- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2013

For more than a decade, Diamond Select Toys has given collectors three-dimensional ways to appreciate some classic super villains and heroes through its Marvel Select line of action figures.

Each recreation averages more than seven inches tall with detailed sculpting, articulation and accessories, all contained within an oversized package adorned with comic book art.

Its recent ode to the Spider-Man universe includes action figures of the Rhino, Lizard and not only a Flash Thompson Venom (a Disney Store exclusive) but also a more traditional version of Eddie Brock as Spider-Man’s popular foe.

Figure profile (paraphrased from the box): The vigilante known as Venom is actually a symbiotic being, consisting of the human reporter Eddie Brock and a fluid, intelligent organism from outer space who feeds on his adrenaline, granting him all the powers of Spider-Man.

When they first found each other, both held grudges against the hero and wreaked havoc in his life, but Venom later went on to become a hero, protecting the innocent and helping to stop several other symbiotic beings that had split from him.

Accessories: Not quite as tall as the Marvel Select Barbarian Hulk, this beefy Venom still stands at just above 8 inches, offers 16 points of articulation and towers over any equal scale Spider-Man figure.

Its extras include a pair of interchangeable forearms, fists (to replace claws) and three heads that highlight his career.

First, we get the vintage, first-appearance noggin grinning with bright, white eye coverings.

Next, a rabid Venom head with large tongue extended, razor-sharp teeth exposed and a slight bit of green drool on the lower jaw. Yes, that tongue is removable, thanks for asking.

The third, and best of the bunch, presents the half-exposed face of Eddie Brock, with the Venom half-showing teeth, tongue, drool and black tendril ready to wrap around his forehead.

Now that’s not even the best part of the figure.

Venom fans will gush over what I’ll call a backpack of symbiotic madness (a molded torso piece that easily attaches around the figure’s back and neck area) that features four twistable miniature heads and two additional articulated arms

Overall, collectors will find it joyously easy to swap hands, arms and heads to create just the right pose for a display case. I will caution that standing this Venom up with the back piece in tow might take some effort, so be patient.

Price: $21.99

Read all about it: This Venom offers some of the best features of the character’s career in Marvel Comics, which dates back to 1988.

So I would first find the trade paperback Spider-Man: Birth of Venom ($29.99), which covers his early years in about 350 pages, and appreciate some slick artwork from Todd McFarlane, Mike Zeck and Ron Frenz.

Also worth a read is his back piece, which is actually a homage to the vintage three-part comic book miniseries from 1993, Venom: The Madness ($5 each in near mint condition).

What’s it worth: Sculptor Jean St. Jean is on fire artistically these days and really delivers the detail with this effort on Venom. The design harkens to the days when artists such as Mark Bagley and Todd McFarlane brought the character to life.

The latest version even outshines the Ultimate Venom produced by Diamond Select Toys back in 2003, which I considered quite impressive at the time. Now toss in the extra appendages, hands, heads and madness molding, along with the ease of interchangeability factor, and that makes this Venom action figure possibly the best ever made.