Venom (2016) #5 Review


WRITER: Mike Costa

ARTIST: Gerardo Sandoval, with Iban Coello

COLOR ARTIST: Dono Sanchez-Almara, Israel Silva, & Andres Mossa

LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles

COVER ARTIST: Gerardo Sandoval

ASST. EDITOR: Allison Stock

EDITOR: Devin Lewis

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Nick Lowe

 

STORY (with commentary): After Facebook-stalking Flash (how this Venom-fight ended up on Flash’s social media when his “Agent Venom” identity isn’t public knowledge is beyond me), Spider-Man shows up to the Price/Scorpion fight just in time to stop Price/Venom from killing Gargan. The symbiote & Price retreat while Spider-Man is distracted by civilians in peril, and Spidey is immediately accused by dailybugle.com of assisting Venom and Scorpion’s retreat (even though Jonah isn’t there to blame him for this stuff anymore and Gargan is still standing right next to him. Stupid.)

Lee doubles back to the Bugle reporter and intimidates him into sharing the address of the Black Cat’s toady that orchestrated the fight with Gargan last issue. Things get really convoluted when Price confronts said-NPC (“Adams” is his name, but who cares?) and we get three (boring) pages of bad guys one-upping each other in threats, betrayal, and double speak. Adams has maybe has betrayed Price to Black Cat, maybe not?? Is Price’s identity now public knowledge, or is Adams bluffing? (Ugh! This is all just so simultaneously lazy and confusing and I wouldn’t care if didn’t frustrate my reading-experience so much! Basically a lot of “showing-and-not-telling” goes on, so we don’t know how much of these “revelations” to trust. It’s all incredibly forced.)

Whatever. Price stews and strategizes with the symbiote, deciding to give the FBI all their information on the Black Cat’s operation and to fill the power vacuum that results from it himself. However, when Price takes Adams to F.B.I. Agent Trucker-Stache (“Coyle” is his name, but who cares?!), it turns out that he’s on Black Cat’s payroll (we also get the complete throwaway revelation that Price’s identity is indeed now public knowledge thanks to the Fact Channel, despite no one having a camera on him when he Venomed-out last issue). In an unbelievably underwhelming revelation, these two forgettable N.P.C’s (not Black Cat, Gargan, whoever manufactured that “monster gas,” or Price himself) prove to be the true villains of this book and order an incendiary strike on the rooftop to destroy Price and the symbiote. Then, (in the only cool and in-character sequence in this comic) Price keeps his cool despite the symbiote freaking out, and they manage to bring down both a water tower to douse the flames and the copter that launched the rounds.

In a nearby F.B.I. office, the agents monitoring this evidently routine informant meet-up (OK, so was Coyle Adams’ patsy or is he playing Adams and using him as an informa…You know what, I don’t care. Let’s just get to the last page of this dumpster fire), freak out at the presence of a symbiote-enhanced subject. When the agent in charge asks to bring in the now-defunct Symbiote Task Force (is he referencing the Anti-Carnage Task Force from Conway’s Tomb of Carnage or the Mercury Team that Kasady killed in Deadpool vs. Carnage?), when, finally, on the last page, a light shines through this mess of a story:

Eddie Brock steps into the room, ready to take care of business.

To be continued…

 

ANALYSIS: This was a complete mess of a comic.

From the art to the narrative, this issue shifted focus way too freaking much. And it’s not only this single’s problem with its convoluted series of betrayals and half-baked, forced “revelations, but this series as a whole is really struggling to find its identity. Sometimes it’s trying to be an action book, at times a crime drama, at others a political thriller, sometimes sci-fi; it’s just too much to do with a character as green and paper-thin as Lee Price. If it had a clear identity, and just focused to its core on one genre or another, and then contained certain elements of the others, that would make for a more focused and entertaining read. This is one of many things that needs to be fixed, even with the boost that Brock’s return hopefully generates, if this series is going to enjoy any kind of longevity.

