18th Jun2021

‘Venom #35’ Review (Marvel Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Donny Cates, Phillip Kennedy Johnson | Art by Ryan Stegman, Various | Published by Marvel Comics

I’ve written in a few previous reviews about my, at best, ambivalence about Venom as a character. I’ve never really took to him. I say that as someone who bought the alien symbiote costume’s first appearance from my local newsagent back in the day, who bought Venom’s first actual appearance, and even several of his mini-series. Still have them all too. My problem, I think, is that I still associate Venom with that whole overblown 90’s era. Big guns, gratuitous violence, and books that had ‘in your face’ art but little story behind them. Venom was one of the big Marvel characters front and centre during all this, and a poster boy for the excess of it all. He wasn’t alone of course, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, The Punisher, any anti-hero bad boy Marvel could muster was exploited to the max. Not my favourite era obviously. So why am I reviewing a book featuring said poster boy?

Well, number one, it’s a 200 issue oversized anniversary book, and those landmarks should be acknowledged and appreciated. Number two, I tend to enjoy Donny Cates writing, and I hear he’s been doing good stuff on Venom. Number three, I genuinely don’t believe there are bad characters, just bad writing and the wrong approach to story and character, and I want this issue to prove that to me. An honourable mention as well to all the variant covers, all of them are superb, and the fantastic cover gallery at the end of the book. As I haven’t been reading the book I’m coming in a little behind the curve, though I’ve kept an eye on reviews and have a rough idea what’s going on. So, let’s jump in.

So, things sure have changed since I last checked in. Eddie is both older and more powerful, now able to connect to the symbiote hive mind and control them, this all spinning out of the King in Black event recently, with the fall of Knull, the symbiote God. Eddie is now raising Dylan, his son, who has strong symbiote connections himself. They also have a symbiote with them, one whom is truly free as Eddie released him from the hive mind. I see a Wandavision style offbeat Disney Plus sitcom right there, what a premise. Controlling an independent symbiote and a teen? Good luck with that. One interesting theme is what is the symbiote when not connected to anyone or anything? Dylan asks the symbiote just that. What do I call you when you’re not half of Venom?

Of course, you can’t have an anniversary book without a Peter Parker guest appearance and we get a nice one. In a few pages Cates perfectly captures the history and relationship between Peter and Eddie, the guilt Peter feels at bringing back that costume in the first place and everything Eddie’s been through since. Eddie, though, is now on a Dr Manhattan level of existence, everywhere at once. While chatting to Peter he’s also having a meeting with The Avengers. Both cool and Thanos level powerful. The downbeat feel of the book keeps growing as you move through it, with the feeling that Cates is taking Eddie somewhere that may not be what he wants, or we expect. One interesting development is that Eddie thinks the hugely powerful Maker is returning, and needs to warn everyone.

The Maker was the Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe, now insane and in control of a powerful symbiote himself. So powerful he easily beat Venom. Eddie is now aware he is planning to return, and warns everyone he can to prepare. He also points out he’s too damaged to help out himself, he can’t really continue as Venom, but he does have a replacement in mind. A very familiar one actually. There’s also a nice interlude with Dylan at Midtown High, almost a carbon copy of the old days when Peter Parker was bullied by Flash Thomson. Dylan’s certainly no nerd though. The book ends with a certain event that actually felt a little rushed to me, especially as it makes huge changes in the status quo of the Venom books. Let’s just say that it’s a development that wasn’t for me but your mileage may vary. Cates certainly didn’t take the easy route on this.

Final thoughts? I really enjoyed the book. Cates wrote Eddie Brock beautifully, giving him depth and personality, and even explaining away while early Venom was so ‘bad’. He was fuelled by Eddie’s anger, so the symbiote just reflected that emotion rather than caused it. The dialogue was also nicely done, some nice connections between the characters. The art was good throughout, obviously varying as there was a whole host of guest artists involved, all of whom had past connections to the character. It was a perfect swan song for the regular creative team as well, in the sense that it both closed one door and yet kicked open another. This is a Venom book I can read and enjoy.

This is not your father’s Venom. Or my Venom. This is well written, character driven Venom, and long may he last. After all…

We are Venom.

****½  4.5/5

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