Venom: Volume 1

Who needs new characters when you can take some preexisting ones, add in a new concept, and have an awesome result? Rick Remender does just that in Venom: Volume 1.

This new take on the super popular villain/antihero has longtime Spider-Man supporting character Eugene “Flash” Thompson bonded with the Venom symbiote. Things are different this time. Thompson, an amputee Iraqi war veteran, is given a chance to serve his country again by serving as a host for the symbiote, which gives him the usual Venom powers and abilities. The catch is that the can only stay bonded for 48 hours; after that, the two creatures become inseparable. Obviously, he doesn’t want that and neither does the government, who have installed an explosive device to ensure they stay separated.

This first volume has Venom facing the aptly named criminal mastermind Crime Master (the latest version of this long recurring villain). Venom fights with Jack O’ Lantern in Eastern Europe and gravels to the Savage Land to prevent Crime Master from getting a shipment of vibranium–the super metal used in Captain America’s shield–which he plans on using for munitions. Since this is a super hero story, things only get more difficult as Kraven somehow gets involved, wanting to fight Thompson, who he believes is Spider-Man.

Things get worse for Thompson, as Crime Master informs him that he is aware of his secret identity and has dispatched Jack O’ to kill Thompson’s on again, off again girlfriend Betty Brant, if he doesn’t the vibranium. To make matters worse, his 48 hour period of being joined with the symbiote is coming to an end, and Spider-Man is hot on his trail, as a new Venom tearing through New York looking for Betty (one of Peter’s friends) is alarming to say the least.

Remender did a great job weaving together a fairly complex plot, but really shines with Thompson’s narration to build the relationship between himself and the symbiote. Tony Moore’s art is fine, and you can tell that he was having fun thinking of ways to have Venom’s tentacles use machine guns and other weaponry.

The final story in this collection gives a glimpse into Thompson’s past, showing why he was portrayed as being an asshole all those years. Thompson had a terrible relationship with his father growing up, and this shows how that took its toll on him throughout his life.

So yes, I really did enjoy this. It was the most fun I’ve had reading a Venom story in a longtime and I can’t wait to check out the next volume.

30 Things I Like About Comics—#6 Ka-Zar and Zabu

Detail from Ka-Zar #2

Ka-Zar is such an awesome and underutilized superhero character. Loosely based on a Marvel (Timely at the time) pulp magazine and comics character, the Ka-Zar that most people are familiar with is Kevin Plunder, the son of an English explorer who was orphaned in the Savage Land—a prehistoric jungle hidden away in Antarctica filled with human and humanoid species, as well as dinosaurs.

Ka-Zar first appeared in an early issue of X-Men in 1965 and has batted around the Marvel Universe since. He has had two ongoing series, one in the 1980s by Bruce Jones and Mike Carlin and a later won in the 1990s by Mark Waid.

His stories are fairly simple. It’s usually about Ka-Zar exploring the Savage Land and dealing with the various warring tribes. Sometimes stories deal with him fighting off poachers and big game hunters, who are after the Savage Land’s wildlife. In those stories he gets to leave the Savage Land, getting to travel to New York to fight off villains like Kraven.

Why I like Ka-Zar stories so much is that they are so much fun to read. There are dinosaurs, crazy natives, and did I mention dinosaurs? He also has a really small but important cast of supporting characters. His love interest is Shanna the She Devil, the self-appointed protector of Africa’s wildlife.

But Ka-Zar’s best friend is Zabu, the world’s last smilodon (that’s a sabre-toothed tiger for you non-zoologists). After his pride was slaughtered when we he was a cub, he wandered around the Savage Land and saved a young Ka-Zar from a tribe of cavemen. The two became best of friends and inseperable.

Zabu is often a plot device, with Ka-Zar having to save him, whether it be from tribes in the Savage Land or when the cat has ventured into the modern world. During Jones’ series, they had a recurring backup feature that chronicled Zabu’s life.

You might think that this is a lot like Tarzan, but its’ not. It’s better. These are just fun stories about a guy, his hot girlfriend (and later on wife) and his best friend/pet sabre-toothed tiger that live in a jungle filled with dinosaurs. You don’t get better than this, folks.