By Mike Costa, Gerardo Sandoval, Juanan Ramirez, Victor Olazaba, Dono Sanchez-Almara, and Clayton Cowles.
Marvel is leading up to a big Venom milestone, issue #150 in May. In order to get ready for this big event, you may want to catch up on the latest going-ons with our favorite alien symbiote, or not. Venom #4 is a desperate attempt to re-launch a tried and true concept with a new host that lacks in personality from writing to art. This issue really has few highlights amongst a flat story, flatter personalities, that even the symbiote is bored with the story.
Poor Lee Price, the former Army ranger current Venom host, he really does not get any chance to show any emotion other than pretentious the entire issue. Costa takes every chance is this issue to show us that Price is always one step ahead of his adversaries like the Black Cat, the FBI, and Mac Gargan. He seemingly is also keeping the symbiote at bay, allowing it to bond, but he can still exert his own will over it. The big play here is if Price is really exerting his own will over the symbiote, or is the symbiote biding his time to build his strength. Either way, it is apparent that the symbiote and the presence is can bring is lost on a character like Price. What makes a Venom character so complex is that when it bonds with a host, you see the personality become exaggerated and the host struggles to compromise and exert his own will and personality over the all-empowering symbiote. Mr. former army ranger Lee Price does this huge feet that even Spider-Man had trouble doing, all too easy. There is no room written in for the readers to root and get behind Price. Everything comes to easy for him and he shows no vulnerability to make him likable, that the most endearing person is the actual symbiote and Mac Gargan (Scorpion) also makes for a more compelling lead.
So, the book has some issues with character development and a compelling lead character, but great consistent art can always make up for that. Sure, but this is unfortunately not the case in this issue. Pencils are from Sandoval and fill in art is from Ramirez and the many other artists that are credited in this issue allows one to infer that there were a little too many cooks in the kitchen. The style shifts from a dark and noir-eque feel in the quieter dialogue heavy panels to a bright, loud, and intense feel for the high action panels. Maybe this dichotomy was intentional to represent the duality of the symbiote and Price, but that kind of reasoning gives the creative team a little too much credit. The book felt choppy, with inconsistent creative direction between pages that felt like there were copied and pasted together without worry for cohesion or compelling story telling. It might sound a little harsh, but lets remember this book is a Venom title. Todd McFarlane gave us cover after memorable cover of great art that stands the test of time. This is a character that lends itself to personality with facial expression, muscle movement, the tongue for crying out loud has a personality of it’s own and all of this is just wasted on this team.
If you are looking forward to the May 2017 release of Venom #150 do not let this series get you down. We can assume this flat story telling of new host, Lee Price, will either get the hint, get a swift kick in the ass and make some changes or he will become a foot note in the history of Venom hosts. This book does have the potential to tell a great story and do a lot to set up the inevitable return of Flash Thompson to the Venom scene. The art has the possibility to really be great, it just needs the right direction to allow it to stand out in the right ways and not let it come across as incoherent. If you are feeling down after reading this issue just do a Google image search for ‘Todd McFarlane Venom’ and take a nice trip down memory lane to get yourself pumped up for issue #150.