Sunday, August 25, 2013

Out with a Bang

Five Possible Venom Endings

by Orion Petitclerc

The End is Nigh for One Superguy

Marvel had recently released their November 2013 comic book solicitations, revealing that both Captain Marvel and Venom had no planned releases for the month. After an entire week of fans fearing and anticipating information on the fate of both books, Marvel dropped the bomb on Venom readers that the series is officially canceled after issue #42.
The current, now-canceled Venom title, begun by Rick Remender and ending with its second ongoing writer Cullen Bunn, is the longest-running Venom book in Marvel’s history next to Daniel Way’s Venom 18-issue run (the initial Venom titles, starting with Lethal Protector, boast a near-record 60 issues but aren’t considered because they were divided into 18 separate mini-series). Bunn responds to the news, teasing readers his plans for bringing Flash Thompson’s, a.k.a. Agent Venom, chapter to a close, and editor Tom Brevoort in a Tumblr Q&A also teased “big plans” for the character over the next few months.

With Venom’s fate still concealed in the mists of cancellation and tight lips, fans now wonder if Marvel even has any plans for his future outside the upcoming Darkest Hours crossover in Superior Spider-Man. Here are five possible endings for the character.

1.      The New Hero on the Block

After Agent Venom’s deadly feud with the Savage Six in New York City, Bunn moved Flash to Philadelphia to begin anew as the City of Brotherly Love’s personal superhero. Taking on the profession of a high school gym coach, Flash met Andrea “Andi” Benton, a student and apartment neighbor. When Jack O’Lantern, former Spider-Man foe turned Venom arch nemesis, returns to make Flash’s life a living hell, Andi and her father get caught in the crossfire. Jack kills Andi’s father and almost kills her until Agent Venom intervenes and saves her by extending a part of his symbiote onto her, creating Mania, the new symbiote on the block. (This is reminiscent of how Eddie Brock used the Venom symbiote to save his ex-wife, Ann Weying, inadvertently creating She-Venom.)

Mania had proven to Flash in Venom #39 that she’s got what it takes to completely control the symbiote, even surpassing and surprising him. The symbiote spawn even refused to return to Flash when he commanded it to, suggesting a more permanent bond than the one he shares as Venom. Along with Bunn commenting that he’s utilizing these final issues to build up Mania’s origin, we could be looking at an ongoing sequel featuring the spiky-haired, she-devil symbiote adopting the Venom mantle. A sort of fresh face with potential for a longer run considering her age, perhaps? Maybe even consideration into one of the few teen-based super teams?

2.      Superior Venom or a similar Marvel NOW! 2 Reboot

Perhaps Marvel decides to keep Flash as Venom after his book finishes. Agent Venom’s popularity (and infamy amongst hardcore, old school Venom fans) is unquestionable: he got a Marvel Select action figure before Brock/Venom did and will do it again with the Marvel Legends line, and he’s even slotted for a Season 3 TV debut in Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon (again, getting the jump on Brock for this series).

Despite the perpetual decline in the book’s sales since its first issue, Marvel knows it’s created a shining star in Agent Venom, and it may not be ready to give him up just yet. Bunn teases that, in the end of the current series, Flash and the symbiote will finally have a heart-to-heart, and Flash will end up somewhere he’ll never suspect nor may even want to be. This smells like a potential Marvel NOW! 2 reboot, and may even explain the character’s vast personality differences between Agent Venom in his own book and Agent Venom in Marvel NOW!’s Thunderbolts series (which has never been alluded to in the current Venom series). Perhaps we’ll even see a Superior reinvention of the character. Even Carnage is already in the middle of getting that treatment.

3.      A Dynamic Duo for NOW!

Maybe we’ll get the best of both worlds for the price of one new book. Bunn teased Mania as a possibly permanent addition to the Marvel roster, and the student/mentor dynamic between her and Agent Venom holds much potential. Philadelphia could be Marvel’s new Gotham City, and what is Gotham without Batman and Robin (and the Joker, whose shoes Jack O’Lantern can easily fill)?

I’d like to throw in the Superior Symbiote Squad as a possible title for this Marvel NOW! 2 book (or Venom & Mania could work), with Toxin (currently hosted by Eddie Brock) as a recurring menace for the duo. Because he’s probably raving mad about Flash’s irresponsibility for tainting an innocent teenager with a symbiote. Plus, the birth of Mania could trigger the beginning of the Spawning event that was teased during Savage Six and which will never see the light of print in the current Venom run. Holy Potential, Venom!

