Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics-fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics that I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Magnum opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.
Magnum is sort of like my comics fairy godmother, or y’know, something manlier sounding… mentor? Role model? Alfred? I don’t know. Anyway, he’s the go-to chap for bat-chat. Hopefully, he’ll just start writing a companion series to this, only with, you know, actually informed opinions.
This is the fifth edition of the series. I finally got around to getting myself a copy of Death Of The Family, the at-the-time-of-writing newest main-series Batman title, and that’s put me in the mood to write another one of these articles. Right now I’m listening to Dream Theater’s Awake album and leafing through my trade paperback of Batman – Venom. So I’m going to write about it. I could have picked any of these book off the shelf really. I guess I chose this one to write about this time because I’ve been playing Arkham Origins recently and some of the enemies are using venom. Venom always reminds me of the version of Bane in the 90s movie; a slavering mindless goon with comically large musculature and bright green ooze pumped around him in see-through tubes. Hey, Bane and the venom baddies in Arkham Origins do have the green tubes too. In fact the comically big thing even happens later, because of Titan. (Which you may remember from Arkham Asylum.)
You can therefor kind of understand, that when I picked up Batman Venom, I expected it to be about Bane, and I expected to see green tubes. This was not actually a feature of the book Batman Venom.
Its actually a rather interesting story about how the invention of a drug destroys two-three human relationships. That and a bit of a sea-crossing adventure story. Its like injecting Batman into Uncharted Drakes Fortune with a focus on addiction instead of vampires. Or maybe its more like Gone Baby Gone meets Lost, on a small scale. OR… I guess its more like, Batman meets venom, on a graphic novel scale.
Batman – Venom:
– Writers: Dennis O’Neil
– Art: Trevor Von Eeden, Russel Braun, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Willie Schubert
– Colours: Steve Oliff
– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Year One-ish
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne
– Villains: Dr. Porter, General Tim Slaycroft
– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police),
– Bystanders: Sissy Porter, Tim Slaycroft Jr.
– Story: [Spoilers, This is the entire plot:] The story begins with Batman failing to rescue a drowning child because he is physically unable to move the rubble obstructing his path to her. She drowns and Batman is haunted by her death, and moreso his failure. He starts obsessing over the issue of strength and when he is injured lifting weights and beaten up by a physically superior goon, he decides to start taking the Venom pills offered to him by the dead girl’s father, Doctor Porter, who is suspiciously emotionless about the death of his daughter.
At first the pills have steroid-like effects, allowing him to lift more weights and build more muscle, but eventually they start affecting his personality and judgement, turning him into a violent, aggressive, reckless goon, who beats the absolute crap out’ve people with less ethical consideration than he would without the drugs. They are also highly addictive and turn him into a stereotype junkie, desperate for another fix.
Doctor Porter is working alongside General Timmothy Slaycroft, a corrupt military official who wants to use Batman as a mindless henchman. He also has a son who seems to be a good person. Eventually Slaycroft and Porter ask Junkie-Batman to murder James Gordon in exchange for a fix, and this is enough to break the influence that the two have over him, and it causes him to go into seclusion and isolation until he has detoxed from the drug and beaten his addiction.
Slaycroft and Porter move to Cuba, taking Slaycroft’s son with them. Slaycroft’s son, Tim Jr., befriends a Cuban girl and seems to be developing a romantic relationship with her. Slaycroft then decides to use Venom on his son and turn him into a violent, mindless goon. It affects his relationship with the girl, who he eventually beats to death, despite previously having been a good person. Slaycroft then develops a whole squad of such monsters, and trains them in the South American jungle conditions, murdering peasants.
Porter himself is revealed to be using drugs similar to Venom, that enhance his mind instead of body, and has gone evil. He’s been evil since the book began basically, becuase the drugs stripped him of empathy (Remind you of James Gordon Jr’s empathy-stripping drugs plan?). Slaycroft and Porter have arguments. A power struggle ensues.
Batman, with the help of Gordon, tracks them down and flies to their headquarters and then heads there with Alfred to stop them. Their plane is shot down and Batman is separated from Alfred.
Slaycroft has captured Alfred and drags him around the island dangling from a helicopter to lure Batman out of hiding. Slaycroft and his posse of goons, along with Porter, tie Alfred to two stakes in the shark infested waters. Batman saves Alfred, fighting a shark in the process.
He is met on shore by Porter who offers him Venom pills, but when Batman refuses, Tim Jr. defeats Batman and Porter puts Batman in a trap that can only be escaped using the additional strength that Venom would provide, which Batman then escapes using his wits instead of the drug.
Meanwhile, while waiting for Batman to start using venom again, Porter and Slaycroft become enemies and try to kill each other, and Alfred escapes and radios Gordon for help. Batman bursts into Slaycroft and Porter’s conflict and despite trying to help save everyone’s life, Slaycroft gets killed at the hands of his own son. Batman takes Porter back to Gotham to be arrested by Gordon and reflects on the victims of the situation.
– Tone: The tone is completely serious (apart from Alfred’s traditional sarcasm) and balances realism with entertainment rather well. It’s the exact kind of tone I like the best. Bruce going out and cracking skulls without the Batman suit is a great way to display just how unhinged he has become.
– Art: Its kind of the highest quality of Art that you can get without being noteworthy as amazing art. Its very good looking compared to say, The Dark Knight Returns, although not as amazing as modern stuff like All Star Batman And Robin (art courtesy of Jim Lee).
The colouring makes it a bit dated looking I guess, as in, you can kind of tell when it was made just by looking at it, but not in a bad way. Think of it like Van Halen’s production jobs on the first three albums. You can tell when they were made, but they sound fantastic and timeless. The drawings themselves are detailed and interesting, there’s extra mise-en-scene that you mightn’t get in other books from the same sort of time.
– Overall: I really, really like this book. Sure, the title makes the modern fan expect to see Bane, who is not featured here, and sure, Batman does fight a shark (which sounds close to jump a shark), but other than that, it is a very down-to-earth story with some nice psychological aspects and you can be made to feel some real emotions. Its top-quality stuff.
Plus Doctor Porter is an interesting character. Not massively interesting, but interesting enough. I wonder if he gets used again?
I’d recommend picking it up if you already read Batman books. It deserves a place in the collection of anyone who has a collection.