The mission statement of Venom so far has been to set the character apart from Spider-Man. Eddie Brock and his other should be more than a Peter Parker who sometimes eats brains. Well in this issue, the creative team spells that intention out even more clearly.
And they spell it in symbiote tendrils.
I have NEVER enjoyed a Venom series before this year. Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin and Clayton Cowles have made me see the light, though. This series acknowledges Venom’s history, but tells us how wrong we were about it. The symbiotes are beings born of evil, but they are given a great redemptive quality here.
Eddie and Miles Morales plummet to Earth after last issue’s cliffhanger. In this freefall we learn that the symbiote reconnecting with Knull moments before means that it’s suddenly regained much of what it had lost since separating from the hive mind. That means new powers – yes, the cover is literal, not symbolic – and a new confidence from the symbiote.
It also poses new risks, though. Knull can find them now. That means one thing, Eddie needs to team with the symbiote that had been posing as Ray Strickland, and bring the thunder down on Knull.
Cates’s story is five issues in, and he doesn’t even begin to slow down. This issue continues to be full of revelations and paradigm shifts for Venom. The character has needed this for a long time. It’s pulled him fully out of Spider-Man’s shadow.
Eddie remains interesting as well. I always found the character a bit boring and one-note. Not so any more. He’s desperate and driven to stop Knull. There’s a bit of self-preservation to it, but the symbiote hints that it’s so much more.
There’s a light within Eddie that makes this evil being want to be better. It’s a fantastic touch to a character that’s always been painted as a bad person. It deepens the symbiotes as well – they want to be better, and maybe even heroic.
The villain casts a shadow over the whole proceeding, too. Knull is a Lovecraftian creature of creeping dread. This is the best new villain the Marvel Universe has gotten in years, and his presence truly feels epic.
Stegman and Mayer prove themselves as the right creative team for this story over and over again. I never would have associated their work with horror prior to this. However, they have proven they are a team to beat.
Venom’s sudden evolution is put on the page in such a great way. The two-page spread of his wings is just astonishing. It’s a great twist, only a few pages into the issue. They also convey the growing tension as the characters figure out what’s coming for them.
Martin’s color art is just great to go with it. Setting this story at night and dusk adds to the horror movie feel. His palate is full of greys and reds, and it just throws it all over the top.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this might be my favorite big two book right now. It’s tense, scary, and I can’t wait for each issue.
Venom #5 is available now from Marvel Comics.