VENOM #2 / Writer: Donny Cates / Artist: Ryan Stegman / Inker: JP Mayer / Color Artist: Frank Martin / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Artist: Ryan Stegman & Frank Martin
All a Venom comic needs to do to make this reviewer happy is vaguely reference David Micheline and Mark Bagley’s Venom: Lethal Protector run from 1993, but it’s understandable if other readers want more. Donny Cates (Doctor Strange and The Paybacks) gives you more and Ryan Stegman (Scarlet Spider and Legendary Star Lord) shows you what more looks like. Seriously, Stegman’s art is just the right amount of creepy and compelling to keep the story going on it’s own, but Cate’s story is just the icing on its cake. This is still early in the run so readers can’t exactly know where the series is going, but it’s a simple deduction that there’s more to the symbiote than meets the eye. More to Eddie too, this is a package deal.
Cates has checked all the necessary boxes for a great Marvel comic so far. Tell an original story with a character that’s been around since 1988? Check. Have a new mysterious supporting character that brings a new level of depth to the character? Check, in the form of Rex Strickland. Remember that this character is still part of the Marvel universe each issue? Check, in issue one’s throw down with some villains, and in this issues special cameo and cliffhanger.
After last week’s cliffhanger, which gives me a gut feeling Cates is gonna do a lot of cliffhangers, a giant hole getting stabbed through Eddie Brock’s chest we pick up this issue with Rex Strickland’s internal monologue as the symbiote saves Brock’s life. Hitting the bullet points of Brock’s story, his childhood, reporting, becoming Venom, Carnage, San Francisco, cancer, Anti-Venom, in one of the best monologues in comics in a while.
The comeback king, which a clever description for Brock and a nice metaphor on the sporadic release of Venom appearances and series over the years. Venom is a popular character that everyone wants to write, but only half those people know how to write him. Donny Cate’s luckily is counted among that half.
The story only slows down when Cates aforementioned new character Rex Strickland, a promising addition to the Venom mythos, kind of took a turn in personality when Brock confronts him about the symbiote dragon later in this issue. In issue one he was a mysterious and foreboding former Venom super soldier where in this issue he’s suddenly concerned about Brock, granted this can be explained as development and can be fully expressed as the series continues, but this took me out of the weird fantasy sci-fi action superhero thriller story for a second instead of enhancing the tale. Not a huge negative to the issue, but still worth mentioning.
The cliffhanger at the end of the issue is genius and set up excellently in the issue through a newscaster saying Spider-Man is on the scene. When this reviewer hears Spider-Man he assumes the original, but there are others and Cate’s knows that because he’s a big fan.
In conclusion this is the beginning of a new era for Venom and the possibilities are endless. Rising star Donny Cates has done it again and, not to be redundant, but Ryan Stegman was meant to draw a Venom series.
Verdict: 4 out of 5