4.      The End…For Now

Or this could really be it for our symbiotic Avenger and his companion. We may not even get a new Venom book until his eventual return to film in The Amazing Spider-Man, considering the perpetual decline in the book’s sales (we all know how Marvel tends to flood the market with new books and stories based on upcoming blockbusters).

Bunn really likes to play reader’s heartstrings when it comes to information on his upcoming plans for the book. Along with teasing a new direction for Flash and the symbiote’s life at the end of issue #42, he also suggested that Mania may not even survive her own origin story. In the worst case, we could even see another host-swap for the Venom symbiote. Which brings us to the final possibility…

5.      Full Circle, or “Every Hardcore Venom Fan’s Dream”

Eddie Brock becomes Venom again. Ever since the symbiote left Brock and bonded with Mac Gargan, a.k.a. the Scorpion, (and Angelo Fortunato, who was Venom for two issues of Marvel Knights: Spider-Man before Mac) most Venom fans have pined about wanting Brock to be Venom again. The complaints grew in volume when he became Anti-Venom—who was viewed as a cheap, overpowered knock off—and, subsequently, the new host of the Toxin symbiote (though “Broxin,” as he’s endeared, is reminiscent of Eddie/Venom in his Lethal Protector days).

Perhaps Marvel is finally answering the vocal majority’s prayers, and we’ll get good ol’ Venom back to his former glory. Even if this would be the final nail in the coffin for Brock’s devolution as character, considering some considered Anti-Venom to be Brock’s next best step in a life of redemption—something he had been working towards since he gave up the Venom symbiote. But hey, who am I to complain? I’d pay top dollar to see Brock/Venom again!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Superior Carnage #2 Review

Still Not a Lot of Carnage
By Orion Petitclerc

Well, here we are again. Another Superior Carnage review. Let’s recap, shall we? We found our favorite psychopath in red brain-dead from his run-in with Kaine, the new Scarlet Spider, and under the highly inefficient care of some unnamed super prison. D-lister supervillain the Wizard stages a breakout using mind control, during which he recruits the instant top-dog of the riot—our friendly neighborhood Cletus Kasady. Wizard’s third-rate plan of controlling Carnage’s mind and repurposing him as his own Agent Venom for the new Frightful Four goes, of course, awry when he realizes Kasady had been lobotomized and, in turn, is mind control-proof. Before Carnage gets his chance to tear out Wizard’s throat, the first recruit of the new Four saves the day with his mastery of sound: Klaw.
Hey, wait a second...
In this issue, we find our motley musketeers holed up in some undisclosed location in New York City (I’m sensing a theme) outside of prison, where Klaw and Wizard have their ravaging recruit chained up and neutralized via…some sort of glowing tech. Probably sonic emitters or thermal radiators. Or friendship rays. Yeah, probably that.

