Oct 31, 2014

The Best of Symbiote Action Figures

First off, Happy Halloween! Remember: cosplay does not equal consent! Comic books and toys seem to naturally go hand-in-hand, so for today's dose of Venom, I'll be reviewing the best of all symbiote action figures in symbiote toy history. Now, my criteria of what constitutes the "best" action figure—range of posability, scale to other figures, accessories, and the sculpt's accuracy of likeness—may differ from your own, but by the end of this review I'm sure most of you will agree with more than one of my choices from your own experience. In this review, I'll explore the best action figures based on select symbiote characters, including Venom (Eddie Brock), Agent Venom (Flash Thompson), and Carnage (Cletus Kasady), as well as note a couple honorable mentions.

Let's start with the newest of our three subjects: Agent Venom. So far, there have only been two action figures released for this character, and both hit the ball out of the park in relation to my criteria. The newest of the figures was recently released as a Walgreens exclusive in the Marvel Legends Infinite line of figures from Hasbro, and features one unique accessory that sets it apart from its predecessor: a detachable back piece with four gun-wielding symbiote tendrils (only three can actually wield weapons, though).

Buy Marvel Legends Infinite action figures from Amazon

However, the prize goes to the first Disney Store exclusive Agent Venom action figure from the Marvel Select line, produced by Diamond Select Toys and sculpted by symbiote fan-favorite Jean St. Jean (this won't be the last you hear about him in this review). Though the figure lacks the range of articulation and a minor paint detail as opposed to the Marvel Legends one, I feel the Marvel Select Agent Venom has the most comic book accurate look and a solid sculpt. Aside from those highlights, it's also to-scale with the rest of the Marvel Select line, which is a big plus.

Buy Marvel Select Agent Venom exclusively from Disney Stores

Next up is the classic Venom. Venom has had just about as many action figures as he had comic book miniseries, if not more! One cannot dismiss his immense popularity, after all. Most Venom action figures have their own unique toy gimmicks, but the clear winner of the best Venom action figure is the one with comic-inspired accessories in place of gimmicks. Sculpted once again by Jean St. Jean and produced by Diamond Select Toys, the Marvel Select Venom figure is the all-around best symbiote action figure of all. It's also the first figure with which Diamond Select decided to shake things up and replace the standard of giving all of its Marvel Select figures complementary sculpted base stands with oodles of accessories to customize the base figure with.

Buy Marvel Select figures from Big Bad Toy Store

This figure comes with three different head sculpts—including a Venom head with the classic Tod McFarlane-esqe smile, the open-mouthed Venom head with a removable tongue, and an Eddie Brock transformation head based on a famous Mark Bagley sketch—as well as three interchangeable pairs of hands, and a detachable back piece with an extra pair of articulated arms, miniature Venom heads, and miniature arms you can attach to the base figure's forearms to replicate his nightmarish likeness from Venom: The Madness. These accessories and the figure's perfect comic book likeness makes it the Venom figure to buy.

Finally we come to Carnage. A steady fan-favorite and rising star once again in the comics, the symbiotic serial killer has also had a fair history of action figures much like his less murderous father. His most recent release from the Marvel Legends Infinite line (he's called "Spawn of Symbiotes" on the packaging) takes the cake thus far simply because of the Legends level of articulation and the sculpt's accuracy of likeness to his initial appearances as drawn by Bagley, his artistic co-creator.

Follow a heroic Cletus Kasady in AXIS: Carnage

Few of the figure's predecessors can compare to the Marvel Legends Carnage. Despite its stellar features, its paint job is moderate at best; the red base color is too plasticky and toyetic, and the black slime lines end at the figure's wrists and various protruding tendrils. (I gave my figure a simple custom paint job to extend the black squiggles.) However, this figure's reign of supremacy will be cut short come Spring 2015 when Diamond Select Toys releases its new Marvel Select Carnage figure (they previously released a Marvel Select Ultimate Carnage figure based on the Ultimate Spider-Man comic version). Much like Marvel Select Venom, this figure will be sculpted by Jean St. Jean and will come with various accessories and a Bagley-inspired likeness that puts the Marvel Legends figure to shame.

