With Spider-Man 3 coming to DVD, what better time than now to look back at another symbiote-fueled home video offering, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga? Culled from five episodes of the Web-Slinger’s hit 1990’s animated series, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, “The Alien Costume” and “Venom Returns/Carnage,” here we learn the origins of Venom and get a little peek at his spawn, Carnage. While confined to the rules of a Saturday morning cartoon, there’s a host of missed chanced and situations we’ll never see come about, especially when it comes to Venom and Carnage. But, all in all, it still manages to be an entertaining romp.
The Spider-Man legend continues with an epic battle against one of Spidey’s greatest foes. When an alien element falls into the wrong hands, a lethal new criminal is unleashed. Experience all the high-flying animated action of this spectacular clash in Spider-Man: The Venom Saga. After rescuing the pilot of a space shuttle carrying two strange meteors, Spider-Man notices a black stain on his costume and a disturbing change in his behavior. Soon, the evil stain consumes his entire costume, and America’s favorite Super Hero awakens to find himself on the run from both the authorities and his arch-enemies. Will Venom be the one to finally ground the web-slinger, or will Spider-Man be able to defeat this powerful new force?
Spider-Man: The Venom Saga starts off with the three-part “The Alien Costume,” the storyline that introduces the infamous black costume into the animated series for the first time. Often considered the highlight of the series, the cartoon keeps the convoluted “Secret Wars” backstory from the comics out of the picture, instead bringing their own interpretation to the small screen. The alien costume is now a black alien ooze discovered on the moon during a routine science expedition. As with all science expeditions, this all leads toward the inevitable crash into the George Washington Bridge as the black alien ooze causes all types of problems during the space shuttle’s chaotic return to earth.
Spider-Man gets involved and, of course, manages to get the goo on his costume. After a spectacular, if very blunt, nightmare sequence, we discover the alien goo has taken hold of our hero, covering him in a new, symbiotic black costume. As we all know, there’s more to this costume than meets the eye. Eventually Spider-Man rebels against the costume, and separates from it. After finally finding a very willing host who shares his hatred for Spider-Man, the symbiotic black costume is reborn as “Venom,” a dangerous foe for the arachnid hero. This leads to the inevitable showdown and an apparent victory for Spider-Man.
Overall, the “The Alien Costume” portion of this disc is pretty solid. The animation is top-notch for the first two-third of the story and, for the most part, the writing is pretty solid. The third act is a bit of a disappointment in terms of storytelling and animation, but the story remains pretty enjoyable. The series really did their own thing with Venom here, and it works out well. Sure, there’s some unintentional comedy here and there, but the cast can make even the most convoluted sentence work. Christopher Daniel Barnes is perfect as the wall-crawler, Spider-Man, even if the character’s design can make him look a bit beefed up. Hank Azaria shines as the twisted Eddie Brock, now consumed by the symbiote.
Following the three-part “The Alien Costume” is the two-part follow-up storyline, “Venom Returns/Carnage,” which brings back the famed villain and introduces his red-tinted offspring Carnage. The follow-up suffers from too many extra characters and an unnecessarily complicated explanation for Venom’s return. Still, it’s enjoyable to see Spider-Man go toe to toe with Venom and Carnage, regardless of the compromises made to get these two violent killer aliens onto a TV-G Saturday morning show.
I want to point out that, as I said earlier, this movie, The Venom Saga, is really a compilation of five episodes, the three-part “The Alien Costume” and the two-part “Venom Returns/Carnage.” Both two multi-part stories aired seasons apart from each other so, in “Venom Returns/Carnage,” there will be a couple things mentioned and brought up that won’t make sense, namely Madame Wed. My advice to you would be to just ignore it. That’s the problem with these types of compilation releases, since a lot of crucial information can be missed when episodes from separate seasons are bundled together. Still regardless of that, I still recommend this release. It contains basically the highlight of the 1990’s Spider-Man animated series and it has a nifty (and much better) take on the Venom character.
With an enjoyable main feature, is the rest of the disc just as entertaining? The audio and visual on this DVD is on par with previous Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD releases. There’s very little grain and the interlacing and pixelation are very minimal; both are hardly noticeable and not at all distracting. The audio is solid, with the episodes sounding clear and precise.
Like the previous Spider-Man: The Animated Series discs before it, The Venom Saga gets a fair amount of extras, but the focus is somewhat disappointing. Stan Lee appears in the majority of the extra features, discussing the appeal of Venom, a character he didn’t create. He also talks about the influence of Spider-Man, but it all feels extremely familiar. It was great to see the DVD include an extra featuring Venom’s actual creator, David Michelinie. He provides a plethora of information on Venom, such as his powers and origins, but never appears on screen, making for a fun, if brief, featurette. However, the DVD leaves out anyone involved in the animated series. In previous interviews for Marvel Animation Age, both Stan Berkowitz and John Semper, writers who worked on these episodes, discussed the interesting ordeal in bringing these popular characters to animated life, and that’s all information that should be on this DVD. Considering the complications in bringing Venom and Carnage to the animated series, it would have been great to hear the thoughts from creators who worked on the cartoon and these episodes in particular.
The DVD also contains a hefty amount of trailers, and commercials for a wide assortment of Disney productions, including Disney’s Spider-Man 2 tie-in, Spider-Man Versus Doc Ock.
Overall, it’s the best Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD release to date, even if the selection of extras is frustrating. Of course, for the time being, this also seems to be the last Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD release from Disney and Buena Vista. Given the ongoing legal disputes between Disney and Marvel, it may be awhile before we they release another Marvel animated series. It’s a complicated issue which you can read more about on The Marvel Animation Forum. That said, Spider-Man: The Venom Saga should be a thoroughly entertaining release for fans of the web-slinger. It contains five solid episodes, culled into a “movie-length feature,” and a small, if fun, collection of extras. This collection should be easy to find in most retail outlets and comes Recommended
Spider-Man: The Venom Saga was originally released June 7th, 2005, and is currently available in most retail outlets. Spider-Man 3 hits shelves on October 30th, 2007.