Venom (2016) #2 Review


WRITER: Mike Costa

ARTIST: Gerardo Sandoval

COLOR ARTIST: Dono Sanchez Almara

LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles

COVER ARTIST: Gerardo Sandoval

ASST. EDITOR: Allison Stock

EDITOR: Devin Lewis

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Nick Lowe

 

STORY (with commentary): Lee Price talks his way into Black Cat’s criminal organization after having spent the night mentally dominating the weakened Venom symbiote into submission, because Army training (I call BS: Flash presumably would have had the same training and he lost control of the symbiote on multiple occasions, even with the symbiote-suppressant the military gave him). The symbiote attempts to resist Lee’s criminal agenda, especially because it would mean working with Mac Gargan again, but Price has successfully locked the alien out of his higher functions. So, the symbiote exercises control over Lee’s involuntary responses and makes him throw up in front of Black Cat, ending their meeting. However, Price’s resourcefulness and smooth talking, plus the fact that he returned the merchandise from the heist the night before (again, Goblin Serum maybe?), are enough to convince Felicia (it pains me to call this iteration of the character that: this…caricature…is NOT Felicia Hardy) to admit him into her organization. As Price leaves, though, he calls Gargan “Scorpion,” which surprises Mac (despite the fact that his identity is already public knowledge – I’m fairly certain Jameson has ousted himself as the Scorpion’s creator in the Bugle, plus the facts that Gargan has a criminal record and was once a government agent/Thunderbolt). Price is watched by two FBI agents, assigned to stakeout Cat’s hideout,
who decide to follow him home.

In the alley, Price tells the symbiote that he has no aims to be a “boss,” only to take advantage of the system to get what he’s “owed.” Accordingly, he plans to keep the presence of the symbiote a secret, keep his head down, and get paid.

Back at his apartment, Price is attacked by “Firebug” (one of Hobgoblin’s villain franchises? Will Roddy be showing up in this book? I don’t know whether or not I should feel excited or worried?), who works for/was hired by Tombstone to eliminate the threat that eliminated his men the night before. Price Venom’s-out (again seemingly unperturbed by the fire – seriously, did the Klyntar’s “purification” get rid of this weakness or not?!) and is about to kill Firebug when one of the FBI agents shows up with a bazooka.

To be continued…

 

ANALYSIS: While this issue is not without its flaws, Costa and Sandoval take what worked so well in issue #1, the relationship between Price and the symbiote, and develop it further. While I’m still not sold that Venom’s current direction is the right one, it is at least an interesting one.

Lee Price is already forming into a unique host for the symbiote. It’s nice to see him not going the way of Angelo Fortunado and just becoming a dismissible footnote in Venom’s history. His tactical approach to the relationship he has with the alien and its role in his life/ criminal agenda make him stand out among the other hosts. The symbiote too is becoming a much stronger character than it has ever been, having its own ideas and agenda. Its nice to see that the alien has come quite a long way from the (ironically) mindless brain-chomper it used to be. The strongest part of this issue, and this series thus far, is definitely the interplay between those two. Watching Lee weasel his way into Cat’s organization as the symbiote tried to sabotage it was especially tense. And though I’m not exactly sold on how exactly Price manages to mentally overpower the symbiote, the fact that he is able to do so makes for an interesting status quo.

Plus, you have the added tension that comes from the history between Black Cat and Venom: the first time they met, Venom maimed and humiliated her (ASM#316). Imagining what would happen should she find out that the symbiote has been in her employ and kept secret definitely ratchets things up. This potential conflict with Black Cat, plus the impending confrontation with Scorpion, both bode of interesting developments to come.

But that’s just the problem: the book falters a bit in that it sets up more than it delivers. We get an establishment of the new status quo, and the endnote of a one-sided battle with a false cliff-hanger, but that’s really it. Granted that this seems to come as a consequence of really letting the conflict between the different characters in the book breath, but I still put the issue down feeling like not much really “happened.” Because I am not a professional storyteller, I couldn’t tell you how I would have liked to have seen things set up otherwise, only that I think there has to be a way for the creative team to have their cake and eat it too in this regard. Character development and plot progression should not have to be a zero sum game.

 

And while we’re still not told how the symbiote separated from Flash, I think that focusing on building up this new character is the right move. That way, when Flash finally does come along, we’ll have more of a sense of who the two sides in this conflict are in the inevitable confrontation.

I reiterate however that what intrigues me most about this story are the conflicts to come and not those at hand. I could care less about Firebug and Bazooka-Fed. I’m ready for Scorpion, Black Cat, Tombstone, Hobgoblin (?), Spider-Man, and Flash Thompson. Sandoval’s one-page splash at the end of the issue, setting up the fight between the feds and Breaking Bad Venom (I need a moniker for this pairing), doesn’t exactly thrill me. It felt undeserved. I found myself thinking, “Who is this? Someone of significance?” And when I went back and re-skimmed the issue only to find out that it was just one of the feds with a rocket launcher I was disappointed

All that being said, my gratitude on behalf of all my fellow Venom-fans goes out to Mike Costa, Gerardo Sandoval and co. for putting this book on the stands for us. See you all next year for #3!

 

GRADE:

B-

Good (an intriguing installment that sacrifices a bit of forward motion for focusing on the story’s central conflict between symbiote and host) 

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