Do You Lift?
We are back with our Batman Retrospective Canon Read Through Review Readers Digest thing that we are doing. I’ve been absolutely loving the run so far and I’m really glad I decided to do it, even if my wallet (paying out like £30 a book isn’t fun…….Anyway). Venom is one that I’ve only read once and I HATED it. I listed it on ebay within a day of getting it and just never saw the hype. How does it hold up after I’ve mellowed and gained an appreciation for the comics whilst taking performanace enhancing drugs on the side? Read my review to find out.
First appearance of Venom Drug
“Oh I Thought I Was Some Fine Detective…”
The main things to take from this book are: Batman takes steds, gets a proper roid rage and fights a shark. You might remember something like that in Arkham City, this isn’t him just punching it in the face till it decides that it needs to go off to film The Shallows though. This is a lot more methodical…but we will get into it.
“I’m Gonna Hurt You A While”
The story begins with Batman attempting to rescue a girl who has been tied to a chair and left in the sewers to drown. The real conflict of this book begins early on. No matter who the foe he is fighting is, what this book boils down to is Batman Vs Batman.
I mean himself, not some other character….also called Batman. Just incase you were wonder…nevermind. Batman is unable to save the girl and she dies. His first real failure.
He is completely devastated, like, the intro to the Last Of Us devastated.
When he goes to tell the girl’s father, he is offered steroids, he takes them, gets as hench as you think you are when you post your #transformationtuesday pics on Instagram and slowly gets addicted to the drug.
This is where my first real problem with the book begins and one of the main things that made me hate it in the beginning. When Batman goes to the Father, the Father does not give a shit that his daughter has died. He probably cares more about who won the X Factor, in season 8 when everybody had stopped watching it. This doesn’t set off any alarm bells with Batman and when he’s offered the steroid almost instantly he doesn’t bat (ha! Puns!) an eyelid.
Martha Scene Part-Deux
Whilst I had huge problems with this scene first read through, I didn’t mind it too much the second time. This is like the Martha scene in Batman V Superman, I knew it was coming, it’s not really the main plot, let’s just get past it.
What this book boils down to is it’s humanity. If you’ve ever tried to do anything in life, chances are you’ve failed at some point and this has left you feeling totally inadequate. With this being Batman’s first big failure, he doesn’t take it well and you can kind of understand why he decides to go to the steroid to improve him. I think on the second read through I just got over this. On my first read through Batman was an unbreakable ideology, someone that would never turn to steroids, no matter what the cost. Now I’ve grown up, been around body builders, worked out and built myself up, I know that there are LOTS of people who turn to them to feel better about themselves.
It’s a nice touch that adds to this run and ties in neatly with the previous storyline. So far we have seen Batman really be tested and if this were real life, Batman probably would take steroids.
After he has taken the drugs, he almost immediately sees results. It’s like when you first get tinder and just like everyone to get matches, thinking you are God’s gift. Feels great at first right, then shallow after your 3rd faceless one night stand who’s name you don’t even remember anymore. Well, that’s a lot like Venom.
Fighting Criminals And A Drug Addiction
Batman becomes careless. The power that the drugs have given him make him just wander into fights. He begins to block everything out and just focus on fighting crime. However, the power corrupts him, he begins hurting ex cons just on the off chance that they may commit another crime down the line and if he stops them now they won’t. There is a logic to it but you can see that Batman has truly began losing his grip on reality.
This shows the psychology of steroids. Yes you get results but deep down you know you cheated and that you are not truly as great as you appear to be without them. Batman begins feel dull and innaddequate again and the villains of the piece use the drugs to control him. When Alfred leaves Batman becomes truly lost. Alfred to me has always been the Yoda, when he fucks off Batman has absolutely no guidance or idea what he’s doing anymore so he just goes round smashing people’s faces in aimlessly.
At one point he asks Gordon if his kids are ok, Gordon just brushes it off. This is a reality subtle signal that Batman has been acting different and people don’t want anything to do with him. It makes you really question their relationship. Is Batman to Gordon a hero with a face or shadow that is necessary but not really wanted. I don’t know the answer but whatever it is, Gordon certainly doesn’t want anything to do with this newer Batman.
Chillin’ Like A Villain
This strain on their relationship ties into the villains plot….oh….I haven’t even talked about the villains yet. Well one is a General who wants to create the perfect army with the drug (yeah that old one) and the other is the Father of the Girl who didn’t really give a shit at the start if she died or not. The villains aren’t really that great to be honest, like I said this is more Batman vs Batman and these two are just the Mad Scientist and Evil General archetypes to keep the plot moving. Anyway they ask Batman to kill Gordon because he is investigating them. They word it so you can kinda see why he would agree but it might cause problems for readers. Yes he is under the influence and they paint it like the drug will rid the world of scum but I think at that moment Batman would just punch them both in the face.
“Come Back Alfred”
Batman wrestles with the need for the drugs and the need to keep Gordon alive and eventually snaps out of it. He locks himself in the cave for a month and breaks the habit. This really speaks volumes to the strength of Batman and how he is able to build himself up using his mind and willpower. This clearly had influences on the Dark Knight Rises and when Bruce emerges from the cave it is truly a triumphant moment.
This kind of mentality shows why further down the line he will beat Bane. They were both addicted to the drug but Batman can control his addiction whereas Bane can’t.
With Batman back he decides to wreck havoc on the two hum drum villains and he tracks them to Santa Prisca. Bruce and Alfred fight a lot throughout this book and it’s great to see them both team up to take down the threat, even if Alfred is pretty useless and ends up getting Princess Peached (captured and used as a plot device to make Batman go rescue him).
Santa Prisca is where the book really changes, it becomes a bit like Rambo 2. It is broad daylight with Batman just going through the jungle (full costume…no idea why) punching people in the fucking face. This part of the book is a far cry from the streets of Gotham and super villains, normally I don’t really like when the Dark Knight leaves the city but in context it works fine and sets up the most memorable part of the story.
Blood In The Water
Alfred is tied up, Batman has to swim out to rescue him, on the way he fights a Shark, it’s fan-fucking-tastic. Definitely the highlight of the book with an ending that will leave a smile on your face.
He rises from the water, the mad scientist asks him if he’d like any painkillers, Batman punches him in the face and says “use them yourself.”
It was at this chapter that I really came round to the book, sure they capture him and for some reason don’t remove his mask but by now we are in a James Bond Story, death traps and all so who cares.
On to the death trap, it is genius! Batman is locked in a room that slowly fills with water and has 3 days to escape. He’s been left with the steroids as the easy way out but instead uses his brain, gets out and saves the day. What a fantastic finale.
I really loved this book, though first read through I had problems with it I can see now just how good of a nice change up it is to the Batman formula. Dennis O’Neal nails the story and I haven’t even spoke on how fantastic the art is. Great book and definitely one that doesn’t disappoint like I was thinking it might. You should definitely pick this book, it has it all, fun, dyer moments and people getting punched in the face.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.