**/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras C+
starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze
written by Jeff Pinkner & Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel
directed by Ruben Fleischer
by Bryant Frazer The history of Venom, a rippled black mass of sentient alien muscle with a 'roided-out appearance and a gnarly personality to match, is complicated even for a comic-book origin story. It goes sorta like this: Way back in the 1980s, the Marvel Comics powers-that-be were looking to juice interest in Spider-Man. As a solution, they gave him a sleek black-and-white costume to replace the familiar red-and-blue outfit. Long story short, that suit turned out to be an alien symbiote with a mind of its own; it insinuates itself into human bodies and coexists with them in an ostensibly mutually beneficial relationship. It didn't take long for Spidey to get wise and ditch the organism, but Marvel brought Spidey's black-and-white look back later by having Black Cat sew him a non-sentient version of the costume. By then, Marvel was wooing artist Todd McFarlane to the book. Sure, McFarlane said, he was interested in Spider-Man--old-school, red-and-blue Spider-Man. So Marvel scrambled to once again get rid of the black outfit.