Wizard reassures Klaw that he knows what he’s doing in the most unreassuringly fashion by substituting a photo of Agent Venom with a photo of Black Tarantula and then throwing an insecurity tantrum when Klaw points this out. Look how far you’ve fallen from the first issue, Wizard: first you concoct a half-assed, hackneyed prison break against the most insecure containment facility, then you try to mind control someone who even an average joe prisoner knew was lobotomized, and now you’re showing off your scrapbook diary of “intel” collected on a secret government operation, and throwing a hissy fit at whoever you show it to.
Looking real mature there, Wizzy.
Just as Wizard is about to descend into the juvenile (jeez, I swear that’s not an innuendo!), in walks—I mean, in rolls another nobody and the final member of the new Frightful Four, Dr. Karl Mallus. Again, here I am—a relatively new reader to everything Marvel outside symbiotes and Moon Knight—wondering who the heck this guy with the nerdiest bowl cut is, and how in Kevin Shinick’s evil mastermind of a plot Mallus is going to fit in a Carnage title. Supposedly he’s in a wheel chair for some run-in with “the wrong crowd”? With Wizard’s whole karma speech and Stephen Segovia’s layout, I’m assuming Carnage put Mallus in the chair at some point. That’s what I’m reading into, of course.
Dr. Who Now?
Whoever Mallus is, he’s going to be one of the two big brains of the Frightful Four. Okay, I can get behind the evil genius angle. No problem. He even looks the part next to dorky Wizard. Who’s dorky. Did I not cover this in my first review? Anyways, after introductions, Wizard moves on with his silly plan to create the Superior Carnage and releases Carnage from his bonds to try and mind control the symbiote instead. Déjà vu kicks in as Carnage returns to tearing at Wizard to within an inch of his life. Crazy old Wizard constantly fights his comrades with letting him handle Carnage by himself to earn the beast’s control. Methinks Wizard likes himself a bit of abuse.
I feel like I've seen this before...
Klaw swoops in again and saves Wizard from looking like a complete nincompoop (which is Wizard’s true power from what I can tell) causing the purple idiot to totally break down in a delusional, pathetic haze. Again, at this point Wizard mentions his son, Bently, whom he’s seemingly obsessed with. Just when we’re left guessing what’s gotten into Wizard, Mallus pipes in with a warning to Klaw about what they got themselves into, revealing how Black Bolt messed up Wizard’s mind and gave him Dementia. Wizard regains his sanity once more and persists on trying to mind control the symbiote again.
Spider-Man, Spider-Man!
                 Irresponsible Spider-Man!
Then we cut to…FINALLY…the Superior Spider-Man, web swinging over the rooftops of New York City towards stopping the Jackal and his newest evil plan (alluding to events in Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2). We catch our not-so-friendly neighborhood wall crawler berating some unknown caller on an unseen Bluetooth headset (or the Marvel Universe equivalent) for bothering him with details on the Wizard/Carnage breakout he was already aware of. Most likely this is Mayor J. Jonah Jameson on the other end of the line, considering Spidey says the entire police force is the caller’s. Spidey-Ock (or SpOck, as the internet has dubbed him) hangs up and reminisces on Wizard and the events that lead to his downfall, revealing that not only did Black Bolt mess with his mind, but Wizard only has a few weeks left to live. SpOck ponders whether Wizard’s newest caper is a last attempt to make a name for himself or a suicide mission, and then…pretty much says, “oh well, maybe I should look into it, but guy’s probably gonna bite it anyways, so meh.” And what about Carnage, SpOck? You’re just going to let a mindless murder machine loose in the wild jungle city? How irresponsible.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the only cameo the Superior Spider-Man gets in this miniseries. He pretty much said it himself: he really doesn’t care about the situation as much as Parker would’ve. But I would like to see a fight amongst the new Superior Carnage, SpOck, and Agent Venom by the end of this. That’s a lot of wishful thinking and a plane ticket back from Philidelphia for Flash.
Returning to the Fallible—er, I mean Frightful Four, Wizard has already tried four times to control Carnage with no tangible results. His frustration with failure breaks his fragile mind here and there as his Dementia slips a little. Then, as he’s trying to think of why he’s failing at his plan, Mallus touches upon a tidbit of information that sparks Wizard’s imagination: the government was able to make Agent Venom because the symbiote wasn’t bonded to the host DNA like Carnage is, and that since Kasady’s mind is gone, it will never be controllable.
Finally, someone who's making sense!
Wizard has his light bulb moment and volunteers Mallus for a blood transfusion with Kasady, essentially transferring the symbiote from its brain-dead host to a fully-functional one—relatively speaking, of course. So Mallus is now Flash Thompson (because of his disability), and about to become Agent Carnage. That’s why he’s in the book. Joy. Mallus appeals to Klaw’s reason, proving that Wizard’s own disability is getting to his sanity, but after Klaw gives Mallus a history lesson about himself and Wizard, he sides with Wizard, shakes Mallus down, and straps him to a table. The book ends with Mallus sprouting the signature Venom tongue as his eyes go red and black during the transfusion.
Dr. Mallus is...
This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with an obscure, crippled evil genius inheriting the Carnage symbiote. Ay Dios mio. Here I was, ten months ago, wishing Marvel would finally euthanize Carnage in Minimum Carnage for pity’s sake, and now I fear Mallus adopting the mantle only meant for Cletus Kasady. Sorry if this sounds old school, but Shinick should know to never kiss on a first date. We only just met Mallus, and now we’re supposed to accept him as the new Carnage, even though we know so little about him? At least Andi got a strong 8-issue head start before she became Mania, the new symbiote on the block, in Venom #38, and she was a brand-new, original character. And I liked Andi a lot more than Mallus on our first date…I mean at first glance. So besides the Carnage Purist in me throwing a fit over someone else taking the name and symbiote, the lack of character development makes me want the symbiote to reject Mallus as a host, hop back onto Cletus, cure his lobotomy, and kill everyone in the room.
It was nice to finally have Spidey show up in the book as opposed to the last one (a point which I criticized), but it seems he still has no purpose in the plot other than to lend the “Superior” title to an otherwise seemingly inferior Carnage. If he’s going to bow out of the story and we get stuck with Mallus as the new Carnage, then what’s the point of calling this book Superior Carnage? So far, this has still only been Wizard’s story, if not a Frightful Four one. And if Mallus is the new Carnage, then Kasady has no place in Wizard’s Frightful Four, and the name of the group becomes null. This story is really starting to fall apart unless Shinick’s got his ducks in a row for the next three issues. He better or Marvel will have a lot of angry fans to deal with.
Also, as much, or as little, of Carnage there actually was in the first issue, there’s a lot less in the second. There are a grand total of three pages in which he, in all his symbiote glory, makes an appearance. Three pages. I think I need to be reminded again of whose name is in the title of this book, people.
Segovia and Jay David Ramos are still knocking it out of the park in the art department. Although, I’m not a huge fan of the dark eyes they gave the characters in the last three pages. I get that it’s supposed to show the symbiote taking over Kasady and Mallus, but even Wizard had them black eyes on the double-page spread. That’s pretty much my only complaint for the art besides what was already said in my first review.

