This week, another ‘Fresh Start’ debuts at the House of Ideas with Venom #1! Plus, a seasoned creative team with a ton of issues under their belt says goodbye to Deadpool.
Stay tuned for a detailed analysis of both books here at The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Ryan Stegman
Inked by JP Mayer
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Alexander Jones: With the symbiote passed back to Eddie Brock under the roof of a brand new tale, Venom may finally have a chance to carry his own series again. Better yet, one of Marvel’s most creative new writers, Donny Cates is joining the title with Spider-Man veteran Ryan Stegman working on the interior art for the series. Gentleman, start your thoughtful critiques of Marvel’s second Fresh Start comic!
AJ Frost: Hey there fine gentleman of ye merry round up of Marvel. Venom is such a weird thing for me. We’re the same age, and I have vague memories of being in comic stores in the ’90s with big Venom decals scaring the hell out of me. All those teeth! **shudder** Anyway, this issue is actually a surprisingly solid opening to Venom’s Fresh Start arc. The story was tight, the art was crisp, the violence was appropriate for a Venom yarn.
Joe Grunenwald: Greetings, gentlemen! The last time I read a Venom comic was in was probably during the “Maximum Carnage” storyline back in the ’90s? So I’m coming into this with an idea of who Venom is but not a ton of mental baggage for the character. From that perspective, as a “Fresh Start,” I found this issue really compelling.
Frost: This was a Venom designed for the new reader or the reader who hasn’t followed the storyline in twenty years.
Alexander Jones: I think I should preface anything I have to say regarding the issue by identifying my bias upfront; I hate Venom. However, I think we have seen Cates do enough solid Marvel work and show enough passion for the character the issue was worth a look for me. A lot of damage has been done by a variety of writers to Brock and trying to piece together any sort of a story with this character is difficult. I found it interesting how Cates was quick to reference Agent Venom and bring up what was going on with the character more recently. While I do think this is a solid start, to say the least, I think to sell ME on a Venom book you have to turn something exceptional in.
Grunenwald: I did like the references to Flash Thompson’s time as Agent Venom, which is a thing I know happened but I’m glad I didn’t need to know a ton about in order to follow the narrative.
Frost: I think Venom suffers from overexposure. People know the iconography of the character(s), but not much regarding the motivations or emotional beats of the character. As an overall package, this book delivers on providing a good introduction while not being pedantic.
Grunenwald: So I don’t know how the relationship between host and symbiote has been portrayed in recent years, but I really liked that Eddie and the symbiote have distinct personalities here.
Alexander Jones: I find Eddie Brock much less interesting than Flash Thompson and was actually reading his book and emotionally crushed when the symbiote swung back to Thompson. As far as the lore of this story goes, it feels like Cates is largely defining his own rules and using bits and pieces of what came before to push forward. One thing I want to ask you guys about is how the plot is certainly clever and definitely enjoyable but there isn’t quite the one premise, twist or idea breaking new ground here. From Cates’ Thanos debut, the book came alive like a bolt of lightning. This script while solid does not carry one core hook.
Frost: Venom has a different vibe though, which means a different structural approach. Thanos’ motivations are pretty self-evident on a universal scale. He’s an external creature. Venom is much more interiority, split-personality, quite literally. Venom is about reconciling with personal demons and Cates’ really plays with this trope throughout the title and, I presume, during this particular run. So, I understand why the story didn’t immediately draw you in, Alex. It’s a much quieter book, a little less interested in developing it’s pieces quite so quickly, and more about the long-game of the arc.
Grunenwald: I admit I’m not sure how interested I am in the mythology that’s being built here around the symbiotes and their history with the military, testing, etc. The thing which grabbed me with this installment was the relationship between Eddie and the symbiote. I actually think it’s an interesting representation of a person suffering from mental illness. Eddie is medicating in order to try and keep it together. He has this aspect of himself – his ‘other’ – he sometimes can’t control. He brings up how hard it is to function during those times, and we see what it’s like both when he’s not in control and when he is in control. The parallels are obvious, but I appreciated how well-done it was.
