Welcome to the column formerly known as X-Men: Bland Design! As it turns out, even when we say nice things about X-Men comics, when the column is titled "Bland Design," it apparently bums people out. And we don't want to bum people out about the X-Men. We love the X-Men!
[You can skip to below the Venomized cover if you've read this intro in one of this week's other columns.]
The X-Men have long been neglected by Marvel as a result of Ike Perlmutter's war with Fox over the X-Men and Fantastic Four movie rights, and X-fans have long-suffered as a result. We've seen Cyclops's character assassinated over and over again. We saw the fascist Avengers invade the X-Men's sovereign country and try to imprison a teenage Hope Summers on the moon for crimes she might commit in the future under the influence of a bird-themed cosmic death god and somehow end up portrayed as the heroes in the abysmal Avengers vs. X-Men super-mega-crossover event. We saw Marvel try to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, who literally nobody cares about. It was a dark time.
But with the Disney/Fox merger looming, the X-Men are finally able to rise once more to their rightful place as Marvel's most important franchise. It's a new day for the X-Men, and it's time to let the healing begin.
So welcome to the first week of our rebooted weekly recap column, where we can all agree it's time for some…
The concept of X-ual Healing is simple. We read all the X-books Marvel publishes in a given week and we tell you what happens in them. Along the way, we'll fill in the blanks on some history or additional explanation where required and possible. We'll also point out when the comic does the sort of things we think comics should be doing to be more accessible to new readers: properly introducing characters and explaining how their powers work, providing links to back issues when previous stories are referenced, and generally providing a satisfying experience in a single issue for the outrageously high price Marvel charges for comics. If the comic fails to do those things, we'll point that out too.
We've been collecting and reading X-Men comics since the 1980s, and we've read pretty much every one Marvel has published, many of them multiple times, but it's been a while. To refresh our memory, since starting this column, we've been rereading the X-books beginning with Giant-Size X-Men #1 on Marvel Unlimited (switching to paper where there are gaps). We're currently up to Inferno, in case you were wondering. Marvel Unlimited is well worth the subscription price for the X-Men comics alone, but we recommend you utilize a reading order guide to keep up with all the spinoffs and mini-series. And if you just can't get enough X-Men, and you'd like to dive into some theories on classic X-Men comics, you might be interested in checking out the Chris Claremont's X-Men section on the Fanfix blog.
So that's how this all works. If you're a longtime X-Men reader, you can follow along, let us know if we missed anything, and post your thoughts on the issue in the comments. If you're new to the X-Men, hopefully this column helps you figure out what's going on in the X-Men's 60 years of complicated continuity. If nothing else, we hope you get a few laughs.
Now, let's get on with the show…
VENOMIZED #3 (OF 5)
CULLEN BUNN (W)
IBAN COELLO (A)
Cover by NICK BRADSHAW
Variant Cover by TBA
CONNECTING VARIANT BY MARK BAGLEY(3 OF 5)
VENOMIZED Part 3
With one of their strongest allies consumed by the Poisons, the heroes of Earth must rally and stand against one of their own!
Meanwhile, the Poisons have been working in secret to shore up their defenses, but have they thought of everything?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99
The recap page at the beginning of Venomized #3 does a good job of explaining what's happened so far, going back to the Poison X crossover with X-Men Blue (and probably beyond that to the Venomverse event which we will never, ever read).
Unfortunately, it also tells us that all of this take place before The Mighty Thor #700, which came out last October, and begs some difficult timeline questions. It's best not to think about it. This will all be over soon.
The issue opens with Captain America begging Poison Mighty Thor (Jane Foster version) to fight her Poison possession. It's too late for that, but before she can strike, Mjolnir drops from her hand; she's no longer worthy enough to lift it. Damn, even Nazi Cap was able to lift that thing during Secret Empire. Poisons must be really evil. Heroes, including Cap, Ms. Marvel, Venom Nova, and others (none of whom are identified with caption boxes even though some are wearing symbiotes and difficult to identify), try to push the Poisons off the bridge they're fighting on in New York (also not identified).
Ms. Marvel gets shot with a symbiote gun, which quickly bonds her with a symbiote, but Venom Nova prevents a Poison from bonding with her. Poison Thor holds onto Venom Hercules as he sees a vision of Hippolyta. Being a big fan of the Wonder Woman movie, Herc reaches out to her, but it's probably a Poison trick. Before they can touch, Thor calls down lightning to blast the Hippolyta mirage and then Jane Foster manages to eject herself from her Poison shell.
It seems the time limit for Thor powers expired when she dropped the hammer, X-pository dialogue reveals, and she reverted to human form, protected from the Poison control. Meanwhile, Cyclops, hanging with Venom at the Alchemax building across town, receives a psychic message from Poison Jean Grey. Jean is here on Earth now. Back on the bridge, Jean and more unidentified Poisons arrive and attack the heroes. Venom Hercules throws a car at her, but Venom Nova zaps the car. They can't kill these Poisons — some of them have their friends inside.