Preorder Marvel Select Carnage from Dork Side Toys

Read Anti-Venom's origin in Amazing Spider-Man: New Ways to Die
Now, let's not leave out a few honorable mentions. These figures either had few to no competitors or are just my personal favorites. The Marvel Select Anti-Venom is the only proper Anti-Venom action figure on the global market (there was an Australian released figure that was a base Venom figure repainted as Anti-Venom, but it's rare). Again, it was sculpted by Jean St. Jean and features an exact comic book likeness to his first appearance in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.  Lastly is the Marvel Legends Icons Venom, which is a whopping 12" tall and was my favorite Venom figure prior to the Marvel Select version. This figure was basically a scaled-up, slightly resculpted Amazing Spider-Man Venom figure minus the practically useless jaw action and the Symbiote Blast arm cannon.

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So what's the take-away lesson from this review? Trust in Jean St. Jean and the Marvel Select line. You can't go wrong with the quality of Diamond Select's figures (barring the earlier Ultimate Venom and Carnage figures, which I don't own and can't vouch for, sadly), but considering their collectibility and the exorbitance of their after-market values, they might not be the most affordable to attain if you didn't already jump on getting them upon release. If you like Carnage and want the upcoming Marvel Select figure, don't hesitate to preorder this bad boy at sites like Big Bad Toy Store or Dork Side Toys because he'll be gone fast.

Follow A Dose of Venom for new content every Friday and The Venom Site for all of your symbiote news, reviews, and point-of-views!

Oct 25, 2014

AXIS and Carnage

Read the best of Carnage in Spider-Man: Maximum CarnageWhen thinking of Cletus Kasady, the first few things that come to mind are usually chaos, murder, and "Carnage rules!"  The mind of this psychopath oozes with crazy and gives the reader some connection with being what Carnage thinks is complete freedom. The bond between Cletus and Carnage is as thick as blood, but sometimes you wonder how much control Cletus has in the relationship. When he was lobotomized, the symbiote controlled Cletus' body until it bonded with a doctor named Karl Malus and developed a healing power in Superior Carnage that  allowed the suit to somehow fix Cletus' brain.

Over the years, the symbiote has developed numerous adaptations, but being able to heal someone as such gives Carnage a superior edge over most other villains. In more recent works with Wade Wilson himself (Deadpool), Cletus was punished mentally by Deadpool and it caused him to rethink a lot of his ideas. Could this be the precedent for what we are going to see in AXIS? I wonder sometimes, though, what the extent of this healing power is. Can it re-grow limbs or could it even bring someone back such as Charles Xavier?

Follow AXIS on Marvel.comIn the new AXIS event, Carnage is somewhat of a key player. Recently, he was recruited to be a part of an elite team created by Magneto. He will be getting his new limited series in this event and, hopefully, will be played up in this inversion as a new key player for Marvel in the upcoming months. Who wouldn't want to see more Carnage or a conflicted Cletus Kasady?

Also, be on the lookout in this event for an old-time favorite, Anti-Venom. Hopefully this will be a triumphant return for Eddie Brock or could it be a new character taking on the healing powers of Anti-Venom.  If Eddie returns as Anti-Venom, who will take on the role of Toxin?  Many questions are left to be answered and this is only a small part of what is going on with the continuing Spider-Verse series going on and a major year-long event that shall be taking place next year once again titled Secret Wars. Let's hope for a Secret Wars #8 throwback issue and see if Flash Thompson can give up Venom for a few issues or possibly a new symbiote could spawn.

Carnage becomes a hero in AXIS: Carnage, which you can read digitally on your iOS and Android devices with comiXology

November will be the real symbiote madness month with plenty of other upcoming titles in Guardians of the Galaxy's "Planet Venom," though Cletus takes the main stage in November and shows what he can do as a hero against Red Onslaught.