I can see how it would be hard to overcome a dislike for the character in order to get into the book, though, Alex.
Frost: Admittedly, Eddie’s an asshole and always has been. So getting to empathize with a jerk is a real delicate skill.
Jones: I don’t think there was anything about the relationship between Brock and the symbiote which I found to be trailblazing here. The only hook for me was the new backstory between Eddie and the other Agents teased here. While there is certainly room for change going forward, I definitely felt like a large portion of the comic was business-as-usual. The last scene also felt like a bad move pacing-wise for the story. The installment should have carried some sort of cliffhanger to keep readers interested for next month.
The end of the comic is very ambiguous.
Grunenwald: It is, and I wonder if it ties back to the opening nightmare sequence. With the Beowulf references, in the beginning, I’m wondering if the flying ‘God’ at the end of the issue is meant to be either Grendel or Grendel’s mother. (Beowulf fights a dragon, too, but that seems kind of boring.)
Frost: Dragons are pretty passé, nowadays. Meh, my opinion is to keep the ending ambiguous. That’s what the next issue is for.
Grunenwald: It also occurs to me the idea of a “Fresh Start” title referring to stories originally written in Old English isn’t entirely ‘new reader’-friendly.
Frost: I mean, Beowulf is all about hubris in the face of great challenge, so it’s probably just setting up the meta-narrative.
Jones: AJ, I have seen better material from Cates with stories bearing big issue one cliffhangers. There was some interesting stuff going on here but based on this issue alone I have no idea if or how it is going to come together. My greatest fear is this is going to turn into another Eddie Brock Venom ongoing series where Brock is a junkie serial killer and I am kind of just ambivalent regarding the whole thing. I would like to see someone make a case for Brock in a similar way Saladin Ahmed made a case for the Absorbing Man in his “Black Bolt” run but I just don’t see it here.
Grunenwald: I will say, I wasn’t in love with the art. It felt like the team was going for a Mike Deodato feel I didn’t think really worked.
Frost: Joe, I was just going to ask about the art too! But I had the complete opposite conclusion. I really dug Ryan Stegman’s work.
Jones: Stegman’s beefy pencils definitely come from the Greg Capullo school of comics and I think there is also some hybrid of Mike Deodato Joe mentioned earlier. I can’t say I enjoy the pencils but there are a few panels where it was interesting to see how Stegman interpreted the situation. One thing which dragged me down in the script and art was how annoyingly conventional the opening scene was where Brock is sad in his apartment and Brock’s anatomy is distorted and large.
Frost: I really wish the coloring of the opening Beowulf panels had stayed throughout the course of the comic. It had a really nice old-school, throw-back vibe.
Jones: I wish this series was birthed entirely out of that sequence.
Grunenwald: I’ve liked Stegman’s work in the past, and I did like the ‘washed-out’ coloring on the first couple of pages, but something with the inks and the colors on the rest of the art left me cold.
Frost: Some of the stuff is just batshit insane, and I think that jibs with the overall Venom aesthetic, so I thought it was cool.
Jones: Some of the anatomy and the fight sequences reflected the worst parts of comics for me. I also do not generally enjoy Stegman’s work and think that his art can really get out of hand at certain moments which this series is guilty of.
Grunenwald: So it sounds like Alex liked the first two pages and not so much the ensuing 20-ish pages.
Frost: Those opening pages were gold. I wish Marvel would just release a whole book like that. Some of the critiques with the anatomy, I get them at an intellectual level, but Venom is so ridiculous it never bothered me.
Grunenwald: Eddie Brock has always been drawn as stupidly muscular.
Jones: What kind of conclusion can we draw from Venom #1? How do you feel about the issue at the end of the day and Marvel’s Fresh Start initiative so far?
Frost: As we’ve seen with Marvel’s other “Fresh Start” line, they are being quite conservative in positions their creative teams to create stories which are new, but familiar. I think this book does a good job at running with the ethos to create a solid first entry into this new run.
