Newly empowered by her fearsome symbiote, Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow, enlisted Venom’s aid to take down NoName, the covert syndicate responsible for the public kidnapping and murder of Alchemax employees, in an attempt to reveal the company’s role behind the deaths of countless innocents.
After an altercation with NoName, Bren Waters was separated from the toxin symbiote and kidnapped. With Toxin weakened and no leads on Bren’s location, Venom and widow captured Bren's father, Ozkar, to coerce him into helping them. But they’re running out of time before Bren becomes NoName’s latest victim…
The sniper who took aim at the end of Venom’s preceding chapter misses their mark in the opening page of issue #28; a perfect metaphor for this issue as a whole. Being saved from an assassination attempt is enough to earn the cooperation of Alchemax scientist Ozkar Waters, who finally coughs up the truth about his employer’s objective. As it turns out, the conspiracy runs deeper than previously thought. Dumping toxic chemicals into the town’s water supply was not a reckless mistake on the megacorporation’s part, but rather a crucial step in their secret experiment. The water is contaminated with an illicit substance that makes human beings incompatible hosts for symbiotes.
This spells trouble for Toxin, the symbiotic partner of Bren Waters, who has infiltrated the ranks of the terrorist group NoName in an attempt to return to his host. Unbeknownst to him, the captive Bren is taking an unwilling dip in a pool of this poisoned water. Events get even messier when Alchemax catches wind of NoName’s plan to expose the truth. The corporation sends out a squadron of mercenaries to tie up all loose ends, leading to a full-on battle. Venom and his ally Hazard swing into battle to assist Toxin with his rescue mission, while Natasha stays behind to guard Ozkar. Bren and Toxin’s reunion puts the symbiote into a coma, and Venom quickly deduces that Flash Thompson’s anti-venom is needed to save his life.
Venom #28 makes the questionable choice to sideline Black Widow, benching her from all action and narrative importance. It’s a classic case of cover bait, as Natasha does not participate in the thrills depicted there, let alone use her symbiote form for more than a few panels. Her relevance in this plotline has been on a steady decline, which is strange given how much spectacle surrounded her arrival. She is simply going through the motions while Venom and his allies are proactive. On top of that, the plot itself has veered into an uncertain direction, shedding the promising elements of espionage for straightforward yet dull conflict.
While the story may falter, the art does not. The comic is at its best when the trio of symbiote warriors is charging its way through crowds of armed mercs, in an intentionally chaotic yet well-composed sequence. Anytime Venom swings across the New York skyline, the sense of bulk and weight is tangible. The way he forcefully pulls his own weight through the air is well-distinguished from the nimble acrobatics of Spider-Man. The pencils and colors are astounding, and while not enough to compensate for the narrative’s shortcomings, they at least form a crutch for the issue to lean on.
Venom #28 stumbles by sidelining the character of Natasha Romanoff and downplaying the elements of espionage that made this story arc captivating initially.
Venom #28: Stuck on the Sidelines
- Writing - 6/106/10
- Storyline - 5/105/10
- Art - 8/108/10
- Color - 8/108/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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