Daniel Way is known for taking on characters for long runs and changing them in ways nobody expected. He did this with Wolverine after he gained his memories back and did some fantastic work with Deadpool too. In 2003 he set his sights on Venom, which is now being re-released in a complete format delivering a unique take on the symbiote and Eddie’s journey.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Daniel Way’s tense and thrill-packed Venom run is collected in one volume! Somehow separated from Eddie Brock, the Venom symbiote has resurfaced near the Arctic Circle – hopping from host to host with the greatest of ease and on the run from enigmatic forces with their own agenda for the elusive alien. Ravenously hungry and craving adrenaline to satiate its appetite, the symbiote seeks out people experiencing intense, base emotions like rage, jealousy and hatred. As it cuts a bloody swath toward civilization through Canada’s northern regions, it sets its sights on a short, hairy guy with a bad temper: the X-Men’s Wolverine! And as the action moves to New York City, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four are forced to play damage control as…TWO bloodthirsty Venom creatures cause havoc?! Heeere’s Eddie!
Why does this matter?
Originally collected in three trade paperbacks aptly named “Shiver,”, “Twist,” and “Run,” this series collects all 18 issues. That’s a good thing in large part because this collection is one very long arc in itself and it even doubles back halfway through to explain some things. It’s also a different take on Venom which will have longtime fans salivating for more due to its unique premise.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
If you like horror stories you’re going to dig this book. Venom isn’t so much in this book as the symbiote is, and it’s carving up folks left and right. As the story progresses you learn why the symbiote is jumping from one body to another–eating each until it has had its fill–and it all connects back to Venom eventually. There’s some horrific violence and great images of the symbiote in the book (possibly because it’s wilder than ever) and it certainly scratches a Venom-loving itch.
This collection splits between three narratives quite cleanly, each delivering a horror style story and establishing the symbiote as more of a monster than a hero. It’s a horror story much like The Thing in that the characters are trapped and being slaughtered to death seems to be the only way out of their icy situation. As the story progresses Way reveals there are players involved that are mysterious and know things not even we could comprehend. The second half basically flashes back to how we got to the Arctic, revealing more about these mysterious characters and why the symbiote is killing everyone. Finally in the third act the story gets wrapped up, further progressing the female protagonist introduced in the first issue and completing a story that more or less changes Eddie Brock and Venom a teensy bit.
Fans of Marvel Comics will love the appearances of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. Each of these characters (and group) get a chance to shine and be a major part of the narrative, giving the book a superhero feel added to the horror angle. The Fantastic Four — Reed Richards in particular — are quite fun additions since you don’t see them tangling with Venom much.
The art is split between Francisco Herrera (with Sean Galloway), Paco Medina, and Skottie Young and covers by all-time greats like Sam Kieth and Mike Deodato Jr. In general, the art has a cartoony look, not unlike Humberto Ramos’ work with extreme distortion of limbs (and even fingers) and rather bulbous breasts on characters at times. This style is great when Venom, Mr. Fantastic, or Spider-Man are on the page, which is thankfully quite a bit. It can take you out of the story, especially when it attempts to get serious in the exposition-heavy moments, but overall it’s a really fun style that suits the character.
It can’t be perfect can it?
A lot of this collection can feel vapid and pointless. The first third in particular takes forever to get going since it teases you each chapter rather than progressing things or even showing the Symbiote. I guess Daniel Way thought it’d be scarier if we don’t see the monster, but it drags things out and can be frustrating when the cover literally says Venom on it. Other elements, like Wolverine, who has some fun fight scenes, end up being a drive-by appearance, especially when he seems to just walk out of the story giving up on doing a thing about this symbiote. I suppose a lesson in this collection is that you shouldn’t make your title character a chaotic killing machine with no personality.
The book can also drag in an exposition heavy sort of way. Late in the collection it becomes comically complicated with who wants what and who these mysterious characters are. Way leaves no stone unturned explaining it all, but in a sewer scene with characters standing around until, conveniently, characters with bones to pick show up in time. Not enough is done along the way with the female protagonist to make the audience care at all about her, which further makes all this explaining (and the eventual conclusion) boring.
Is it good?
This is an interesting take on the Venom character, letting loose the symbiote and revealing how dangerous it can be without a stable host. It also has plenty of great looking art with fights involving big title characters. Unfortunately, a lot of the narrative can drag and seem pointless, making the overall experience interesting, but undeserving of your interest.