Venom #11 Review – Second Opinion

Writer: Donny Cates
Pencils & Cover: Ryan Stegman & Joshua Cassara
Inker & Cover: JP Mayer & Joshua Cassara
Colorist & Cover: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Review by WolfCypher

The book opens with a memory of Eddie’s; he is a pre-teen sitting in a hospital’s waiting room. His older sister Mary comes for him and eases him into the cancer ward. There, the siblings see their dying uncle Dan wasting in his bed with Eddie & Mary’s dad Carl next to him. Dan looks ghastly even for a dying man. The room is bordered with symbiotic mass. The young Eddie starts questing these series of events and “reverts” to his current, contemporary adult self. Mary tries to convince Eddie everything is normal, her eyes black with a tint of dark red. He knows for sure something’s wrong when his father, a man who has only been hostile, bitter, and violent towards his son all his life, tries to comfort him. “We’re your family. We’re going to take care of you. You aren’t alone” he almost finishes. That’s when Eddie starts to really worry.

Currently, outside of the dream, Eddie Brock himself is actually lying comatose on an operating table in a hospital under the care of evil Ultimate Reed Richards, the Maker. Dylan, the recently discovered younger brother of Eddie, asks if Eddie’s going to be okay. The Maker initially believes Eddie’s malady is cancer. He’s unsure due to the symbiote coating Eddie in a blanket-like cocoon, complicating his analysis. He tells Dylan to remove himself from the room because the Maker is willing to do whatever it takes to get through the symbiote, possibly killing Eddie. Dylan runs for help, and sees his father down the hall, fighting and arguing with security guards. They see each other, and Dylan runs away.

Inside the nightmare, Brock is forced by Mary to revisit the Our Lady of Saints Church. She makes him recount the events of the night. He came to the church to kill himself. He admits it was because he was dying of cancer. It was also that night the symbiote found him. In his mind, the symbiote attaches to him, forming Venom together. Mary convinces Eddie everything’s all right, except the symbiote suddenly explodes off him and the church vanishes, replaced with a white void around Eddie.

Back in the hospital (in real time), the Maker has created an energy field (sonic field?) around Eddie and his symbiote. He’s shocking energy through their bodies in an attempt to force the symbiote off Brock. It’s this sudden surge that disrupts Eddie’s coma-dream.

In the dream, Eddie is able to think clearly. He realizes he never did have a sister Mary. He realizes he never had a dying uncle Dan. Neither died of cancer because neither existed. He comes to the realization that he himself was never dying of cancer. The creature posing as Mary reveals its true form; it is the Venom symbiote. Its able to communicate with Brock again (at least in this dreamscape). Eddie feels betrayed, and the symbiote is forced to tell Eddie the truth. Ever since their union, the symbiote has altered Eddie’s memories at some point in his life, even making him “remember” that he came to the church to kill himself because he believed he had cancer. The symbiote had been making him sick to keep up the charade. It hoped as long as Eddie “knew” the symbiote could combat his “cancer” that he’d never considered leaving it. That all of these lies were to safeguard that Eddie would always want it. Especially now, with Carnage on the hunt for them.

Eddie wants to know why would the symbiote think he would ever leave it. The symbiote says he would because of Dylan.

Eddie awakes from his coma. The Maker still has him under his forcefield. Eddie yells for the Maker to release him so that he can find Dylan immediately. The Maker assures him security already called his dad, and that even if he releases Eddie now, he might die. Eddie shouts he doesn’t care. Dylan’s in danger…

…incidentally, Dylan has been fleeing his father through the hospital. Carl has cornered him alone in a janitor’s closet.

During Eddie’s coma, the symbiote revealed another secret its been keeping. In actuality, Dylan is Eddie’s son.

Donny Cates continues to challenge continuity by rewriting all the established rules with his own. This has been a personal issue I’ve had with almost his entire run, Web of Venom included. And yet I walked away from not just my first, but second and later subsequent readings of this issue thoroughly enjoyed. What Cates is trying to do is retcon away what he feels are problematic areas in the history of Eddie, both pre and post-Venom.

Rewriting that Eddie never truly had cancer may be his way of correcting the original cancer angle introduced by Paul Jenkins in his Spectacular Spider-Man/Venom arc. This same cancer angle would be revisited by Dan Slott, only with several contradicting issues. One writer would say the Venom symbiote gave Eddie his cancer, while the other would say that Eddie had it long before becoming Venom, and that the only reason the symbiote bonded to him was to feed on his cancer…itself a separate contradiction that says the symbiote actually wanted to leave Eddie at one point because he had cancer and the symbiote found his cancer problematic.

While most of Cates run has been retcons that don’t add up (yet) or feel like he’s just trying to rewrite the character for the sake of it, there have been instances like this where the retconning really did solve more problems than they caused (if any), and this example is an important one.

He also finally fixes the “Mary Brock/Eddie’s sister” problem that had persisted since the universally hated “Venom: Dark Origin” mini-series written by Zeb Wells. Originally? Eddie was an only child of Carl and Jamie Brock, as she died giving birth to him and never had any other kids. Even after her death, Carl never had kids with any other woman while Eddie was growing up (and with the Dylan twist at the end, probrably ever at all). An obscure, best-forgotten issue in the failing 90s Nova run featured Venom as the final issue(s) villain and mentioned his “baby” sister Mary. This hidden gem reference of a continuity-error character was the only reference of her, ever, until Wells, amazingly, brought her back and aged her as his older sister. She never fit into the already established canon of Eddie’s pre-Venom life, and Dark Origin as a whole did not sit well with Venom fans. Thanks to Cates, its a non-issue, with him doing a good job explaining her away.

But trivia aside, I should focus again on all the merits of this issue. While I’m not a fan of multiple artists sharing the same issue, I don’t mind when its used as it is in this issue. Joshua Cassara co-pencils only the disturbing, nightmarish coma-dream scenes, while Stegman stays on art duties with the “actual happening” scenes. This may have been so that Stegman doesn’t fall behind on art duties, but you could really assume it was just to contrast the visuals inside Eddie’s dreams from the scenes outside of them. Either excuse, I’m fine, because it works. Cassara draws a morbid visual for a grim series of revelations, lies, and altered memories. And as always, Cates is a craftsman with mood, atmosphere, emotion, dialogue and narrative. Even on issues I’ve been down on, this has proven true (writer’s note: this is only my second posted review for this site, so you wouldn’t actually know I HAVE been down on this book before recently…)

I was hoping we would start getting back into more action, more actual Venom (as in the symbiote worn as a costume, Eddie kicking ass/getting his ass kicked, no more dog symbiote nonsense, less retconning), and while this still hasn’t gotten back to the feel that previous Venom runs have managed to establish (and guessing with Cates, that’s the point), this may just be the most important issue in recent Venom continuity. The twist at the end (Dylan’s role in Brock and the symbiote’s life) may be the obvious twist that will get the most attention, long time Venom fans and Eddie Brock historians will probably be awed and struck by the twists of his falsified past, and the symbiotes manipulations of his memories.

Final Thoughts:

Donny Cates, you are seriously winning me over. Not since the Rex arc (issues one through six) have I enjoyed this book so much.


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