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Book Review: BATMAN: VENOM

Author: Bill Ramey
Monday, January 15, 2007

"BATMAN: VENOM illustrates that although Batman is a great hero, he is simply a human being underneath his costume. When Batman fails to save the life of a young kidnapped girl because of his own physical limitations, he turns to a performance-enhancing drug to increase his strength and stamina. But when the highly addictive super-steroid strips the Dark Knight of his control and morality, he must find a way to free himself from underneath its influence. Struggling with his addiction, Batman must make choose between using the drug again or facing his own probable demise."

If you are a fan of the 1970s Batman stories, you’ll enjoy VENOM. If you like the younger, YEAR ONEish Dark Knight, you’ll like VENOM. And finally, if you are a fan of the whole “KNIGHTFALL” story arch from the 1990s, you’ll dig VENOM.

BATMAN: VENOM was a 5 part story arch that appeared in LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT issue #s 16-20 way back in 1991.

In a nutshell, this the story that introduced the drug “Venom” into the Batman mythos And it enters Batman’s universe with a bang, as The Batman himself gets hooked on Venom and fights to overcome his addiction.

(FYI: If you are unfamilar with venom and the whole "KNIGHTFALL" thing from the 90s, The Batman was defeated by the villain Bane -- the guy broke his back. Bane used venom and juiced himself into being this huge, artificially strong bad guy.)

Batman is one of the few comic book superheroes who does not possess any extraordinary powers. He can’t fly, shoot beams out of his eyes, climb walls, or lift tremendous amounts of weight.

The Batman is, like all of us, just a man.

But what if he had the chance to change that? What if The Dark Knight could simply take a pill and become a superman -- but at a cost. Would he do it?

That’s exactly what happens in VENOM.

When The Batman fails to rescue a young girl due to his own human limitations, he begins to question himself. “I’ve failed,” The Batman tells Alfred. “Did you expect that you never would,” the butler replies, “Really, Master Bruce!”

Bruce at first tries to increase his strength the old fashion way -- in the weight room. But again, there are just flat limitations to being human.

I won’t reveal how The Batman comes to acquire venom, but I will say it is an indirect result of the death of the young girl that he failed to save. He begins to take the venom pill and loves the results -- at first. But it changes him completely. Alfred can tell. Jim Gordon can tell. And finally, The Batman himself realizes that he‘s a changed man -- he’s become the very type of monster that he vowed to fight.

While Batman’s fight against addiction is the focus of this story, there is also a plot that includes the creation of super soldiers via the use of venom. This subplot will take The Batman out of Gotham to some small Caribbean island for the story’s finale.

BATMAN: VENOM has a very strong “70s Batman” vibe to it. Why is that? Well, the author of this story is the legendary Denny O’Neil -- that’s why I said that if you like the 70s Bat, you’ll like this book. While it set during the early years of Batman’s career, don’t expect anything like BATMAN: YEAR ONE and THE LONG HALLOWEEN -- it simply doesn‘t carry the crime drama, gritty atmosphere of those stories.

At times, it comes off as a pre-CRISIS Batman story, even though it is part of Batman’s current continuity. Batman talks a bit too much at times for my tastes and I’m not particularly fond of him doing his thing in the jungle. But make no mistake, The Batman of VENOM is the Batman we all know and love, because Mr. O’Neil is a Batman genius.

The artwork is dated to a certain extent and looks like something one would see in the 70s and 80s Batman comics. That doesn’t mean it’s bad -- it’s is just not contemporary, if you will. Actually, it’s got a Neal Adams sort of feel to it.

Is it a “classic” Batman story like YEAR ONE, THE KILLING JOKE, or THE LONG HALLOWEEN? No. But BATMAN: VENOM is excellent and well worth your time.

Bill Ramey, AKA "Jett," is the founder and editor in chief of

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