BOTTOM LINE: Superior Carnage #2 gets a 4 out of 5 for the art and a 3 out of 5 for the story, since it feels like this is less of a Carnage book than before. Overall, I give the book 3.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Truth in Journalism: A Review

C'est arrivé dans votre voisinage amical
By Orion Petitclerc

San Diego Comic Con International is a wondrous place where geek magic can foster widespread fandom or a smaller cult following. Last year at SDCC 2012, Adi Shankar and Phil Joanou revitalized indie fan films with Dirty Laundry, which starred Thomas Jane as he reprised his role as Marvel Knight Frank Castle, a.k.a. The Punisher, in a huge surprise ending. The short was an instant cult classic. So at this year’s SDCC, Shankar returned to deliver a new short fan film at the Machinima panel, called Truth in Journalism. Produced by Shankar and written and directed by Joe Lynch, Truth in Journalism starred Ryan Kwanten of True Blood fame as down-on-his-luck journalist Eddie Brock, known better as Spider-Man’s iconic archnemesis in black, Venom.
Before I begin, I must warn you that this review contains major spoilers for those who’ve yet to watch this film. This is also a very long, in-depth review, so buckle in.
"Venom Bites Dog"...or maybe "Man Bites Venom"?
A Portrait in Black

On behalf of all Venom fans (whom I dub “Venomaniacs”) and as a service to all the new comic book readers and those generally outside “the know,” let me start off with a brief recount. According to whichever source you may be more comfortable with, Spider-Man at one point wore a black-and-white suit that was secretly an organic life form called a symbiote. He attained the suit from either a machine on a distant planet called Battleworld during Marvel’s cross-comic event, The Secret Wars, or from a space rock that either fell to Earth (Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3) or was brought back from the moon by astronauts (the 90’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series). When Spidey found out about his new costume’s true nature, he cast it off the only way he knew how: tolling bells in a bell tower at Our Lady of Saints Church. (This church is seen and alluded to during a scene in Truth in Journalism.)
Eddie Brock, who had previously ruined his reputation as a journalist and was fired from the Daily Globe (Daily Bugle, if we’re talking about Spider-Man 3 or Spider-Man: The Animated Series) for false reporting, inherited the scorned suit, bonding with it to become the malicious Venom. Fueled by the suit’s passionate hatred for Spidey and Brock’s inability to accept responsibility for his actions and instead blame Spidey for his issues, Venom had been a constant thorn in the wall crawler’s side, most painfully because right off the bat Venom knew Spidey’s secret identity as Peter Parker.
Since his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #300, Venom has been a fan-favorite nemesis, and has lead his own solo adventures in comics during Brock’s tenure before the symbiote began host jumping in 2005. Fans were then graced in 2007 with Venom’s film debut in Spider-Man 3. Unfortunately, Raimi and producer Avi Arad’s Eddie Brock Jr. (played by Topher Grace from That 70’s Show) and his villainous alter ego were met with mixed reviews, most leaning towards the negative feelings the whole of the film had mustered in moviegoers and comic fans. Many of the complaints against Grace’s character stemmed from his lack of bulk (which Venom was well known for) and unfaithful portrayal of the character’s personality, plus his rushed development in an already crammed roster of villains.
Ever since his train wreck of a debut, Venom fans have been promised a solo spin-off film by Sony Pictures, and to this day a project has yet to lift off the ground. Even with the Spider-Man movie franchise’s reboot in 2012 with The Amazing Spider-Man and Venom’s growing popularity in comics with the symbiote’s bond to Parker’s once high school bully, Flash Thompson, Sony has little to bring to the table outside barely-digestible tidbits of plans and pre-production talks.
And then Truth in Journalism came along, seemingly out of nowhere. Not to get ahead of myself, but as a rabid (and, hopefully, one day officially recognized as a) Venomaniac and a devout Eddie Brock fan, I feel I’m qualified to say that Truth in Journalism was the Venom film we’ve all been waiting for—and, more importantly, the one we deserve.

