By now everyone knows the story of how the Venom symbiote came to Earth. We’ve never seen it told from the alien’s perspective though. That’s what we get with the Amazing Spider-Man Annual as we look back at an untold story from the wall-crawler’s past with a new set of eyes. This comic takes place shortly after Peter Parker returned from Secret Wars (the first one) with a new black suit.
It’s funny to see how quickly Peter’s life goes downhill after he gets back to his regular life. We learn that this can mostly be attributed to the symbiote as it furthers its bond with its new host. Peter is blowing off his job, his friends, and even Aunt May, while getting more and more aggressive as Spider-Man. So, why is this happening?
The reason may surprise you. The symbiote is pleased to be bonded with Peter. It calls him “the friend” and does what it can to try and make him happy. It’s just that it doesn’t quite understand how this world works. The symbiote sees Peter’s actions and tries to mimic them, thinking that this is how they’ll create a strong bond. It’s operating like a robot with no context for human emotion, although its heart is in the right place.
The symbiote narrates the issue with an almost childlike internal dialogue. Letterer Joe Caramagna uses a slightly rougher font for these caption boxes, speaking to the alien nature of this being. It’s not as jagged as what we’ve seen when it bonds with Eddie Brock. It’s like it’s trying to fit in here and act normal, which is what Peter would want.
The unsettling quality of the Amazing Spider-Man Annual is how the symbiote uses Peter as a puppet. When he goes to sleep, the creature springs into action, patrolling the streets. It maintains control of Peter while he’s in this state, so it forces him to sleep more and more. To his friends and loved ones, it would seem like he’s deeply depressed, but the truth is far worse. He’s being controlled by an alien symbiote.
The change in demeanor can be seen in Garry Brown’s artwork. In the beginning of the issue, he creates the same carefree nature we’ve come to associate with Spider-Man. This changes as the symbiote takes control. Although the character looks the same, the mannerisms are more precise, lacking the flexibility Spider-Man has in the field. This creates a more brutal attack pattern that’s made all the more chilling by the silence. Peter isn’t awake so he can’t throw out his signature quips in the middle of a fight.
Lee Loughridge’s colors speak to this as well. The costume’s color scheme doesn’t change, however the lights around it do. When the symbiote is driving, there’s an eerie quality to it. It’s an ominous tone lit by neon signs and moonlight. This is a monster playing at being human, not unlike Frankenstein’s creation.
In some ways, this story humanizes the symbiote, which up until recently was seen as a faceless entity looking to feed off of its host. Recent stories, including this one, add a ton of perspective to it and open up a world of possibilities for this alien creature. With a Venom movie looming on the horizon, it’s fitting that this story drops now. Writer Saladin Ahmed weaves this tale through the established history of the character, adding some context to an idea that started with just giving Spider-Man a cool black suit.