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So, I guess we’re at the end of the whole Harry Osborne/Venom plot for now. I guess there’s a dangling thread the show could pick up at any time (Dr. Octopus is tinkering with Harry’s blood sample) but probably not for a little while, since I’m sure Ultimate Spider-Man has other fish to fry. Honestly, I’m happy and disappointed, because while I liked the twist of having Venom possess Harry, I don’t think the show did nearly enough with it.
“Venom Attack” wasn’t that different from “Back In Black” (http://www.avclub.com/articles/back-in-black,73722/) just a few episodes prior, although there was more focus on Spidey and his teammates working to take down the monster. Plus, of course, we got the revelation of Venom’s identity to Norman, who is more thrilled than horrified (a typical reaction for one of the comics world’s worst dads). Once again, the show is falling down creatively when it comes to the action sequences, which should be the most fun part, given the medium we’re working with here.
Venom is kind of fun, glopping around and changing his body shape and whatnot, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. team isn’t too varied in terms of what they can do. Luke Cage punches people, as does Iron Fist; Nova blasts some energy and White Tiger claws at guys. The scenes with Spidey going mano-a-mano are a little more fun, because Spidey has an array of attacks and acrobatics at his disposal, but once the team gets involved, it’s usually for some kind of story element, which honestly isn’t too interesting.
That’s because we’re still stuck in territory where Spidey and the team don’t entirely trust each other. Perhaps the team realizes they’re not main characters in this show and so they’ll never get to do anything super-exciting and renegade like Spidey does. But as nice as it was to have Spidey realize that they’ve got his back and he can trust them, it felt like the latest take of a very repetitive theme. Fury shows up and yells at everyone, the team is suspicious of each other, and then it all works out in the end.
Spidey’s reluctance to divulge Venom’s identity made some sense, but not really. Sure, he doesn’t want Harry getting in trouble, but Harry isn’t willfully keeping his identity secret like Peter is. He’s basically beset by a disease, an alien possession, and if everyone knew about it, they’d be way less likely to try and disintegrate him and claim that whoever’s inside Venom is too far gone to help. So the whole identity plotline felt a little strained, a fact the show basically acknowledged with the team’s nonchalant reaction to Spidey’s secret.
I wish the show had more fun with Venom as a character, because he basically comes across as a big inky rage monster, emotionless outside of his desire to kill Spider-Man. We don’t see much of Harry this week before he’s consumed by Venom, and there’s not much humor or drama to the encounters with the monster. He’s big, he’s bad, he wants to eat you, that’s pretty much that. Since Spidey figures out about halfway through the episode that he can create an “anti-Venom” formula in his high school science lab, there’s not even any question of how he’ll get rid of the villain.
Thinking back to recent comics storylines, I wondered if Spidey was going to turn Harry into the ambiguous “Anti-Venom” character we saw in Amazing Spider-Man a few years back, but that was avoided (perhaps wisely—no need to get so complicated so fast). Nope, after a big confrontation (including a decently atmospheric rooftop fight in a lightning storm), Spidey injects Harry with the serum and he’s seemingly free of it. This kind of scientific deus ex machina is one of the oldest tricks in the (comic) book, almost hoary enough to forgive it. The fact that Spidey could synthesize the thing in his school was stretching it, though.
Not a lot of jokes or fun in this week’s outing, which would have been fine, except there wasn’t a ton of pathos or real drama either. Venom should be more than the pesky villain of the week he’s been so far. Hopefully whatever Doctor Octopus cooks up will be a little more terrifying.
- The French villain Venom takes down in the opening scene reminded me of The Incredibles’ Bomb Voyage.
- Spidey’s annoyed that no one’s impressed with his big revelation. “Come on, that’s huge! There was thunder and everything!”
- White Tiger gets it, just doesn’t care. “Best friend, moral dilemma, blah blah blah.”