Or – “How Venom Got His Groove Back…”


Y’know what’s interesting?  Venom’s “new costume,” which has only appeared in the Amazing Spider-Man title, makes it’s reappearance in this issue, but only on the cover.  It didn’t get used in Thunderbolts, I don’t believe it’s in use in Dark Reign, and it’s not actually seen in the interiors.  Isn’t it odd that they’d roll out a new uniform for a high-profile villain like Venom and then NOT USE IT? 

Previously, on Amazing Spider-Man:  Harry Osborn has walked a long and difficult road, going from high school tormentor, to college roommate, ASM1.jpgto best friend, to hated enemy, to husband and father, to dead, to being played by the guy from Freaks and Geeks, and now back, apparently, to college roommate.  His run-ins with drugs and his moments of Green Goblin psychosis are mostly behind him, but he’s still having issues dealing with his estranged father, Norman.  When Daddy showed up with a high-paying job offer last issue, Harry told him no freakin’ way, only to change his mind as soon as his girlfriend Lily (also known as the monster called Menace) informed him she was pregnant.  To protect his family, Harry is forced to turn to the devil he knows, accepting a position with Norman’s HAMMER division.  But the mind of Osborn is a curious place, and Norman has greater plans for his son than just a government desk job…

Amazing Spider-Man #596 picks up roughly where 595 left off, with a public press conference announcing Harry Osborn’s introduction to the increasingly corrupt Osborn regime.  Peter Parker is sure that Norm is blackmailing his pal, but Harry insists that he has to do this, that there’s no other option.  “Gonna say that when you start using again, too?” asks Parker…  Damn, that’s cold.  Harry naturally flips out, telling Pete that his family is none of Parker’s business, leaving Pete to swing through the skies frustrated.  Spider-Man ends up conferring with Aunt May and soon-to-be Uncle Jay (Jonah Jameson, Sr) and gets some meaningful advice.  Jameson explains to Pete the real story of why he was never around for JJJ, and leaves him with the final thought: “Always do what your gut tells you is right.”  In an attempt to infiltrate Norman’s compound, Pete finds that his friend Norah has already DONE it, and resents Peter’s warnings that she’s going to get herself killed. Peter comes up with a plan of his own, catching Mac Gargan on one of his “outings” (code for killing and eating hookers, natch) and takes him down with help from the Invisible Woman, then infiltrates the Dark Avengers with a Venom mask that Reed Richards made for him.  He makes it to Avengers tower just in time to see the rollout of Norman’s new project:  American Son!

 Amazing Spider-Man #597 kicks off with the reveal of Harry’s new red-white-and-blue battle armor, all the better to make him Daddy’s shadow, and Peter is horrified to find out that there’s also a CHEMICAL portion of the plan, one that will make Harry into a super-soldier, but also force him to take drugs into his system for the first time in years.  Harry finds that Norman has also brought Lily to live at Avengers Tower, holding her captive to save his grandson, and Harry vows to get her out, as well as curing her uncontrollable transformations into the monster.  Spider-Venom tries to figure out what he’s going to do with his new information when he’s suddenly ambushed by Daken, son of Wolverine, whose sense of smell is almost as good as his daddy’s.  L’il Wolviekins takes the brunt of Spidey’s rage, and when they’re discovered, Spider-Man claims that DAKEN is the interloper, only to have Harry Osborn blow his cover.  Harry still hates Spider-Man, not knowing that he’s also his best friend, and Norman takes things into his own hands.  The head of HAMMER pulls a gun and SHOOTS SPIDER-MAN in the face!  That’s a cliffhanger, folks…

Fortunately, Amazing Spider-Man #598 isn’t renamed Norman and his Amazing Band of Looney Tunes, but it does begin with a blood-covered Norman trying to give Harry some friendly advice, but young Mr. Osborn still doesn’t trust Daddy.  A quick flashback confirms that Reed Richards created the mask not only to simulate Venom’s distinctive mouth but to protect Spidery from harm, such as, say, small-arms fire.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped Bullseye from torturing Spider-Man for a day or so to find out how to get the mask off.  Spidey tells him that the voice-activation code phrase is “Bowl Psi Isad Oosh.”  (Say it out loud fast, you’ll get it.)  Harry finally discovers his father’s plans for him, and can’t believe Norman wants him to take ANY drugs, even ones that would make him a soopahero, then sneaks off to find Lily.  He has created an antigen for the Menace serum, and tries to give it to her, only to have Lily flip out and punch him.  At the same time, Norman reveals that his plan is to sacrifice Harry as a martyr to gain public acclaim and finalize his power as head of all things superhuman.  “He’s your son,” says Spidey, disbelieving.  “Your ONLY son!”   Norman smiles serenely.  “Is he?”  In the park, Menace transforms, and tells Harry the truth: she isn’t carrying his baby.  She’s carrying his baby brother.  Both Spider-Man and Harry escape near-death and end up in Avengers Tower, as Norman somehow overpowers and prepares to kill Spider-Man.  Before he can act though, Harry suits up as  American Son and attacks, snarling, “You got your superhero!”

