Writers: Donny Cates, Saladin Ahmed & Tom Taylor
Artists: Ryan Stegman & Cory Smith
Inkers: JP Mayer & Jay Leisten
Colorist: Frank Martin & David Curiel
Cover: Ryan Stegman & Frank Martin
Review by WolfCypher (D. Brown)
I may be giving away the review too early here, but I really enjoyed the first story of this free two-for-one issue. We have a dark, gritty Venom tale, and a lighter, more colorful Spider-Men tale.
We open with two police officers watching a video interrogation of Eddie Brock. He’s trying to warn people of Carnage and Knull, the God of Symbiotes. He warns that everyone is a target, especially anyone who has ever hosted a symbiote, and warns that even the Avengers and the X-Men need to go into hiding.
Eddie is then shipped off to Ryker’s Island. Inside the prison, Eddie is accosted by symbiote host Lee Price (from Mike Costa’s Venom run & Venom, Inc.). Lee taunts Eddie and shows off the Venom emblem branded on his chest. Eddie starts laughing. Manically. He attacks Lee, ripping Lee’s symbiote away from him, making sure the security cameras have seen enough before blinding them with symbiote mass, and then transforms into a ghastly Venom form.
Here’s the twist…this is Carnage, disguising himself as Eddie and Venom…and after slaughtering the inmates and breaking out, Carnage ponders who should be his next target. Just then, Spider-Man swings by, unaware.
Yes, I want to reiterate, this Venom story does NOT have actual Venom or Eddie in it. This is a story of Carnage setting Eddie up and getting close enough to Lee Price to steal his symbiote. Carnage’s crusade to awaken Knull requires stealing the symbiotic codex of any living or dead person who has ever hosted a symbiote, or simply steal their current symbiote outright. There has been a lot of build up to the upcoming event Absolute Carnage, and up until now Carnage has been the guiding hand coercing his pawns around the board. Now, he’s finally put himself in the game. In one move, he’s put a target on Eddie and eliminated Lee from the game altogether. One question I had was why was Lee at Ryker’s? “Eddie” was shipped off to Ryker’s instead of a supervillain prison like the Raft or the Vault because the police believed”Eddie” didn’t have his symbiote when they apprehended him. Ryker’s was chosen because WITHOUT his symbiote, he HAD NO powers and was just a “normal guy”. So why was Lee, a man WITH his symbiote and superpowers, in Ryker’s?
In all honesty, if I had to compare this short story to the longer, full comic-length chapter in Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage, this smaller, free sample accomplished what the full priced, full length Web of Venom has been failing to do. This serves as a proper teaser and hype-generator for Cates upcoming story.
The Spider-Man (Spider-Men?) story is the second installment. Its absolutely filler, and its perfectly inoffensive. It doesn’t really serve as a gateway into any of the Spider-Man titles. If you were picking this two-in-one freebie up to dip a toe into either Venom or any given Spider-Man book for the first time, I feel the Venom story may spark a curiosity to the uninitiated who’s looking to sample the main book. The Spider-Man story is mostly fluff. Peter and Miles bond over pizza, arguing, brotherly so, over who has the best pizza in New York. On their way to Brooklyn, they run into the Shocker attacking a free clinic. The Spideys make work of him, and even the Shocker, defeated, gives his two cents on who has the best pizza. Ultimately, Peter and Miles share a pizza in Brooklyn, and they agree that the best pizza, is the pizza that reminds yourself of home. Ehhh…like I said, inoffensive, and a bit cartooney (especially when they let Shocker chime in on their pizza debate). I like the pencils and colors here, as an aside I think they definitely fit a Miles book more than a Peter book. There’s really nothing here that’s indicative of what’s currently going on in any of the mainline Spider-Man books, or what’s to come. It’s its own story, a polar opposite contrast of the more serious and darker Venom story that preceded it, where the Venom story is serving as a demo of an upcoming Venom event, the Spider-Man story is in its own bubble trying to have fun.
The Venom story alone is all the reason you need to pick this (free) comic up, while the Spider-Man(s) story does no harm to the overall package.