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Venom Through the Ages

by yo go re

Originally believed to be an alien material, Spider-Man's black costume was more than that - it was an intelligent, symbiotic organism, and it could influence or even control whoever it bonded with. When Spider-Man rejected it, the symbiote's behavior changed, and its future hosts would provide a channel for its rage as the vigilante Venom. Bitter photographer Eddie Brock was the first Venom, and Brock's ex-wife Ann Weying also wore the symbiote as She-Venom. Currently, it is attached to government operative Flash Thompson, with the symbiote replacing the legs he lost in combat.

Most of these "~ Through the Ages" sets present their figures in chronological order - only Iron Man Through the Ages broke that trend, and even it went in reverse order. Venom Through the Ages, meanwhile, seems to jump around at random. We'll be reviewing them from oldest to newest, regardless of where they were in the tray. And so we start with Venom (Eddie Brock).

Three of the four figures have names like that, by the way: "Venom (name of character)"; it would really save a lot of time and trouble if Art Asylum could just name specific artists. For instance, this one could be called "Mark Bagley Venom" and everybody would know what to expect. The figure gets clawed hands and one of the pseudo-"powerhouse" chest caps to bulk him up. The body is jet black with blue highlights, just as he was drawn in the comics. His teeth are small and mostly straight, and his eyes get jagged near the upper edges.

Venom (Eddie Brock) comes with an extra unmasked head so he can just be (Eddie Brock). The face is fairly calm and reserved, and he has a spiky orange hair piece. Why do it as a separate head, instead of making the Venom face a cap that fits over top? Probably to keep the head proportionally small when we're in full Venom (Eddie Brock) mode.

Next we have Venom Unleashed, or, as any sane person would call him, "Erik Larsen Venom." While Todd McFarlane gave Venom fangs and somewhat crooked eyes, Larsen took all those features and turned them up to 11. Thousand. He's the one who gave Venom the crazy-long tongue and the underbite chin that was nearly as long as the rest of his head. He also made Venom larger as he went along, and this Minimate brings all that to life. It's bulked up through the use of big, rounded boots; thigh pads; one of those "waistless" crotch pieces with a thick belt; giant gloves with sharp claws; upper-arm pads; and a huge chest cap. His head is a totally new mold, complete with individual fangs, a long tongue, and duckface.

The blue paint apps on this figure are the same as the ones on Venom (Eddie Brock), just scaled up to fit on the larger body. And if there weren't already enough add-on pieces, he also comes with a second head that is only half formed and shows Eddie Brock's face inside the mouth. Plus, a replacement hand that's really just a tendril whip - not a great choice, honestly, but it does add to his fluid nature, so there's that.

As we said, you can see Eddie's face through the open mouth on the Venom head, and that means there's a human head beneath. This one has a big toothy smile, right on the verge of insanity. Remember the awesome Transformation Venom? In a superb display of attention to detail, the Eddie Brock faces in this set have the same eyes as that figure, so they all look like the same guy. Brilliant! It's a sliding scale of crazy, contained in these four faces.

Next we move to Venom (Ann Weying), and apparently I was paying just no kind of attention when this set was announced, because until I opened this set I had completely forgotten that this was a woman. She's straight out of the comics (where they called her "She-Venom") and she's had an action figure before (called "Bride of Venom"), and the Minimate perfectly duplicates Greg Luzniak's art style. Look at those teeth! being the only figure in the set to not have a chest cap keeps Venom (Ann Weying) looking slender and feminine. She's got the clawed hands, and a new piece around the neck to suggest the way she always had tendrils shooting up off her shoulders.

Venom (Ann Weying) also has a human head as a display option, though hers isn't as fully human as the two Eddies were - she has a little bit of symbiote goo on the lower edges of her face. Her hair is a dirty blonde, worn in a slightly spiky style that says she settled on a look in the late '80s and then never changed it again.

The final figure in this set is the most exciting: Venom (Flash Thompson). Flash was Peter Parker's bully in high school, but was a huge fan of Spider-Man. After school he joined the military, and ended up losing his legs. Not wanting to stop serving his country, he volunteered to use the symbiote as a living battle suit.

The new Venom was designed by Tony Moore, who made the suit look like tactical battle gear. It's always been able to mimic any kind of clothes: it was just that Spider-Man originally wanted it to be a costume that it's spent so much time faking spandex. The armored portions of the toy are new - that means not only the body armor, but also the boots and gloves. He has a belt and a holster, but who can ever tell if those are reused or not? Most of the figure is gloss black, but there are grey lines on the arms and legs to suggest more armor there.

If you remove the Venom mask, you can put on the bright blonde hair to create a human Flash Thompson. He has a very stern look, but it's clear that this isn't Eddie Brock - the face is completely distinct. And not even a little bit crazy. Since he's a soldier, Flash has a pistol and an AR-15 rifle. The pistol fits in the holster loosely.

It was clearly the prospect of getting the first "Agent Venom" toy that sold this set, but the other three options are pretty impressivley handled. If you only want one Venom, then yes, Transformation Venom is still the one to get, but this Venom Through the Ages box is a close second.

-- 12/10/12

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