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"Spider-Man: The Venom Saga": Goop Has Never Been So Delicious

Spider-Man faces off against his alien symbiote nemesis in Spider-Man: The Venom Saga, the newest DVD compilation release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Collecting five episodes spotlighting the nefarious Venom, this is easily the strongest Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD release to date, even if it does fall a little short in the extras department.

Often considered the highlight of the series, the disc kicks off with the three part “The Alien Costume,” the storyline that introduces the infamous black costume into the animated series for the first time. Thankfully, the cartoon keeps the convoluted “Secret Wars” backstory from the comics out of the picture, instead bringing their own interpretation to the small screen. The alien costume is now a black alien ooze discovered on the moon during a routine science expedition, and it causes the inevitable crash into the George Washington Bridge during the space shuttle’s chaotic return to earth.

Spider-Man gets involved and, of course, manages to get the goo on his costume. After a spectacular nightmare sequence, we discover the alien goo has taken hold, covering him in a new, symbiotic black costume. As we all know, there’s more to this costume than meets the eye. Eventually Spider-Man rebels against the costume, and seperates from it. After finally finding a very willing host who shares his hatred for Spider-Man, the symbiotic black costume is reborn as “Venom,” a dangerous foe for the arachnid hero.

This leads to the inevitable showdown and an apparent victory for Spider-Man. The third act is a bit of a disappointment in terms of storytelling and animation, but the story remains pretty enjoyable.

The disc also features the two-part follow up storyline, “Venom Returns/Carnage,” which brings back the famed villain and introduces his red-tinted offspring Carnage. The follow-up suffers from too many extra characters and an unnecessarily complicated explanation for Venom’s return. Still, it’s enjoyable to see Spider-Man go toe to toe with Venom and Carnage, regardless of the compromises made to get these two violent killer aliens onto a TV-G Saturday morning show.

The audio and visual on this DVD is on par with previous Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD releases. There’s very little grain and the interlacing and pixelation are very minimal; both are hardly noticeable and not at all distracting. The audio is solid, with the episodes sounding clear and precise.

Like the Spider-Man: The Animated Series discs before it, Venom Saga gets a fair amount of extras, though the focus is often disappointing. Stan Lee appears in the majority of the extra features, discussing the appeal of Venom, a character he didn’t create. He also talks about the influence of Spider-Man, but it all feels extremely familiar.

It was great to see the DVD include an extra featuring Venom’s actual creator, David Michelinie. He provides a plethora of information on Venom, such as his powers and origins, but never appears on screen, making for a fun, if brief, featurette.

The DVD also contains a hefty amount of television spots, trailers, and commercials for a wide assortment of Disney productions.

Once again, the DVDs leave out anyone involved in the animated series. In previous interviews for Marvel Animation Age, both Stan Berkowitz and John Semper, writers who worked on these episodes, discussed the interesting ordeal in bringing these popular characters to animated life, and that’s all information that should be on this DVD. Considering the complications in bringing Venom and Carnage to the animated series, it would have been great to hear the thoughts from creators who worked on the cartoon and these episodes in particular.

Overall, it’s the best Spider-Man: The Animated Series DVD release to date, even if the selection of extras is frustrating. However, given the complicated, season-length storylines featured in the series, single disc releases aren’t going to be acceptable much longer. Buena Vista will need to start releasing this show with in-depth multi-disc sets soon to keep fans pleased. That said, Venom Saga should be a thoroughly entertaining release for fans of the web-slinger.

Spider-Man: The Venom Saga hits shelves tomorrow, June 7th.

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