Writer: Ryan Cady & Emily Ryan Lerner
Artist: Simone Di Meo & Victor Ibanez
Colors: Mattia Iacono & Triona Farrell
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date July 31 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
When Marvel started to give us these Venom annuals, I was so happy. Here is a character that has had a handful of long ongoing runs, and who has been a generally popular comic character since the nineties. It never made any sense to me why Venom had never gotten annuals before, considering other mainstream characters with ongoings had. Well, I should know to be careful for what I wish for, because last year saw the character get his 1st ever annual…wasn’t a fan of it, I’ll say. This year continues that tradition.
I had never heard of Lady Hellbender before tackling this issue. I had no idea if she was a new character debuting in this story, or if she had history in prior Marvel books. A quick Google search and, ah! She was a Totally Awesome Hulk character. That explains it; I didn’t read that book, so she’s new to me. I’m wondering if she was a good fit for a Venom story, though. I didn’t feel invested in her at all in this book. There is a follow-up story after the main Venom tale, which dips into her childhood past. It serves as a bit of an origin story. I still felt no interest in keeping up with Lady Hellbender after reading this, but I will say I preferred the art in this second bonus story.
So while I’m on the art, let me say the visuals in the main story wasn’t for me. The most jarring problem was Venom, and how Di Meo draws Venom’s head. What was up with giving him a him a sharp, pointy, angular head? It looked bad, and the tongue was taken waaaay too far. Yes, I know this character’s tongue is a trademark of his appearance, but here, its in every single panel that the symbiote and Eddie are together and its exaggeratedly long. Less is more, Di Meo. And usually I don’t factor the cover art into my reviews, but the default, non-variant cover for this book (as seen at the beginning of this review) is god awful.
Why was the Venom symbiote in control of the host body throughout this story? Eddie was a passenger while the symbiote drove the two throughout this entire issue, while the two were together, with Eddie being relegated to just giving his two cents while the symbiote took command…that’s not how the character works. Eddie is primarily in charge of their actions and decisions while the symbiote offers input and grants all the superpowers. The symbiote has hijacked control of its hosts body before, but never when said host was conscious. This one reeked of the Sony Venom movie, where Eddie pretty much had the symbiote take over and do everything while Tom Hardy played the role of the voice in the background, and I didn’t like that then, so I sure hated seeing it translated in a comic.
Outside of the fight scenes, I found very little of interest in this issue. Hellbender separates the symbiote from Eddie, and then she just kinda flirts with him, until the symbiote breaks free and reunites with its host. Venom and Hellbender fight briefly, and escape. The issue tries to explain the nature of exactly who (between Eddie and the symbiote) controls who in their mutual symbiosis, but it doesn’t exactly work. I could pass on this whole issue.
Overall, I didn’t like this issue. I came out the end of this book with zero inclination to ever read this again. The fanatic in me had issues with how Venom was written, how he looked, and overall what role the symbiote and Eddie played in this book. I’m not excusing the fact that its a “one-and-done” story because I’ve read better one-and-done Venom stories before (we just had a great one in the previous Venom #16). What a waste.