Venom #20 Review

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

Release date November 27 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

Venom #20 marks the final tie-in, final installment, and proper conclusion, of the Absolute Carnage event. As all of the prior Venom issues to revolve around the event took place in between what was happening in the titular Absolute Carnage, issue 20 differentiates itself from those tie-ins by being an aftermath issue.

Normally, I have my Venom reviews ready pretty early on the Wednesday they come out, but as this one is going live later, I will include some spoilers…

Venom #20 mostly focuses on the Maker, aka the evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universes (Earth 1610). The Maker has been a surprisingly influential addition to the book. No one would have pegged this character as being a necessary additive to Venom’s wheelhouse, and yet he’s been consistently one of my favorite factors in this run. We finally get some insight on Project Oversight, the secret “organization” that had been pursuing Eddie since issue 7. Fittingly enough it was in that same issue that the Maker first introduced into this book the concept of codices, which were an important recurring element through all of Absolute Carnage and the books leading up to it.

We finally get not only a definitive answer to what Project Oversight is, but we get a very good idea of what they want, and how Venom fits into all of this. I’ll leave that out of my review, but one detail I really want to bring up, hence one last spoiler warning…is the arrival of the Ultimate Universe’ Venom symbiote, a living protoplasmic organism the Maker has in his possession.

Donny Cates is riding a difficult line here. Firstly, he’s trying to play with a lot of toys from the Venom toy chest that longtime fans will appreciate and understand the context of. I imagined someone who isn’t as familiar with Venom to the degree of a veteran fan would probably not feel the sheer weight that is the Ultimate Venom protoplasm being in the hands of the Maker and co-existing in the same universe as the de facto alien Venom symbiote. This opens up a lot of possibilities and I cannot even pretend to think I know where Cates is taking this. While secondly, Cates Venom run has also picked up the attention and readership of a lot of people who have never read up on the character and his world until recently, or are just not as educated in all things that have to do with Venom. Cates has taken so many forgotten story angles from previous Venom stories written by previous authors, has played with ideas and settings from Venom books as far back as the early 90s (such as bringing back the hidden underground city from Venom: Lethal Protector), and has tried to make this book feel like a love letter to the fans, but he’s also telling a story that will keep newer people invested, and I don’t think juggling those two fanbases can be easy. Of all the things Cates could have brought back to play with, I never would have seen the Ultimate Venom goop being one of them, and he has seized my attention.

The Maker needs a symbiote, be it a natural, actual alien symbiote (Earth-616) or an artificial, accidental, synthetic one (Earth-1610), to begin his plans to return to his home universe, and with the defective Ultimate Venom protoplasm in his possession, he believes codices will restore the organism and he can proceed with his plans. He communicates this with his peers (okay, this one I won’t spoiler), and also shares with them his theory on how and why symbiotes reproduce, believing that every known symbiote to have spawned, did so in preparation for a major “crisis”. The Maker has a theory that Dylan Brock, Eddie’s son, who is also a “living symbiote codex”, is the latest spawn, but because Dylan displays several key differences (for one, being a human) and incredible potential powers unlike previous spawn, this must mean that there is a imminent threat coming the likes the Marvel Universe has never seen. Personally, I wonder if this is just referencing the coming of Knull, or something else…?

Speaking of Dylan Brock, back at the sight where Venom and his allies fought (and killed) Carnage, Eddie and Dylan finally address the truth that Eddie is Dylan’s father. This was something I really looked forward to. Iban Coello’s art is not wasted on these panels, displaying the dysfunctional father/alien/son having their shared emotional breakdown. I expected no less from the talent that is Coello.

Absolute Carnage was a roller coaster purely on the basis that if you were following every single issue and tie-in, you’ll know the quality of the books varied wildly. Some were really good. Others should have never been written at all. Overall, if you were only following the main event book itself, you most likely came out of those five books satisfied. That is if you never bothered to read the less essential tie-ins. But Venom, the actual title Venom by Donny Cates, was always the expectation. Not just because this book during the event boasted solid writing and great art, no, not even just because it actual had developments in between Absolute Carnage that mattered, but because if you were reading Venom even before the event began, you were most likely going to stick around for the whole run even after Absolute Carnage concluded, and throughout the event, the Venom issues always made sure to tease newer developments that will matter significantly in the days to come. If issues 1 through 20 (as well as Absolute Carnage itself) were season 1 of Donny Cates run, season 2 is about to begin, and we got a great deal of some interesting developments to come out of the tail end of season 1. In all honesty, I’m far more excited for what’s in store from the Maker and his machinations than I am the eventual coming of Knull. Despite only being a promised threat and not actually being in the book, if I’m being honest, I’m getting a little tired of him. Meanwhile, this Project Oversight plot has been handled with such subtlety that I want to bank all my interest on that B-plot! Here’s hoping “season 2” delivers!

Final Thoughts

This Absolute Carnage tie-in (the last of them) is actual deceiving. It has less to do with the events of Dark Carnage and the coming of Knull and more to do with shedding some serious light on the Maker and his true motives, which may prove to be worth even more investing than the upcoming threat of Knull’s arrival. This issue feels like the beginnings of the next phase in the Venom ongoing.


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