by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, Frank Martin and Clayton Cowles
Venom is a special character, with a lot of history. Particularly with a few of the recent iterations, such as Agent Venom where Flash Thompson was bonded with the symbiote and went on crazy missions that eventually lead him to Space. Sounds like a lot to take in if you haven’t been keeping up with everybody’s favorite maniac, right? Well, forget all that. The symbiote and Eddie Brock are back together and Donny Cates (Thanos, Doctor Strange) is at the helm. This guy, Donny, is an insane Venom fanatic. We’re talking next-level fan who now gets to write a Venom book, for Marvel. No more fanfic now, eh buddy?
If anybody remembers the Lethal Protector series from the 90s, you’ll remember a darker Venom, who had a taste for brains and dishing out some prototypical 90’s anti-hero justice. Snatch a purse on the wrong block? Chances are, Venom was comin’ for you. Anyway, with this first issue there are some strong tones and throwbacks to that era of Venom. It’s dark, it’s brutal, and Venom is a hulking monster trying his best to keep innocent people safe while hurting the bad guys. But just when you think it’s going to an awesome, but straightforward, issue of Venom that pulls all the right heart strings from comics of old, Donny Cates throws some insane, nonsensical, possibly Norse, insanity at you.
Sure, Donny teased this possibly Norse Venom history at the beginning of the issue, but there was no way anybody was prepared for it to come back, present day, so quickly nor will they be prepared for the magnificent Ryan Stegman design for this (again, possibly?) Norse Venom. Ol’ Stegman and colorist Frank Martin shine in every panel; from mood setting to action page. In fact, there are moments and pages that seem to evoke the look and feel that Greg Capullo, Fco (colorist) and Jonathan Glapion (inker) managed to bring to Batman while still maintaining that signature Stegman look. Stegman has always had a knack for character design and facial expressions, but he really puts it on display here, which is always difficult when you’re dealing with Venom who, typically, isn’t all that expressive.
Let’s also get in some talk about the always talented Clayton Cowles, letterer extraordinaire, shall we? A letterer’s job is to go unnoticed. To be so good at their craft that you don’t even realize you’re reading their work. However, there is some exception. For instance, whatever font/design that Clayton used for the Norse/mystery symbiote language is just fantastic. It’s unexpected, original and just utterly striking. We know that letterers don’t get their due often enough, but bravo, Clayton. Bravo.
It’s damn good to see Venom back and in a form we’re used to–not that there was anything wrong with Agent Venom–under the guidance of a creative team that very clearly loves this character to probably unhealthy levels. Yes, that’s specifically referencing you, Donny. Unhealthy or not, that’s for a psychologist to determine. The point here is that we got a fantastic beginning to a new Venom book, and everybody should be excited. Donny Cates clearly has some insane shit planned, so this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve ever liked Venom or been Venom-curious, there is no better time than right now to try out a Venom series.