Superior Venom Revealed and Agent Venom is a Guardian of the Galaxy | Fanboys Anonymous

Superior Venom Revealed and Agent Venom is a Guardian of the Galaxy

Posted by Orion Petitclerc Sunday, November 24, 2013
When last I wrote about Venom on Fanboys Anonymous, I reflected upon fears both I and many other Agent Venom fans had at the recent close of the longest-running Venom series and the impending doom of the "Darkest Hours" storyarc in Superior Spider-Man that would see the birth of the Superior Venom. Those were dark, scary, depressing times for Venomaniacs like myself. Well, Wednesday shone a light of hope in our hearts when Marvel released preview pages for Superior Spider-Man #24 depicting the Superior Venom in action and the new mystery team member on the cover of the Free Comic Book Day special issue of Guardians of the Galaxy: Agent Venom.
Watch Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters August 1, 2014
"Wow, I've been in Hell, the Microverse, and a secret
underground cyborg city, but this is just downright far out..."
Obviously, Wednesday was one of the most hopeful days for me this year. Sad, right? (Well, you're wrong.) Instead of reiterating what's already been revealed, though, I'm going to explain why the news—when it all boils down—is bittersweet. Just in case you're not current on Agent Venom and Superior Spider-Man, let's do a little recap first.

SPOILER ALERT: Details of current and previously published Superior Spider-Man and Venom issues will be revealed below.

The Gist of It

Read Agent Venom's tenure in the Secret Avengers on Comixology and the Marvel Comics app
Sadly, Agent Venom only displayed this ability in Secret
Before the Superior Spider-Man there was Agent Venom, so symbiotes first. Agent Venom is the result of Project Rebirth 2.0 combining the Venom symbiote—acquired by the U.S. government from its previous host, MacDonald "The Scorpion" Gargan—with wounded Army veteran and issue-1 (rather, Amazing Fantasy #15) supporting cast member of the Spider-Man mythos, Eugene "Flash" Thompson. Agent Venom was conceived at first as a black-ops Spider-Man working secretive tactical missions until Project Rebirth 2.0 was shut down by the crown jewel of the first Project Rebirth, Captain America. After that, Agent Venom enjoyed a decent tour of vigilantism creating more enemies than allies, breaking up with his long-time girlfriend Betty Brant, hooking up with Asgardian hottie Valkyrie, and teaming up with a kaleidoscope of Marvel's heroes and antiheroes. His solo Venom title came to a sad conclusion at issue #42, leaving old symbiotic rival Eddie Brock (currently the new and bad-ass Toxin) and new symbiotic sidekick Andi "Mania" Benton in seemingly perpetual limbo while Agent Venom lives (if you can call it that) on life support in Marvel NOW!'s Thunderbolts.
Read Superior Spider-Man by Dan Slott on Comixology and the Marvel Comics app

On the other side of the tracks, Spider-Man became arguably "Superior" after long-time archnemesis Doctor Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus, switched minds with Peter Parker in a last-ditch effort to evade death. Peter died in Otto's broken body, leaving the former villain with Uncle Ben's famous line (need I repeat it?) and asking Otto to promise him to carry on as Spider-Man. Otto promises he would be the Superior Spider-Man and proceeds to take Peter's life on a joyride "perfecting" Peter's and his own foibles and turning the mantle of Spider-Man into something to be feared and respected. During his time, SpOck (a fan abbreviation of Spider-Ock) had befriended and blackmailed Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, had an intervention courtesy of the Avengers, killed a Carnage-level killer in public, erased trace elements of Peter's consciousness, and raised a Spider Army complete with henchmen and giant and small robots.

Agent Venom and pre-Superior Spider-Man briefly faced off early on in Agent Venom's career right before "Spider-Island" made waves, but since then the ying and the yang of the Spiderverse never tangled their webs until next week's long-awaited showdown in "Darkest Hours."

Superior Revelations

Back in October, Marvel released its solicitation for Superior Spider-Man #25—the last issue of "Darkest Hours"—that raised a perplexing question. The solicitation read, "Otto Octavius, the Superior Spider-Man, in a life-or-death struggle against the original Superior Venom!" Who exactly would be considered the original Superior Venom: Eddie, the first Venom, or Peter, the symbiote's first human host?

Classically, "Venom" referred explicitly and exclusively to the moniker shared between Eddie and the symbiote. "You may call me Venom—for that's what I'm paid to spew out these days! I'm your victim, Spider-Man—I'm the innocent you ruined," is the first time Venom referenced the origin of his name in Amazing Spider-Man #300, but the most memorable and defining quote with which he accurately named himself comes from the '90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series: "We are like a poison to you Spider-Man, that is why we call ourselves Venom!" (Every host after Eddie was called Venom because of the character's iconography, mainly—or so I like to believe.)

Then again, if Marvel and Dan Slott, the writer of Superior Spider-Man, are just in the mood of throwing out tradition as they're often accused of, then the original Superior Venom would refer to the symbiote's first host, even though Spider-Man never was or has been officially referenced to as Venom when he wore the black suit. Technically, calling Spider-Man the original Venom is just outright wrong because of what the moniker stood for, but from the preview pages of issue #24, it looks like that's exactly the direction Slott's headed. Even though making SpOck the Superior Venom would seem counterintuitive to issue #25's solicitation—essentially pitting SpOck against himself or, more appropriately and likely, the symbiote—three features in the preview pages (besides the costume resemblance) prove that he is, in fact, hosting the symbiote:
Read Superior Spider-Man #24 online
Superior Venom's four symbiote tentacles springing from his
back are akin to SpOck's mechanical spider arms;
Catch Superior Venom in Superior Spider-Man: Darkest Hours
the red metallic pieces on Superior Venom's forearms exposed
beneath the symbiote are reminiscent of SpOck's arm bracers;
Learn mysterious identity Superior Venom in Superior Spider-Man #23-25
and the unlettered panels' implication that
Superior Venom is controlling SpOck's Spider-Bots.
For a couple of hours, Agent Venom's doom was seemingly spelled out, especially since his tenure in the current Thunderbolts roster shows almost no indication of continuity with the former Venom series or Superior Spider-Man. Then came the next bombshell.

