Writer: Mike Costa
Penciller: Gerardo Sandoval
Colorist: Dono Sanchez Almara
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 11/23/16
Every Amazing Spider-Man fan has some knowledge of Venom, the symbiote alien who accessed Peter Parker’s genetic code and can now imbue its hosts with special powers. While he’s best known for his ruthless, sometimes villainous ways, this time the symbiote is looking to try his hand at being a good guy. Unfortunately, his latest host seems to have other plans…
Plot: Lee Price is a disabled veteran taking side jobs as muscle to make a living, but despite his tough talk he wasn’t prepared for the violent turn of events. Luckily, he’s saved just in time by bonding with the symbiote, who is hoping to replicate the partnership with the had with Flash Thompson. But while Flash might have been a veteran too, Lee seems to lack his moral compass.
Story: The symbiote no longer belongs to Flash Thompson, but to a totally new protagonist. Though the change is alienating at first, Venom quickly raises the stakes by making the symbiote the hero of the story. Lee, on the other hand, is rather nondescript until the climax of the issue. Instead readers are introduced to the symbiote’s thought process and desire to effect good in the world. Lee himself doesn’t become more than a cipher until he merges with the symbiote and wrestles control of both the suit and the story.
Mike Costa’s skill as a writer is on full display here, making the suit not only sentient but also complex with a minimal amount of text. The way Lee turns the tables is also surprising and effective. When he is first introduced he appears malleable and confused, perhaps because the story is being told through Venom’s perspective. But as soon as Lee and the suit merge, the narrative becomes his and his cold calculating ways and come to light along with the tragic backstory that hardened him.
While Venom – the symbiote on its own – isn’t exactly a good being, it’s clear he wants to learn the path towards good. But as he declared early on in the issue, it takes strength to do right, “and power is not strength.” Venom may have decent intentions, but he doesn’t have the strength yet to fight for them. Especially not against a host so determined to have his way and get his vengeance on the world. It’s a shame to lose Flash Thompson after everything he went through with the suit, but Venom’s struggle against another descent into madness promises to be quite a journey.
Art: The dark tone of Venom is perfectly matched by gritty and realistic artwork by Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sanchez Almara. The colors and shading brilliantly convey the bleak existence that defines Lee, as well as the desperation that drives the symbiote to seek a new host. There’s also several visually stunning panels that showcase the power struggle between the suit and the man, and the suit appears to leap off the page at times just as its trying to escape Lee’s clutches.
Most of the violence is implied, but the moments that appear on the page are tastefully done. Clayton Cowles’ lettering helps keep the few instances of gore from feeling too graphic. The dichotomy between Venom and Lee’s stream of consciousness is starkly contrasted in black and white text boxes which only further emphasize that things will never be entirely black or white in a story such as this one.
Verdict: Venom #1 is off to a great start, with a complicated protagonist whose path is not quite clear yet. Whether this symbiote and host will dig an even deeper hole for themselves or manage to climb out remains to be seen, but it’s sure to be an excellent read no matter what.