Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Iban Coello
Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release date April 7 2021
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Eddie Brock, dead and nothing but a phantom existing in a realm of Codexes, is about to experience another death at the hands of Knull, who has appeared to put an end to Ghost Eddie’s little shenanigans. Of the two Donny Cates/King in Black books released today, I’ll reveal that I thought of this as the better of them. One last reminder to you, the reader, that I will be spoiling this book in my review/synopsis.
A manifestation of Knull has displaced Rex the Symbiote and he has grown tired of Eddie’s continued existence, in life and death. Knull holds Eddie over a cliff in their symbiote afterlife plane of reality, in a sequence that made no sense to me at all. Rereading this sequence of events three times, just to make sure what happened was intentional, I have no idea what Knull was thinking here. Before dropping Eddie to his second death-by-freefall, he envelops Eddie with a symbiote. It just so happens the symbiote, out of the countless pool of symbiotes at Knull’s disposal, this specfic symbiote is Eddie’s Venom symbiote, sentient and acting of its own autonomy. And Knull is pissed and surprised by this, suggesting he never intended for that to happen. This is silly.
Oh, but the fun doesn’t stop there, as Eddie, despite being basically a ghost, is now able to breach into the living world and physically appear as a giant-sized Venom in the middle of the Knullified New York. I have no idea what the rules here are anymore. He’s a ghost…bonded to a very real Venom symbiote.
If there’s one thing this Venom arc/King in Black tie-in has been consistent with, its it’s inconsistency with its rules. Since Eddie died and ended up in this symbiote afterlife, I’ve been really trying to keep up with how any of this codex Hive purgatory stuff even makes sense, because it feels like every new issue there’s another trick, perk, limit, or loophole to understand. Opinions outside of my own have championed this arc so far for really diving into and fleshing out the symbiote mythos by exploring this Hive/symbiote afterlife. I’m…I’m having a hard time understanding how this reads like a deep and thorough dive into symbiote canon when it’s barely intelligible from book to book, but more power to everyone’s opinions, one and all.
Back to the synopsis. Giant-Venom sticks around for about two pages before an immense light pierces them, and as the Venom symbiote melts away, Ghost Eddie falls several stories back to Earth. Again, what is it with this Knull event and people FALLING all the time?! That’s twice in one issue!
Ghost Eddie begins to fade away as elsewhere, the dead body of Eddie Brock is revived by the power of the Enigma Force, and we brace ourselves for the final issue of King in Black.
It’s like a jumbled mess of a book, but one I think I enjoyed. Every time I got to a scene where I was left wondering “why did this happen…”, “was that supposed to turn out that way…”, “what was the point of that…”, I moved onto the next bombastic scene, where my focus shifted swiftly to the next crazy moment that made no sense. You known what, though? Through it all, I was just going along with the ride, amused at these bits. I just got to the point where I had to let myself have the fun with none of the logic. Yes, I’m crying over symbiote limbo with Codexes ruled by a dark Elder god having no structured rules…I heard myself think this. I gave up. I just decided to GO WITH IT. It made the book more enjoyable.
Compared to the big showdown we see in King in Black #5, I think I would have rather seen this Giant-Venom take the fight with Knull instead of what we ended up getting. We never get to see Giant-Venom do anything with their insane Kaiju status, as the Enigma Force from the prior issue of King in Black finds its host in Eddie, and this book happens just shortly before that. Obviously, such a showdown could not have happened here as it would have been referenced in the event book, and you know, continuity.
But one criticism I’ve steadfastly stuck with is that Eddie hasn’t really done anything in this arc (OR THE ENTIRE EVENT) so far, and what little of a plan he was able to fashion ultimately was unnecessary. I’m surprised this arc actually saw him manage to regain his symbiote, which was his only course of action all along (and it happens out of sheer dumb luck), and yet it was never going to amount to anything. The biggest takeaway from this arc ended up being what we get at the end. As Cates is want to do, we are left with a big cliffhanger moment at the end that will “set the internet on fire”, with the very real resurrection of Flash Thompson closing out the book.
Unless this is a fake-out, I must say, that is big. In fact, this ending alone forced my biased hand to raise this book’s score from what I initially considered giving it during my first reading. I never would have thought Flash Thompson would be brought back outside of a Spider-Man book, considering even with all of his recent Venom-related history, he has been far longer a Peter Parker/Spider-Man supporting character. It was during a big Spider-Man story where he died. I never thought, even once, Cates would keep Eddie dead by the end of this event or run, but I also never believed he would bring back Flash before he left the book. But in retrospect, he sure has glorified the character throughout his run. Hell, Flash ended up looking better in Eddie’s Venom book more times than Eddie did, and the guy was dead this book’s whole run…
Once I stopped asking questions, I found myself having fun reading this. Iban Coello will always be a plus on anything he draws, and I’m always happiest to have him on any Venom story. Donny Cates wanted to play with a lot of different ideas here, and while getting to these ideas was messy, the actual result was fun. It was a bombastic ride that I enjoyed more than the actual event’s finale.