Writers: Jed MacKay, Donny Cates
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Ryan Stegman
Colors: David Curiel, Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release date July 22 2020
Review by D.Brown (WolfCypher)
I was the fortunate one here at Weird Science who was tasked with reviewing last years installment, and I remembered liking it. I’ll admit, I had to do a quick search to get the score I gave 2019’s ASM/Venom issue…it gets difficult remembering all the reviews I’ve put out on this site. So I’m eager to see how this years model will hold itself against its predecessor. Let’s find out…
The first story is our Spider-Man feature, where we see Spidey and the Black Cat disrupt the Vulture’s attempts of selling S.H.I.E.L.D. confiscated fear-toxin grenades. Regular Spidey scribe Nick Spencer isn’t on this story; instead we have Jed MacKay scripting a team-up where its seems our friendly neighborhood webman and his sultry cat burglar friend-with-benefits are having a little too much fun apprehending the winged geriatric. The two heroes (of course, that is including Black Cat) exchange just as much sass with each other as they normally would with the villain they’re confronting. Its become a rare instance, seeing Spider-Man and Black Cat working together like they used to, so I’m pleased when the two characters are written well together. Fans should know (especially since we’ve gotten away from Dan Slott’s take on Black Cat being a hardened “queenpin” antagonist) that there is an expected chemistry between these two, and MacKay plays with it and respects it. Its a fun story that doesn’t seem to tie into any upcoming or new event, it doesn’t seem like its trying to sell us on, or hype us up for a future series of events…as far as I could tell, its a one-and-done filler for the sake of having fun with two characters that don’t get used together like they used to. Its actually odd to come off this good story and not have it be a prelude to something, considering that a Free Comic Book Day issue would be a perfect platform for that. But our next story makes up for that.
The Venom story included in this package, where we see Eddie Brock putting everything out on the tables about Knull to the Avengers. This story actually starts the way Venom #25 ended. Remember, due to real life events that have troubled the release cycle of Marvel Comics, this issue was actually delayed. It would have released between the finale of “Venom Island” and the current arc in Donny Cates title, “Venom Beyond”. The opening of this story, with Eddie explaining to the Avengers everything that’s happened involving Knull feels like a extended version of how this all played out during Venom Island’s” conclusion. The most notable part of this story is the introduction of the new villain called Virus…which was unfortunately hampered, again, by the delayed release cycle. This new foe has already showed up in Venom #26, released one week prior to this issue, but here was his (assuming Virus is a he…) intended first appearance. Reading this before Venom #26 actually works in Venom #26’s favor, but in either issue we don’t get a revelation to Virus’s identity or the exact reasons why he wants to kill Venom other than Venom having “ruined his life”.
For those who have missed Ryan Stegman on the Venom title, we get to see his work in this freebie. That also means…the return of the recurring rainfall that Stegman and Cates are known for having in their book, especially when Stegman is on art duties. Does Venom now the power to summon heavy rain wherever he goes? Well, at least when Stegman’s on the book.
In the end, I would pretty much consider this years Spidey/Venom free issue about equal to last years. Its a lateral return. Both editions featured a filler Spidey team-up story with a Venom story that leads directly into the events of the main Venom book or upcoming Venom event. On the one hand, our 2020 Spidey story I felt was even more fun than our 2019 edition’s, while on the other hand I didn’t quite like this year’s Venom story compared to last. It does have to do with the out-of-order release of this book, but also due to 2019’s Venom story being a prelude into the big, huge “Absolute Carnage” story we were prepping for, while this Venom prelude is only leading into what feels like a smaller story in “Venom Beyond”. I’m sure “Venom Beyond” will be a great story (I already reviewed it, favorably), but the Venom hype 2019’s free issue left me with just wasn’t reached with this years. So which years FCBD issue wins? It looks like the two books break even, with a fun Spidey story, and a passable Venom one (2020) equaling a great Venom story and a passable Spidey one from 2019’s.
An enjoyable Spider-Man and Black Cat romp, and a Venom tale to remind us of what’s to come, for the price of nothing. The Venom story might not be as essential due to Venom #26 being released before this, but the Spidey story handles itself as its own self-contained story. Even with the release of this being delayed, both stories are worth reading, and with “King in Black” being months away still, you can at least get your Ryan Stegman now while the long wait to Knull continues.