Spider-man is having a rough time. Money is a little tight now that MJ is out of a job, and Peter is a grad student. Plus Venom appears to be rampaging around New York City. But the current rampage doesn’t quite fit Venom’s MO, and they claim not to have done the crimes. So now Spider-man is teaming up with his antagonist to figure out what’s going on, and that’s just the start of the chaos.
I’m not a big superhero person, but I’ve got a soft spot for Superman, and I’ve watched a lot of the MCU even if I’m a little burnt out on the genre at the moment. Still, every so often I have the urge to read something with superheroes, and this book was a great choice for that mood. As a note, this is a novel, not a graphic novel. The Venom Factor Omnibus collects three Spider-man novels by Diane Daune: The Venom Fatcor, The Lizard Sanction, and The Octopus Agenda. I vaguely remember reading these books in high school, and they were pretty much my introduction to the character of Spider-man. In a lot of ways, they set the stage for what I look for in a Spider-man story. And I have to admit that the books really hold up. While each book does have it’s own main plot, there are a couple of plot threads running through all three of them including the fact that MJ is job hunting and money is tight for the Watson-Parkers. Oh, and Venom; Venom appears in of the stories. All three books are a great combination of action, mystery, humor, and a little bit of romance.
One of my favorite things about these books is the focus on MJ and Peter’s relationship and how much they are a partnership. I am a sucker for stories that feature an established couple who are dealing with problems together. There’s no love triangles, just two people dealing with what life throws at them. Also, I really appreciated the fact that their problems were so relatable: trying to figure out how to exist in a capitalist society as youngish professionals. There’s also the fact that these books really lean into Peter’s science background which is always fun. MJ is such a great character in these as well. She’s a fully developed person which is always nice to see, and we do get to see a lot from her point of view, including what it’s like to be married to Spider-man as well as her concerns about being unable to find a job. I don’t want to spoil too much, but a number of MJ’s job hunting adventures are a hoot. Venom is also very well written as an anti-hero in these.
I would also say that while these are technically adult novels, I think teens might enjoy them as well, though they might not relate to an adult Spider-man as much as a teenage one. The one other thing I will say is I’m not certain if younger readers would connect as well with these books because they are very much of their times which is the early 1990s. The internet barely features, cell phones are pretty new technology, and Peter has to develop his film, no digital cameras to be found. I can see how some of that might feel foreign to folks who don’t remember those time or are more familiar with the more modern versions of Spider-man. But these are a fun read, and I would recommend them to any comic book fans and also to anyone who’s new to the superhero genre. Four out of five stars.
CBR15 Passport: Different Genres/Subgenres – Superheroes
CBR15 Bingo: On the Air – MJ works in TV.