Current Reviews


Ultimate Spider-Man #34

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Eddie Brock explaining that the mystery project that his father was working on with Peter's father was the cure for cancer. We then learn that the two men had developed a liquid which would coat the body of a cancer stricken patient, and this liquid sheath would then amplify the body's immune system so that it would be able to destroy the cancerous cells. However, Eddie also reveals that the two men hit a major stumbling block when they signed on with a company called Trask Industries, and when it was discovered the liquid could also make its wearer into a one-person war-machine, they found themselves kicked off their own project, and legally unable to continue any work on it. We also learn that two days after they began the battle in courts to regain possession of their project, both men and their wives were killed in a plane crash. After we join Peter the next day at school we see his attention is diverted when he has a chance encounter with Mary Jane, but Eddie Brock's arrival brings his attention back to the idea that his parents might've been killed. We then see Peter sneaks into the lab later that night to get a sample of the liquid so he can continue his father's work when something very unexpected happens.

I have to say that Brian Michael Bendis' carefully measured method of delivering a plot does have its advantages, as the back story of the Venom suit is certainly far stronger than the original, where the suit just sort of pops out of a costume making machine that Spider-Man used during the Secret Wars maxiseries. The idea that the Venom suit is a medical body-suit designed to target & destroy cancer cells does call for some suspension of disbelief, but in the realm of comic book science, the idea sounds entirely plausible, and it nicely offers up a reason for the physical bond that is a key element of the suit's impending hatred of Peter Parker. Now the book does venture into territory that I found a bit fuzzy on the logic side, as I can't see any drug company actively cutting off the cash cow that would result if the medical benefits of this suit proved a success, just so they could exploit the military aspects of the suit. Now I could see them performing the military research in secret, but having them completely scrap the medical research struck me as a rather unlikely. The idea that they would actively alienate the scientists who developed the suit seemed to be an incredibly silly move.

This issue also continues to develop the character of Eddie Brock, as there's nothing inherently evil about him, and based on what we've seen thus far he has an almost big brother quality to him when he's dealing with Peter. In fact Eddie Brock is a rather refreshing character in that his parents were killed, and yet he looks to have adjusted to this loss & has moved on with his life. There's also an interesting little turn of events as Eddie looks to have become involved with another member of Peter's supporting cast. In other words I like the idea that Eddie hasn't become the damaged goods that one normally expects to find from a character who is fated to become one of Spider-Man's most deadly villains. Now this issue does lay the groundwork for what I imagine will be the primary source of tension between the two, as while Peter's intentions were entirely harmless, if Eddie is able to connect Peter to Spider-Man, then it's going to look rather suspect. I mean I can easily see how Eddie would look upon Peter's actions as an attempt to leapfrog ahead of his own efforts, and the scene that's left behind in the lab is sure to raise some big questions about Peter's connection to Spider-Man.

Mark Bagley is an artist that one could easily take for granted, as while is work isn't flashy enough to get him on any top ten artist lists, he does have all the qualities that I look for when I envision the perfect artist. He always hits the deadlines, even when the book he's working on shifts to a biweekly schedule. His art details the story in a clear manner, and I have to say that he's easily one of the best artists when it comes to the pages where there is no text, as the page in this issue where Peter has his little accident is visually stunning in its delivery of this rather horrific encounter. I also have to make mention of the scene where Spider-Man breaks into the lab, as the art manages to clearly show us each step he takes to reach his end goal. The art also does some great work when it comes to its facial expressions, as the page where Peter & MJ encounter each other outside the school is a wonderful display of a character's emotions being etched on their face. The art also does some nice work capturing the idea that Eddie Brock has made some inroads into another part of Peter's life, as he enjoys an evening out with Gwen Stacy. Oh and one has to love the final page of this issue, as it's sure to get fans talking.

Final Word:
Brian Michael Bendis has managed to rework Venom's back story into a fairly engaging untold chapter from Peter's past, and he's also developed Eddie Brock into a character who makes for a wonderful addition to the book's supporting cast, as he's almost playing the role of Peter's older brother. The issue also does a nice job of explaining what the venom suit is, and how it relates to Peter's world. Now the whole idea of the venom suit being stolen away by a group who were looking to use it as a military weapon struck me as a bit too old school a plot for Brian Michael Bendis to be offering up, but then again the Ultimates has shown us that the government agencies are not above taking part in some outright deplorable activities, so tossing aside a possible cure for cancer might not be too far fetched. The final pages of the issue offer up a pretty surprising twist though, even if the cover does act as a bit of a spoiler.

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