Those of us who don’t read Venom probably don’t realize it, but the character is going through a sort of renaissance. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have in only 12 issues reformed the character, made his Symbiote’s origin more interesting, and made Eddie Brock more complex. Volume 2 is out today and in it, we learn about Eddie’s father and family secrets, and the Symbiote has some serious reckoning to do.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The blockbuster hit of summer 2018 continues! Eddie Brock’s alien symbiote has been disobeying its human host – but the reason why only leads to new questions about the creature and its other-worldly origins!
Why does this matter?
This trade paperback is titled The Abyss, but it could easily go by, “That time I broke up with my best friend.” There is some serious back and forth between Eddie and the Symbiote as Eddie learns the alien may not have been as honest as he thought.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Donny Cates is a very generous writer and this collection along with the first one prove it. Both contain big twists, big reveals, and story elements other writers would drag out over 30 issues, by Cates gets it done in twelve. Often with superhero comics, you get your standard fight, a twist or two, and plenty of good art, but ultimately not much changes in the grand scheme of things. With Cates’ work, however, you leave a comic feeling as it mattered. You get that here due to new details emerging as far as the Symbiote goes and also with Eddie’s personal life. For the longest time, I’ve viewed Venom as a simplistic hero that’s more style than substance. The suit is cool, he drools green ooze and not much else. Cates clearly loves this character and proves as much with his plotting and ideas in this series. I don’t want to spoil anything, which is hard with a comic like this since it’s all about big reveals. Let’s just say Eddie needs to figure out two very big mysteries as well as, in a sense, get his mojo back. All this when he was basically godly last volume.
Character writing is very good and Cates continues to explore them via character traits tied to real life experiences. It makes the character feel more well rounded and thus more interesting. The Maker aka. Mr. Fantastic from the Ultimate universe is the main antagonist, but really it’s the Symbiote that Eddie is wrestling with. This puts the narrative strictly in an identity crisis sort of place thanks to Eddie and the Symbiote being so closely bonded. For the most part, Cates accomplishes the final twist of the story in a believable way due to all the build-up and good character writing leading up to it.
The art is split between Ryan Stegman for three issues, Iban Coello for two, and Joshua Cassara for two (Stegman and Cassara share an issue. The math adds up!). The opening chapter by Coello is an interrogation scene done well. There is a great cutaway to the Symbiote wreaking havoc which reveals an ever so slightly different take on Venom that’s quite cool. Stegman, inker JP Mayer, and color artist Frank Martin do a great job with the flashbacks in issue #10. Character writing is one thing, but Stegman should be given just as much credit for the visual details in the character’s facial expressions and body language to help reveal the character. In the 11th issue, Cassara and Stegman trade off and do a great job. The ooey, gooey nature of the Symbiote is quite cleverly used in the dream sequence early on to show it surrounding and crudding up the memories of Eddie. The face of both Eddie and the Symbiote are incredibly genuine when they are shouting at one another and you can see the pain in their anger.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The Maker is kind of just there to poke and prod Eddie but not much more. He has his own motivations, but aside from being a visually strange character to go along with Eddie, doesn’t do much for the story. I guess he’s caught in the middle of Eddie and the Symbiote’s issues and that’s what stops him from getting his way?
Other issues include the slowness of the start of the story and the action is quite limited in this collection. Venom isn’t really fighting anyone, it’s all internal struggle, which is fine, but for a superhero book it seems off, especially for this character.
Is it good?
A good collection that probes the character that is Eddie Brock and the Symbiote. It’s a fascinating take on the character albeit far different from the action-heavy first volume.