It's great that Venom, Spidey's toughest enemy, finally got his own series, but it's too bad he had to become a sort-of good guy (anti-hero, to be exact) in order to do it. Why can't bad guys get their own series? Venom: Lethal Protector was only a six-issue series, but it was quickly followed up by more Venom comics based on its success with the fans. Lethal Protector is a good story, but it does have its share of weaknesses (including a terribly contrived little cliff-hanger at the end of issue one) - and, frankly, there's just too much Spider-Man in its pages. Half the time, this feels more like a Spidey comic than a Venom comic.
Let me take a moment to set the stage for this story. Once upon a time, Spider-Man donned a super-cool black costume, one that turned out to be an alien symbiote that wanted to bond with his body permanently. Spidey used one of the two things the alien is vulnerable to - sound - to free himself from its clutches. Along came Eddie Brock, a formerly successful reporter who blames his downfall on Spider-Man. He and the alien costume are a natural combination, and so Venom was born. Venom and Spidey fought many times, but in Amazing Spider-Man #375, Venom called for a truce after Spidey saved the life of his (Brock's) ex-wife. Venom would not come after Spidey, and Spidey agreed to stay away from Venom. As Venom: Lethal Protector opens, Venom has found his way to San Francisco. There, he encounters a group of homeless people living in a part of the city that sank after the 1906 earthquake. Despite having helped them keep their secret, he is denied the home he so desperately longs for with them. Meanwhile, nosy Spider-Man sees Venom seemingly up to his old tricks and heads out to San Fran to check up on him. He's not the only guy hunting Brock/Venom, however. Enter The Jury, but they're not all that important in the scheme of things. What is important is the fact that Venom finds himself captured by a madman using his costume's unique symbiotic nature to manufacture a whole quintet of new alien symbiotes for her personal use. Why, you ask? Not for world domination. He just wants to find the secret city underneath San Francisco and the cache of gold supposedly hidden there. That's a whole lot of work for such a simple goal.
Reading this series, I thought it was pretty good. The more you think about it, though, the more flaws you start to notice. For one thing, Brock/Venom gets pretty well emasculated in these pages - his father never loved him, he didn't mean to kill those innocents and he's very sorry about it all, etc. This isn't the Venom Marvel fans knew and loved. And how unbelievable is the concept that part of 1906 San Francisco remained intact and full of wide open spaces underneath the ground after the big earthquake? And how does Spidey magically find Venom so easily all the time? His Spider-sense doesn't even work with Venom. And I can't say enough about how hokey the issue one cliffhanger was. Despite all this, though, Venom is still an intriguing character, and - fortunately for us - protecting innocents doesn't necessarily preclude the option of ripping his enemies apart.