Let’s Talk Geek

Lynch and Shankar’s possibly greatest contribution to the film and fans is their faithfulness to the main source material: Venom’s first appearance in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Now, this isn’t to say this is a Venom film, per se; instead, this is Brock’s film, as Venom only makes a brief appearance towards the end. However, this is a neo-classic Brock: Kwanten is not a ripped body builder as Todd McFarlane drew Brock, but he’s still toned, and Truth in Journalism features a scene in which Brock is pumping iron in his apartment. Brock’s personality is also a bit more outgoing and spunky than the comics suggested, embodying a passionate, stereotypic journalist and paying homage to the character of Benoît from the 1992 cult classic, found footage, indie French film, Man Bites Dog—which Lynch calls Truth in Journalism’s “spiritual ancestor,” and which plays a huge role in the style and story of the short film (I’ll explain this further on).
Who else remembers KB Toys at the mall? Nice detail.
But, most importantly of all, Kwanten’s Brock is faithful to his comic counterpart in being absolutely creepy. There are many points in the film where I felt like Brock was on the verge of snapping into outright insanity, and his general disconnectedness from the horrors which he makes his living from reporting on shadows in comparison to Grace’s sleazy, dorky adaptation.
Truth in Journalism is, in part, a period piece; the plot, characters, and aesthetics are set in New York in 1988—the year in which Amazing Spider-Man #300 was published (though the production was filmed in modern downtown Los Angeles). Even working on a very small budget, the film’s crew did a phenomenal job with giving the setting and film that older feel, especially with the added aesthetic of shooting in 16 mm black and white film (again, another homage to Man Bites Dog). Unlike its spiritual ancestor, Truth in Journalism features a soundtrack of popular songs from the late 80’s which helped ground the setting along with the clothing and hairstyles, including Europe’s “The Final Countdown” during the aforementioned weight lifting scene.
Not too scrawny, but keep lifting, bro.
The best parts of the film, in my fanatic opinion, were the many references to the comics. One of the more recent sources of reference included Brock calling himself an “administrator of truth,” and claims to “put the ‘caution’ in cautionary tales,” which hearkens back to Venom: Dark Origin, a four-issue comic run retelling Brock’s origin story. In Dark Origin, Brock’s character was retconned for his film debut, and highlighted his twisted journalism practices and belief of creating truth from the reporter’s perspective. This wasn’t an attribute Brock was given in his debut comic, but it serves the plot of Truth in Journalism well.
Another reference in the film is the symbiote’s morphing ability, as seen when Brock is caught talking to himself in his apartment bathroom and quickly changing from wearing only workout shorts to a suit and tie as quickly as shutting and opening the door. When Brock turns into Venom, he pukes out the symbiote onto the floor and it crawls up his body, referencing the modern inclination of artists and the Spider-Man 3 movie’s sickly symbiote dispersion and transformation.
Another sweet reference is one Brock makes during the bar scene when he takes his leave, saying, “I gotta go see a lady-friend,” specifically referring to the scene in the comics in which Venom makes his first appearance at Parker’s apartment and terrorizes Mary Jane.
But the most obscure and juicy of all references is Brock’s fateful Sin Eater debacle, which before Truth in Journalism was used only in the comics. In both Spider-Man: The Animated Series and Spider-Man 3, Brock’s origin was retconned so that he ruined his career from falsely reporting Spider-Man’s supposed “criminal” activities and publishing the articles with the Daily Bugle; in the comics, however, Brock had run an exclusive set of articles with the Daily Globe (a sister company to the Bugle) in which he interviewed who he believed was the serial killing criminal, the Sin Eater. Under pressure from the police, Brock revealed his source as Emil Gregg, who was a compulsive confessor claiming himself to be the Sin Eater, before Spider-Man revealed the true identity of the criminal. In the film, Brock’s failure with what the camera crew following him calls the “Bugle Incident” and “Emil Gregg case” lurks in the background of the plot, and Brock does his best to avoid addressing the elephant in the room. He even acknowledges the necessity of his new situation as a ruined reporter for paying the bills, even at one point asking, “Am I happy spewing bile and venom in a rag like the Examiner? Of course not.”
Issues? Yeah, he has issues. Which one're ya looking to read?
Though not a direct quote from the comics, Amazing Spider-Man #300 featured a similar quote from Brock during a monologue: “I was forced to write venomous celebrity exposés and ‘I was kidnapped by aliens’ drivel for scandal rags, just to eke out a living.” Then, nearing the scene when Brock became Venom, Brock escorted his camera crew into his bedroom, where on all the walls were news clippings, the most prominent being front pages from the Daily Bugle with pictures of Spider-Man and headlines reading “Sin Eater Body Count Now 10” and “Globe Falsely Accuses Wrong Suspect”.

