Venom #1 was written by Donny Cates with art by ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin, and Clayton Cowles
This summer, Marvel is sorta kinda reconjiggering their universe with what they call “A Fresh Start“. To put it in the most basic of terms, they’re swapping around all of the creative teams and relaunching most every book with a new #1. The first of these in the Spider-family is Venom. You’ll also notice on the cover of the issue, right under the big, shiny, brand new number one is “LGY#166” to let you know that this also counts as issue #166 under the old Legacy numbering that Marvel just switched Venom over to not even a year ago. Look, if you want to relaunch a title and slap a big, fancy #1 on the cover to signify the start of a new era for the character, fine. Go nuts. But you can’t simultaneously stick the old numbers on the cover of the very first issue and say “this still counts as the old era, too.” When they relaunched Amazing Spider-Man back in 1998 they only started putting dual numbers on the cover after thirty issues in preparation for renumbering with issue #500. This is just Marvel trying to have its cake and eat it too. What the hell is the point of restarting the numbering if you still want to count the old numbers at the same time? (Before anyone asks, I know that the point of renumbering is that it’s purely a marketing gimmick. Going back to the old numbering for big anniversary issues is the same thing. It was a rhetorical question. )
Danny Cates takes over writing duties from Mike Costa; and while I’ll admit that I’ve only been reading the book for about six months now, it really doesn’t seem like Cates has actually read much of what Costa wrote.
Over the last few issues, Liz Allen had found a way to cure the symbiote of its psychotic, murderous urges, meaning that Eddie wouldn’t have to take pills to hold the symbiote in check anymore:
Eddie & the symbiote were both dead set on staying murder free and being heroes, which they proved to Spider-Woman via mind meld:
The symbiote had just had another spawn and Eddie let Liz Allen & Alchemax keep it hidden and safe, but he planned to visit regularly:
And the previous issue ended, #165, ended with Venom thinking that they didn’t have to be alone anymore…that maybe they had some people they could count on:
Got all that? Good! Now, forget all about it because it doesn’t fucking matter anymore.
Venom #1 starts off with a haggard looking Eddie Brock waking up in a cold sweat on a mattress on the floor of an otherwise unfurnished apartment. He thinks he had a nightmare about some symbiotes attacking some Norsemen in the time of Beowulf, roughly 700 AD, which is strange because the first time anybody can remember a symbiote coming to Earth is when Spider-Man brought one back from Battleworld. He soon realizes that it wasn’t his nightmare, but the symbiote’s. He then staggers to the bathroom to gulp down a handful of anti-psychotics to keep the symbiote and it’s murderous rages in check.
Eddie’s hair is much longer here, indicating that some time has passed since the end of the last issue. Or, possibly, if the new writer didn’t read the previous issues then maybe the new artist didn’t look at them either. Who knows?
Eddie hears over his police scanner that Jack O’ Lantern and a couple other D-list bad guys have been cornered in a nearby warehouse and goes to take some pictures he can sell because he’s flat broke. He’s not going to take out the bad guys as Venom because he doesn’t trust the symbiote to not fly off the handle. However, when Jack shoots a cop and tries to run away Eddie has no choice but to leap into action. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnd the symbiote promptly flies off the handle and straight up Mountain vs. The Red Viper‘s Jack O’ Lantern while Eddie can only watch horrified from inside.
Also, the symbiote looks kinda different…scarier…veinyer:
Just then somebody takes everybody out with a big explosion with the next thing Eddie knows he wakes up chained to a chair with with a hot furnace at his back and giant speakers on either side playing a low level sonic frequency. It’s not enough to hurt the symbiote but enough to keep it from doing anything. Whoever is holding him captive seems to know their stuff.
The guy’s name is Rex Strickland and he starts talking about Project Rebirth 2.0, the government project that made Flash Thompson into Agent Venom. Turns out that wasn’t the first time symbiotes were used by the government; and that symbiotes have in fact been on Earth for a very long time.
Strickland got out of the “sym-soldier” unit a long time ago, but some of his men stayed in too long and became fully bonded to their symbiotes and went a little crazy. S.H.I.E.L.D put them in a deep freeze and locked them away in a storage facility, but now that S.H.I.E.L.D is kaput the government is cleaning out some of these old bunkers and Strickland’s men are scheduled to be destroyed. He doesn’t want to let that happen and Eddie wants to find out more about how symbiotes have been on Earth for decades, possibly longer, and nobody knew about it.
With the symbiote seemingly willing to cooperate again, Eddie goes into full Venom mode and sets out to hijack the truck transporting Strickland’s men. Suddenly, for the second time in this issue, an explosion comes from out of nowhere. When the smoke clears, standing in front of Venom are four creatures that greatly resemble what the symbiote became when Eddie lost control of it and also really remind Eddie of what he saw in the nightmare. They shout something in a language that Eddie doesn’t understand, and the Venom symbiote decides that it don’t want none of this shit and takes off.
This leaves Eddie all alone and vulnerable enough to get stabbed through the chest by one of the sym-soldiers. They disappear through some sort of portal and a few seconds later the used up husks of the soldiers the symbiotes were attached to get tossed back out at Eddie’s feet. The Venom symbiote slithers back over and does its best to stop Eddie from bleeding out. Eddie can barely talk but he tells the symbiote that he knows it knew what these creatures were saying by the way it reacted to them & he wants to know what the deal is. The symbiote tells him that it was a dead language, not even spoken among the Klyntar (that’s the actual name of the symbiote race, in case you didn’t know) but that it means “God is coming.” Well, that doesn’t sound ominous at all.
Elsewhere, the ground on an NYC street cracks open and some sort of giant winged creature flies up into the sky. Again, not ominous at all.
And that’s the all-new Venom #1. It’s okay, I suppose…actually, I’d say that the art is exceptional. But unless there’s still a lot of story work they plan to do to make it fit with everything that came before it, it feels very disjointed. Especially in the way that it majorly retcons the history of symbiotes, but it gives it a very Lovecraftian horror vibe that I kind of dig. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it all comes together.