To Infinity and Beyond

A few days before Wednesday, Marvel had solicited the cover to their Free Comic Book Day issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, which revealed two new team members: Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, and a mystery character shrouded in a black silhouette. Being the needy symbiote junkies we are, Venomaniacs looked at this cover and began to speculate that perhaps Agent Venom was the mystery character based on the minute details of the silhouette. They were right (I speculated against the possibility based on the silhouette's bulkiness and what I thought was a mismatch of Venom's crowd vs. the Guardians), and Agent Venom was revealed as the team's mystery member.

Read Marvel NOW!'s Thunderbolts on Comixology
How could a concept so right be executed so terribly wrong?
Hope had returned for Agent Venom. (I started tweeting #AgentVenomLives in a failed attempt to trend a modified version of Marvel's #CoulsonLives.) This was proof that Flash would survive "Darkest Hours" and keep the symbiote. Even if Marvel has yet to announce a new Venom ongoing series, at least we're going to get another monthly ongoing series featuring our favorite symbiote. What does this mean about Agent Venom's other ongoing team book, Thunderbolts, though? Is it possible for him to retain active membership with the Red Hulk's street-level dream team and an intergalactic, space-traveling band of peculiarities? My answer: no, blissful no.

It's no secret that Venomaniacs bemoan Agent Venom's involvement with the Thunderbolts. Daniel Way, the current series's first writer, was infamous among our crowd for his abominable Venom limited series from 2003 to 2004 (even though I personally didn't mind it), and his mistreatment of Agent Venom in this series poisoned the well that much more. Although Charles Soule has been working to mend Way's damages since he took over the series at issue #12, Thunderbolts remains tainted land for Agent Venom in Venomaniacs' opinions, even if it's the only title in which the character remains active.

A change of scenery is just what Agent Venom needs, and Guardians of the Galaxy fits the bill, if oddly. My guess, along with several others', is that Agent Venom is going to be replaced in Thunderbolts with Ghost Rider come February when he joins the roster to help solve the problem of Mercy, the Thunderbolts' secret weapon of mass destruction going rogue. If Agent Venom does leave the Thunderbolts, it really will be a huge sigh of relief the world shall hear on that day. I wouldn't even care if he didn't get his turn to decide the mission for the team.

Read the New Avengers Annual on Comixology and the Marvel Comics app
Again, another epic concept gone wrong.
It's all aces then, it would seem. Wouldn't it? Well, don't be so hasty with your conclusions! Here's the silver lining of it all: Guardians of the Galaxy is written by Brian Michael Bendis, and if you're a Venomaniac, you know that means trouble with a capital UH-OH. Famous for his creation of Ultimate Spider-Man alongside one of symbiote fans' favorite artists, Mark Bagley, Bendis has had a rocky history with writing symbiotes and Eddie Brock. His Ultimate Venom (both versions) received mixed reactions from the fandom, his portrayal of Anti-Venom in the short-lived Revengers team was absolutely horrendous, he killed Carnage in New Avengers, and he once said "Venom sucks" and that he didn't want to write the character. Bendis has since recanted that last statement, but remains on Venomaniacs' naughty list (especially mine, since I believe he can't write Moon Knight either, evidenced by his Ultimate Moon Knight and 2011 limited series). When I learned Bendis would be manhandling Agent Venom in Guardians of the Galaxy, I had my reasonable doubts until he sold a reader with a 3-word pitch for Agent Venom's first story arc. I was sold, too. Damn his eyes!

Regardless of the allure of his 3-word pitch, I still hold bated breath. Bendis has yet to impress me with his work on symbiotes. I hear readers are loving his work on Guardians of the Galaxy right now, but hopefully he can win me over as opposed to Way and Soule. My hope is that Agent Venom's stint on the cosmic team will be paralleled with a Venom relaunch for the All New Marvel NOW! movement or that it will garner enough interest in readers to launch a new solo series. What would be even better, though, is if we saw Agent Venom reunited with Mania back in Philadelphia, stalked by Toxin for his irresponsibility with the symbiote; but with Marvel's track record in pleasing Venomaniacs, chances of that happening are slim.

I'm going to be excited with next week's Superior Spider-Man issue regardless, since now I know Agent Venom's going to pull through, just as I'll be okay with the last issue of Superior Carnage knowing that Cletus Kasady will return as Carnage in February's Superior Carnage Annual. I can only hope that the limbo prior to these news pieces was rock bottom and that the only way to go from here is up. I try not to set my expectations too high so that I remain pleasantly surprised, but I'm expecting to see Agent Venom's darkest days on Thunderbolts end soon and his revival in Guardians of the Galaxy take him to new heights.

Think we're going to get the Agent Venom we remember and love from Venom back in Guardians of the Galaxy? Are you excited to see what Slott has planned for the Superior Venom? Will you be blasting off into outer space with Agent Venom in May? Let us know in the comments below!

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