Writer: Donny Cat and Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artists: Ryan Stegman, Kev Walker, Daniel S. Beyruth, Ron Lim, Guiu Vilanova, Gerardo Sandoval, Victor Nava, John Dell
Colors: Frank Martin, Chris O’Halloran, Jim Campbell, Matt Milla, Alex Sinclair, Chris Sotomayor, Richard Isanove
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Release date June 16 2021
Venom 200 is the final issue of Donny Cates’ run. This is an issue that places us on the other side of the Knull Crisis. This is an issue that feels like both a finale and a brand new fresh take which will definitely have Venom fans divided. And especially, this is an issue of whole new status quos, all over the place. I warn you here and now, this review is also spoiler-heavy.
Eddie is the God of all symbiotes, and its crown rests heavy. As a toll, Eddie has aged to the point of an old man who relies on a walking cane. Dylan is now a teenager…sure, this run never really consistently gave us a read on Dylan’s age, so you know what, I won’t challenge it. He’s now going to school and being escorted by the Venom symbiote.
Yeah, the Venom symbiote. Eddie’s Other. It remains the only symbiote not connected to the Hive, so Eddie isn’t able to remotely control it or see where it is at all times. Not that he needs to. It spends most of its time safeguarding Dylan and making sure he gets to school and home again. Yeah, Dylan is now going to school, Old Man Eddie owns his own apartment…it’s some much needed normalcy in the life of the Brocks. Oh, and it only took until the final issue, but Cates has finally written the symbiote with a speech that reads far from stilted and much more natural sounding.
The status quo shifts don’t end there. Since the Kunll-Coming rocked Earth, there are now numerous symbiotes still living on Earth, some having bonded to humans. Flash Thompson, resurrected during the final act of King in Black’s Venom issues, gets caught up to speed real quick when Guardsmen open fire on a civilian in a cafe some mere feet in front of him.
Okay, for the uninitiated, “Guardsmen” are what the security personnel at the Vault (a superhuman prison in Colorado) are called. They wear green armor from head-to-toe. Back during the 90s when Venom starred in his first ever solo ongoing story, a team called the Jury had a member named Sentry who was decked on in Guardsmen gear enhanced with anti-symbiote weaponry and jet-thrusters. Well, with the world still reeling from the Knull Invasion, there seems to be an entire organized movement of men and women brandishing themselves as Guardsmen hunting down any and all symbiotes, and I doubt these guys have any affiliation with the Vault.
While Flash gets to deal with this radically violent stance against symbiotes and humans bonded to them, we learn that Eddie has taken to the role of God of Symbiotes more literally than I initially thought they would go with him. It turns out Eddie can be in multiple places across the varies galaxies at once as long as there are symbiotes present in those corners of the universe. He can project himself and even take on both his form as human (Old Man) Eddie and as Venom. We see him fighting for the down-trotted on a foreign planet while at the same time having a civil meet-up with Thor on Asgard, all while actually being on Earth. Later in the book, he has lunch with Spider-Man while also holding a meeting with the Avengers at their headquarters, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men on Krakoa, and the Silver Surfer in five places at once.
Its actually a little too much for me, too be honest. We see in this book just how radically different and removed from what the character used to be Venom is now becoming. This character is almost completely unrecognizable to me, feeling more like a Doctor Manhattan than a Lethal Protector. We now have an elder Eddie playing God who can be almost everywhere at once, see the past, present, and future, see between alternate universes…I think maybe the character has lost almost everything that made him appealing to me in the first place. I don’t really know what’s to come, but I’m not excited to see, honestly. This issue just feels like Venom stopped being Venom.
We do get to see the passing of the torch with Eddie insisting the Venom symbiote stay with Dylan as more than just an escort. Dylan becomes the new host of the Venom symbiote. Prior to this issue’s release, Marvel teased what the next Venom run would look like, and it’s looking like Eddie is, once again, being removed from the Venom formula so someone else can have a go with the symbiote, and it’s going to be his son.
Having read comics all my life, I trust this is not going to be a status quo that carries on for longer than two-three years. There is always the chance that this new direction for the characters, Dylan, Eddie and Venom, may win me over. Unlikely events have done so before (making Flash Venom for starters). But the exact character I became a fan of, he went missing as soon as Cate’s run became the Knull comic, and I’m not surprised the final issue removes him even further. All I can do is continue reading along and see if Old Man Doctor Manhattan Eddie and Dylan-as-Venom-with-chains will click with me.
Cates has invited a stampede of different artists far and wide to contribute to this book, and I’ve said it before, it doesn’t always work to have vastly varying art styles trying to tell one story. Since this isn’t an anthology, the whole narrative is told with visuals that are too distinctly different, and each moment the art changed on me I felt taken out of the book. Individually and all on their own, each art style looks great, and I especially like Vilanova’s pages. The most action-heavy point in the story involved Flash and I’m glad they gave those pages to Sandoval. It’s a crime that Iban Coello wasn’t invited to this party. Come to think of it, Coello may have had more art duties on the main Venom book than Ryan Stegman, despite this book usually being credited as a Cates/Stegman title.
This is my opinion on this book, and you can agree, disagree, call my take on this issue the worst you’ve read. I know this has been a very popular run. I also know I’ve been up and down throughout this whole volume. King in Black did me no favors. Ultimately, if you read this review this far (or skipped to this point) you seem keen on hearing what I thought of this issue, and I’m weighing this on both its quality, how it was built up from everything Cates did to get to this final chapter, and also my personal tastes. We have a send-off issue where Eddie’s saga as de facto Venom has come to its end (it would seem) and the mantle will continue with his son, while also prepping readers for both the next Venom series and the next Flash Thompson-led Carnage event. We are putting many characters in new roles. Maybe better roles. I have to understand that this in itself is NOT a negative thing, but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.
This end for Eddie is a series of new beginnings for several others, as we see Donny Cates’s ongoing 35 issue (plus extras) Knull comic reach the epilogue. Eddie Brock see’s himself transitioning into a brand new role, and the character of Venom will go forward in a radically different direction. While this issue left this Venom fanatic feeling melancholy, I’m sure your average Venom reader, one who has been following and loving this run since its inception, will will come out of this with quite the experience. Who knows what’s in store next…