Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Mark Bagley
Colors: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Release date March 11th 2020
Some spoilers ahead
To recap, Eddie Brock has been fighting for his life on the deserted island against the Carnage symbiote. The Carnage symbiote succeeds in taking him over and the Venom symbiote is helpless in saving him. Dylan, back in the safety of New York, is playing around with his “secret” powers to learn more about Knull, but instead learns of what Eddie is going through, and manifests his powers into creating a version of himself that shows up on the island to help. This Dylan alters the Venom symbiote into the shape of a T-Rex and “together“, Dylan and the Venom symbiote take the fight to the Carnage symbiote to free Eddie.
And that’s pretty much it. There isn’t much to this issue. Yes, we get to see a bit more of Dylan’s powerset, and we get to see a major first in the storied 31+ years of Eddie Brock’s history (Eddie is CARNAGE), but while these big instances happen in this issue, nothing is really done with them yet. That’s all for the next issue. Outside of a teasing of what Dylan can do, and a sample of seeing Eddie becoming Carnage, this issue’s meat and potatoes is all a nightmare sequence, and given none of that actually happened, this issue is all a set-up for the craziness that’ll unfold in the next issue, which just happens to be an oversized 25th issue.
I’ll never understand Marvel’s insistence of “celebrating” a 25th issue like its some major milestone or anniversary. Amazing Spider-Man has had several “25th issues”, same with their Hulk books, Avengers, etc., so its not an uncommon stretch-goal. Likewise, it just puts into peoples head that when a comic publisher has to make a big deal about reaching its 25th issue, there’s the implication that most of these titles must have very short, unsuccessful runs, so we need to make a big deal about a title reaching its 2nd year (or sometimes just one year run if its a twice-a-month book). If we are to trust Marvel’s “Legacy numbering”, in twelve months we will be celebrating Venom’s 200th issue, so why not just wait until then?
The reason I detoured into that rant is because I feel like this arc has overstayed its welcome, and that Venom Island probably could have resolved in less than five issue. Here, we’ve reached part four, and we still have the extra-long celebratory 25th issue for Venom Island to go out on. I wonder if this arc was planned like this, like this arc had to be extended long enough to finish on the next, 25th issue. Because I just don’t think we need five whole issues (again, the fifth one being a longer issue) to tell this particular story. What could have been a great, adrenaline-fueled story has felt really squandered. This story felt like it took the first two issues in a row just to set up the story, only to then drop the ball by issue three. Sure, issue three had some cool set-piece moments, but was this all we could do with a story where a Venom-less Eddie has to fight for his life against a hostile Carnagified island alone? We see Eddie surrounded by an army of Carnagified wild animals ready to tear him to shreds, with the de facto Carnage symbiote literally in front of him ready to take him over by the end of issue two, and sure, we get the shock and awe moment of Eddie cutting off his own hand to spite the Carnage symbiote, but by issue 3, we don’t get to see how he gets out of this back corner. The book’s just ready to move onto the next big shock and awe visual moment. Why hasn’t this book’s arc really done anything to justify being as long as Absolute Carnage, which was also five issues? For what we’ve gotten so far, this all would have been a better read if it was just a little shorter, though I prefer the alternative of it really taking its premise, setting, and conflict and doing more with it. But this is what we got, and its all been…good enough.
So while I’ve said all this, what is in this issue isn’t bad…the writing is good, the character of Dylan is moving forward, and the art…oh my god, the art. Bagley continues to dominate with his art. It all provided me with a good enough read. The nightmare sequence alone was a fantastic set-piece moment, and the brief amount of seeing Eddie as Carnage had me anxious to see more of that in action. But then again this just makes me eager to read the next issue, instead of inspired to read this one a second time. I got everything I needed from the first read. Everything I liked in this issue is being hyped up now to really take off in the next installment. Again, its not a bad book by any means, but I’m just ready for the next arc to begin already.