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Ultimate Venom

Marvel Select
by yo go re

Marvel Select's major drawback continues to be its $20 pricetag - however, the figures are pretty big, and come with a detailed base, which still makes them better than your average DC Direct fare.

College student Eddie Brock is a childhood friend of Peter Parker. One day, Eddie shows Peter the cancer-curing experiment that their scientist fathers were working on right before their deaths: a black liquid that transforms into a protoplasmic bodysuit. When Peter accidentally spills some of the experimental serum on himself he discovers the suit enhances the wearer's strength and abilities yet leads to violent thoughts and actions. Fearing the horrible consequences of the serum, Peter destroys the sample and confesses to Eddie the liquid's unwieldy power. But Eddie feels betrayed, thinking Peter lied to him and took the serum for his own selfish use. Exposing himself to a secret sample of his own, Eddie becomes the murderous, misshapen monster Venom! As Venom, Eddie has only one desire... to kill Peter Parker!

Venom is one big honkin' beast of a figure, and really looks intensely intimidating. His giant, fanged mouth hangs open, with his wicked tongue lolling about. The purplish-black costume is rippling all over his body, and several tendrils are snaking away. This is superbly better than ToyBiz's last attempt, and sculptor Sam Greenwell (working from artist Mark Bagley's designs) has given us the scariest Venom ever.

Like Black Cat, Venom's chest is molded from a softer, rubbery plastic in order to portray the liquid nature of the Venom suit. There are two versions of Venom, packed evenly: one with the the big jagged white spider emblem on his chest and one without. Ultimate Venom had the symbol on the covers of the books, but not in the actual story because, well, there's no reason for him to have it. Yes, it's become a very iconic part of the character in the "real" comics, but why does that mean that the revamped version should have it, as well?

The Ultimate Marvel line is a wonderful idea - with 40 years of history behind them, most of Marvel's characters had become one big in-joke: stories referred endlessly to themselves, plots dragged on for years and the whole thing had really become a big muddled mess. By strpping away all the excess baggage and paring the characters down to heir core essence, Marvel could free themselves to tell fun, engaging stories that anyone could appreciate.

DC Comics had tried something similar almost two decades before with its Crisis on Infinite Earths series, but that had just served to make their continuity problems worse. Marvel learned from DC's mistakes: where Crisis brought large, sweeping changes across the board, impacting every character ever, Marvel left the "real" versions alone; if someone still wanted to read about the same Spider-Man that had been swinging around since the '60s, they could. The ongoing books were not replaced by the Ultimate line - the two exist next to one another, each telling their own stories without worrying about the other.

Venom is a prime example of how the Ultimate universe streamlines its characters. In the "real" Marvel Univese, Spider-Man was kidnapped (along with the city of Detroit) by an other-worldly being known as the Beyonder. Forced to battle for the Beyonder's amusement, Marvel's heroes faced off against Marvel's villains. In the process of this fight, Spider-Man's costume was damaged. Seeking a replacement, Spidey reached into a machine that deposited a black goo on his hand, which quickly spread to cover his body. The new black costume responded to mental commands and could even disguise itself as civilian clothing. It was revealed, eventually, that the costume was actually an alien symbiote that wished to bond with Peter as its new host. With the help of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man rid himself of the costume. Angry and rejected, the costume bound with journalist Eddie Brock, who blamed Spider-Man for ruining his career when the wall-crawler exposed a confessed criminal as a fraud. Joining forces, the pair became Venom, one of Spider-Man's deadliest foes.

Whew! That's a lot to take in. A big bottle of cancer juice is much easier to follow.

Venom is one of the most articulated Marvel Select figures to date, which gives some hope to this line. The figure moves at the ankles, hips, waist, shoulders, biceps, neck and wrists, which allows for a wide range of attacking motions and means he'll fit in beautifully with the Marvel Legends figures. Sculpted in a 7" scale, Venom is 6⅝" tall thanks to the powerful squat he's copping, but you could probably put him with your 6" figures if you wanted.

The very first Marvel Select figure was Ultimate Spider-Man webbing a criminal to a wall, so it makes a bit of a nice bookend to have Peter again on Venom's base. Portraying the lab where Eddie kept the samples he was working on, the base measures 3¾" wide, 2¾" deep and 6¼" tall and features a real opening safe that conceals a beaker of the black liquid. Peter is not articulated, and is permanently attached to the wall.

The Marvel Select series is intended to eventually have 36 figures released one per month for three years. All the Select figures share the same oversized blister cards with nice graphics on the spine, allowing MOCers to display them like books on a shelf.

The biggest factor working against the Marvel Select line is the large pricetag. These would all be pretty good $10 figures, but right now Marvel and Diamond aren't giving us very much for our money.

-- 12/05/03

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