A Look Back at Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

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, Venom discovers a long lost section of San Francisco that fell deep underground. Even though it is cut off from the resources and fresh air of modern San Francisco, the lost city section is filled with homeless people and social outcasts. Even though he helped the city dwellers by defeating the two armed mechs (employed by a powerful organization who oppose the city dwellers and are in pursuit of something related to San Francisco’s park), Venom still gets rejected by the so-called council. This only led him to returning to the surface not knowing that he is being targeted by a certain group.

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Venom: Lethal Protector #3, published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story written by David Michelinie and drawn by Mark Bagley.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins with Venom suffering from a sonic blast while being restrained by one of the armed members of the group called The Jury. Their leader (who wears a suit and necktie) introduces himself as Orwell Taylor and he addressed Venom as Mr. Brock. It turns out Taylor spent lots of time and resources researching everything about Brock and the alien costume. More shockingly, The Jury’s leader reveals that he lost his son Hugh years ago due to Venom’s arranged killing of him as he escaped from his prison cell in the federal prison called The Vault. Hugh Taylor is the first man Venom killed when he escaped.

Venom responds by say that he and his symbiote did not want to hurt anyone. This provokes Orwell Taylor into anger and he orders The Jury to kill Venom. Due to the lengthy explanations of Orwell Taylor, Venom managed to recover and regain strength which he uses to free himself and throw one Jury member to another causing quick chaos.

After punching another Jury member, Venom then moves out of the alley and away from Taylor and his team…

Quality

Very clearly, The Jury is a very formidable force of opposition. Their battle with Venom here comes with a lot of spectacle.

In terms of storytelling, this one is another improvement over issue #2 (which itself is an improvement over issue #1) as the plot got more interesting and even intriguing. For one thing, I like the fact that David Michelinie recalled Venom’s murderous escape from prison told way back in Amazing Spider-Man #315 (1989) and came up with the establishment of a very angry powerful father who formed the dangerous cybernetic team called The Jury. In a rather symbolic way, this comic book shows how Venom’s past comes back to haunt him and creatively, the battles between Venom and The Jury here are packed with a lot of action and visual dynamism delivered by Mark Bagley. The irony is that The Jury itself is not the main antagonist of this limited series as they are clearly presented to be a recurring force of opposition within Spider-Man’s realm in Marvel Comics’ shared universe of the time.

Still on the plot, the sinister organization hounding the dwellers of the lost city was revealed to be the Treece group whose leader is pursuing something very valuable to feed his greed. Still, even though this is already the third issue, the Treece organization’s presence is very subtle and as the force of opposition towards Venom, they are outclassed by The Jury.

As in the previous issue, Spider-Man got a good share of the spotlight but this one is even more limiting which should delight Venom fanatics who complained about Marvel’s icon overshadowing their guy with the symbiote. Spider-Man serves mainly as a tool for exposition as the creative team showed images from the past of Eddie Brock with his father (whom Spider-Man approached for answers).

The problem here is that showing flashbacks from the past and explaining how Eddie Brock became bitter and sinister as a result of receiving almost no affection from his father ruins the mystery of Venom as a character. During the time of Todd McFarlane drawing Amazing Spider-Man comics and the early Venom tales, the mystery of Eddie Brock’s past added to the intrigue of Venom and his quick rise as the deadliest villain Spider-Man ever faced. I understand that this limited comic book series had Venom as the protagonist who was in high demand among readers of the time but for me the creative team went way too far emphasizing Eddie Brock’s past.

Nothing changes the fact that Eddie Brock aided by the alien costume is a murderer who happens to have previously been a prolific print media journalist whose career got ruined by Spider-Man which in turn led him to a downward spiral and eventually to bonding with the symbiote that once bonded with Peter Parker. The flashbacks were pointless and if there really was an attempt to humanize Eddie Brock and make him sympathetic to readers, the creative team clearly failed.

Conclusion

Spider-Man with Eddie Brock’s father in California.

Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993) is a mixed bag. Its plot is clearly more intriguing and more interesting to read while there was enough creative space to show The Jury as a powerful force of opposition which is the result of Venom’s murder of Hugh Taylor (read: Amazing Spider-Man #315) while making a prison escape. The spectacle of the battle between Venom and The Jury must be seen! However, the creative team’s move to dramatize Eddie Brock’s past using flashbacks back-fired in my opinion and ultimately they destroyed whatever mystery was left behind Venom. As a protagonist, Venom has no appeal whatsoever and his portrayal here only reminds me that he works best as an antagonist opposite Spider-Man. Venom as a hero for those he perceived to be innocent and helpless remains forced and unconvincing.

Overall, Venom: Lethal Protector #3 (1993) is satisfactory.

+++++

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