Spider-Man: The Venom Saga
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The Spider-Man(TM) 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 and spine-tingling excitement of this spectacular clash in SPIDER-MAN: THE VENOM(TM) 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(TM) awakens to find himself on the run from both the authorities and his arch-enemies. Will Venom(TM) be the one to finally ground the Webslinger, or will Spider-Man be able to defeat this powerful new force?
Stan Lee's Soapbox|Five Exclusive Episode Introductions By Stan Lee|The Venomous Web -- Venom's Origin Is Revealed By His Creators
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The "Alien Costume" series features some of the finest supervillains and super-anxieties that you're likely to see Spider-Man face, in this cartoon or any other media. In it, Spidey rescues J.J. Jameson's astronaut son from a downed space shuttle, hoping to receive some real accolades from his alter ego's boss for a change. However, due to some serious yellow journalism from Parker's rival photog, Eddie Brock, Spidey is framed for stealing the highly fissionable alien material Prometheum X from the shuttle and ol' sourpuss puts out a million dollar pricetag on him instead. The Prometheum is actually in the big, meaty hands of the Kingpin who, along with his science advisor Alistair Smythe and his two costumed gunnies, Rhino and the Shocker, is hoping to sell the extraterrestrial WMD to some ski-mask wearing terrorists (seriously). Meanwhile, Peter has unknowingly gained something else than grief from his latest mission: an amorphous alien symbiont that chooses Peter as its new host. Assuming the shape of a svelte black and white "costume", the creature greatly augments Spider-Man's powers, giving him increased strength and speed, natural organic webbing, and the ability to look like Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry whenever he wants. Before too long, Spidey is swatting bounty hunters aside left and right and bearing down on the Kingpin's little racket with the greatest of ease, although a gradual shift in his personality towards ruthlessness, nay, murderousness starts to occur. Realizing that the symbiont will eventually turn him into a bloodthirsty monster, Peter manages to shake it off for good, although it goes on to find Eddie Brock and that's were this disc's title character enters the picture. Venom is like Spider-Man's spurned friend turned mortal enemy. He has all of Spidey's powers and knows his true identity, and he can even slide under his previously infallable spider sense. How will Spider-Man be able to halt this new deadly (and evenly-matched) menace before Venom spills the beans to Mary Jane and Aunt May? You know he will, of course, but how?
It would be two more seasons before Venom showed his Gene Simmons-esque tongue again in the "Venom and Carnage" two-parter, and "The Venom Saga" has that covered as well. In this one, Spidey recruits Iron Man and War Machine to combat the two symbionts on the loose. That's right. During its time apart from Eddie, the Venom symbiont asexually spawned a "son" which later bonded with grade-A looney tune Cletus Kasady to create the razor-handed blood-red terror known as Carnage. Venom and Carnage's jailbreaks are spearheaded by Dr. Strange's nemesis Baron Mordo who needs the symbionts' help in bringing his hot-headed master Dormammu into our dimension. However, when Mordo prepares to sacrifice the soul of Brock's psychiatrist/girlfriend Dr. Ashley Kafka in the process, Venom becomes convinced to try playing the hero for a change. It's all quite a lot of conflict and characters to fit into two Saturday morning cartoons, and I'd say it works very well.
It's a good buy overall, however I have to say that all of these selected-episode discs are really starting to make me wish for the release of complete seasons on DVD. The stories on this disc would have been more fleshed out if I could have seen the episodes about Baron Mordo's original scheme and the pre-Venom Eddie Brock sooner than nine years ago. Marvel's "Distinguished Competition" is already doing that with Batman, Superman, and the Super Friends. Fortunately, I understand that the complete series of the Fantastic Four cartoon from the 90's is coming soon. Maybe we'll see a season set for Spider-Man once the next movie comes out (Am I starting to sound bitter from saying that so often?).
