Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Guiu Villanova
Colors: Dean White
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release date September 9 2020
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Now, let me say that I consider myself to be a legit Venom aficionado. I can tell you more about Venom and all peripheral lore surrounding the characters than I should have any right to. So I always come into any Venom story so sure I’ll be right in my element. That said, I came into this book having absolutely no clue of Wraith, or his origins, or his powers, his motivations, what his beef is, or even if this is a hero or an antagonist. Here I was, handed a copy of a Venom book that stared back at me, and I felt…so unsure. And it was exciting. I felt this fun anxious need to crack this book open and hope for the best…
…buuuuut my track record with these Web of Venoms reminded me that usually (in fact far too often) I come out of these books disappointed, sometimes even angry. I was juggling this eagerness to explore what awaited me inside this story while also dreading this being another unfortunate Web of Venom: The Good Son situation (a book I realize I graded too highly…). So…deep breathes and all, lets take this plunge because it’s a Venom book…for better or for worse I’m committed.
This book keeps its laser focus on Knull and Wraith. One is a character that we’ve still haven’t seen what he can truly do, and the other is a character that has appeared in other Donny Cates work, such as his take on Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ll admit that I actually haven’t read any of Cates’ Guardians, and in all honesty this issue was my very first introduction of the character. It gives the exposition necessary to get a handle on Wraith, so thankfully I got the gist of his character. Even going into this book, it was easy to assume this would be a revenge story; Wraith has beef with Knull, who is coming. Oh, Knull…always coming. That seems to be all I know about that character.
Its funny, now that I think about it as I type this. Throughout the entire run of Donny Cates’ Venom, including the additional Web of Venom issues, and the Absolute Carnage event, Knull’s presence has been overly-frequent in this ongoing story Cates has been crafting. I haven’t missed an issue of Venom or any of its directly related side-chapters, and I’ve been there for every single Knull reference, tease, flashback, etc. Wraith is a character I’ve been exposed to just once…here…in this new book. I gotta say, between the two, I found Wraith to be far more interesting than Knull, and I left this book feeling more invested in him than in this huge God-level terror that has been looming over us for two years now.
The story brings Wraith to Knull’s prison “planet” just moments before he’s released from it. Chronologically that would place this book at the very climax of Absolute Carnage. Wraith and Knull don’t engage in a knockdown fight insomuch as Knull makes easy work of Wraith and disposes of him like an afterthought. We do get exposition that fleshes out Wraith’s “curse” that ties him to Knull, and hints to what the curse (this Exolon substance bound to Wraith) is in relation to Knull’s other proud achievement, ie the symbiotes. As I have no prior history with Wraith outside of this one issue, this issue was my first ever experience with Wraith and his motives. In quick order I had to wrap my head around this character, and in just as quick order I was taken by surprise with exactly what this “curse” was in concept. I hadn’t a clue that Wraith was physically bonded to anything. Visually he appears to be a brooding character wearing a cool black space poncho. Learning that his clothes is actually a by-product of Knull took me offguard. Symbiotes, this Exolon, the Necrosword…it’s interesting how all this is fitting in with each other. I wonder what other characters, objects, elements, etc. in the Marvel Universe are in actuality a symbiote-like or symbiote-lite?
The art here is interesting to talk about. Guiu Villanova draws this book with a perfectly ghastly flair. This style makes great use of dark and shadowed imagery which pairs so well with the pale features of Wraith. The setting changes multiple times here, and thankfully the backgrounds are all great to look at. Eventually, Wraith is let loose into the empty abyss of space, and still Villanova manages to impress visually with nothing more than an all-black “landscape”. Personally, I didn’t dislike this style at all, but its not something I’d think I’d want to see as the regular, reoccurring style for the main Venom book. Our boy Eddie comes into the story at the very end, and I’ll be damned if he isn’t drawn like Tusk from the Xbox One’s Killer Instinct.
The Web of Venom books have historically been a hard sell with me. I really haven’t liked all but one of them. We’ve had six issues in the past and this one brings the total to seven. I try to temper my expectations with these books, or at least I say that to myself. I actually did come into this comic with a negative bias, what with my track record on these books being only one issue (Web of Venom: Funeral Pyre) that I enjoyed out of all of them. And here we are, where I found myself ending this issue and being rather pleased with it. Even after having to do the typical second and third reading for the sake of reviewing it and making sure I’ve combed over it thoroughly enough, I still thought it was a good issue, a stark contrast to my experiences with almost all of the past Web of Venoms. I would rank this underneath Funeral Pyre, but it still stands far higher than the Cult of Carnage, Carnage Borns, Good Sons, etc. installments that preceded it. Oh, and I’m legit interested in this Wraith fellow now. I think I’ll get around to reading some of his past appearances.
One of the better Web of Venom issues that serves more as a continuation of the titular character Wraith. If you’ve been following the Knull storylines in Donny Cates’ main Venom book, this won’t really move the needle on any gauges, but if you’re invested in Wraith, you’ll get a hefty return.