VENOM #1 should please all Eddie Brock fans. Donny Cates tells a truly interesting story about Brock that doesn't seem to retread on old ground. It feels fresh and that's very welcome. The dark, gothic tone fits this book perfectly. Ryan Stegman's art is, as always, fantastic.
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Gritty First Issue

VENOM #1 is the first book in a long while to truly draw my interest towards Eddie Brock. In this inaugural issue by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, Eddie Brock’s bond with his symbiote is weakening. His “other” is becoming more and more violent and unhinged, while Eddie just wants to help innocents in his own twisted way.

Cates adds a whole bunch of melodrama to the Venom saga. Just from VENOM #1, this series already seems much darker than other recent Venom books. Cates makes Brock’s connection with the symbiote into a horror story. Stegman’s art, along with Frank Martin’s colors, makes the book even darker and moodier. Everything looks appropriately grimy with Stegman’s trademark highly detailed artwork.

VENOM #1 really drew me in and made me curious to see where Cates is going with the rest of the series.


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Symbiotic Suffering in VENOM #1

VENOM #1 begins with Eddie Brock experiencing a strange nightmare. In it, medieval soldiers are attacked by a symbiote “demon” that may or may not be bonded to classical literature character Beowulf. Brock awakens and realizes that it was his symbiote’s dream all along. As it turns out, his symbiote has been acting very strange recently. It’s been becoming more bloodthirsty, screaming at Brock that it’ll kill him and eat his brains at random times. This leaves Brock in near-constant agony. It costs Brock his job as a tabloid reporter (which he became again in the prior VENOM series) and draws him on the edge of suicide.

He sedates the symbiote with pills and heads off to take photos of the new Jack o’Lantern. When Jack begins attacking cops, the symbiote reawakens and takes control. He beats Jack nearly to death before transforming into a strange-looking version of itself and attacking the police.

Venom is then ambushed, taken out and tortured by a mysterious older man. Eddie wakes up in the old man’s custody. There, he learns that Spider-Man wasn’t the first person on Earth to become bonded to a symbiote. To find out more, pick up VENOM #1.

VENOM #1 page 8. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Symbiotic Horror in VENOM #1

If you are a fan of Donny Cates’ THANOS run, I must warn you, VENOM #1 is almost devoid of any humor. Unlike his surprisingly lighthearted work on THANOS, this book is played completely straight. I actually really appreciate this.

VENOM works very well as a borderline horror story. In Cates’ book, we see the psychological trauma of a man who hears the most horrible thoughts from a voice inside his head. Much like many of the greatest horror films, it feels like an allegory. Brock’s connection with the symbiote is very similar to the auditory hallucinations people with schizophrenia face. This probably isn’t the first time a writer has made that connection with Brock, a man who will talk to his suit even in plain clothes in public, but it feels even more apparent now.

As the issue goes on, the allegory sort of lessens when we learn more about why the symbiote is acting this way, but I hope to see more like that in future issues. One other aspect I loved about Cates’ writing is the overall darker tone. Out of place humor bogged down the prior series by Mike Costa. It undercut the more serious and interesting aspects of the comic. Cates does away with that this issue, making it an almost depressing read, but in a way that feels satisfying to longtime Venom fans. Cates’ book feels like a throwback to ‘90s Venom stories, except without the ridiculous ‘90s excess. If you loved those older books, you won’t want to miss VENOM #1.

Stegman and Martin’s Gothic Take in VENOM #1


Stegman’s artwork is just excellent this issue. His cartoony style blends well with the serious-yet-outlandish plot of the book. It’s the right mixture of hyper-detailed and stylized pencils that makes this book look unique. He sets the right tone in the first few pages in Eddie’s apartment. The area looks cramped and dilapidated, the right location for such a sorry character to be living. Martin’s color work amps up the moodiness, with long shadows obscuring much of the room.

Another scene that looks amazing is the reveal of Venom’s new, possessed look. It’s such a surprise from the page before that I felt somewhat creeped out by it. It looks like something from a nightmare, with the large, exposed veins and the strange holes throughout the suit. You could practically feel the suit’s texture in your head as you look at it.

Final Thoughts: VENOM #1

Venom: A Metaphor for Addiction

VENOM #1 is a promising first issue in hopefully a long-running series. It brings Venom back to his scarier roots, back when he was a threat and not just another spider-themed anti-hero. Venom fans new and old should pick up this book. If you’re excited about the new movie and want to bone up on the character, this is the book for you.

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