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Marvel Select
by yo go re

This is the third time DST has made a Venom figure in their Marvel Select line, following Ultimate Venom and Flash Thompson Venom, but it may be the last one they ever make.

The vigilante known as Venom is actually a symbiotic being, consisting of the human reporter Eddie Brock and a fluid, intelligent organism from outer space who feeds on his adrenaline, granting him all the powers of Spider-Man. When they first found each other, both held grudges against the hero, wreaking havoc in his life, but Venom later became a hero on his own, protecting the innocent and helping to stop several other symbiotic beings that had split off from himself. At one point, Venom bonded with a second symbiote, causing him to grow additional arms and heads, as well as driving him mad. Both Brock and the symbiote have since bonded with other partners.

What? Bonded with a second symbiote? No he didn't. He was driven mad by a pool of toxic waste. You know that because we reviewed the "Madness" figure last year. The chemicals were sentient, maybe, but they weren't a second symbiote. There was a time when Venom absorbed a clone of his own symbiote, but that didn't cause any weird growths.

This Venom is the original: no Flash Thompson, no Mac Gargan, no alternate universes... just 616 Eddie Brock in his classic glory. The point of this figure is to create the definitive Venom, so the sculpt doesn't really owe its origns to any specific artist - it's not as smooth as Todd McFarlane's, not as jagged as Erik Larsen's, not as striated as Mark Bagley's... it draws inspiration from all of them without being beholden to one.

When Todd McFarlane first drew Venom, he didn't know there was going to be a person inside the suit - since Spidey had fought the disembodied symbiote before, Todd assumed that was the case again, and that's why his version of Venom is so smooth. Since then, it's been sort of an artistic back-and-forth over whether the symbiote merely wraps around the host, or if it somehow transforms them; with the detailed anatomical detailing on this figure - the veins, the muscle tissue, etc. - it's almost like the suit is pushing Eddie out from the inside to pump him up.

To help make this the only Venom toy you'll ever need, the figure comes with three different heads. The first, the one worn in the package, is the original McFarlane version. You know, the bulbous head with the Joker's smile. No surprise that the sculpt looks so much like the comic art: Venom was sculpted by Jean St.Jean, who you'll remember worked for McFarlane Toys for years before going into business for himself; so he's got plenty of practice working from Todd's pencils.

Next we have a head that looks like the cover of Venom: Lethal Proector #1, which I guess would make this a Mark Bagley version. It's got fairly straight fangs, green drool around the mouth and, to create even more display possibilities, a removable tongue. At least, I hope it's removable. It pulled out of his face when I was trying to get the head out of the tray. Goes back in easily enough, so it's a nice option for display.

The third head is also based on Bagley's artwork - specifically, the cover of the Venom Returns tpb, which showed the symbiote peeling back from Eddie's face. Or is it going the other way, and just starting to wrap around? Either way, it's a half-human head with tendrils of black goo wrapping around from the right side and crawling up his cheek. The left side is fully Venomized, and the tongue and a long lower jaw sticks out beneath Eddie's chin. It's very cool.

We're not done with the interchangeability, either! Along with the three heads are three sets of hands: a pair of fists, a pair of "normal" hands, and a pair of giant claws. We put "normal" in quotations because they've still got claws, they're just closer to being human than the claw hands. They're the kind of hands McFarlane drew, while the humongous kinfe-fingers came from later artists. All three types of hand are sculpted well, looking very veiny, and have the proper webshooter ports on the back of the hand. The claws show St.Jean's attention to detail: while most of the fingers are as textured as the rest of the body, the final segment on each digit is smooth, suggesting it's extra sharp.

Now, Venom doesn't come with a big fancy display base like most Marvel Select figures do, but it's not because he's as oversized as Rhino or Hulk - rather, DST's Chuck Terceira suggested that since they'd already done the "symbiote and rubble" base with Anti-Venom, there was no point in retreading it now. So instead, they threw in the alternate heads, the alternate hands, and a giant backpack to re-create his mutated appearance in The Madness (as hinted at up above).

The back doesn't plug in or anything - it's just shaped to hang on Venom's shoulders and press up against his back. It's sculpted to extend the white spider design, but while the legs work fine, the spider-butt doesn't. The real one is still visible, so now he has two of them back there. Whoops!

You won't care though, because the pack is sculpted to the same high standards as the vest of the toy. It has six new Venom heads poking out of the shoulders - four of which are on balljoints - and two more arms. The arms swivel at the shoulders, hinge at the elbow, and swivel at the wrists. Oh, and those wrists? The peg is the same size as the extra hands, meaning you can put whichever of the hands you want on the ends of the little dangly arms. Too cool! Plus, since that still doesn't match the "Madness" design, we get two even smaller arms that plug into his forearms. They fit seamlessly and the wrists turn. This is absolutely great!

Venom stands 7⅞" tall, which means he'll tower over your 6" figures. If you still want to mix him in, take heart in the fact that the Venom symbiote has a tendency to bulk its hosts up to a ridiculous degree. Plus there's the whole "toxic mutation" thing, which probably didn't help him shrink at all.

The figure has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, a swivel/hinge torso that doesn't really seem to move very far, a swivel waist, those compound hinge H-hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees and hinged ankles. Man, remember when Marvel Select figures barely used to move at all? We've come a long way, baby!

If asked to name some flaws about this figure, we could come up with two: the chest joint has very little range, and the mini-arms leave big peg holes in the figure's forearms. That's it. Everything else about this guy is exactly what you'd want a Venom toy to be. Marvel Select has delivered the best Venom action figure there's ever been, no question. And if anyone wants to produce a better one, they have a very high bar to reach.

-- 02/25/13

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