Venom #17 Review

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Iban Coello
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Release date August 28 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

Before we get started, as an aside, I listened to a Ryan Stegman podcast recently which featured Donny Cates, and they talked about Absolute Carnage before the event began. Donny stated people could read all of Absolute Carnage if the chose and not pick up a single tie-in or crossover issue, including Venom (which is also written by Cates). Can I just say one thing? I enjoyed this issue. Venom should be a companion read to Absolute Carnage. But he may have been right; as far as the main story (Absolute Carnage) goes, this one teeters between being essential and feeling skippable.

For starters, Iban’s art is not playing around. I may be repeating myself from previous reviews, but his style is eye-popping and very much worth reading this alone. I’ll also give credit to colorist Rain Beredo, because the combination of colors and art gives this book so much expressiveness and kinetic dynamism.

You’ll benefit from this issue more if you’ve already read the previous Absolute Carnage tie-in Separation Anxiety. The featured antagonists here are the Life Foundation symbiotes from that one-shot. I feel like the redesigns given to those four symbiotes in that one-shot were amazing, so seeing them again was very much welcomed by me, especially if we get to see Coello handed that baton. He keeps everything that made them a horrid spectacle to look at, and puts them in glorious motion against the Maker.

And man, do I like the Maker in this book! Our alternate universe Reed Richards is, simply put, drenched in arrogance and collected composure, the way Coello draws his smug smirkiness and the way Donny Cates writes him handling the situation as the aforemention symbiotes suddenly appear and close in to attack. Nothing here is new to those who are already accustomed to this character in other comics, as I’ve also followed him in stories from both Marvel’s Ultimate imprint and the mainline 616 books he survived into, but my favorite use of the character is when he’s written as an essential ally who also reminds the reader that he’s not completely on the side of the angels. Yes, in this book he is willingly to keep Dylan and Normie safe, despite being so sure of himself and his calculations, schematics, etc. that he sees no problem with trying to run his “codex extracting” machine on Normie, against the orders of Spider-Man and Venom (see Absolute Carnage #1). When the Maker knows he’s right, he doesn’t waver. Likewise, when the Maker incapacitates on of the attacking symbiotes, revealing a defenseless child underneath the alien, he doesn’t even consider sparring the child. Do not forget, this is a man with an agenda; he can be of assistance to the side of right when it becomes necessary, but his is a cynical, “bigger picture” mind set.

Meanwhile, Dylan, who I took an immediate liking, is the other big draw for me. He’s always been a likable character, one I wished we could get screentime of. That’s definitely not a problem here, as this book is as much a Dylan issue as it is a Maker issue. I was surprised with Dylan’s level of moxie when confronting the Maker and getting in between him trying to run the machine on Normie. I know the scene was meant to show how much heart and courage the kid has, but I think it was played a little too hard. If Dylan got too crossed with the Maker (and obviously had the Life Foundation symbiotes not interrupted when they did), the Maker could have been trouble for Dylan, and I feel he should have known that. I think this scene made Dylan come off a little too ballsy; I get that he’s trying to protect Normie from a man he doesn’t trust, and good on him for standing in up for Normie, but maybe not overplay your swagger against this guy while neither Venom or Spider-Man are around? On the flipside, once everything hit the fan, Dylan’s priority was to see himself and Normie to safety. The kid’s getting a little too used to this dangerous life-style his…”older brother” has brought into his life.

This book is admittedly a quick read. Compared to Absolute Carnage #2, my reading experience felt a lot quicker, and that was me also taking the time to ogle every inch of the art. Its an enjoyable book that borders close to filler territory. But then, there is an awesome treat at the end of this book. There’s a very good final page “cliffhanger” that Venom fans may get a delight out of. I don’t know if said spoiler will have a big impact after Absolute Carnage is said-and-done, but I cannot NOT see this “move” having a small impact going forward. Maybe recent fans won’t take in the gravity of the final page, so this moment will probably go over their heads. Cates really is making this event a love-letter to Venomaniacs, it seems.

Final Thoughts

Don’t expect a lot of Eddie in this one, folks. Or any type of Venom, Spider-Man, or even Carnage. It may sound like a tall order, but this is 100% a Venom/Carnage tie-in without virtually no Venom or Carnage. Its decisively a Dylan Brock/Maker installment of Absolute Carnage, but I dare say its worth a read. The art alone deserves to be seen, and this issue pairs well with the Absolute Carnage: Separation Anxiety issue. That said, it doesn’t move the overall story as much as I had hoped.


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