The Spiritual Ancestor

Yet as chock-full of geekgasmic comic insider references as Lynch and Shankar squeezed into Truth in Journalism, this was only the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned earlier, Lynch mentioned Man Bites Dog as Truth in Journalism’s spiritual ancestor. This is, perhaps, an understatement. Truth in Journalism not only pays homage to Man Bites Dog, but embodies the genre and mimics certain plot points. Lynch and Shankar essentially set Man Bites Dog in the Marvel comics universe and had their French-Belgian camera crew follow around a detached, delusional journalist instead of a practical, friendly serial killer. Both Brock and Benoît share their hair-trigger, outgoing personalities, and both films follow a similar plotline to a point: the camera crew follows their subject with a focus in exploring the nature of a person in a particular line of work; the camera crew runs into issues with funding part of the way through the film, and their subject offers to help them with money; the group eventually runs into another competing camera crew; and the main camera crew dies at the end of the film.
However, Truth in Journalism deviates from the plot of its spiritual ancestor at several points: when Eddie offers his crew financial assistance in the spirit of cinema (both films also share the catchphrase “cineMA!” during their respective bar scenes), the crew ends up declining his offer for the sake of integrity and, secretly, to avoid becoming accessories to his possible criminal activities because they don’t trust Eddie. In Man Bites Dog, the crew became so caught up in Benoît’s crimes, they were forced to accept his offer not only for their fear of him, but also because of their Stockholm syndrome-like interest in his nature. When the crew and Eddie run into another competing camera crew, instead of killing the competitors like Benoît did, Eddie’s crew is almost killed by the competitors’ own subject, the infamous Bullseye (played by Derek Mears) of Daredevil origins (who, funny enough, is called “Ben” by his director in the scene…seeing the connection yet?). And, finally, where Benoît and his crew are killed at the end of their film by unseen gunmen, Eddie kills his crew as Venom when they decline his funding—most probably out of paranoia.
This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

It’s all in the Names

But wait! The insider jokes, geek references, and Easter eggs don’t end there! On top of the healthy dose of faithfulness to the source materials, the fake credits in the beginning of the film hold a few layers of meaning on their own. Three names were given in the beginning credits: Rémy Plissken, Pierre Balcomb, and Benoît Shankkar. Obviously, Rémy and Benoît refer to Rémy Belbaux and Benoît Poelvoorde, both the cast and crew of Man Bites Dog (as well as Lynch’s son, Rémy, who’s named after the film maker); but probably lesser known is whom Pierre Balcomb’s first name references: Pierre Vanbraekel, who played the father of the child Benoît smothered in Man Bites Dog.
Another obvious reference is Benoît Shankkar’s last name, referring to the last name of Truth in Journalism’s producer. Both the Plissken and Balcomb last names, however, may be references to the film or crew’s less obvious inspirations: Plissken referring to Snake Plissken, Kurt Russell’s character in the Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. films (the impact on Truth in Journalism and its characters is lost on me as I’ve yet to see either film); and Balcomb possibly referring to Florence Balcombe, wife of Dracula author Bram Stroker, who is remembered for leading the destruction of most of the prints of 1922’s Nosferatu, which unofficially adapted her husband’s gothic vampire tale to the silver screen. This last reference plays a particular part in the film, as Eddie’s character was restored to his horrific personality as originally written in the comics, as well as the similarities to the themes of Balcombe’s inquisition against fraudulent profiteering and Eddie’s failure as a journalist for reporting fraudulent evidence in the spirit of “making it big” as a reporter.

