It’s finally here… after a fairly sizable three-year long run with thirty-five issues, various one-shots, an annual, and a couple of Marvel mega-events comes the end of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s run on Venom. There are plenty of big releases coming at us from the House of Ideas this week but since this is a particularly unique book, we thought the entire run required some examining before we fully close the door on this chapter of Venom. Spoilers abound!
We’ve got a review of that books and some quick thoughts on a few more books in the Rapid Rundown section, all ahead on this week’s edition of the Marvel Rundown!
Written by Donny Cates and Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art by Ryan Stegman, Kev Walker, Danilo S. Beyruth, Ron Lim, Guiu Vilanova, Gerardo Sandoval, and Mark Bagley
Inking by JP Mayer, Jay Leisten, Kev Walker, Danilo S. Beyruth, Scott Hanna, Guiu Vilanova, Gerardo Sandoval, Victor Nava, and John Dell
Colouring by Frank Martin, Chris O’Halloran, Jim Campbell, Matt Milla, Alex Sinclair, Chris Sotomayor, and Richard Isanove
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Cover by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin
If you’d have told a younger version of myself that I would have read thirty-five straight issues of Venom, with the accompanying one-shots and associated events, then… I would have probably come to the reasonable conclusion that there must be some pairing of writer and artist that got me interested in the character. Which is indeed what has occurred. It’s interesting to me how these things play out, how a character like Venom can transform from something so associated with the decade they debuted in to becoming a prestige character that warrants the involvement of two of the best writers in comics alongside a comics legend to tell the next chapter of their story.
Which leads me to the most disappointing part of the story; for a run on the character that, so to speak, broke the chains (pun intended) of the ’90s, for the character to not necessarily revert to, but carry with them at all times a pastiche of that decade came across as a little overplayed. I’m of course referring to the fact that the mantle of Venom has passed on from father to son, to Dylan Brock, and that his version of the costume has these chains wrapped around his wrists. This is likely a reference to the “kids like chains” quote attributed to Todd MacFarlane, which Cates also referenced in his and Geoff Shaw’s Image series Crossover, the first arc of which is titled “Kids Love Chains.” They probably did, but not anymore? And are kids even reading Venom nowadays?
It’s a small gripe but one that couldn’t get out of my head and thus, it’s now on the internet. Aside from that, this was a pretty wonderful issue for readers of this run. I’ve been there from the beginning as Cates was on one of those hit-after-hit trajectories early in his career at Marvel. It’s an issue that touches and revisits everything this run has done, but leaves the whole Maker plot as a dangling thread in a pretty blatant tease for whatever atrocity will befall the Marvel Universe in the next year or two.
To put it simply, it’s refreshing to see a character undergo such a radical change to their status quo. Eddie was in a really bad place at the beginning of the story and now he commands a legion of symbiotes as the King in Black. The process has seemingly rapidly aged him, which confused me at first because Dylan has also rapidly aged but that’s likely due to not wanting to have a child as the new Venom. He looks about fourteen or so here, so around the age that Peter Parker was when he started off as Spider-Man. Eddie’s state as basically a cosmic statesman, meeting with various groups about threats he’s picking up on, is not only interesting as a concept itself but is also a super fascinating take on Eddie that in the grand arc of the character feels almost inevitable. An angry man looking for a way to direct his anger becoming such an important force in his world. It frankly just has me excited to see where he’ll show up next.
Marvel has assembled quite the artistic team to draw this massive issue. Unless I’m mistaken all of these artists have at one point drawn the character in some fashion, so long-time readers of the character will likely appreciate this as a nostalgic blast to the face. All the pages were quite good but the obvious highlight was Stegman’s section, who has really redefined the look of the character as well as the world he inhabits. The transition between his and the other sections are honestly a bit jarring since his are much more stylised and in-keeping with the tone of the series.
Another major complaint I have with the run overall is how much the story was told in event form rather than in the series itself. I understand that the series was teasing some huge stories which naturally had to play out in event form, but a heck of a lot of issues of the main series are just tie-ins to other stuff which takes away from the evergreen possibility of this run. “You wanna read Cates’ run on Venom? Sure, just read the first two arcs, then skip those tie-ins that aren’t written by him, then alternate every other issue…” It’s even worse collected since Marvel is already releasing those “Venom by Donny Cates” hardcovers which just collect the ongoing series. They had Stegman drawing those events way in advance that these are the first sequential pages he’s drawn in the series since issue ELEVEN! From February 2019! After a while it became clear that the events were truly pushing the story forward whereas the ongoing was just buying time until then. Again, not a criticism that can be levied at the series since publishing and marketing has a lot to do with it, but since we’re discussing the run I felt like I had to bring it up.
Besides the issues I had with it, I thought this was a strong ending to a strong run on a character I couldn’t stand, but one I now can. It’s gorgeous and huge and very, very expensive but worth it if you’ve been reading the run.
Verdict: STRONG BROWSE
- Fantastic Four #33
- After the events of the last issue I couldn’t wait to find out how things would resolve themselves as the Fantastic Four journey to Latveria for the wedding of Dr. Doom and Victorious. Writer Dan Slott’s current run on the FF has been a fun cosmic romp, full of great bits and dynamic moments, and FF#33 delivers all of this. After Doom wins a duel with Mr. Fantastic, Reed now has to be the Best Man at his wedding. As part of a Latverian tradition, all guests are forgiven for past transgressions, the FF are given an opportunity, Godfather style, to squash all animosity with Doom. As the First Family dances on a razor’s edge hoping to start fresh with their greatest enemy, everyone’s favorite flaming frat boy has to toss a burning monkey wrench into things. If you haven’t been reading the Fantastic Four, just know that this run has all of the great things we associate with classic runs of the past and I feel like more people should be talking about this book. — GC3
- The Mighty Valkyries #3
- I know this is a five-issue miniseries but I sincerely hope it never ends. Writers Jason Aaron and Torunn Grønbekk continue to do a great job weaving back and forth between the dual narratives for Jane Foster and new Valkyrie Rūna, and both stories remain compelling both individually and in concert with each other. Artists Mattia De Iulis and Erica D’Urso (with colorist Marcio Menyz) both turn in beautiful visuals on this issue, and even though they have vastly different styles the transitions between their pages never feels jarring. This is just a great book all-around. —JG
- Planet-Size X-Men #1
- At the end of House of X #1, Magneto cryptically intoned to the humans in the room that “You have new gods now.” Planet-Size X-Men #1 feels like a culmination of the promise of those five words, as mutants expand their reach into the stars and literally bend an entire planet to their will. The tone of incoming X-Men writer Gerry Duggan‘s script gives the issue an appropriate feeling of gravitas, but it’s the visuals from Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia that are the clear superstar of this book. It’s a gorgeous comic to look at, and it sets up a fascinating escalation of the X-books’ overall status quo. I’m interested to see how it’s explored in the already-large X-line, and how it’s reflected in the rest of the Marvel line. —JG
Next week, Marvel’s Pride one-shot arrives, Gamma Flight debuts, and Heroes Reborn reaches its conclusion!