Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colors: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Release Date August 13 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Going into Absolute Carnage, the Scream title was the tie-in I was looking forward to immensely. Since the 90s Venom run, I always loved Scream. She has a kick-ass design and I liked the potential host Donna Diego had. I wished Marvel had done more with the character. Before Absolute Carnage officially started, I had hoped Scream would be one of the characters to be brought back to the fold. Needless to say I was ecstatic to see not only was Donny Cate’s event bringing back Scream, but that she was getting a three part tie-in. I had every reason to look forward to this one. And yet, I felt very “meh” reading this.
Our protagonist is one Patricia Robertson, who some may know from Daniel Way’s 2003 Venom on-going. There is an editor’s note that shares this little detail. What the book doesn’t share is any substantial information about Patricia. A majority of readers will come into this issue, wondering “who is this woman, and why is it such a big deal that she’s throwing herself into the chaos?”
Patricia wasn’t really that interesting a character in Way’s Venom, and Bunn does little to change that in Scream. We’re given absolutely nothing in the way of where her life has been since the events of Way’s 2003 book, which left her in a terrible position. We’re told that she’s been lying low, and that’s the full extent of her very long absence. For a character who has been gone from comics for such a long time, it would have benefited everyone to get an actual explanation into who she is, and where’s she been, beyond just she was once a host to a Venom symbiote (at this point, who hasn’t been?). But there’s nothing to Patricia in this new book when she first shows up, which isn’t very dissimilar from how she felt years ago. Maybe that’s why no time was spent on really delving into her. One thing that has changed is her perception on being a former symbiote host. 2003’s Venom left her horrified after being nearly murdered by, and then bonded, to the Venom symbiote clone, yet in 2019’s Scream, she reveals a longing to have that again, and a jealously towards another symbiote host for having what she had and losing it. There’s no exploring that, but its brought up.
The art is the best thing this book has going for it, its just too bad there isn’t enough here to see. Besides a few choice characters and mostly empty backdrops, Sandoval’s Scream and Patricia look great. There are no other major characters in this issue outside of just Patricia and Cullen Bunn’s favorite Andi Benton (aka the other former host of Patricia’s Venom symbiote clone). We have generic looking symbiote-henchmen which all look the same, and a nameless civilian and her kids. It’s a lonely, empty book that squanders any opportunity to really get inside Patricia other than one panel that shows her going through “symbiote withdrawals”.
The writing tries to cater a serious tone but I found it came off repetitive a lot. “I was only Venom a short time. But long enough. Long enough to do some damage. Long enough to earn some debt. Long enough to miss it.” There are a couple of times the narration reads like this. Its meant to give Patricia a stern voice, but it comes off tedious, and does not serve to make Patricia look any less generic. I say the best part of the book is whenever Scream takes center stage. In fact, once the Scream symbiote overtakes Patricia, the book is marginally better for it; Patricia disappears into the symbiote and the Scream persona takes on the role of the book’s voice. But even then, near the end, we’re treated to more “samey” narration, only spoken by Scream this time.
I’m happy to have Scream back, but this was not an interesting read. I can imagine how other readers who have no inclination towards a semi-obscure character (two characters if you count Scream and Patricia Robertson separately) might feel reading this. Maybe we’ll actually get deeper into Patricia’s head with the following two issues, but as of right now, Bunn brought back two forgotten characters in a forgettable fashion.