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Stay tuned for “Squirrel Girl-Venom” and “Pip-Venom” – What If…? #4

December 2, 2010

I’ve never cared much for the Venom character. I suppose it’s part of my superhero snobbery — he’s a part of the nouveau riche, parvenu class of characters that drove sales for a time but I could never get behind. Kind of like Cable. Venom’s a muscled up guy with Spider-Man’s old alien costume. And a long tongue. And saliva. Great. Fantastic. Can we move on now?

While “Venom” doesn’t appear in this What If…? comic per se, it still makes the character look a little ridiculous. Now that’s something I can get behind.

Danny Fingeroth, Mark Bagley and Keith Williams bring us “What if the Alien Costume had Possessed Spider-Man?” This may be some of Bagley’s earliest — if not the earliest — work on Spidey, a character he drew for roughly 10,927 issues. An added attraction, I suppose.

The title says it all when it comes to the story, and we learn that the divergence between realities (thanks to our pal Uatu’s narration) occurs when Reed Richards can’t quite figure out how to help Spider-man shake his tapeworm/costume. Before long the fully possessed Peter breaks free and lays the smack down on Richards and Doctor Strange:

Not so smart now, are you guys? Illuminati, Shmilluminati.

The symbiote trades up at the first opportunity, grabbing the mindless Hulk before Doctor Strange can banish him to the Crossroads (a Hulk storyline from back in the day, a part of which I covered in this post):

A pruney, prematurely aged Peter Parker is disgorged, and dies a little later on while trying to figure out a way to stop the symbiote. And if you’re curious as to what Hulk-Venom looks like, it’s pretty much the Venom you know and maybe love, except a little beefier.

The story moves towards a climax at Mount Rushmore (North by Northwest, eat your heart out), where an assemblage of heroes band together to corral the symbiote and its host. So who’s going to be the one to finally stop this rampaging Hulk-Venom? Why Thor, of course!:

That wasn’t so hard. The symbiote slithers off Bruce Banner, who’s been drained of every last drop of Gamma radiation by the costume. Thor, being a dumb blond, never for a moment considers that the costume might be playing possum. Hey, Thor, look out!:

I’m not quite sure why the symbiote covers Thor’s whole body, including his hair, but leaves out the cape. Probably some weird reason, like why Superman’s cape gets torn to shreds while his costume-proper stays immaculate.

So the symbiote has sucked all the juice out of Spider-Man and the Hulk, and how possesses a Mjolnir-wielding Asgardian god. There’s no one left that can stop this Thor-Venom, right?

Wrong:

Black Bolt opens his trap, Mount Rushmore crumbles, and the symbiote deserts Thor and is rendered little more than a quivering puddle — a job well done. The heroes are still reluctant to kill it (kind of reminds me of that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Picard couldn’t bring himself to drop a computer virus into the Borg that would kill every last one of them). Just as Doctor Strange is about to transport the insensate alien to the Crossroads, Black Cat shows up and zaps it with one of the weapons that Richards and Peter Parker were developing before the latter died. Then we have this melancholy final series of panels:

So she made a deal with the Kingpin to get her hands on one of the weapons. At the risk of sounding like a lecher, might I suggest that the Kingpin made a bad bargain? I realize that the Black Cat would be a valuable asset in his criminal empire, but I can think of other things I might *ahem* request of her. Then again, maybe that’s why the Kingpin is powerful and wealthy, and I operate a dopey blog — the man’s mind is always on business. I hope he at least got her to thrown in a lifetime supply of cigarette holders or something.

I think I could have lived a long, fruitful life without ever having beheld the silly wonder that is Thor-Venom. But that’s part of the joy of What If…? — you can dip into the preposterous without leaving any permanent marks on that precious little thing called “continuity.”

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