Oct 17, 2014

Video Game Spotlight on Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

Welcome back to A Dose of Venom's Video Game Spotlight segment. Today, we shall explore one of my all-time favorite Spider-Man and symbiote video games, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows (Xbox 360 edition). Developed by Treyarch and Shaba Games and published by Activision in 2008 for almost every platform available back then, this game was perhaps one of the most exciting for symbiote fans because half of the game's campaign revolved around a city-wide symbiote invasion and players could switch between Spidey's classic red-and-blue costume and his powerful black symbiote costume freely.

Use Gamefly to play Spider-Man: Web of Shadows anytime on any gaming system
Now, I loved this game when I first played it, and still love it even to this day. I know it has some mechanical issues (especially with wall crawling and targeting enemies) and people have their gripes with the voice acting, but I felt it was a solid game with a fun story at the time. There is a morality system to the gameplay as well that pretty much started the morality trend later seen in other Spider-Man games (including the recent The Amazing Spider-Man 2 video game adaptation, though that one had a comparatively dumbed down version). The morality system allows players to make one of two decisions during select cutscenes—depicted as "Red Suit" (good) or "Black Suit" (evil) decisions—which would ultimately decide which of the four ending cutscenes the player would experience in the campaign's conclusion. The morality decisions are set up as instances in which either Peter Parker or the symbiote was in control of his actions.

Wait, where did Spidey get the symbiote suit from, though? He gains his alternate suit shortly after the introductory level in which the game throws the player in media res during the symbiote invasion as Parker's narrative (voiced by Mike Vaughn) explains how everything began with a fight against Venom (Eddie Brock, voiced by Keith Szarabajka). During their fight, Venom's symbiote tries to bond with Spidey again, but the process is interrupted and Spidey escapes with a fragment of the symbiote. From then on, players can switch between the red and black suits, each of which possesses unique abilities and stats. The red suit is super agile and fast and executes web-oriented attacks while the black suit is all about power and symbiote-oriented attacks.

Read the origin of Spider-Man's iconic living black costume in Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars #8 available digitally for Android and iOS devices via comiXology

Both of Spider-Man's costumes are beautiful, neo-classic representations of their comic book counterparts, and the symbiote costume has a black base color with an indigo sheen. The ability to switch between costumes at any time really helped to sell the game to me, and I definitely felt the power of the symbiote suit whenever I used it (which was much more often than the red suit).

Venom is pretty cool in this game, as he's most definitely the classic Brock version—he even calls his symbiote "the other." You can't get much more Venom than that! The character design is passable, even if the spider symbols on his chest and back aren't that great and his white hand patches are missing. The little detail of Brock's mouth at the back of Venom's throat as seen in the video below made up for it, though, and was a very interesting take on how Brock integrated with the symbiote.

The first half of the campaign is pretty much inconsequential to Venomaniacs, as Venom only ever shows up once in a while as the mystery behind how Spidey came to possess the symbiote suit thickens. Players battle a host of classic villains, including the Vulture, Rhino, and Electro, as well as work with a team of heroic and villainous characters, including Mary Jane Watson, Luke Cage, Black Cat, Wolverine, Moon Knight (another favorite character of mine, and done very well in this game), Black Widow, the Tinkerer, and the Kingpin. Players are able to summon some of the superheroes and villains during combat for assists, as well. All of it, though, is setup for the third and most exciting act: the symbiote invasion of New York City!

The Venom symbiote takes control of Brock as it learns how to replicate itself on a massive scale, and New York is quickly overrun by its own citizens possessed by symbiotes. Spider-Man and his heroic friends work with Black Widow and S.H.I.E.L.D. to help evacuate uninfected citizens to quarantine zones, but their nightmares become realized when their allies and enemies are taken over as well. Players get to battle symbiotic versions of Black Cat (who receives a special second symbiotic form for those playing with a darker morality), Wolverine, Vulture, and Electro, each of whom have pretty bad-ass character designs. There was even a symbiotic Moon Knight planned, but he didn't make it into the game outside of concept art featured in the end credits. Of course, let's not forget the awesome character designs for all of the symbiote minions—of which there were many variations—and the endgame boss: a giant multi-headed Venom.

