Writer: Donny Cates
Penciler: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letter: Clayton Cowles
Donny Cates is a star on the rise at Marvel, and he has brought me into titles that I would have never thought to look at. Venom has always been a character for me, who I have enjoyed as a guest star and quite frankly was most interesting as Agent Venom. But when I heard the original host, Eddie Brock was back with Cates at helm and art by Ryan Stegman, I was on board no matter what.
Cates throws an interesting wrinkle into the Venom backstory via a nightmare from the symbiote, with the nightmare proving that symbiotes have been on Earth much longer than initially thought. You instantly feel the struggle between Brock and the symbiote, with Brock fighting the urges and finally taking anti-psychotic to quiet the voice in his head. Which is masterfully done by Frank Martin, who has the thought balloons go from black and bold, fading to gray and eventually white, indicating the thoughts have dissipated. Brock goes out to check on a call about a Jack O’Lantern sighting, which turns out he is selling machine guns to the Grizzly, the Hippo and the Armadillo (I believe). I loved this choice by Cates, dropping in some z list villains for fun is as always a nice callback.
Brock pursues Jack O’Lantern who is revealed to be an impostor. Venom takes over and comes close to killing Impostor Lantern. The entire time Brock is struggling to gain control back of the symbiote, however when confronted by cops, Venom morphs into a version we have never seen before. This version of the symbiote has red veins coursing throughout its body and is speaking in Klyntar (at least that’s what it appears to be). Eddie is caught up in a gigantic explosion and wakes up tied to a chair by a man named Rex Strickland. He tells Eddie that Agent Venom was only the latest attempt by the military to weaponized the symbiotes. Strickland poses questions to Eddie that proves after all these years that we really don’t know much about the symbiote. He tasks Eddie with finding his old brothers in arms, who have been taken over by their symbiotes, and rescue them. This leads to Venom confronting a convoy full of amped up symbiotes. Just when he thinks he’s gotten them, they are whisked away into the night by a mysterious winged creature.
There are two things that I am really enjoying about this book: Cates writing style and the characterization of the symbiote. Cates has created a story that leads me in one direction and then throws me in the complete opposite. With the story opening on Jack O’Lantern, I thought I was in for a story focused around his character. Cates immediately gets rid of the villain and sets up these symbiote soldiers, which I figured would be the centerpiece of his run. He then kills off the soldiers, has some weird creature whisk the symbiotes away in the night. So I have no idea where this story will take us, but it is going to be exciting to watch it unfold. The characterization of the symbiote is interesting to me because we see some emotional range from it. The concept of something like Venom being scared and unable to take care of Eddie is something I hope we see more of.
Rating: 9 out of 10 stars