If you’re a fan of Venom, you know Donny Cates has been infusing the series with crazy ideas, great back story, and a narrative that has your jaw hit the floor at least once every issue. You might also know “Venom Island” kicked off in issue #21, with longtime Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley at the helm. You may also know Absolute Carnage just wrapped up and Eddie Brock is suffering the ramifications of killing the man wearing the Carnage Symbiote. It’s man vs. Symbiote in the second part of the new story arc, out today!
This issue opens with Eddie running as a jungle burns behind him. It has Vietnam vibes as the horror that is Carnage looms in the bushes. Cates does well to set up what is basically a Rambo or maybe more closely a Predator style story as a man with only a few weapons must combat something evil and unknown. He’s certainly the underdog in this story since it’s only Eddie, Carnage, and a whole lot of innocent animals on the island. Innocent animals that are easily possessed, if you know what I mean. The story has a nice horror vibe and Cates has effectively dropped Eddie Brock into a horror narrative we don’t normally see him in.
This issue also develops Eddie’s s on, Dylan, and what he’s going through post-Absolute Carnage. Once again, I have to marvel at Cates’ ability to throw in a reveal or two to completely change your mind on what is going on and where we go from here. The imagination is going to run wild when it comes to Dylan and Eddie’s story here.
The art by Bagley continues to be everything that made it good in your childhood when he was drawing Amazing Spider-Man. It’s interesting how artists have a specific look for classic characters, and that goes for Eddie here, who looks a little different than how Ryan Stegman draws him, but oh so classic. The colors are by Frank Martin and Erick Arciniega and they play with light and fire well here. Inker Andy Owens does a great job infusing a bit of shadowy darkness to the story, reminding us this is more horror than a heroic tale. Props go to Bagley for some inventive headstones thrown into a key double-page splash. They are shockingly silly considering what is going down in the scene.
One downside of this issue is how much time it spends reminding us of the importance of the island and explaining why there are weapons there. I do appreciate the explanation — it makes the reveal pay off, but to spend four pages on this speeds up the length it’ll take to read this book.
Venom continues to be a great rollercoaster of surprises, twists, and head-turning action storytelling. Cates and company continue to prove you can stuff 20 pages with consistently intriguing material, when so many other books have so little to tell.
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