Warning: SPOILERS for Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Venom is one of Spider-Man’s most infamous villains, but the original story claiming the alien symbiote was inherently evil isn't the truth. It’s only after the symbiote spent time bonded with Peter Parker that it turned into a full-blown supervillain.
This revelation comes as a part of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 which rewrites Spider-Man’s history as it relates to the alien symbiote. As most fans know, the symbiote first appeared back in 1984 as a new living costume for Spider-Man. Aside from the all-new black look and some personality changes, the suit would take over Peter’s body while he was sleeping - and resulting in Peter having nightmarish visions of attacking New York City.
These visions were the first hint that Spider-Man needed to get rid of his suit. Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 reveals that there is an untold, heroic, and tragic backstory to those nighttime excursions.
To begin Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, written by Miles Morales’ new comic scribe Saladin Ahmed, the origin isn’t too different from the classic Spider-Man history. The symbiote is the narrator of the issue and Ahmed perfectly (and creepily) captures the symbiote's emotional and physical attachment to Spider-Man. Referring to Peter Parker as “the friend,” the symbiote makes clear it will do anything to “protect” Spider-Man.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 explains that the symbiote taking over Peter’s body at night wasn’t an example of the alien entity maliciously possessing Spider-Man at all.The symbiote wanted to help Peter, giving him time to rest, but still patroling as Spider-Man. Unfortunately, the symbiote’s idea of assistance is a lot more brutal than what Spider-Man would consider acceptable. The symbiote, effectively "wearing" Peter as a meat puppet, enacted vicious justice on New York’s criminal populace... until it meets a down on his luck teenager.
During his patrols the symbiote spider encounters and saves someone he begins to call the “young friend.” The Young Friend convinces the symbiote that it's being too aggressive with the criminal underworld. This conversation, along with the symbiote's memories of Spider-Man in action, convinces the dark alien that it needs to be a more heroic and gentle presence. The gooey half of Venom continues to take over Peter Parker’s body at night - but with much more noble intentions.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is a flashback issue, but it still takes place in Spider-Man canon. So even though the symbiote’s origins have been changed, the end result still has to be the same. The symbiote still has to turn into a bloodthirsty sociopath or hate Spider-Man. That does happen - but for the most tragic reasons. The Young Friend is captured by Spider-Man villain Hammerhead and the symbiote just barely manages to save him. Even more devastating though? Peter abandons the symbiote the very next day.
After learning that the symbiote is a living parasitic being from the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, the pair forcibly remove the symbiote and trap it into a capsule. From the symbiote’s perspective this moment is akin to an owner leaving their dog on the side of the street. The symbiote is confused, hurt and most disturbingly enraged. The symbiote tried to do the right thing and got nothing but scorn.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is hardly the first time that Marvel has tried to soften the symbiote. When the symbiote was bonded with Flash Thompson it was even half a superhero team. Still, the flashback does re-contextualize the symbiote’s earlier days. It didn’t come into contact with Spider-Man with the darkest intentions. Its experiences and surroundings helped created that sense of ruthlessness. It’s an interesting twist to add to the symbiote especially as Sony plans to launch its own universe with a solo Venom film. Although in that movie it appears that the symbiote is just as disturbed and dangerous as ever.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.