Venom Annual #1 Creeps Us Out with Symbiote Campfire Tales

by Tony Thornley

Annuals are often a mixed bag. A lot of them end up being considered disposable, but Marvel has made an effort since reintroducing them to make sure that’s not the case. In Venom Annual #1, four creative teams tell four campfire-style horror stories featuring the titular symbiote, but how does it work?

A gang of villains are trading tales in the Bar With No Name, leading to horror stories about Venom. The Scorpion (a former Venom host himself) is incredulous about each tale – encounters with Black Cat, Wolverine, and the Juggernaut. However he may change his tune before the night is over.
Like any anthology-style collection, the stories vary wildly, but thankfully, all of them are good at worst and GREAT at best. The creative teams include Donny Cates, Kev Walker, and Chris Sotomayor in the framing sequence, David Michelinie, Ron Lim, Scott Hanna, and Rachelle Rosenberg telling the Black Cat tale, Jeff Loveness, Tigh Walker and Rosenberg on the Wolverine story, and James Stokoe on the Juggernaut story, with Travis Lanham lettering throughout, and wrapped in covers by Paulo Sequeira and Rosenberg, and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The Black Cat story and Wolverine story are similar. Both feel like 90’s throwbacks, with a brawl, then understanding between the characters. Like I said, they’re both good stories, with a lot of similar strengths in dialogue, pacing and action. In particular, it’s great to see Lim on interiors again, and drawing a great Black Cat.
Cates and Walker’s story is good with a great twist at the end. However, outside the last page, it mostly serves to introduce the other tales. Walker’s shift in style to something more rounded and cartoony, away from his usual angular style, is interesting and works pretty well.

The highlight, without a doubt, is Stokoe’s story. It’s funny, and looks amazing. While the narration tells a tale of the Juggernaut overpowering Venom, we see it actually went the other way. Stokoe’s take on Cain Marko is the best the character has looked in ages. I would buy a version of this story expanded to three to six issues, without hesitation, if Stokoe was still creating it.
So like any annual, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s good to have a mixed bag that you end up enjoying in the end.
Venom Annual #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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