Richard and Mary Parker were killed in action by the second Red Skull. It’s not just ancient history, it’s part of government record. But is it true?
Of course it’s not, and now they’ve been captured by the madman known as Venom! Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!
Bagley does some good work.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #375
Writer: David Michelinie
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Randy Emberlin
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer(s): Richard Starkings/Rick Parker
Editor: Danny Fingeroth
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4.00
Previously in Amazing Spider-Man: Peter Parker’s adventures on a far-away planet led him to bond with an alien symbiote that seemed harmless, but slowly began to merge with his cellular structure and take over his mind. With the help of the Fantastic Four, he was able to purge the symbiote from his body, only to have it return bonded to Eddie Brock, a man who holds a grudge against Peter himself. Not long before, Peter’s long-lost parents, Richard and Mary Parker, returned from what was revealed to be a faked death, but Eddie and the Symbiote (now rocking the sobriquet of Venom) snuck up and crept away with them (them… them… *guitar solo*).
Venom’s mind is seriously clouded by the symbiote’s abandonment issues and Eddie’s loss of face, leading him/them to blame Peter Parker for all the world’s ills, but the big galoot still believes that he is doing the right thing, trying to protect innocents against the nasty Spider-Man. Speaking of which, Spidey is at a disadvantage against a foe who knows all his secrets, and swings off to the Daily Bugle, to dig up whatever he can on Eddie Brock…
What he finds is a slim thread, but the only one he has if he wants to save his barely-returned ‘rents: Eddie Brock’s ex-wife, the one woman who might still have a chance of breaking through the alien-inspired madness…
I have been a fan of Mark Bagley’s work dating all the way back to the days of Strikeforce Morituri, but with the wrong inker, all his faces become strange angular landscapes of alienation and while Randy Emberlin isn’t that inker, he also isn’t doing Bags’ pencils much good either. The former Mrs. Brock tells Spidey of a particular amusement park that her ex loved when they were dating, and he sets off in the hope of finding his counterpart and kidnapped parents. Venom prepares to destroy Spider-Man, but Anne arrives just in time to stay his hand…
Unfortunately, she isn’t the ONLY one trailing Venom, as J. Jonah Jameson has hired the services of Silver Sable and her Wild Pack, a group of mercenaries whose highest profile member is the former sidekick of a replacement Captain America. They do have a massive sonic cannon, though, which could be bad for the V-man (who has a notable weakness for sound-based attacks, one might recall.)
Ah, yes. “Suck the marrow from your bones…” I used to have a Venom action figure that said “I want to eat your brains!” It was awful, and yet I loved that toy. Pretty sure it got dissected for a custom action figure project back in the late 90s, but I stuck the voice box in a talking Christmas card, so it all ended well. The Wild Pack attacks without regard for bystanders, nearly killing Spider-Man, and starting a massive blaze that threatens to engulf the boarded up structure of the abandoned amusement park…
The Clinton-era was a little bit weird, for a lot of reasons, but chief among them for comic books was the fact that a massive roid-rage monster with six-inch fangs, clawed talons and a three-foot tongue was considered a viable superhero. In fact, Venom was considered a massive draw in his day, even though he follows up saving the Parkers with a blatant attempt to flat-out murder their kid…
One of the Wild Packers takes a wild shot that incapacitates the symbiote for a moment, and Annie tries to stop Eddie from becoming a killer, just in time to step into the path of a collapsing Ferris Wheel…
Still weakened by the sonics, Venom is moments from being crushed when Spider-Man reminds us all what heroes acted like BEFORE the 1990s…
Venom once again tries to eat Spider-Man’s liver (no, I’m not going to make a Fava Beans joke here) before Annie interrupts to read him the riot act. After she calls him out, Venom realizes that Spider-Man has been acting to save innocent people, just as he has, and decides that perhaps it’s time for the two of them to come to terms with each other once and for all…
The story wraps up with a blatant plug for Venom’s first solo limited series, but to be honest, pretty much the whole issue is what the TV industry calls a ‘back-door pilot’ for the Lethal Protector, with Spider-Man as not much more than an observer in the whole story. Being as it’s a double-sized anniversary extravaganza (you can tell by the shiny seizure-inducing cover), this issue has backup tales, including one that shows what the Man-Wolf looks like when drawn by a hacky Rob Liefeld impersonator…
…as well as a tale featuring Pat Oliffe art, later seen on ‘Untold Tales of Spider-Man,’ one of the underrated gems of the mid-90s. This issue closes with a VERY odd tale, a short story which recaps the excellent ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ storyline, and ends with Kraven’s old friend The Chameleon making a solemn vow in a graveyard in the rain (for MAXIMUM DRAAAMAAA.)
There’s an odd dichotomy in my head about this comic. All in all, it doesn’t particularly suffer compared to other Spider-stories of the same vintage, and is quite a bit better in terms of writing AND art to the not-long-after launch of the Clone Saga. That said, I (and every single person who buys and sells comics as pastime or a living) cringe at the very sight of this book because of how many damn copies are out in the wild and the fact that at least one will crop up in every back-issue box purchased. Essentially, when you put a foil cover on a book featuring Venom, there is an expectation that the book should be valuable, but I’m here to tell you THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Amazing Spider-Man #375 is a pretty average 90s Spider-Man book, one that telegraphs its ending, reduces the hero to second-banana status and comes wrapped in shiny-shiny foil (the better to keep the mind-control rays out) earning 2 out of 5 stars overall. I do with that Marvel would have kept Venom’s wild ranting and desire to cannibalize Spider-Man through his current incarnation, though, as that might be fun to play with now that they’re both Avengers…
Or, perhaps not.