Venom #23 Review

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Mark Bagley
Colors: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Release date February 12 2020
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

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Eddie Brock continues his failing one-sided battle against an island of wildlife corrupted by the Carnage symbiote, who itself has corrupted and merged with his Venom symbiote, in part three of Donny Cates’s “Venom Island” arc. You know, after everything he’s been through for over 20 issues worth of stories, and especially after the gauntlet that was Absolute Carnage, this guy could use a break. Get away from it all, take a vacation. This isn’t ideal, but when you’re Eddie Brock, this is probably the closest you’re going to get. And look at how much deep %#$^ he’s gotten into.

This arc so far has really made me realize how this man just cannot catch a win. With the god-powered serial killer Cletus Kasady put down for good, thanks to Brock, he’s only guaranteed the inevitable arrival of Knull. Likewise, in beating Cletus, Eddie had to absorb the dangerous Grendal-Carnage symbiote. We see how well that’s gone. Deserted on an island of death with no symbiote of his own, having to lose a hand, and on the brink of passing out while every creature on the island has been Carnagified, Eddie Brock has to now climb a literal mountain to get to his last chance at salvation. This all ends with quite the cliffhanger. And back in New York, Eddie’s son Dylan tries to use the sliver of the Carnage symbiote he’s secretly horded to establish a connection to Knull. Its a dangerous move, but one he’s trying to help Eddie. This is a bit of a contrast to the last time we saw Dylan, in the most recent Web of Venom, who seemed more antagonistic and problematic. This may be a bold, maybe even dumb move on his part, but its nice to see the likable, on-Eddie’s-side, wants-to-do-right version of Dylan again, after reading a comic where he’s a borderline sociopath.

The twin pairing of Cates and Mark Bagley delivers another good installment of Venom. Cates’s style is still ever-present here; we see him putting Eddie through the ringer and he closes things with a big end-of-issue shocker. I love how he’s been showing how even as a “normal”, Eddie Brock is a “bad-ass normal”. Most of this run has seen a powerless, symbioteless Eddie as the focus, handling nearly insurmountable challenges and coming out of it in the end to face the next big, deadly threat. That said, I could really go for a story sooner than later that actually featured Eddie-as-Venom again, in the actual Venom book. And Bagley’s art just continues to look better and better. I stated how in part one of this arc his art was underwhelming. I’m a big, long time fan of his work, with his storied, long history of drawing Venom and other symbiote dudes and dudettes, his long, iconic run on Ultimate Spider-Man, and everything in-between (hell, I remember following an off-shoot of DC Comics Justice League featuring Congorilla just because Bagley was on the art). Seeing his art in part one and coming away feeling like he didn’t give it his all was a bit disappointing; again, just my thoughts. Part two’s art I liked a lot more, and I saw a big improvement from Bagley. That’s more like it! And by this issue, I’m all in on the visuals! Its a real shame we don’t get to see Bagley actually draw Venom (okay, spoiler-ish detail here…there’s no happy Eddie/Venom symbiote reunion here). Bagley most likely wont be on this book again (for who knows how long……) after Venom Island wraps up, and three installments in and we don’t get to see him actually draw this visually awesome character. The story just doesn’t call for Venom…this is all Eddie.

Final Thoughts

Venom Island’s latest issue ends with a big shocker of an ending, suggesting that things might be winding down, but with two more issues left, don’t lower your guard; something’s up Donny Cates’s sleeves. This story hasn’t yet been able to reach the same highs as the Absolute Carnage event it follows, but I’ve been enjoying this arc a little more with each issue.

7.9/10

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