Venom #16 Review

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Juan Gedeon
Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Joshua Cassara & Rain Beredo

Release date July 10 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

Eddie Brock is Venom no more, and hasn’t been Venom proper for quite a bit now. Even without his symbiote, he imagines himself as Venom, urging him to give into his worst impulses. His son Dylan (whom he still refers to as his little brother) is sick and Eddie decides to figure out how to get money for food and supplies. He pays a visit to one of his former employments, the Daily Globe, and tries to get a job. He’s given a gig from his old associate Clark; since the end of the “War of the Realms”, children have been reported missing. Eddie needs to investigate their disappearances.

So Eddie pays a visit to the Butcher Bar for some intel. When he arrives, he finds the place in ruins and littered with dead bodies. He’s struck from behind by armed men. Eddie recognizes that these men are being controlled by a familiar source. Without any powers, Eddie gives in to his angry inner “Venom impulses” and brutally beats down the men. In the back of the bar (in what looks like a meat locker) the bloodied Eddie finds the strangely resurrected Emil Gregg (Emil and Brock have history…) who has all of the missing children bound. Emil wants to offer the children as a gift to his “God”, and tells Eddie that Cletus Kasady is back, and has the Grendel symbiote bonded to him (the Grendel symbiote was the symbiote dragon Venom fought in this run’s first story arc). Eddie maliciously beats Gregg to death, as Emil provides no challenge.

Eddie returns to the Daily Globe with the missing children and leaves with Clark paying him all that he has in his wallet. Its enough for Eddie to return to Dylan with some soup. Dylan complains about the soup, and the tired, beaten Eddie just wraps his arm around Dylan and smiles; “Could be worse”.

This was a serviceable story, albeit skippable. I’ve been saying “filler issue” now for four issues of Venom straight, starting with the 13th issue. Issues 13 through 15 were a tie-in for the War of the Realms event and the main writer left the book to script the upcoming Venom/Carnage event starting in August. The duties for Venom in that meantime went to a guest writer, so there’s some justification to why we had that filler session in the middle of Donny Cates’ run. I was hoping with Cates back, we would immediately get back to some substantial content.

I feel like we’ve wasted our last opportunity to really do something special with Eddie & Dylan together before all hell breaks loose in next month’s Absolute Carnage. We have Dylan, the son that Eddie still isn’t willing to reveal the that truth to. Except for issue 10, we haven’t gotten to see Eddie and Dylan really have any time together. This is a kid who has left behind his (abusive) father, his friends, school, his home, to travel to New York alongside his recently discovered adult “older brother”, who has a criminal history as Venom, and is currently being hunted. We really haven’t taken any time to get inside Dylan’s head and see how all this has affected him or how he’s coping with these changes. The War of the Realms filler had Dylan staged away inside a warehouse, and this issue Dylan was used as a trigger to get Eddie out and about into some action, while Dylan stayed behind in said warehouse. Where I’m fine with seeing Eddie kicking some serious ass, I have been waiting for some new developments on Eddie having Dylan around, specifically from Dylan’s point of view, and again, he’s quickly regulated to a side-character waiting at the warehouse. We’ll see if next month’s Absolute Carnage may give Dylan something of an arc.

The story was pretty simple. Dylan needs provisions, and Eddie has to find a way to provide. I was raising my eyebrows when Eddie returned to the Daily Globe, with no false identity, no disguise, looking for work. This is a man with a high profile alias, who is known from killing people (even innocent people), who has an on-again-off-again felon status, a reputation as a psychopath and he just returns to his former employers (well, former former employers, well before the Fact Channel, where he DID have to use a fake alias to get employment) as himself and is greeted warmly by the staff…that was a little bit hard to swallow.

But there was plenty of good, I have to praise Donny for how Eddie’s spoken and inner dialogue was written. Cates has never had a problem with the voice of this character. And sure, Eddie isn’t actual factual Venom in this book, although the artist still gives us the visual of Eddie fighting as Venom, but with or without the symbiote, its always good to have Eddie engage in some physical action. Cates hasn’t delivered much in the way of action and fighting since the first story arc, so I was reminded that he can indeed deliver when he wants to. Seeing my boy kick ass without any super powers is very cathartic for this fanatic.

Juan Gedeon draws a mean Eddie that looks intimidating when he needs to, and a Venom that looks massive without ever veering into “Hulk monster” territory. Juan’s art was very reminiscent of Joshua Cassara (who did art for Venom 11 & 12). I was a fan of Cassara’s art then, so seeing Juan’s familiar style was a plus. It’s a weird description, but Juan’s characters have a bit of a “scratchiness” to them that doesn’t come off intrusive, if that makes any Earthly sense. All I’m saying is between both Donny Cates’ current Venom run and Mike Costa’s previous Venom run, we’ve had a sampling of many different artists that have been great fits for the character. Ryan Stegman may regret being away from this book for as long as he has, since I’m liking and getting used to this revolving door of pencilers. As an aside, but somewhat topic adjacent, my one nitpick would be Venom’s coloring. Like I said earlier, Venom isn’t technically in this issue. The story is from Eddie’s point of view, and he wrestles with the imagined Venom in his mind, also when the shit hits the fan, he imagines himself as if he’s still Venom, so there is plenty of Venom visuals in the book even without the de facto symbiote any in the issue. I’m not a fan of when Venom is colored blue. I know there’s the argument that its implied Venom is black and the blue is just highlighting, but the blue coloring choice is pretty evident, especially in one particular panel I’m thinking of. But nitpicks like this don’t bring me down.

Final Thoughts

Donny Cates returns, but there’s no Ryan Stegman to be found. Juan Gedeon gets the art duties, and he doesn’t drop the ball. This issue feels like one final stall before everything kicks off with the next issues. Its nice to have a gritty street-level, down-to-Earth Eddie Brock story, neatly tucked between one chaotic War and an upcoming symbiote slaughter.


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