In the month since the last issue of Venom, which had the symbiote headlining the first story arc of Marvel Legacy, we have had 3 issues of Edge of VenomVerse and 3 isuses of VenomVerse proper. Following this issue, we will have a four part Venom storyline, pitting the antihero against Kraven, as well as another two issues of VenomVerse. This event will be followed up with Venom Inc, a 6 part crossover between Venom and Amazing Spider-Man. This is all before 2018 rolls in, which thankfully will have Marvel obsessing about the Phoenix and not over saturating the market with Venom.
VENOM 154: Life Is But A Dream
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Paulo Siqueira
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Inkers: Walden Wong & Cam Smith & Paulo Siqueira
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
C.Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Editors: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis & Allison Stock
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Monster, Parasite, The First Words They Called Me: Venom continues to develop an independent identity outside its relationship with Eddie Brock. We learn Venom is knowingly altering Eddie’s brain so that it can spend more time learning on its own. It also takes control of Eddie’s body while his brain wanders, pushing Eddie to act more heroic than usual. Eddie visits Liz Allan for more testing, although Venom suspects Eddie has another reason for visiting Liz. After Eddie crashes, Venom visits the priest he attacked in issue 150 and asks for guidance and forgiveness. The priest tells Venom that he will find forgiveness in a love he has to work to earn. Our issue ends with Venom vowing to earn that love.
Bad Words They All Put On Us: I have been asking for a Venom-focused issue for years and Marvel finally delivers. This issue reflects on Venom’s history and reveals how the actions of the past shape the broken character Venom has become. It is easily the strongest work Mike Costa has done with the character. When this series was announced, Marvel hinted at a return to a more sinister Venom. Rather than having the character revert to old habits, the sinister aspects come from Venom’s desire to evolve. We see Venom willingly torturing and altering Eddie, for its own personal gain. We can see how the actions of Peter, Mac, Lee, and Flash shape Venom in contrasting ways, making Venom multifaceted. We also see Venom evolving independent of his hosts in interesting and disturbing ways. I really like how they bring Venom’s past with brains back in a thoughtful way. The relationship between symbiote and host has never been more dysfunctional and it is fascinating to watch play out.
On top of strong characterization, Costa nails the pacing. The reflection on past hosts is slow, taking most of the issue to unfold. It allows Eddie to be contrasted against Venom’s other hosts, and the hosts to play against each other. Lee and Flash are interesting reflections of one another, as both used Venom to gain power but acted very differently with that power. I would argue the only scene Eddie has agency in is the visitation with Liz Allan. Costa seems to be moving the two towards some sort of relationship and I can get behind it, largely because the different feelings Venom and Eddie have towards Liz could lead to interesting conflict down the line.
When I was younger, I thought I had a revolutionary idea about Venom: what if someone recreated Alien in the MU, but with Venom? Between the Giger-esqe artwork in recent Renew Your Vows issues and the very xenomorphic design Paulo Siqueira gives Venom this issue, this revelation was clearly not as unique as I thought. I wish Siqueira had redesigned Venom for this new era, since his work here is both familiar and unique. He can make a shapeless Venom envelop the entire panel and when bonded with Eddie, Venom looks more terrifying than ever (the smile alone is haunting.) Siqueira’s work at times seems almost like a painting and he often overlays panels over top of a painting backdrops. Clayton Cowles does an excellent job of lettering these pages; he captions the page in prosaic ways rather than having the dialogue naturally exist on the page.
Siqueira’s work is not as strong with human figures. His facial features feel unnatural and the emotion conveyed does not always feel right; Eddie looks more like he is physical pain than surprised he slept in. He also is not the best at minimizing characters in backgrounds, an essential feature of most comic book art. Where he does excel is in scene execution. The sequence where Eddie wakes up plays out slowly on the page. First we see things from his perspective, where a hazy filter is lain over the art to indicate blurry vision. Then he is blinded by the light pouring from the curtains, while Venom slithers towards him. A sense of haste is added by speed lines in the background as Eddie rips out of the apartment. A single page, yet a complicated sequence of events that makes the scene come to life.
Rachelle Rosenberg delivers some interesting artistic choices in this issue. Because of the painting like qualities of Siqueira’s work, Rosenberg often colors to create a sense of mood, rather than creating a realistic world. She uses light to define darkness in sinister ways, she casts unnatural red hues over horrifying images, and she creates harsh sterile areas (on tv and in flashbacks). As twilight falls in the comic, it turns a bloody red while Venom swings into action. The same colors are used repeatedly but are often presented in different ways (such as the use of blue in Lee’s flashback to indicate pain, but wonder in Flash’s flashback.) At times, she uses a muted palette (like with the color purple) while at other times her palette is luminescent (such as any time the color green appears on the page).
Verdict: This issue surprised me. It has nuance that is missing from the rest of Mike Costa’s Venom work and Paulo Siqueira does an excellent job of realizing the new type of monster Venom has become. Sadly, Siqueira will not be sticking around but the next issue will see Venom veteran Mark Bagley taking over artistic duties. Hopefully Costa can keep up the strong writing he delivered here. The villain who thinks himself the hero of his story is the type of evil Venom I want to see.
- Nuanced Venom
- Reflective of Venom’s legacy
- Disturbing art
- Interesting coloring choice
- Weak human figures