Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Mark Bagley (p), Art Thibert (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with a teen pop idol being taken captive by a trio of thugs inside her limousine, but we see her knight in shining armor comes in the form of the new, improved Spider-Man, who is now sporting an all black costume. We then see this new costume is the body-suit that Peter's father was working on before his death, and Peter is delighted with the new threads, as they come with an unlimited supply of webbing, they enhanced his strength, speed & agility, and as he discovers during the battle to rescue the pop star, the costume is bulletproof. After he makes this rescue look easy, we see Spider-Man moves on to a fight with the Shocker, where he discovers the costume makes him immune to this villain's vibration attack. After locating the Shocker's glass jaw , Spider-Man moves along, where we he stumbles across a scene that is hauntingly familiar to the death of his Uncle Ben, as a mother & her son hover over the body of a man who has just been gunned down. As Spider-Man tracks the gunman down we see the suit displays a decidedly darker side of itself, and Peter is so horrified by what it almost made him do that he rejects the suit, and a tumble across some live power lines frees the young hero from the suit.
Given his regular tendency to move the material along at a more deliberate pace, so he can examine the various nuances of the ideas he's playing with, I must admit it's a bit surprising to see Brian Michael Bendis speeding his way through the Venom arc. Now truth be told the reason why it seems faster is because the original plot had the costume is alive idea active as a subplot for at least a year before they decided to deliver the issue where Spider-Man recognized this fact and took the steps to break the symbiotic band that had been established. So truth be told, Brian Michael Bendis isn't speeding his way through the story so much as he's removed the waiting time between the various stages of the original material. Plus he has added several touches that have enriched the material, such as his making Eddie Brock into a childhood friend, who neatly fits into a bigger brother role to Peter, instead of a rival reporter who goes completely nutty when Spider-Man proves his big expose wasn't true. He also cut out the whole Secret Wars connection, as well as the suit's alien origin, and he replaced it with a more grounded idea that neatly explains why the suit would form such a lasting bond with its wearer.
This issue also manages to nicely explain why Peter isn't asking more questions about this suit, as we see he's too caught up in the bells & whistles that the suit brings to the table, to start getting overly curious. We see the suit enhanced his strength, speed and agility beyond their already impressive levels. We see it provides him with a degree of protection that he never had before, as it proves to be not only bulletproof, it also makes him immune to the Shocker's teeth rattling vibration attack. There's also a cute little bit where we see Peter's delighted by the fact that the suit comes with its own unlimited webbing supply. This all lends itself to a rather amusing display of Peter's new found confidence in the role of Spider-Man, as we see he's in full taunting mode during what would normally have been a highly charged hostage rescue. One also has to love the one-sided fight that he has with the Shocker, and I can't wait for the rematch, where Peter discovers villains love holding grudges. We also see a fairly disturbing display of what the suit can do when it's feeding off the anger of it's wearer, which in turn should make its impending union with the fairly amicable Eddie Brock rather interesting.
First off I was among the fairly sizeable group of fans who eventually grew to embrace Spider-Man's black costume when it made its initial appearance in the mid-1980s, and as such I enjoyed the brief return of the suit in this issue. The black suit has a nice simplicity to it that I rather enjoy, and the darker look lent itself remarkably well to some of the more unsettling stories that came out during that period (e.g. Kraven's Last Hunt). Now Mark Bagley's high energy action sequences in this issue don't really draw on the strengths of the suit, but then again he does manage to capture the sense of excitement that Peter feels as he discovers the various new abilities the costume offers up. I mean the sequence where Spider-Man discovers he's bulletproof is a delightful demonstration of how body language can convey a character's emotions, as the full-face mask removes facial expressions from the table. The art also does some nice work with the sudden mood shift, as the colors take on darker tones, and the suit's appearance begins to look more ominous as Spider-Man closes in on the fleeing criminal. The abrupt appearance of the more traditional Venom look was also a nicely done piece of art.
The issue took a fairly impressive jump forward since last month's rather shocking cliffhanger, and part of me was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see the early moments where Peter came to realize that this suit wasn't all that bad. There's also some questions that were left hanging like the Spider-Man mask that was left behind in the lab, and Eddie's reaction upon discovering his father's experiment had been the target of this break-in, which in turn would make Peter the number one suspect. Still, most of this material can be covered with a simple visit with Eddie Brock, and since he's likely to become the next in line for the Venom suit I imagine we'll be looking in on him next issue. The issue certainly does a nice job of delivering a sense that the suit can corrupt its wearer, and by the end there's very little doubt it's inherently evil. The issue also leaves Peter in a rather bad spot, as I imagine Aunt May will suspect its drugs when a naked Peter is delivered to her front door by the police.
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