This book is guilty of some pretty grievous errors, not the least of which is the complete heal-turn in its portrayal of Mac Gargan. Last review, I praised the creative team for their handling of the Scorpion. He came off as the resourceful and experienced veteran villain that he is. Here, however, that is all undone. It turns out that Gargan was just an idiot who only managed to survive his fight against Price because two forgettable NPC’s equipped his suit with anti-symbiote tech… This went from being a rare instance of portraying an experienced character with the growth and resourcefulness he deserves to just another instance amidst a long list of transgressions in current Spider-Books of plot undermining character. Or, rather, tearing down an older character to show how much of a badass some new character is.

And it’s not even interesting plot! That whole sequence with Adams and the FBI agent (who is on Black Cat’s payroll? Or is he triple crossing her and just pretending to be in her back pocket? Bah!) reads like a complete heal-turn in the story. As much as Devin Lewis has told us that the creative team’s decision to bring Brock back was a part of the plan all along, it sure doesn’t seem like it here. And the sudden and jarring artist-change makes it seem like whatever original story Costa had in mind for this book got rewritten in the eleventh hour. I know it’s not fair of me to assume that’s what happened, but, I’m just saying, given this issue’s juddering reading experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how things unfolded.

The cover is also straight-up false advertising (shocker, I know). I just can’t help but feel for the poor sucker (like myself) who picked this up expecting to see a great, visceral Spidey-Venom fight just to have that shuffled to the side in favor of this book’s convoluted and boring plot without a single blow thrown between these two!

And I guess all that plot development with Price and Felicia is being jettisoned to make way for Brock’s return. Whatever. For the last time: I don’t care. Just make Brock Venom again already and let’s all pretend that these first five issues never happened.

Now I’m obviously frustrated by this. I expected more for my $3.99 than this mess. And maybe you share my frustration. Maybe you don’t. But, still, at the end of the day, despite this comic’s failure to meet my expectations, I believe it’s still important to extend our to the creative team gratitude for putting this out for all of us Venom fans. So, as always, thank you to Mike Costa, Gerardo Sandoval, Iban Coello, and the rest for getting this book on the stands for us.

If anything, I sincerely hope that the future Venom stories we’ll get, either in this book or in others, will justify the heal-turn we got here. But, this needs to happen soon, like next issue, because it’s wearing on my patience and wallet to keep hoping for the future without enjoying the present. See you all later this month for Eddie and the symbiote’s reunion.

 

GRADE:

D-

Very poor (just a hot-mess of a comic whose only redeeming value is the long-awaited return on its last page) 

(4) Comments

  1. Sano

    I'm happy that Eddie Brock is back as Venom but I am enjoying Spider-Man Renew Your Vows way too much to jump back into 616. Maybe I'll wait for the trade. Ultimately I hope Eddie Brock Venom somehow congress back to life in Renew Your Vows and I'll be a happy camper.

  2. John Simons - Post author

    @Symbiobro: I would have enjoyed that approach so much more! I think when I go back and reread these later, I'm going to pretend that they are in your proposed format (providing we get a decent story for Flash's separation from the symbiote in Venom #150) @Jack: Right?! It was SO scattered. That was my impression too.

  3. Jack

    Don't you wonder if the team was forced to slap this issue together with wire and chewing-gum because they were ordered by management to bring back Brock?

  4. Symbiobro

    I think you summed it up pretty well. I don't care about Lee Price, and haven't since the first issue. He's not an interesting character. The only reason I'm buying this book is because I know he's about to get the boot. There's a few things I personally would've done to make me look at the current Venom Volume in a bit more of a positive manner. 1) Give Spaceknight 1 more issue/an annual issue to wrap it up, and give a good story for how Flash lost the symbiote. For someone who's had it for so long, and has a lot of fans, it was a big dick move to just to you to find out later how he lost it. 2) Don't advertise the current volume as an ongoing, call it what it really is. It's a mini series about the temporary host it uses and how it gets back to Brock. 3) Then you can do what they're doing now, launching Venom #150 with the original host coming back right out of the mini series. This makes me less hostile towards Lee as the host since I know it's only a temporary thing, and more willing to put up with him since I know something better is coming.

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