(Start the video at 8:50 for the symbiote Wolverine fight.)

Depending on players' morality choices made throughout the game, two of the four endings left the game open for a sequel as Spidey becomes completely overtaken by the symbiote and takes command of the symbiote hordes. There was a sequel planned, as evidenced by the release of some concept art that even included Carnage, but the game never panned out due to a lukewarm reception of the first one and the production of the more successful Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Despite its flaws and glitches, though, I personally believe the game possesses a high replayability rate, and I occasionally dust off the disc for another fond go-around.

If you're looking for an open-world Spider-Man video game with plenty of symbiotic action for your buck, you can't go wrong with Web of Shadows. It's a definite must-buy for the avid Venomaniac game collector. What did you think about the game? Who had the coolest symbiote costume? What more would you have liked to see in this game? Let us know in the comments section below, and, as always, check back in at A Dose of Venom every Friday for a new article!

Oct 10, 2014

Symbiote September 2014 Contest Results

September 2014 ended last Tuesday, and with it the second annual Symbiote September art contest and challenge. For 30 long days, participants drew one symbiote character every day in honor of one of Marvel's most popular alien species and its all-star members: Venom, Carnage, Toxin, and many more. Though the turnout was less than spectacular with only three fully-committed participants (including myself)—which were two more from last year's count—and one or two occasional participants, this year's event was by far much better.

This year's event focused primarily on each artist's creativity, and suffice it to say everyone delivered! We only had two contestants in this year's contest, which worked out quite nicely for determining who received which of the two prize packages—a brand new feature to this year's contest. So without further delay, it's time to announce the winners of the two prize packages!


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Winning Artist: Christian Rafael McDonald, deviantART username blacksuitchris

Christian has been a comic book fan for a long time. Born with Asperger's Syndrome, Christian immediately had a vivid imagination. His first comic was Venom: Lethal Protector #5 and it started his love for comics, art, writing, and symbiotes especially. This lead into Christian's dream to become a comic book writer and artist with established writers and artists such as Cullen Bunn, Dan Slott, Mark Bagley, and Declan Shavely as inspirations, and he hopes to work on Spider-Man and Venom comics. Christian tried his best to perfect his skills by both constantly drawing and writing fan fiction to perfect his craft, but it's his friends and family that are key to his dream to join the comic book industry. Recently, Christian joined the YouTube channel DYKComics as its writer/researcher, and through this he now has better connections to artists who, too, are fans of comic books.

Prize: The complete 3-part AXIS: Carnage series debuting in October and the complete 6-part Venom: Lethal Protector series on comiXology.


New York Comic Con 2014 Marvel and Sony Spider-Man merger rumorsWinning Artist: Rich W.S., deviantART username AraghenXD

A known symbiote geek, Araghen can’t get enough when it comes to drawing them and giving some lesser known symbiote hosts new life through art and fan fiction. It’s only irony, though, considering it’s coming from a guy who once admitted that Venom scared him as a child.

Prize: The complete 3-part AXIS: Carnage series debuting in October on comiXology.

Congratulations to our two winners! Don't forget to check out the entire #SymbioteSeptember2014 gallery on deviantART and give the other participants some love. If you missed out on the fun, don't worry! Symbiote September will return next year, and it will be bigger, badder, and even gooeyer than before. Upwards and onwards!

Check back every Friday here on A Dose of Venom for new Venom-licious articles and follow The Venom Site for all of your symbiote news, reviews, and point-of-views!

Oct 3, 2014

Video Game Spotlight on Disney Infinity: Marvel Superheroes

Purchase every Disney Infinity collectible figurine online at Amazon Welcome to another Video Game Spotlight on A Dose of Venom! Today we shall be exploring everything symbiotic in Disney Infinity.

Last year, Disney released their answer to Activision's Skylanders, which took advantage of collectible figures that connect and play with a video game. Disney Infinity would be the name of Disney's latest cash cow published by Disney Interactive Studios and developed by Avalanche Software. It revolves around the sandbox game mode called the "Toy Box" where players can use hundreds of items to create their own world and make their own games.