And Now for a Little Rant

After watching Truth in Journalism a second…and maybe third, fourth, and—oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be watching this on replay for a long time—well, you get the point, but after rewatching Truth in Journalism to catch all the Easter eggs and nods to fans Lynch and Shankar injected into each scene, I was still a bit unsatisfied. What? I’m very picky when it comes to Venom, don’t judge me! Anyways, Truth in Journalism showcases, by far, the best interpretation of Eddie Brock in a medium outside print. By far. This isn’t to say Truth in Journalism doesn’t need a few improvements to make it the best Eddie Brock and Venom film of all time. (OF ALL TIME!)
For one, I, as many other Venom fans who watched this can probably agree, believe Truth in Journalism deserved a bigger budget for a better Venom design. A practical Venom costume is completely possible, as Lynch and Shankar proved, but I believe in a costume that could mix the practical with CGI. For instance, the Venom head Kwanten sported when he became the murderous alter ego was very minimalist and had a weird tight-lipped mouth seam across it the entire time until his close-up when CGI kicked in to sport the classic mouth, complete with razor sharp teeth and a wagging tongue. With a bigger budget, they could’ve given Venom the classic open-mouth via CGI for more than a few seconds rather than having that (no offense) goofy seam.
Also, I got their intention for making Venom more alien by doing away with the big white spider logo wrapping around his chest, but I felt that choice was also as much of an injustice to the character and fans as Venom’s costume design was in Spider-Man 3 (which basically cheated and gave the black suited Spider-Man a mouth). It was almost like Lynch and Shankar were attempting to distance the character’s design from his origin with Spider-Man. I understand that the only way a Venom movie would work is if it stood alone from the PG-13 rated wall crawler, but who is the Joker without Batman?
Another little geek issue I had with the film was Brock’s New York accent (crucify me now). I know that at the time Amazing Spider-Man #300 was written and when Brock was developing in the mind of David Michelinie, Brock most likely—most probably—was meant to have a New York/Brooklyn accent. He was, at the time, assumed to be an NYC native. That is, until we learned more about him after his departure from New York in the pages of Venom: Lethal Protector. Michelinie revealed Brock to be a San Francisco native instead—a detail just about no one would know outside the fandom. So yes, I get that Lynch and Shankar were sticking close to the early days of Brock in comics, but I would have preferred Kwanten to imitate a San Franciscan accent, just to differentiate Brock more from the few New York natives he talked to.
And as much as I liked Truth in Journalism framed in the style and story of Man Bites Dog, I would have also liked the film to have its own feel. If Truth in Journalism did, in fact, get the ball rolling at Sony for a Venom solo film, not only should Venom keep his R rating, but the story should be unique. Again, not so unique it distances itself from the source and Spider-Man’s influence.
I know I set the bar high, but I did honestly, truly enjoy the heck out of Truth in Journalism. Lynch and Shankar really delivered to the fans an outstanding Venom film, even if it’s not canon to either film franchises, and Kwanten surprisingly broadened the scope of potential Brock actors. Seriously, I’ve been waging my own little war against the piping masses with my pick of American Gladiator Lee Reherman as Grace’s replacement over the fan-favorite wrestling all-star, Brock Lesnar (I know he shares Eddie’s name, but he’s too buff for a journalist! At least Reherman’s brawn is explainable, and can be easily toned down with CGI, Captain America style). I thought I had given up on finding Grace lookalikes to fill Brock’s gooey shoes, but Kwanten proved me wrong and beyond. My hat’s off to the entire cast and crew of Truth in Journalism, and with my official Venomaniac stamp of approval (as official as my reputation in the fandom makes it, I suppose), I give this new cult classic a 5 out of 5 and a kiss on the lips. No tongue, though.

Here’s looking forward to how Sony can meet this monster!