02nd Jul2021

‘The Philosophy of Venom’ Review (Titan Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Venom Symbiote/Eddie Brock | Art by Various | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Hardback, 128pp

I’m probably a good person to review this visual retrospective of Venom, because I’m not the characters biggest fan but I have been following his comic book appearances all the way back to his first one, which I still have. Rightly or wrongly, I still associate Venom with the overblown 1990’s comic scene, all overblown violence, exaggerated art, and anti-heroes. Shelves groaned under the multiple books being put out featuring Punisher, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Venom. Some were pretty good to be fair, but many were just pumped out to try and make a quick buck. My memories of much of the 90’s comic output are not great ones. Venom, though, like the other characters has shown over time that handled correctly, he can be a strong character. The recent Donny Cates run is worth a look to see what I mean. To reach that point, though, we must first go back to the beginning…

So, does Venom have a ‘philosophy’? Not really, but it’s as good a hook as any to give this tribute book a structure. Seemingly written by Venom himself, or co-written by Eddie Brock and the symbiote if you prefer, the book is broken down into 13 chapters, all with their own focus. ‘The Soul behind the Symbiote’, ‘Symbiote Snacks’, ‘Say Venom’, you get the picture. So, as Chapter One asks, ‘Who is Venom?’. Venom has actually been around since Amazing Spider-Man #300 way back in 1988, though the alien symbiote costume had been around since 1984 when it first latched onto Peter Parker during Secret Wars. The symbiote has not been particularly monogamous either, attaching itself to Mac Gargan (The Scorpion) and Flash Thomson (Agent Venom) at times, apart from Peter and Eddie.

Split into these thirteen chapters, the book takes a light approach to the material, focusing more on visual design, short, sweet and witty text, and culling some very nice art from the Marvel archives. The art is chosen to represent the particular point each chapter is making, though in a light, superficial way. The book has clearly been designed to be one that you don’t pick up and read from cover to cover, but one that you dip in and out of. My main enjoyment came from recognising individual panels or covers, even though I haven’t picked some of these books up in decades. They reminded me that Venom has always been a visually interesting character, one that lends itself to science fiction and horror as well as straightforward superheroics. The difference in the art, depending on which era it is taken from, is also interesting.

Visually, the book is fun, with a nice mixture of interior comic book panels blown up to page size with some especially nice cover art, some painted. The text is very much tacked on, and doesn’t really add much to things. It is intentionally written in the first person as Venom so was never going to be Shakespeare, but for me just detracts from the main selling point, the art itself. This does make me think what the market is here. Is it aimed at longtime Venom fans from the comics? If so, I think an art book with just art references and very little text would have been the better way to go. Marvel have put out many of these ‘poster’ style books, I have a few myself. Or is it aimed at fans coming in from the Tom Hardy movie, in which case it would have been better to have more in depth history and explanations to round out the character. For me, it doesn’t really satisfy or please either group.

Did I enjoy this book? A bit. Did I dislike it? No, but I did feel it was a missed opportunity. As a very superficial, surface level only look at the character, maybe aimed at older kids, then this is perfectly fine. For older fans, who want a bit more substance I suspect, there is not too much here for them. I do think there’s a little fun in here for everyone, but perhaps not enough to fully satisfy for the price tag. It is certainly accessible though.

Still, Venom’s proven me wrong before, and maybe his fans appetite for anything fangs and tongue is as big as his own.

Though hopefully they have better table manners.

*** 3/5

The Philosophy of Venom is released on July 13th by Titan Comics. It’s available in the US and Canada from Amazon.

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