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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 supervillains – Venom.
In my previous retro review, the core concept of the Lethal Protector limited series started to really take shape as issue #3’s plot got more intriguing and interesting to read while emphasizing other powerful forces Venom himself simply could not easily overwhelm. It is also the issue in which Venom’s past act of a certain murder comes to haunt him. The problem I had with that comic book was the creative team’s dramatization of Eddie Brock’s personal history which essentially ruined whatever mystery Venom had. Eventually, the comic book ended with Venom getting into trouble again.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Venom: Lethal Protector #4 published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story written by David Michelinie and drawn by Ron Lim.
The story begins inside a high-tech facility in the Mojave Desert. Inside, Venom is in captivity floating off the floor with high-tech machines keeping him prisoner. He is a captive of the Life Foundation and they have successfully extracted another spawn from Venom’s symbiote which causes tremendous pain on the part of Eddie Brock. It turns out, a total of five “seeds” have been extracted and the organization has big plans with them.
Over at Sta. Cruz in California, Spider-Man spends some of his precious time to stop some local criminals from causing anymore danger to the people. During his telephone talk with Mary Jane, he admits that has not been able to track Venom down but he has a new lead about weird creatures that have been spotted locally. A short time later, Spider-Man arrives at a shopping mall where tremendous damage of property have happened. As soon as he catches a lady and prevents her from hitting the pavement, he is shocked to see a long-haired woman wearing a living alien costume with features that are so similar to that of Venom. The symbiote-wearing woman (Scream) tells Spider-Man directly that breaking him in half will make the “little exercise” a complete success…
To start with what is very obvious and clear, this story has Spider-Man overshadowing Venom in terms of literary presence as the plot has the titular character limited to captivity under the tight grasp of the Life Foundation. Given Spider-Man’s previous appearances in this limited series serving as a convenient tool for exposition, you will easily feel the Amazing Spider-Man monthly series’ vibes taking over this comic book’s narrative as Marvel’s icon became the protagonist of the story complete with spectacle and problem solving that drive the plot forward. This is not surprising as David Michelinie was already the lead writer of the Amazing Spider-Man monthly series and it only makes sense to shift the focus on the famous webslinger since his deadliest enemy (who has this very distorted belief about protecting the innocent and keep on murdering people he finds antagonistic) could not contribute much to the story while in captivity.
As reflected in the nice cover of this comic book, it is also Spider-Man who faces off with the “female Venom” herself Scream which leads to yet another Spidey-versus-symbiote villain battle but with a catch – Scream is simply inexperienced in battle and does not have any real strategy to deal with New York’s webslinger. That battle noticeably does not last very long and the short amount of superhero spectacle here paved the way for the creative team to make Spider-Man sneak into enemy territory and closer to Venom.
In terms of visual quality, I can say that things went way down as Ron Lim replaced Mark Bagley here. Lim’s art style of drawing people has this generic aesthetic on the characters’ faces – Mary Jane and Eddie Brock are barely recognizable. While Lim’s artistic take on Venom is clearly a big letdown compared to Bagley’s Venom (note: always looking menacing and unique), he ironically did a decent job visualizing Scream. Lim’s most dynamic shots of superhero action lacked impact. Regardless, Lim’s art is not so appealing compared to Bagley’s.
Considering all the details I mentioned above, Venom: Lethal Protector #4 (1993) is technically an Amazing Spider-Man comic book that just so happens to have Venom much less significant in this particular part of his own limited series. There really was not much room for the creative team use as far as Venom is concerned. Of course, this is all part of a build-up heading into the final two parts of this limited series and it is obvious that Venom would become prominent again. This comic book’s most notable feature was its concept about the Life Foundation extracting seeds from Venom’s living costume but considering what happened, there was not much room to really build-up on the idea that more symbiote-wearing people will emerge. Scream was essentially a warm-up. Ultimately, Spider-Man fans will have a lot to enjoy here while Venom fans will not have much to enjoy.
Overall, Venom: Lethal Protector #4 (1993) is serviceable.
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