Spider-Man the Venom Factor  Pub. 1994
A Novel Written by Diane Duane
Illustrations by Ron Lim

Dontcha just love that cover?
Let's take you back to 1994. With Hollywood buzzin about a Spider-Man movie,Marvel and Spider-Man are all the rage, no doubt in big part to the mounting popularity of Venom.

Venom was getting so much attention, it seemed like he had a new mini series every few weeks. It was only a matter of time before outside sources took advantage of this. So maybe that wasn't a movie script, but was this the next best thing?

So  I assume the initial appeal of this story, besides not having the limitations of  a comic book serial format is the potential for a Spider-Man / Venom confrontation, which have proven to be wildly physical in the past.

The Venom / S-M rivalry was hot at the time even if the characters had sworn to an alliance we all seemed to think that it would just be a matter of time before they were at each others throats, and we all wanted a front row seat. Was this our ticket?

No,  This story does little to actually satisfy that longing desire.  I regret to inform you that the rivalry was once again put on the back burner, this time in favor of a city wide scavenger hunt for a unnamed, unknown, uninteresting creature that comes and goes like a thief in the night.  

The few encounters that Spidey and the Vman have are rather uneventful, and full of nothing much but rhetoric and hyperbole. The back and forth exchange between the two doesn’t cover any new ground or break barriers but it does ring true to their nature.

While, I for one would have loved to see them more at odds, there is at least some palpable tension, perhaps setting the stage for a more momentous battle in future installments, but not today.

Venom serves as the odd fall between of a villain and a hero even taking on the role of a victim of sorts, in this story. The hook and draw of this story that keeps you reading, is that it somewhat plays toward the notion that Venom has recently become a "good guy"
, but how could something so monstrous truly be a hero?Has Venom gone back to his old ways of killing and devouring, and if so what is Spider-Man going to do about it? As fans know that S-M has an undying paranoia that Venom can't be trusted. However, don't be fooled, this is not a team up story such as Maximum Carnage or Venom: Lethal Protector.

The Hobgoblin takes the center stage as the main antagonist, stealing nuclear material for unknown purposes, but swiftly has the rug pulled out from under him when attention shifts to the Venom like mimic, causing fear, and panic throughout the city. Thus we have the REALvein of this story: Just what exactly is that thing and where did it come from? The answers resolve to be rather plain and simple, but none the less acceptable.

This tale reads like a detective story with a Spider-Man theme more so than a super hero chronicle of good vs. evil. As for the Peter Parker day time drama element; it’s a little on the bland side with his only real conflict being photography expenses. Further more, he does most of the Peter Parker usual routines just without any real flare or fashion.

I appreciated the depiction of Peter’s adept knowledge of chemistry and mechanics through out. I felt that was a nice character touch. In that respect,I cant say that any of the characters are misrepresented. but I honestly didn't feel like they really struck accord either.

A decent amount of time is spent with Eddie Brock as he investigates the seedy New York subway tunnels, looking for the culprit giving him a bad name. It’s all very atmospheric and well detailed but seemingly forgettable all the same.

Likewise Mary Jane Watson Parker’s arc is considerably disappointing as well. MJ’s quest for stardom essentially becomes a bittersweet endeavor, that puts things right back where they started.

The black skinned creature and Venom match up well and even S-M seems overwhelmed by its ferocity and power. I was quite thankful for those scenes, yet couldn’t help thinking I’ve read better.

Spider-Man’s exciting battle  with the Hobgoblin in the 1st chapter is the highlight of the whole book for me, unfortunately going down hill soon after.

Spider-Man the Venom factor is certainly not a bad Spidey story.
It is a  pretty decent opening act in author Diane Duane’s Spider-Man novel trilogy.

I give it 6.5 Venom tongues outta 10
Art by Ron Lim


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