Spider-Man: Birth of Venom

Writer / Artist
Spider-Man: Birth of Venom
Spider-Man Birth of Venom review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 0-7851-2498-5
  • Release date: 2007
  • UPC: 9780785124986
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

During the Secret Wars of 1984-1985, Spider-Man picked up a super-scientific new costume, with which he returns to Earth. It’s a thought controlled, self-activating, metamorphic ball with chameleon capabilities and able to construct webbing out of its own mass. The ramifications of the astonishing smart-cloth are explored by Tom DeFalco, initially illustrated by the wonderful Rick Leonardi, then Ron Frenz (sample art left).

During conflict with new gang-lord The Rose, the new uniform increasingly, obsessively amazes Peter with its rather disturbing autonomy, coming to him unbidden and regularly enveloping him while he sleeps. Subsequent encounters with terrorist mercenary Jack O’Lantern, charismatic septuagenarian cat-burglar Black Fox and Native American super-mercenary the Puma, keep Spider-Man entertainingly busy. Events escalate to involve the Hobgoblin and Kingpin, ending with an exhausted Peter confronted with a stunning revelation from his old lover Mary Jane Watson.

Plagued by nightmares, perpetually tired and debilitated the Web-Spinner visits the Fantastic Four. There he learns his suit is alive and a parasite slowly attaching itself to him body and soul.

When this material was first reprinted as The Saga of the Alien Costume it concluded with the poignant ‘All My Pasts Remembered!’ as Mary Jane finally tells Peter her tragic life story. Here, though, it’s the midway point.

After being discovered and removed by Reed Richards, the Symbiote escaped and, like a crazed and jilted lover, tried to re-establish its relationship with the horrified hero; seemingly destroying itself in the attempt. Following that a stellar run of scripts by David Michelinie had the beast revived with a new host to become one of the most acclaimed Marvel villains of all time, helped in no small part by the escalating popularity of rising star artist Todd McFarlane (sample art right).

Their opening story details Spider-Man stumbling across a coterie of Survivalist millionaires covertly constructing a lavish high tech gated community in which to ride out the fall of civilisation in opulent splendour and lethally protected luxury. Although a sharp action adventure in its own right – and very enjoyable – each of these tales concludes with a teaser showing a shadowy, bestial figure obsessing over clippings of Spider-Man. That mystery is revealed with the landmark introduction of Venom, wherein the monstrous shape-shifting stalker, having terrorised Peter’s new bride Mary Jane, begins a chilling campaign to psychologically punish Spider-Man.

Venom is a huge hulking, distorted carbon copy of the web-spinner: a murderous psychopath constituted of disgraced reporter Eddie Brock and the now eternally bonded bitter, rejected parasite whose animalistic devotion was spurned by its former ungrateful host. Brock obsessively hates Parker after losing his job, his career and his grip on reality. At his lowest moment, the rejected, starving Symbiote found him. As they merged, human and alien realised they hungered for vengeance on the self-same man.

The story is a stunning blend of action and suspense with an unforgettable classic duel between Good and Evil which famously saw Spider-Man finally return to his original Steve Ditko-designed costume. It also kicked off a riotous run of astounding stories from a fresh generation of game-changing creators in stories that follow, including a reprise by Michelinie and McFarlane.

The black costume rejuvenated the Amazing Arachnid and kicked off a period of gripping and imaginative stories, culminating with the creation of arch hero/villain Venom. Many can also be found in Venom: Birth of a Monster or Spider-Man: The Complete Alien Costume Saga.