Venom Thing thinks the heroes should retreat and regroup, but Cap says they need to make a stand to protect innocent bystanders. At this point, we've managed to identify all of the symbiote-merged heroes except the guy on the top right. Any help, commenters?
On the Poison mothership in orbit, Cletus Kasady, Carnage, is ripping Poisons to shreds. Poison Doctor Doom and Poison Thanos call Carnage "the anomaly," presumably referring to something happened in Venomverse which is not referenced by any editors here. Whatever is special about Kasady makes him poisonous to Poisons. The Poisons located Kasady in previous issues of Venomized, sans symbiote, and have bonded him with a new one so that they can attempt to poisonize him. They modified this symbiote to make that possible somehow, if only Kasady would stop slaughtering them.
Back at Alchemax, Venom and Black Suit Spider-Man are arguing over what to do about the Poisons. Spider-Man wants Agent Anti-Venom to kill the symbiotes and save the humans, but Venom says the symbiotes deserve to be saved too. A scientist who a previous issue named "Steven" suggests that maybe Anti-Venom's symbiote-killing properties could be used to kill the Poisons without killing the symbiotes, perhaps by killing the Poison leader. Venom says the Poison HQ must be somewhere close and if they find it, they can rescue (or as a last resort destroy) the symbiotes. Then, Venom sees an image of Moon Girl fighting on the bridge battle. Venom has some connection with Moon Girl from pervious comics, we gather, which could use a caption box telling us what issue to find that in (hint hint).
On the bridge, Cap is getting his butt kicked by Poison Killer Thrill (though she's not named here).
Looks like Cap is also having trouble identifying his Venomized teammates. Is the guy in the blue and red symbiote Falcon? Things are looking pretty hopeless, until Kid Kaiju shows up. Kid Kaiju's power is that he can draw monsters and they come to life. Kid Kaiju's monsters attack the Poisons, while minions of one of the monsters called Scragg rescue bystanders. Poison Killer Thrill tells Poison Hyperion to capture Kid Kaiju. The Poisons were looking for him last issue too. Kid Kaiju's monster Aegis, who appears to be a dinobot, easily catches and squashes Poison Hyperion in his fist. Cap orders Kid Kaiju to retreat with everyone else.
In the city, another group of heroes including Daredevil, Iron Fist, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Jessica Jones are fighting more Poisons, including Poison Punisher and… a Poison Iron Fist? This leads Moon Girl to prove how smart she is by delivering some much-needed X-pository dialogue.
While she's distracted trying to make sense of this comic, Poison Punisher shoots Devil Dinosaur with a Symbiote. Poisons rush to merge with Venom Devil Dinosaur, but Venom, Black Suit Spider-Man, Bloodstorm, Jimmy Hudson, and Agent Anti-Venom arrive on the scene to stop them. Bloodstorm zaps Poison Blob with lightning, but Poison Punisher manages to Venomize Jimmy. That leaves him distracted for Agent Anti-Venom to touch him, which causes him to melt into a pile of goo. The original host, presumably an alternate dimension Punisher, is nowhere to be found.
On the Poison Mothership, a new Poison tells Poison Doom and Poison Thanos that they need to capture Kid Kaiju, also an "anomaly," and that they need to destroy Agent Anti-Venom before he destroys them. The new Poison is Cletus Kasady. This could be trouble for our heroes. The issue ends here.
Full disclosure: we're not big fans of Venom here in X-ual Healing. It's nothing personal against the creative team or anything like that. He's just kind of a lame character. So this prolonged crossover with Venom — beginning with the Poison X crossover between Venom and X-Men Blue, and continuing into the Venomized event comic, whose cast includes the time-displaced original five X-Men (well, four if you count the fact that Jean Grey has been turned into a Poison), temporarily absent from their own title while this book is being published — has been a bit of a chore. Despite this, we've found ourselves reluctantly enjoying the mindless action in both Poison X and Venomized. Maybe we're in denial about our inner Venom fandom? Nah. Venom still sucks. But this comic is alright.
Except, of course, for its glaring lack of fundamentals when it comes to introducing the characters. Is this comic meant only for people who read every issue of every Marvel comic and have not only an encyclopedic knowledge of its characters, but also the ability to recognize them when their costumes are drastically changed by symbiotes or Poisons? If not, then it should consistently name the characters featured and, preferably, also tell readers what series to check out if they want to learn more about those characters. We've been reading comics since the 1980s, we write about comics daily, we keep notes about the series we're covering in X-ual Healing, and we have a hard time figuring out who some of these people are. That's a problem that detracts from what would otherwise be a fun story.
Two more issues, and, hopefully, our X-Men will be free! Unless this just leads into another damn crossover.
Read more X-ual Healing here: