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Marvel Select
by yo go re

We can all agree that the "One More Day" storyline in the Spider-Man comics was terrible. Because of Joe Quesada's mother issues and stunningly bleak view of marriage (including his own, apparently), Peter Parker and Mary Jane had to be broken up. But since divorce would be "morally unacceptable" to some readers, he instead had Satan show up and abort their baby. Yeah, that's a sane and rational decision that won't offend anyone. But perhaps the worst thing about the entire situation is the fact that none of the stories told under the "Brand New Day" continuity couldn't have been told about a married Spider-Man. Quesada seems to think that marriage sucks all the fun out of life - it wasn't a wedding ring that made Spider-Man boring, it was bad writing. Good stories are entertaining regardless of the minor elements of backstory, as evidenced by "New Ways to Die."

Eddie Brock thought his life had turned around after being transformed into the powerful Venom and devoting his life to the destruction of Spider-Man. Instead he was abandonned by the Venom symbiote and left for dead with a new Venom taking his place. Later given a new lease on life by the mysterious Mr. Negative, the return of Venom triggered a dramatic transformation witin Eddie and Anti-Venom was born! Now fighting a new war free of the symbiote, Anti-Venom's true agenda will be revealed...

Yes, Anti-Venom is kind of a silly name, but they hang a lantern on it in the story. "New Ways to Die" is really good, proving that the Brand New Day books aren't inherantly bad - but again, the same story could have been told without the stupid reboot. "New Ways to Die" is all about the Thunderbolts coming to New York City to capture Spider-Man, who's heroing without a license. And as you can guess, along the way we meet Anti-Venom: a new symbiote with all of the old powers, and none of the weaknesses.

The bio on the back of the packaging really does a good job of bringing you up to speed on who and what Anti-Venom is. I know some people were confused by the Mac Gargan Venom, but they don't have any excuse with Anti-Venom: everything you need to know about him is right up there. The character was designed by John Romita Jr., and that absolutely comes through in the sculpt. JRJr has a distinctive style, rather square and blocky, and Anti-Venom matches that. His legs should be thinner, judging by the artwork, but the big pointy claws are right. While the previous symbiotes (including the amazingly forgettable Toxin) have had a very fluid texture to them, this one is drier and sharper. The sculpted details are asymmetrical, so it's clear this is a living being, not just a costume.

Rather than actual teeth, like Venom always had, Anti-Venom gets pointy parts of symbiote lining his mouth, a la Carnage. Following Venorpion's lead, Anti-Venom has actual eyes, rather than just big eyespots. The edges of his face design are sculpted in, and he has spikes on his chin. In fact, there are spiked tendrils all over the figure: the head, shoulders, triceps, forearms, elbows and calves. And those effers are sharp! Seriously, watch your fingers. It's not as bad as, say, the Ultima Online Ancient Wyrm, but it's still pretty harsh - this is definitely a collector's item, not a toy for kids.

Anti-Venom's articulation is low, but that's nothing new for Marvel Select. He has balljoints at the head, shoulders and hips, hinged elbows, knees and ankles, and swivels for the wrists and waist. The head's range of motion is really limited by the beard-spikes, but everything else is decent. Jean St.Jean sculpted Anti-Venom, and he did a good job of making the edges of the joints blend with the rest of the figure, rather than sticking out blatantly. So even with the paint design going over the joints, AV doesn't look "broken" when you pose him. The figure is 7¾" tall, so he really stretches above the average Spider-Man figure.

When Anti-Venom was first revealed on Entertainment Weekly's website, the idea seemed really stupid. The name was kitschy, and the design was uninspired: it was just Venom with his colors reversed. Obviously we were proven wrong when the story came out and the character turned out to be pretty damn cool, which just goes to show you why complaining about things you've never seen is a bad idea. The black spider symbol wrapping around AV's body isn't as solid as it is in the artwork or on the prototype, but its gappy nature works for the character. His body gets a wash, so it's not just plain white, and that helps pick up all the textures, as well. The eyes are yellow, so they stand out from the black face, and the interior of the mouth is red.

Like most Marvel Select figures, Anti-Venom has a complex display base. His shows the kind of debris strewn about after a battle, with tendrils of symbiotic material swirling up out of the rubble. Maybe it's the FEAST center from the fight against Venom in Amazing Spider-Man #570. There's crushed concrete, fallen bricks and timbers, a girder and an unexplained canister of some sort. All that stuff is very geometric, which contrasts with the white organic waves. The base is 6½" wide, 5" deep and 6½" tall, and has two footpegs to help keep the figure in place.

The fanboys love to pick on Spider-Man's "One More Day," and with good reason: it's a case of a single editor pushing his own agenda on a character just because things aren't the same as they were when he was little (in more ways than one). And it's funny, in a sad way, to watch Amazing Spider-Man slip lower in the sales numbers every month. But "New Ways to Die" was a good Spider-Man story in spite of the things going on in the background at the time, and Anti-Venom is a decent addition to Spidey's rogues gallery. The Marvel Select figure isn't as articulated as it could be, of course, but it's still a more than acceptable represenation.

-- 04/20/09

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