Evil Geek Book Report – Batman: Venom
Denny O’Neal sold me on “Venom” during one of his Fat Man On Batman podcast appearances with Kevin Smith. It was originally issues #16-20 of Legends Of The Dark Knight from 1991. The basic premise was too much for me to pass up. Batman tracks down a kidnapped little girl but she ultimately dies in front of him because he couldn’t remove a large object that was blocking his path to her. It proved to just be too heavy. Her death torments him and as a result he begins taking Venom, the same drugs that make Bane so powerful. It has dire consequences as he gets hooked and eventually has to come to grips with it and attempt to see if he can rise above. I still think that sounds awesome. Hell, Batman even has a beard in this!!!!
It starts off well enough with him failing to save the girl and being the tortured Batman we all love. When he goes to get more information from the girl’s father Dr. Porter (whom we find out could really care less about the death of his daughter) he offers him some Venom pills. Basically we’re talking a form of steroid that increases muscle mass and aggression. Batman disgusted by this leaves to go find the little girl’s kidnappers. After catching up with them, even though they are more or less street thugs they whoop Batman’s ass. Turns out he tore something serious when he tried to lift that rock blocking his way to that kidnapped girl. He retreats and after some moping and some calisthenics he returns to the Dr. Porter and gives ‘ol Venom a shot.
Batman turns into an asshole. He’s out beating criminals into a bloody mess; he’s yelling at Alfred to the point where Alfred actually quits! He’s far from himself. Batman is in the clutches of addiction folks and he can’t stop. He’s making periodic trips back to Dr. Porter for refills, which the good doctor slowly begins to daggle over him. Porter has also teamed up with an ex-military office named Slaycroft and they have planned to create a drugged up team of super men they can command. They convince Batman to kill Commissioner Gordon as the start of their revolution. Thankfully Batman is able to clear his brain from the poison right before striking Gordon.
This is the exact wake up call needed and Batman decides to use this moment of clarity as an opportunity to kick his habit. He takes himself back home with an all too willing to help Alfred and locks himself in the bat cave for a month to go cold turkey. When he emerges he has a ripped Batman costume and long hair and a beard. It’s great to finally see batman rock some facial hair no matter how briefly. My issue with this is though is that they virtually don’t show Batman at all during this process you do see a panel or two flashback later on. It make more sense to me if they showed him rolling around and screaming, tearing at his flesh etc. Really hammer home the ugliness of drug addiction. Instead you get Alfred’s worried comments occasionally. The other thing is, why wear the Batman outfit while you do it? I suppose it’s psychological, but still it seems like a weird thing to do.
Our old friend sober Batman traces the villains to the island of Santra Prisca (where Bane hails from) and for whatever reason he decides to bring Alfred with him on this vigilante excursion. It’s makes no sense for him to be there, Bruce pilots the plane himself and if these baddies catch a glimpse of Alfred (which they do) can’t they trace him back to Bruce Wayne? Not very smart Batman. In fact, he becomes a huge liability and ends up being captured and used as bait for Dr. Porter and Slaycroft to draw out Batman to them. He’s chained up in the ocean and put out for the sharks to eat. What follows is an infamous scene where Batman beats up sharks. Yes, you read this right. What’s worse is the bad guys just watch him as he does it. Why not shoot him or something? Not to mention the entire time Alfred is still in his tuxedo. They do end up beating Batman to a pulp when he gets back on shore and imprisoning him. Alfred lucikly escapes. What follows is a scene where they place Batman in a situation where it seems impossible for him to get out of but Venom pills are left with him, which if he takes could easily help him to do what he needs to do get out. Guess what? He doesn’t take them and perseveres and in the process proves his will is strong. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
I couldn’t wait for this story to be over. Much like Batman himself I liked the concept of this story more than the actual product. It just seemed so out of character for Batman in so many ways. The dialogue for starter’s was atrocious. When Batman leaps from a tree to assault Commissioner Gordon he screams “I’ve Come To Kill You”. Later on Slaycroft’s son who is one of their guinea pigs meets one of the natives on the island and they start a relationship. When she asks him to recite a poem (what else do young lovers do on dates?) he responds with “I forgot it…cause it’s stupid”. I know he’s on drugs…but that’s just bad writing. The thing is Denny O’Neil himself was an alcoholic for many years and this was a very personal work for him to write, which makes it more surprising that it falls so completely flat. It’s a great idea but poorly executed. People seem to really love this story though for some reason, trust me when I tell you to avoid it if you can.
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