Grunenwald: I’m going to call this one a BUY. It’s accessible for new readers and I’m intrigued by where it’s going.
Jones: I think Marvel’s head is in the right place and certainly believe this to be stronger than the last Venom ongoing title, but that is faint praise–I’m going with a SKIP!
Frost: A Marvel Roundup Divided!
Jones: Can we give Flash Thompson the symbiote back now?
Final Verdict: AJ and Joe say BUY while Alex says SKIP!
Despicable Deadpool #300
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike Hawthorne, Matteo Lolli, and Scott Koblish
Inked by Mike Hawthorne, Matteo Lolli, Scott Koblish, Terry Pallot and Craig Yeung
Colored by Nick Filardi, Ruth Redmond and Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Reviewed by AJ Frost
This is a big month for everyone’s favorite malformed mercenary. From screen-to-page, Deadpool is hitting some big milestones. While next week’s Deadpool 2 is a sign the character’s general cultural caché remains durable, this week’s Despicable Deadpool #300 is a creative changing of the guard and a loving (is that the right word? Maybe painful and downright disgusting are more appropriate appellations here) send-off to the writer who has put more words into Deadpool’s mouth than any other. But Deadpool, at his core, has been more of a tricky character to balance than most realize. While yes, his fourth-wall breaking and propensity for violence are his dramatic hallmarks, those elements alone do nothing to enhance the emotional—I use this term loosely— the connection millions of fans have cultivated through the years.
Does this issue bring anything new to the table? And, does it do its best to capstone long-time writer Gerry Duggan’s contributions to the Deadpool mythos in meaningful ways?
Well… it’s a mixed bag, to say the least. While this issue crafts a story which is wholly appropriate for Deadpool it is also chockfull of puerile humor and gags stretching out beyond the realm of good taste. The thrust of the issue all centers on the theme of the rest of the Marvel Universe attempting to capture and kill Deadpool, who we’ve seen feuding with the Avengers in the past. As usual, events don’t turn out as planned, and due to some alien trickery, rather than striking down the other Marvel heroes, anyone who approaches Deadpool just seems to vomit. A lot. And, let me be frank, it’s absolutely nauseating to read. The gag (pun intended, unfortunately) takes up a good number of pages in the early part of the issue and it’s disgusting in a particular unfunny way. To be honest, I was ready to chuck the issue aside because of this lingering focus on Deadpool’ vomit-inducing ability. When it became page after page of all these major Marvel icons vomiting, I got extremely uncomfortable and distracted. Maybe it’s just me, but anything related to showing the effects of nausea is alienating from a creative standpoint. It could also be I’m not the target audience for this joke as well.
As the issue progresses, however, a more classic Deadpool story emerges. As this is Duggan’s final issue, it allows him to reexamine his contributions to the lore in the inimitable Deadpool style of lampooning everything about the universe and those who have spent the time building it. There are references to older storylines hidden everywhere, and this being Deadpool, he gives a lovely reminisces before blowing everyone/thing away via shotgun. The artwork contained here from Mike Hawthorne, Scott Koblish, and Matteo Lolli runs the gamut, and despite my displeasure with the sick scene at the beginning of the issue, I cannot deny it wouldn’t have affected me so much if it was drawn so well. Every destroyed piece of tissue and muscle in here is rendered with glee—a Deadpool hallmark—so longtime fans will have something to cherish with this issue.
So, what’s the final verdict? I don’t want you, the reader, to be hung up on my own discomforts. Despicable Deadpool #300 does do an admirable job of showcasing and celebrating Duggan’s contributions while mercilessly spewing all over them. That’s good… I guess.
Final Verdict: The final breakdown goes like this. For me, this is a STRONG BROWSE. While I may be turned off from some of the more juvenile aspects of the book, there is a stronger than needed story here that will please longtime fans and tickle their funny bones with violent glee. Thanks for the laffs, Gerry!
I’ve been told that there’s a big wedding next week? Stay tuned for an analysis of the big X-Men wedding special!
Fruit snack aficionado. @AlexandComics