Rent is past due for Lee Price. With no real options, he meets with his friend Tony, who introduces him to Mac Gargan. The man used to be a super villain but now works security at Alchemax. He has a lucrative side business going on, and Tony thinks Lee is perfect for a job Gargan has planned tonight. However, Mac is suspicious of this stranger, and is worried the man is psychotic. Gargan has spent too much of his life working around monsters, and he has no desire to meet another one. Lee insists that he can control himself. He used to be a Ranger, until he lost two fingers. Until he gets his benefits as a disabled veteran, he’s stuck. No security company would hire him and he refuses to go back overseas to a war zone. So he’ll do what Mac wants, and if he needs to stay calm, he can do that, too.
Mac insists this is just some business, and no violence will be necessary. He’ll see these guys tonight. Elsewhere, in a dark alley, a homeless man stumbles on to the symbiote, which possesses him. The symbiote struggles with this host, and vomits. There’s a lot of pain in this city. Many lost people. And right now, Venom is one of them.
That night, the buyers approach Lee, Tony, and Mac. They say Tombstone is grateful, and the pay will be that they will spare the men’s lives. The men pull guns on each other, but Lee, thinking things weren’t supposed to get violent, didn’t bring a one. As things are about to come to a head, Venom bursts through a wall. Everyone attacks it, and the symbiote leaps onto Lee.
The symbiote reads through Lee’s mind and is delighted to see that the man used to be a soldier. His last host was a soldier, and they did great things together. They saved New York – they saved the world! And together, Lee could too! But Lee disagrees. He’s the one in control here. He attacks the other men, killing them, as Venom begs the man to stop. It doesn’t want this! After the men are killed, he calms down. Tony is excited about this, as they could make some big waves in the crime world. Lee, however, isn’t interested in a partnership.
The last man standing, the homeless man, begs for mercy. He’s nothing and no one. Nobody will listen to him. Lee states he just killed a man he’s known since grade school just because he knew that Tony couldn’t keep a secret. The homeless man insists nobody would believe him anyways, and Tony says he’s quite convincing. And that’s a problem.
Lee’s seen a lot of violence growing up. His family was the worst of it. But he knew a mutant that could control fire. Some government agents came for the boy, and the resulting confrontation killed Lee’s mother. He went into family services, thinking that if he ever got that power, he’d have burnt the whole place down… and never would have been caught.
Lee begins to move quickly, killing many and stockpiling supplies from the crime deal – toxic gas with mutagenic properties. He then goes home to figure out how to use this new power to his advantage.
So… this comic was… different. On my first read, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew Venom was getting a new host, and that was kind of annoying. I liked the last host Flash Thompson, a great deal, so part of me was unhappy to see him go. And yet… this wasn’t a bad comic, not really. I did enjoy reading it. I really liked how they’ve flipped the typical dynamic with new Venom, where Lee is the killer and the symbiote is the innocent. The narration does a great job at this, conveying the differences in how Lee and Venom think and act in this world and also giving us an instant sense of the conflict at heart. It’s amazing how much things have changed for this character, to the extent that I feel really bad for the Venom alien at the end of this story. Just look at how sad it is! The poor fella. I’m glad they didn’t just forget all the development with Flash and are using it to inform that story.
And I do appreciate how well crafted the ultra-violence is. This new character Lee Price is utterly brutal – killing innocent people, stockpiling weaponry, and almost instantly bringing the alien suit to heel. It’s a neat idea to have another veteran yet to make it clear that Lee and Flash couldn’t be more different from one another. That is what convinces me that this new host might be of some value.
Venom #1 is also pretty well drawn. With the exception of Agent Venom, the villain has always been this variation on a theme, and the latest take on him seems cool. I like how the white on the head design kind of showcases how it’s an alien and such, and throughout the issue the extreme power of Venom is conveyed nicely. Even panels like this with Venom vomiting are quite well drawn and have a way of grabbing your attention.
There’s some of me that questions all this, to an extent. The way Marvel advertises this comic makes it clear it’s a back to basics, Venom is evil story. That’s fine, but Venom back to normal would be him as a Spider-Man villain. And that dude is so far from normal these days that – SIGH – there’s part of me that really questions all of this because it’s Marvel and these days I feel obligated to. For all the praise I give this comic, it does try really hard in the design and actions of Lee to make him seem really cool, to the extent I feel it’s almost desperate. It’s clear Marvel wants you to think this is a badass comic so, so badly that this comic does come across as a bit… soulless.
I have hope that things will be interesting and the story will have a cool angle to it, but right now, I’m not entirely convinced. This isn’t the fun of the Agent Venom series, it isn’t the awesomeness of old school Venom, not yet at least, so I’m not sure what this is, yet. In spite of that, what we got was pretty fun, and there are cool things they could do with this series. We’re only one issue in, so we’ll see. As of yet, I don’t recommend this, but I don’t think I’d go so far as to say you shouldn’t buy it either. I feel I need at least a couple more issues before I know if this series is of value. So I leave it in your hands. If this seems like it would be cool to you, check it out! If not, well, you can always hunt it down later. I have a feeling this particular title may have been overprinted anyways.