It’s week two of Marvel’s Fresh Start, and another ongoing series just debuted right on time for its film trailer to drop. Venom is back (with new AND Legacy numbering for the confused masses), and something is very, very wrong with him. It. Them?
I’ll readily admit that I’m more of a Carnage fan, and there’s a lot to be implied about me as a fan of anything in just that sentence. I like to think I have decent taste, but lord, do I also love some stupid, awful, poor-quality….things. Venom seems to have been that star character from inception that I wasn’t in love with, but also didn’t mind (while Carnage’s LOOK and SNES video game appealed to lil’ Dani). He served as a great Spider-Man villain, had some okay solo story arcs, and that was about all I knew or cared to find out about him. However, when a book like this starts over at issue one, and has a name like Donny Cates (who’s coming hot off the trail of his VERY successful Thanos run) attached to it, I’m willing to check it out.
Let me tell you something about this new Venom issue: I’m SO glad I gave it a try.
Ryan Stegman’s art fits the role perfectly for the aesthetic of a Venom comic; by now, fans have come to expect their character to look a certain kind of unhinged and inhuman, so while the delivery on his part is a perfect recipe of dark, gritty, slimy, alien action, Donny Cates now adds this…’other’ sprinkle into it that is a perfect spark of interest for new or returning readers, while keeping the spirit of a Venom comic for fans who have been here all along. Cates has an interesting ability as a writer to take on characters that don’t seem to have quite the depth and passion in comparison to Marvel A-List heroes, and spin a story that is both fascinating, imaginative, and keeps you hooked, waiting for more. Venom #1 is yet another case of this, and we’re immediately presented with as foreign an idea as possible in relation to the symbiote: Venom, afraid.
Even further than that, we’re asked some pretty meaningful, loaded questions about Venom: what’s this thing’s real name? What does it like, what does it hate, why does it feel the way it does and so erratically? I don’t think I’ve ever had a sit down to think about the existential nature of a character like Venom, because he’s historically been a gross brawler stereotype, with much of the attention paid to its host instead, like Eddie Brock or Flash Thompson. As a fan, I’ve let my mind run wild with the possibilities of what could be with Captain America or Black Widow or Thor, but comics like these help me to pause and give that same dedication of imagination to characters that could easily deserve the same amount of attention.
It’s like Tom King’s Mister Miracle series taking potentially one of the hokiest characters of DC’s history and turning him into a psychological science-fiction thriller of a love story. THESE are the comics I want to dive in, whether they’re mini-series or ongoing titles. THIS is what I beg for with comics, that combination of a perfect visual understanding of a character and their style, matched together with a storyteller who knows and loves their legacy and builds on it in ways that might have gone over my head as a child, but now as a life-long fan, I can really intensely appreciate.
The mystery that’s set up is a pretty weird, almost Spawn-esque grab to keep you reading and invested in further issues, but I can’t reiterate enough that what has me totally convinced is that this book, like so few others, seems to have an acute understanding of what Venom fans know and love about the character, but isn’t afraid to dig deeper into it and present some fresh concepts for us, and for Venom and Eddie, to chew on.
Marvel, more like this, PLEASE!
Too long, didn’t read? I give Venom #1 10/10 stars!
Honorable Mentions: Hal Jordan & the Green Lantern Corps. #44, Isola #2, and Batman: White Knight #8.