Batman: Venom
by Dennis O'Neil, Trevor
Von Eeden, Russell Braun
(DC Comics, 2003)

If there's one thing that can be said about Batman, it's that he's probably mentally the toughest character in the D.C. Comics universe. That's why Batman: Venom is such a great yarn, as it presents Batman with one of the most serious challenges of his career -- a challenge to said mental toughness.

The story is set early in his career. Batman is haunted by a failed attempt to save a little girl -- and the tragic consequences. In an effort to increase his physical strength, he begins using an experimental drug to that end. It is hugely successful, but at a steep price, as Batman begins to depend completely on physical acumen, instead of his keen mind, and becomes addicted to "venom."

I'm an unapologetic believer that enlightenment should take a backseat to entertainment, where comics are concerned. But, I can appreciate the powerful anti-drug message found in this story, precisely because it is communicated in an entertaining way.

It's the rare writer who can preach to readers and make them enjoy it; Denny O'Neil, who penned this story, is such a writer. Without mincing words, O'Neil captured Batman, normally an extremely strong character, at his most pathetic. For instance, in a sequence in which the Dark Knight returns to his supplier to ask for his latest fix, "He hears the whine in his voice. And despises it."

When a writer can make you feel a combination of such strong emotions as pity and shame for a fictional character, he's done his job well. The path back from addiction to redemption is equally emotional.

Artists Trevor Von Eeden and Russell Braun present a Batman who is strong, confident, defeated, desperate, maniacal, frightening, defeated again, strong and confident, again ... in other words, they handled this story perfectly, helping to enable the reader to experience what the hero experiences. What more could one ask from artists?

Batman: Venom is recommended for those who enjoy great storytelling with heart.

by Mark Allen
19 November 2005

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