Here we go, VenomVerse is here. Will the creative team of Deadpool and the Mercs for Money deliver unto us a celebration of Venom and his various hosts or will this comic be something mindless you can skip? Check it out.
VenomVerse #1: Not The Venom We Deserve…
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Iban Coello
Colorist: Matt Yackey
Letterer: Joe Carmagna
C.Artists: Nick Bradshaw & Edgar Delgado
Editors: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis & Allison Stock
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
No-One Means Anything To Me: After making quick work out of Jack O’Lantern in the Marvel Prime Universe, Eddie Brock and his symbiote are summoned to another universe by Doctor Venom, to fight in the war against the Poisons. The Poisons are creatures that bond with symbiotes by killing the personality of both the original host and the symbiote itself. Eddie is nearly tricked into bonding with one, but Captain Venom saves him. The good Captain leads Eddie to the others (including our Edge of VenomVerse characters, a Venomized Ant-Man, Mania, a Venomized Spinneret from Renew Your Vows, and Agent Venom) but they are followed by the Poisons. Agent Venom and Captain Venom are seemingly killed by a Poison-Hulk and Rocket Vencoon blows up their base. Eddie is separated from the others, save for a version of Peter Parker who kept the Venom symbiote. Tensions flare between the two, but they work together to fight a couple more Poisons. Peter makes a sacrificial play to save Eddie and is turned into a Poison.
Then You’re Just The Kind Of Man We Need: I have to get one thing out of my system before we get too deep into my review of this issue. This issue performs character assassination on Flash Thompson/Agent Venom. First, Flash’s main nemesis from his time as Venom, Jack O’Lantern, is given to Eddie Brock to beat down without even a mention of his history with the Klyn’tar or Flash. Eddie Brock makes Jack look like chump change, which cheapens the complex struggles he gave Flash numerous times over his time as Agent Venom. And then later in the issue, Flash is killed before he has a chance to contribute anything to this event. Rather than being a celebration of Venom and his hosts, we get a celebration of Eddie Brock by making Flash Thompson and Peter Parker moronic cannon fodder.
And despite this… this is actually a pretty damn good comic. Not without faults, but far more works here than does not. Cullen Bunn is no stranger to Venom, but he gives us a more classic version of Venom where the symbiote does not add much to the narrative (in fact, Venom is mum the entire issue.) Not exactly what I want from this event, but it is better than the whiny wimp Mike Costa is giving us in Venom. In fact, all the personalities of the Venom hosts feel like their usual selves, which is a disappointment (Host Rider is an example of what could be done when you make the Venom the more powerful entity in the symbiosis.) And if the symbiotes are under attack, then why do the Klyn’tar play no part in this story at all? Like it or not, that is the symbiote origin story now and to completely omit it from this story feels like a misstep. My one hope is that the Poisons are somehow related to Anti-Venom and that is why they are targeting Venoms exclusively; it also makes Eddie partially the villain of this story. One smart thing Bunn does is keep Venom largely in situations where he has only one hero to bounce off. This is used best when it is just Eddie and Peter, as it allows Peter to be multi-faceted (he is both the quick to anger Peter Parker from The Clone Conspiracy and the noble Peter who sacrifices himself to save Eddie, a man he hates.) Since both Peter and Flash are gone, I am really hoping Mania (a Cullen Bunn creation) gets a much bigger role in the event going forward; rumor has it that Marvel wants to spin a Venom, Inc. book out of this event and Mania seems like the best choice to lead that book.
Iban Coello’s work here is strong, but also not without flaws. His work is full of detail from backgrounds to character designs. And his hits have impact in the world, like when Venom’s claws breaking through walls he grabs ahold of. His hits also have impact against enemies; the violence in this comic is top notch. But then backgrounds are magically restored after getting destroyed a few panels earlier. The best parts of this comic is Coello’s storytelling prowess. He does excellent cut aways that really sell that uneasy tension of the story and the final fight is framed in a way that allows Peter Parker’s corruption to play out on the right side of the page while Eddie lays a beat down on a Poisoned Doctor Octopus. A little effect I really like is how the symbiote oozes out of the Poisons when they die. I have a problem with Coello’s flames, as they have the same design no matter where they appear in the comic; it makes them feel flat rather than alive. His smoke effects are top notch though and all over this book. He also does an excellent job of making the other world feel drastically different from the Marvel Prime one. He creates a gritty spotty filter that goes over top of his normal panels that I really like.
Matt Yackey is the perfect partner in crime for Coello. Yackey’s colors are powerful and vibrant and they give dimension to the smoke and explosions that Coello fills the page with. I would consider Matt Yackey to be a mash-up of Justin Ponsor (who creates unnatural colors that draw your eyes) and Ian Herring (who uses his colors to indicate action), but the blending works really well. Yellow and red backgrounds indicate speed and red, while eerily green blood leaks out of the Poisons when they are killed. Another great details is the Venoms have their specific colors blended in with the black of the symbiotes, to make all the symbiote visually distinct from each other. I wish his shadow game had been a little better though, especially since there is so much fire and explosions that do nothing to illuminate the scenes.
Perhaps the real MVP for me is Joe Carmagna, who puts in some of the best damn letters I have ever seen in a comic. Much like Yackey blends character’s colors with the back of their symbiotes, Carmagna makes their sound effects correspond with their individual colors. The sound effects convey the motion of the action taking place on the page, even if they have to break through the borders of panels to do it. We have the classic black and white inversion when the Venomized heroes speak, but he also manages to revert it to the usual white and black color scheme and still make it something unique for the Poisons. And when the Poisons become enraged, the color of their text takes on a colorful palette, which makes it contrast even more against the Venom-speech. This is top notch work from Carmagna.
Verdict: Despite some notable flaws, and the reduction of other Venom hosts to make Eddie Brock the best Venom around, this is a really solid start to this event. For every complaint I have, two things are wonderfully executed. As is usually the case with Venom stories, the artistic team carries this issue, but hopefully Bunn’s story will pick up now that the exposition portion is over. This is the event for you if you are tired of Marvel’s big line wide crossovers.
- Colors & Letters
- Artistic storytelling
- Character assassination
- Little things that keep the world from coming to life
- Silent Symbiote