended probably way too fucking late. (... the fuck is a "Lethal Protector," anyhow? I imagine it's like a pimp, only he doesn't take quite so much of your money, and he may or may not bitchslap you or eat your brains.)

And if you're Howard Mackie and people won't pay you for sex, what better way to make money than to team up a neutered psychopathic villain and a Ghost Rider rip-off? In 1994, no better way at all.

As the cover states, they are being "HUNTED!" by robot guys from space called "STALKERS." As opposed to being "STALKED" by robot guys from space called "HUNTERS" or Franklin. Venom, I sussed out, agreed to be HUNTED by robot space guys so they'd spare the lives of two chicks, Beck and Elizabeth, whom I shall henceforth call Elizabeck. Elizabeck are trapped in a UFO under a mountain. I guess the STALKERS put them there, but it doesn't seem so hard for Sean Knight, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., to save them with nothing but a handgun. After shooting a robot space octopus, the ship begins to assimilate them the same way I assume they assimilated the humans that used to be under the Warlock-from-New-Mutants-looking STALKERS. One of these STALKERS, I should mention, is fat, and his name is Kass. Oh, ho, Mackie, you clever bastard. I totally see what you did there.

So these STALKERS, I guess, hunt things, need organic hosts to do so, and when one dies the others suck up his "life-force" or something. The Double-V Krew spend this comic beating on them, destroying two of them, which is OK, as Venom points out they're not human anymore, so he can punch them to death. But destroying them only makes the remaining hunter stronger, so it's not really OK at all!!! What's a hero to do!? Fuck if I know. This is the only issue I have.

I've seen complaints that comics today are cynical, but to me there's nothing more cynical than pumping out Venom mini-series one after another with an obvious disregard for quality because you know dumbass fanboys and speculators will snap it up. The worst part is, this probably sold better than most of the current Top 100. The art is... well, I love Ron Lim, don't get me wrong. He wrapped up Infinity Gauntlet beautifully, not to mention the gorgeous art on Thanos Quest; I'm pleased as anything to see him return to the character on the monthly series as it's obviously close to his heart. This, though, is complete ass, a real "paycheck comic," as Christopher Priest calls 'em. But most of Marvel at this time was paycheck comics. It's a shame, because, uhm... well, it's on nice paper and has a nice cardstock cover. Too bad it's all dipshit-tough-guy-Ghost-Rider-rip-off dude, Venom calling himself "we" like the Queen of Fucking England, and Elizabeck as the interchangeable female victims. "Oh, who's crazier, Eddie Brock with his brain-eating and scaring Spider-Man's wife, or us for trusting him?" Go to hell, Elizabeck. And take this shitty comic with you.

BONUS "VENOM IS A HUGE VAGINA" QUOTE: "Surrounded by drug smugglers! We hate people who sell the poison that takes the lives of so many innocent children!"

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