Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Release date November 27 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Quick recap on who the Scream is.
Scream is a symbiote character I love.
Okay, I have always had waaaaaay too much of a fan-boner for this character than a character of her caliber deserves. She’s not exactly a mainstream face in comics. She’s seldom used in many comics. She’s had enough moments in the spotlight to warrant that she’s not totally an obscure character, but she’s so far away from being one you’d imagine starring in her own title. Quite honestly, I just wanted her to come back and be a semi-recurring character in any of the (Eddie Brock) Venom ongoings.
But first impressions are some of the most powerful impressions there are, and when I was younger, having already solidified myself a Venom fan, I turned around and was introduced to the early 90s fan favorite Venom: Lethal Protector limited series; more specifically, issue 4.
Visually, this is a kick-ass design for a character, and I had always imagine this character would have some great potential. Unfortunately, Scream had always been used very rarely, and usually disappears back into obscurity after she’s had her last 15 minutes in the spotlight. That’s to say she’s had more relevance than the other fellow “Life Foundation symbiotes” that originated in the same story, at the same time, as her. Absolute Carnage recently wrapped up, but at the very beginning of that aforementioned event, both Scream and her Life Foundation siblings returned in featured stories, with the latter being present in Absolute Carnage: Separation Anxiety #1, written by Clay McLeod Chapman (reviewed by me with a positive 8.1 score).
How fitting that Clay Chapman is also the writer behind the newest Scream ongoing (or limited series, I’m not clear on its official status), giving Chapman the honors of having written for the entire set of Lethal Protector/Life Foundation symbiote spawn. The darkness and morbidness he delivered in last August’s Separation Anxiety one-shot is carried over into this new title, but while the tone in Separation Anxiety carried a little bit of a macabre-humor to it, this time the book stays decisively dark and brooding.
During the events of Absolute Carnage, Andi Benton (once upon a time the human host of the Venom symbiote clone and calling herself Mania) was bonded to the resurrected Scream symbiote, which was previously bonded to two other women. With the threat of Carnage over, Andi finds herself alone in New York, as what little family she had in Philadelphia was murdered by Carnage, and her role model Flash Thompson (a previous Venom symbiote host) died fighting a Carnage-symbiote wearing Norman Osborn. If nothing else, this recap is just proving how all sorts of Marvel characters seem to end up with these passed-around symbiote costumes like its some weird game of Hot Potato with alien goo.
The life of Andi Benton has been nothing but grief and misery since her very first appearance all the way back in Cullen Bunn’s run on the Flash Thompson Venom comic. Having lost her dad, losing her original symbiote, losing her aunt, being forced to leave her life behind after nearly dying at the hands of Carnage…this is a character that has never been allowed to catch a break since the end of her Mania days. Honestly, I’m seeing her as Scream as a bit of an upgrade, though I figure she’d disagree.
Chapman writes Andi as a miserable woman who has nothing left. All seh has is an invasive symbiote she never wanted, which keeps talking to her inside of head. Andi spends some nights putting herself in the peripherals of the city’s worst scum just so she has an excuse to cut loose and fight back against targets that deserve her violent anger. When we aren’t exploring Andi’s situation in the present, Chapman is painting a picture of Andi’s youth, a childhood missing her mother who left her and her father behind. The theme of loneliness is present through the entire issue, despite the one thing who seemingly has care for Andi being the one thing Andi desires to be rid of.
The book presents a conflict in the form of these strange sea creatures/humans that have surfaced onto the city and are drawn to Andi. The book doesn’t explain enough about what these creatures are. Apparently, several corpses on the bottom of the ocean were awakened when a drop of the Scream symbiote sank to the ocean’s floor. Not that I’m complaining, as it’s only fair to assume Chapman isn’t ready to reveal everything to us in issue one, but I was still confused as to exactly what these things were. Judging by their speech balloons, I’m sure they’re symbiotes in some way (in all the recent comics, symbiotes now have colored speech balloons and narration boxes, and while these sea creatures don’t exactly talk, their screeches are in the same type of speech balloon used when Venom speaks…).
Chris Mooneyham is able to supplement Chapman’s gritty storytelling with gritty visuals. Every area around Andi screams (pun unintentional) seedy and sleazy. I know its a bit of an overused trope, but if you’re going to play with the New York City setting as a series of shady street corners, Mooneyham goes for broke and doesn’t pull his punches. This isn’t limited to the background settings, as he does a great job with all the civilain characters in the panels they appear in, as well as both the monsters and Scream during their confrontation. Everyone in the past has their own idea of how Andi Benton should look. I think Mooneyham’s take on Andi is my favorite. And might I say how surprised I was to see Rain Beredo as the colorist of this book! This was a mighty surprise, as lately I’ve become accustomed to him on books with Iban Coello. Together, they have been the penciler/colorist art duo on the Venom title, where the visuals are very colorful. Rain Beredo’s colors here complement the book’s street-level vibe and goes about it with a palette that’s very different from the vibrancy he’s done in Venom, but nonetheless his technique used here works wonders for this book’s tone and art.
Considering how the current Venom book has been severely lacking in the street-level content, choosing to go for large, grand scale action and twists and events, it was nice to get a new symbiote book that brings things back to the murky streets of Marvel’s New York City. I doubt anyone besides me was ever asking for this book, but I’m glad it not only happened, but that it’s pretty good, too. I was waiting for this book to drop when it was first announced, but I didn’t know what direction this book would go, or if Andi Benton would be a good fit for the Scream symbiote (or vice versa). I’m also very happy that the Scream symbiote finally shows proper sentience and has a “voice”, opposed to in past stories where it was portrayed as nothing more than a powersuit worn by its then-hosts. I know its only the first issue, and I may be a little bias, but god, am I happy to have this book exist. I’m hopefully that the antagonists in this book and the “twist” at the end go somewhere good, because I’m rooting for this one!
I hope the semi-obscurity of the title character doesn’t scare anyone away, because right out the gate, this book is proving it has merits to give both Andi Benton and Scream every right to be leading character(s) in this new title. Even if you aren’t a Venom/symbiote fan, give this a try. It deserves a read! Don’t know who the hell Scream is? Get to know her here!