VENOM #2 BY DONNY CATES, RYAN STEGMAN, JP MAYER AND FRANK MARTIN
Story
Art
Characterization
Summary
VENOM #2 is downright scary. However, it's also an outstanding book. Fans of Venom should not miss this book. Donny Cates adds some great new Venom lore to the mix, and also tells a chilling story. Ryan Stegman's art looks like it's right out of a horror movie, and I love it.
95 %
Horrifying Fun

VENOM #2 gives us some much-desired backstory about the mysterious Rex Strickland. Donny Cates takes us back to Vietnam to witness the origin of Strickland, as well as his symbiote.

Cates continues to bring us a truly solid book filled with horror, genuinely unsettling images, and, of course, intense symbiote action. It’s basically everything you’ll ever need from a Venom book, and it works just beautifully. This is thanks, in part, to Ryan Stegman and Frank Martin’s disturbingly chilling artwork. Page after page is filled with moody horror movie lighting on top of sickeningly detailed, horrific images. Stegman may be at the top of his game with this book. I don’t think he’s been better, and that’s really saying something.

Spider-Fans and Venomaniacs — pick up VENOM #2: it’s Venom at his best.

The Symbiote Goes Wild in VENOM #1

I Hate the Smell of Napalm in the Morning

Last issue, Venom was kidnapped by a mysterious figure named Rex Strickland, who said he and a team of commandoes in Vietnam were symbiote hosts long before Eddie Brock. He tasks Brock with saving his old team from S.H.I.E.L.D., but the mission goes horribly wrong.

In VENOM #2, we see the aftermath of the failed mission. Brock lies on the ground with a gaping hole in his chest: bone and muscle poke through the disgusting wound. His symbiote tries desperately to heal him and succeeds. Venom returns to Strickland and turns once again into a horrific, ancient-language spouting version of himself. He dips his head into some fire, which temporarily cleanses the dark spirit from his symbiote.

Then, Strickland tells Venom his origin: he was a soldier in Vietnam, and was nearly killed by a rain of bullets and napalm. Not long after, he awoke, badly burned and disfigured, to see Nick Fury order some men to bond him with a symbiote. This symbiote was a small piece of a larger, dragon-looking symbiote that S.H.I.E.L.D. excavated. Now, in the present, the dragon, known to the symbiotes as their “god,” has reawakened, and it’s up to Venom to stop it.

VENOM #2
VENOM #2 page 6. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Cates dials up the horror in this issue. Opening the comic by focusing slowly into Brock’s gaping chest wound serves as a disturbing yet fascinating visual. More on that further down in this review.

VENOM #2 confirms this won’t really be a fun, lighthearted ride. No, if the last issue left you wanting a more lighthearted Venom book, look elsewhere. This book is suitably dark and somewhat depressing, but that fits Eddie’s character well. He used to tell people he’d eat their brains. He’s not exactly a paragon of virtue.

Next stop is Vietnam in VENOM #2

I really like where Cates is going with Strickland’s story. It doesn’t feel like the retreat of so many other “new symbiote host” stories. Instead of being yet another offspring of Venom, we see that symbiotes have been on Earth for years, potentially since the Middle Ages if we count Venom’s dream last issue. The melding of symbiotes and Vietnam is an inspired pairing. It’s not something I’d ever think about, but seeing Cates showcase it, I love the idea. They go together well. Most Vietnam fiction is about how much of a horrific experience the Vietnam War was. It makes sense to make that literal and add some horror-movie-like monsters into the mix. I want to see where Cates takes this, as we’ve so far only gotten to see the bonding process and nothing more.

Plus, making these sort of “rogue” symbiotes is interesting, too. Instead of being their own Klyntars, they seem to be part of some ancient being that causes insanity in other symbiotes. It adds to the horror factor of the book because these are probably unpredictable and, as evidenced by Venom’s outbursts, incredibly violent. Cates created something special with this ancient symbiote. Here’s hoping its payoff is as good as its introduction.

The Moody Horror of VENOM #2

Stegman and Martin make for a perfect pairing in VENOM #2. Each page is mired in incredibly moody lighting. There almost seems to be a fog over every scene, making all the colors seem hazy and muted. It works quite well for a horror book. Martin successfully made the comic look like a horror movie. The colors almost make me feel sick, which is exactly what the team seems to be going for with this book. A sickly horror book, perfect for horror fans.

VENOM #2
VENOM #2 page 4. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Stegman, meanwhile, is quite possibly at his best with this book. The sheer amount of detailed images and chilling splash pages is stunning. My favorite part is at the beginning, when the symbiote begins healing Eddie’s chest wound. The shot of a grinning symbiote peering into the wound, with the exposed muscle and rib fragments in full view, is something out of a nightmare. As its sickly tendrils coil through the exposed bone, the symbiote looks frightening as well as chillingly insane. The sickly red light emanating from the background adds to the horror.

Final Thoughts: VENOM #2

Jean Grey Kills a Queen in VENOMIZED #5

VENOM #2 is slickly detailed and downright scary. If you don’t like horror, you should skip this series. It isn’t for the faint of heart. However, if you love horror, or at least don’t mind it, you truly should pick up this book. That goes double for anyone who’s a huge fan of Venom. Cates and company truly do Venom justice in this issue.

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