The game comes with a base that connects to your video game console and has two circular and one hexagonal pad. You place your purchased figures on the circular pads, which makes them "magically" appear on the screen with the option to place other items called "power discs" underneath the figure that grant your character additional weapons or power boosts. You place "play set pieces" and other hexagonal shaped power discs onto the hexagonal pad, which can spawn vehicles and animals or change the ground and sky of your Toy Box. The play sets allow select characters to play a story mode that takes place in a giant hub world where you can complete missions and unlock more toys for your Toy Box. Disney Infinity became vastly successful and with Disney's purchase of Marvel back in 2009, it was only a matter of time until Marvel characters came to the game.

Read Ultimate Spider-Man digitally on your Android and iOS devices with comiXology

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, or Disney Infinity 2.0, released last week and adds a ton of new content while still allowing you to use all of your 1.0 characters and power discs. Marvel figures from The Avengers movie, the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series, and The Guardians of the Galaxy movie were released that also came with a new skill tree mechanic where as you level you earn points to increase your character's abilities. New power discs centered on these franchises—some change a character's costume and others allow you to team up with characters like the Winter Soldier and the movie version of Ant-Man. Also unveiled were three new play set pieces for each of the three represented Marvel franchises. Additionally, a new game mode called "INteriors" allows players to create their own house by adding rooms, changing the rooms' themes, and decorating with a various items from both Disney and Marvel.

View more concept art at Disney Infinity's website

Right from the first glance, you can tell that the Venom figure is not modeled after his Ultimate Spider-Man TV incarnation, which is odd seeing how he's the only Spider-Man figure that does this. In-game, he has a "Venom sense," a super jump, super strength, web shooting, web swinging, wall climbing, and a super move which all together make him a very versatile character. Matt Lanter, who voices Venom, Harry Osborn, and Flash Thompson in the TV show, provides Venom's vocals, but it's like nothing we have heard Lanter do in the show. This Venom is fully in sync with his symbiote, and Lanter does an excellent job at conveying a dark and cunning symbiote despite one or two corny lines. As for the host of Venom, the detail never directly mentioned, but with all of these changes from the show's interpretation and Venom occasionally stating, "I'll save Peter Parker's downfall for another day!" I am lead to believe this Venom is or takes inspiration from the Eddie Brock version—but again, it's anyone's guess as to who it really is.

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The Ultimate Spider-Man playset also has its fair share of symbiotes and unlockable toys. The story starts off as Green Goblin and Mysterio clone the Venom symbiote and spread the clones throughout New York in an attempt to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D. The symbiote enemies come in a few different forms such as a swarm that can attach itself to NPCs to become full symbiotes and the large symbiotes that can spawn more symbiote swarms. Throughout the story, you'll be tasked with often boring and repetitive missions of defeating enemies and protecting scientists, but there are the occasional fun missions like traveling in the sewers and using a sonic weapon to take care of symbiotic growth and enemies. Unlockable toys and INterior decorations include a Venom portrait, a Venom rug with the classic symbol, a container that holds a symbiote, a huge chair shaped like Venom's head, and a tiny character called a "costume" dressed up as Venom. The best symbiote-related item in my opionin would be the "Alien Symbiote" power disc that allows Spider-Man to become the classic Symbiote Spider-Man.

Follow the symbiote community discussion with The Venom Site

Overall, Disney Infinity may not be for most because it does require a hefty amount of spending if you want to get the full experience and the play sets do not put up much of a challenge for experienced gamers, but it can be rather enjoyable in the Toy Box and for designing an INterior. For any symbiote fan, the Venom figure is a must-have in my opinion for around $13, and you can even download Disney Infinity 2.0 for FREE on their official site if you just want to use the web code the figure comes with and play around with the Toy Box. There's infinite possibilities (sorry).

Have you played the game and received the full symbiote experience? What do you think about the Venom figure design? Let us know in the comments section below, and check back on A Dose of Venom every Friday for new content!