Venom is my favourite enemy of Spider-Man, and I love watching this DVD. The first 3 episodes ("the Alien Costume Pt. 1-3)" show how Spider-Man finds the 'Alien Symbiote' and uses it for his own costume, how he tries to get rid of it and finally how Eddie Brock becomes Venom and Spider-Man's worst nightmare (Season 1). The next episode is "Venom Returns", with War-Machine (Ironman's friend and partner) helping Spider-man fight the returned Venom , as well as the new arrival of Carnage, with Ironman appearing in the next episode "Carnage" (both Season 3). "Venom Returns" and "Carnage" are back-to-back/to-be-continued episodes, so, unlike the previous DVDs which had 4 episodes, this release has 5 episodes. The only other special features are the usual "Episode Introductions with Stan Lee" and "Stan Lee's Soapbox", and he says a lot of interesting things. But just like the "Doc Ock" DVD, the Main Menu starts out differently from the first 3 DVDs (now possibly being made by Marvel Entertainment and not Disney, which you can see on the side-spine), and the first episode also has a new opening (same tune, though). The animation is great, but when it comes to epsiodes 4 & 5 it doesn't look the same, sometimes a bit slaggy or not much effort, but still okay. We not only see how Eddie Brock and Cletus Kassidy become Venom & Carnage, but this is also the first time we see Shocker (voiced by the talented and many charactered Jim Cunning) and the Rhino (although we don't see their origins). Also, inside the DVD cover, instead of having the 20 chapters, it lists the original EPSODE titles. What I really liked about this DVD, is that Ironman (and War-Machine) make their return to DVD, having first appeared on the "Incredible Hulk (Animated Series)" DVD. But, he/his suit doesn't look as good here as he does in his own animated series, the "Hulk" DVD or (as I vaguely remember) the 5th Spider-Man season, during the Secret Wars saga. His armour looks less steel-like and more like the often-used skin-tight outfit, but seeing him is good enough. The only thing I don't like about this saga, is how the 2 symbiotes are defeated at the end of the 5 episodes, bearing too much of a resemblance to some episodes on the earlier DVDs. Also annoying is when Eddie (now with the power of Venom) decides to constantly follow/stalk Peter Parker around and make Aunt May think that he is "such a nice man" - sorry to say this, but it makes her seem dumb, and even though that's how it happened in the comics, I don't like how Aunt May agrees in having Spider-man caught (and in front of Peter, too!) But at least Mary-Jane knows better than to trust him after his return. I have also noticed that the 4 previous DVDs have Spider-Man being either squeezed and/or being "crushed" while restrained by Kingpin, 'Ultimate Slayer' Smythe, Doc Ock and Scorpion. I'm disappointed how Venom doesn't do the exact same thing to Spidey, (although there is a head-lock and being wrapped-up in webbing) and Venom does restrain Ironman, but only for a second. Spider-Man (in his Alien Costume) does put the squeeze on Shocker, however.
I hope it's not too long until I see a "Spider-Man vs. Venom" Movie, the release of "Ironman: The Movie" and Ironman's own Animated Series on DVD. It would have been nice if this DVD also had a clip from Season 4's "the Haunting of Mary Jane", where Venom and Carnage do make a small return, which would've made a nice little special extra. I also wonder if there will be a 6th Spider-Man Animated series DVD.
Personally, I think that DVDs 2 & 3 (Dare-Devil and Doc Ock) should've INSTEAD been "the Spider-Slayers" (with the Scorpion, Alister's machine and him becoming 'the Ultimate Slayer' (favourite scene on that DVD is 10) or have each Season be released onto 2 DVDs, each having 6-7 episodes (5 Seasons with 11-14 Episodes = 10 DVD's). If these 2 DVDs were to commemerate the movie releases of Dare-Devil & Spiderman 2, then how come there was no 'Spiderman: Enter the Punisher' DVD? The remaining episodes that need to be put onto DVD are 10 episodes from season 1, all of seasons 2 and 5, 'Doctor Strange' from season 3 and finally 6 (or 7) episodes from Season 4. The DVD that I believe they should make in the near future is "Secret Wars" from Season 5.
However, I have recently discovered (from UltimateDisneyDVD) that the DVD ALSO has a "Villianous Web" and "Sneal Peaks" special features, which is not on the Australian DVD which I reviewed. Despite this 'country-transfer-rip-off', this is still a good DVD, but when you look for this DVD, make sure that it has the 'Villanous Web' and 'Sneak Peaks' specials, or you'll miss out like me.
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