Paulo Siquiera and Marco Chechetto do a really good job on art here, evoking the detail of Phil Jiminez’ art while keeping the deceptive simplicity of Barry Kitson’s work, so this fits right into the current visual idiom of the Spider-verse.  There are a couple of really brilliant moments throughout, with Spider-Man’s invisible force fielded beatdown of his old foe and the revelation of Lily’s infidelity (and how many young girls HAS Norman impregnated now?  Seven?  Eight?) really hitting the mark for me.  I enjoyed these issues (parts 2 through 4 of a five-part series) a lot, and I think that as much as Brand New Day has caused controversy, it’s also generated some of the best Spider-Man work in several years.  Having rotating arcs rather than multiple titles is a brilliant sales ploy, especially since Amazing Spider-Man (the title) has always sold better than others for some reason.  The overall effect of these issues is to remind me of what I already like about Spider-Man as a character and not a property or franchise.  Peter Parker doesn’t have to be the ultimate loser, he just has to maintain as realistic a story as possible within the framework of his little portion of Queens.  Spider-Man stories aren’t about him being a loser, Spider-Man stories are about a young man trying to balance an overloaded schedule of heroing, schooling, family and love and always missing one of the spinning plates, something that this arc has done VERY well.  Add in some good art, a truly frightening antagonist, some spy-guy intrigue and well-handled fighty-fighty, and you got yourself a winner.  Amazing Spider-Man #596, #597, and #598 earn a combined 4 out of 5 stars, the total package.



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. MaximusRift on

    You know, as one of those who left because of OMD, I just have to say that this sucks. The book just had to get good after OMD, didn’t it? I just hope people realize that the series is good “in spite of” and not “because of”.

  2. Agreed. There is NO reason that they couldn’t have done this kind of story with the existing characters and situations. I suspect that the entire point of OMD was to generate controversy and discussion and get people talking about Spidey again.

  3. “I suspect that the entire point of OMD was to generate controversy and discussion and get people talking about Spidey again.”

    This despite the fact that BND actually =eroded= the readership for the character. Yeah, they still may be moving about the same total units of mainstream Spider-books in a given month now as they did two years ago, but the number of =people= picking up any of the books has dropped from a minimum of 120-130K then to barely 60K now. Controversy that halves your audience is bad controversy.

    Otherwise, I totally agree with both comments above.

  4. Honest truth is? Spider-Man sells regardless. The loss of some core readership hasn’t hurt Marvel’s sales enough to make them “fix” it (I believe that this book sells more than the old Amazing/Sensational/Friendly Neighborhood cycle used to) and, from what I see at the store, many of the fans who said they were dropping the book in rage… haven’t yet.

    They’re still reading to see what happens.

    I suspect that Joe Quesada is operating under a corollary that Mort Weisinger used to utilize: You have a new readership every couple of years anyway, so there’s no problem with shaking things up for no reason or repeating stories a year or three later…

  5. In all honesty, there isn’t anything to “fix”. Once you accept where peter is in his life after OMD (basically, alone and rebuilding his life) the stories and art have been really entertaining. The spider tracer arcs were good and American Son was great.

  6. Big Money B.G. on

    See, I’m just 50/50 on the subject…I read review after review of “New Ways To Die”, calling it the best story yet to come out of OMD/BND, and I finally bought the trade to see if yes, in fact the overhaul worked.

    In my opinion, the story just wasn’t near the level most reviewers put it on, and I’m usually one of the easiest fans to please. Something about it just bothered me, and it wasn’t the overhaul at all, most of the new characters and settings are actually interesting. The dialogue seemed off somehow, maybe it was just when Spidey shouted “OMG!!!” or something along those lines, internet-speak in a word balloon. That made me nauseous.

    Perhaps I’m just too old now, and I’m starting to take notice of silly little things like that and they bother me because it’s just not how I or my friends speak. Who knows.

    I think, though, I’m getting more enjoyment from Spider-Man reading your reviews of it, than the actual book. You should bug Joey Q for a kick-back or something…

  7. So, how many times exactly are they going to use the “I scored with your girlfriend and got her pregnant! Woopah!” thing with Norman? Is this going to replace throwing flaming pumpkins as his schtick?

  8. So we’re selling comics with controversy now? Then, why not do this with other comics? Let’s have Sue sell her kids to Mephisto. We can even have the rest of the FF encourage her. ;p

    All I know is that OMD ruined 616 Spider-Man for me. To spout “With Great Power…” all your career and do what he did p155ed me off. It’s beyond me how you could possibly see smoking having a more negative impact than a deal with Old Scratch.

  9. Lifelong Spider-Man Fan: guilty as charged. I survived the clone saga, I can survive this. The reality is (if you ask me) that the second half of JMS’s run wasn’t really that good, and these have been some very entertaining and interesting Spidey stories. But I agree completely with Matthew, there was a way to re-invigorate the Spider-verse without coming up with a convuluted marriage disolvement.

    Do you guys think there is master plan we still haven’t seen with regards to this Mephisto/BND/Secret Identity thing or are they keeping it intentionally open-ended?

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