Writer: Donny Cates (David Michelinie)
Artist: Mark Bagley, Ryan Stegman (Ron Lim)
Colors: Frank Martin (Erik Arciniega)
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release date May 27 2020
Review by D. Brown (wolfcypher)
“Can we agree its been an insane few years–“? That’s part of a line of dialogue spoken by this title’s protagonist, Eddie Brock himself, in one of the first opening pages. A series of scene where Eddie recaps the events that have unfolded around him and the burdens that have compiled on top of him ever since the very 1st issue of Donny Cates’s Venom run. As the clock ticks down towards the coming of Knull, aka the big bad this book’s entire run seems to exists solely for, here we have the conclusion of the first arc post-Absolute Carnage, one that, due to real life events that have hit the world like a typhoon, concluded late. We can agree real life’s been an insane few months…
Eddie’s body is under the control of the Carnage symbiote while Dylan uses his strange powers to psychically control the Venom symbiote (form of a Tyrannosaurus Rex) in combating Eddie-Carnage. The idea on paper sounds insane, and given this issue is both the long-awaited conclusion to this five-issue long arc and the “milestone” 25th issue of Cates’s run, this is the kind of crazy that just seems perfectly fitting for such an issue…too bad it’s execution leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, I would have loved to have seen more of this fight played out. Show us what Dylan is capable of doing with the Venom symbiote under his control, and let’s go for broke with Eddie Brock “Carnagefied”, both a status quo we’ve never seen happen and a word I just made up. Alas, such a hyped moment feels very inconsequential as it really takes a back seat to the inner struggles both Eddie and Dylan are having inside Eddie’s mindscape, where a mental prison has been made by the Carnage symbiote. While we get to see Dylan exhibit more of his strange power, at one point, I wondered why Dylan doesn’t just use his control over symbiotes to force the Carnage symbiote off of Eddie and just be done with it. Thankfully, this issue suggests that the Carnage symbiote may be a little out of Dylan’s league. Also, suffice to say Dylan himself still hasn’t really figured out the extent of what he can do.
This is the issue that brings a lot of things out on the table and in the open; along with Eddie and Dylan each knowing their true familial ties (which was something that happened merely one event ago), we can add to that Dylan’s mysterious powers are now no longer a secret to Eddie, and finally Eddie is no longer keeping the existence of Knull and his inevitable doomsday arrival a fact only to himself.
Mark Bagley’s fantastic art fills the pages of this book’s main story, but we are treated to a special double-page spread drawn by this run’s original recurring artist, Ryan Stegman. Its a treat visually to see Bagley get to draw key moments in this run’s history with his style; when Eddie is recounting everything that has taken place since issue 1, we get to see moments once drawn by Stegman, Joshua Cassara, and Iban Coello reenacted under Bagley’s pencils.
Perhaps the strongest moments in this issue are the ones where Eddie is bearing his everything to us, the reader, as he shares not only his accounts of what has happened so far since this book’s volume started, but also his self-conscious opinions of who he was and who he’s trying to become. Eddie shares out loud how he knows the world around views him. He knows what type of man he was when he first became Venom. He owns up to the kind of psychopath he was when he menaced Spider-Man during his earlier days. Its at the beginning of this book were Eddie openly talks about the man he was and the man he’s trying to be. This is made even better when he ties his son into this. Dylan has become essential to his life, and while Eddie strives to do better and stay on the right course, he’s happy to know he has at least one fan in his son. Honestly, the opening sequence of the book was my personal highlight.
The book offers us up with a second story, one written by Venom co-creator David Michelinie, and penciled by Ron Lim. Here is a filler flashback tale that takes place between Amazing Spider-Man #347 and #362. Its a pretty non-offensive bonus tale that doesn’t add or take away from anything Donny Cates is gearing towards, so take it however you will. I enjoyed it enough, but being a story that takes place during Venom’s earlier days as a character, we have a sillier, jokier version of the character that just seems incapable of NOT talking out loud for even a second. Early nineties Venom was a very different Venom.
Having hit the 25th issue mark, it’s interesting to note that out of 25 issues, we really haven’t had a lot of Venom in this Venom series (the exception to this to me seems to be the first six issues of this run, where we got a heavy does of Venom). Of course, I refer to Venom as the combined union of Eddie and the symbiote, the man while hosting the alien, and NOT simply refer to the symbiote on its own as Venom.
Carnage Island continues this streak. Venom 21 had absolutely zero Venom in it at all, and most of this arc featured Eddie, symbioteless, fighting alone against the Carnage symbiote which had seized Eddie’s own symbiote from him. We get the awesome moment of Eddie being engulfed inside the Carnage symbiote, an incredible first that had never been done before, and its over before anything is really done with it. Its insane to think, with Marvel having done so many gimmicks with the Venom symbiote, including having as many of their heroes and villains becoming “Venomized”, that no one has ever had Eddie bond to the Carnage symbiote (or perhaps Cletus the Venom symbiote), and we get that here and its a pretty underwhelming moment.
Cates has proven he can write a powerful Eddie Brock. When Eddie is frequently (and I mean…FREQUENTLY) without his “other”, Cates has shown us how resilient, steadfastly determined, and overall badass he can be even as a “normal”, hosting no super powers. And I will always credit the man when he give us moments where Eddie is being examined as a character study in ways no other writer to handle the character has done. Still, this Venom fan is wondering if we can have just one arc where Eddie gets to…you know…be Venom? In a Venom comic?
This issue does two things very well; it recounts everything that has happened in this title’s run so far, and it teases what’s to come. Meanwhile as far as the events taking place on the deserted island, with one Eddie Brock and his ongoing battle with the Carnage symbiote, I felt the conclusion was pretty underwhelming.