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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts, Marvel Comics fans and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the year 1993 and explore a part of Marvel Comics’ universe through the first-ever limited comic book series featuring one of Marvel’s most iconic villains – Venom.
In my previous retro review, Eddie Brock returned to his hometown of San Francisco following the events of Amazing Spider-Man #375 (1993). Living with his very distorted belief of protecting the innocent by doing unrelenting acts of violence on others, he begins to get involved with helpless people who happened to be hounded by agents of a certain private organization that wields power. Along the way, Spider-Man arrives in the city find Venom.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Venom: Lethal Protector #2, published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story written by David Michelinie and drawn by Mark Bagley.
The story begins deep underneath the city of San Francisco. Venom, who is caught by the large mechanical fist of a walking mech (piloted by a man working for Roland Treece’s organization), finds himself on the deeply buried section of the city and around them are vagrant people who settled and became residents of a local society that the rest of America does not even know exists.
As the local residents caught the attention of the pilot, Venom breaks free by smashing the mechanical fist into pieces. Another mech suddenly jumps into place near the first one. In response to the first mech’s sudden killing of a local resident (who was armed with a shotgun), Venom jumps to it and kills the pilot inside by punching into the cockpit. Venom then grabs a long sharp object and kills the pilot of the other mech with it.
While the locals were hostile and afraid of Venom, the other people (who were assisted on the surface by Venom) come to support him and tell their fellow underground residents that he is not their enemy. One of the local council members stated that a meeting at the council hall will be held and Venom will attend it…
Compared to issue #1, this story has a more interesting setting which is the buried and forgotten section of San Francisco which was the result of the 1906 earthquake. Showing that the lost section has a local population composed of homeless people and those who reject the modern society above was a bright idea nicely executed by the Michelinie-Bagley team as it added some depth into Marvel Comics’ own version of San Francisco.
It was also in the underground city and with the residents where we get to see Venom do his own distorted acts of heroism backed by killing, and see how he fared when trying to win the trust of the locals whose members include those who read about him in the news and those who completely know nothing about him.
Through his interactions with the underground people, Eddie Brock is portrayed to be a bit more human compared to what happened in issue #1. For a man who has gotten very used to using extreme forms of violence and committing multiple acts of murder, it is surprising to see Brock looking and acting more civil in the presence of Americans (and perhaps illegal immigrants) who settled deep underground and established their own rules (note: Eddie Brock does not care about rules while having the alien costume). Still, you will see Venom engage in violent superhero action and even do a bit of detective work.
As with the previous issue, the iconic Spider-Man got a good share of the spotlight in the story as he searches for details about Venom which leads him to finding his rival’s estranged father. Spider-Man’s presence here is noticeably lessened compared to issue #1 and his own search for answers creatively served as exposition. Don’t expect to see any superhero spectacle from Spider-Man.
Without spoiling details and names, I should state that this comic book marks the debut of a ream of armed mercenaries led by a powerful man who lost a son because of what Venom did in Amazing Spider-Man #315 (1989).
Venom: Lethal Protector #2 (1993) is a marginal improvement over the first issue in terms of storytelling and setting. Part of the big build-up that happened in issue #1 started to get paid-off in this comic book which allowed for the plot to move forward at a more satisfying pace. Venom and Spider-Man share the spotlight again, but this time the edge goes to the black-wearing murderer who also has the benefit of being part of the superhero spectacle here. At this point of the mini-series, Venom is not only facing elements of the Treece organization (which has been organizing something that could impact San Francisco and its people) but also a new force of opposition that is related to something he did a few years prior. That being said, Venom is first and foremost a murderer that Marvel wanted to make big money out of.
Overall, Venom: Lethal Protector #2 (1993) is satisfactory.
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