Venom #4/ Writer: Donny Cates/ Penciller: Ryan Stegman/ Inks: JP Mayer/ Colorist: Frank Martin/ Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles/ Publisher: Marvel/ Release Date: July 25th, 2018
“In the beginning, there was nothing.” – Knull
Everyone, at some point in their life, has heard some version of this story. In Venom #4, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman upend the tale-and in the process, a good deal of the Marvel mythos-as they explore the origins of the Symbiote god Knull. Each issue of this Venom run has been nothing short of spectacular, and not only does this issue continue the streak, it may be the best single issue I’ve read this year. Honest to Knull.
Knull explains to a captive Eddie Brock and Miles Morales that he is as old as creation itself-literally; he was born in the dark void of space. When the Celestials began to shape the universe as we know it, Knull took it as an assault and formed the first Symbiote as a weapon to use against them. As his history unfolds, the reader sees how this dark god’s influence has touched the Marvel universe-and how it completely upends everything you thought you knew about the Symbiotes.
Cates and Stegman, as I said in my last Venom review, are a match made in heaven. Cates’ script is appropriately epic in scale-he hurtles from the birth of the universe to ancient Norway without breaking a sweat. Stegman, with the help of inker JP Meyer and colorist Frank Martin, continues to bring a dark, Lovecraftian vibe to his art-particularly where Knull is concerned. The Symbiote God towers over Eddie, his eyes as black as the void he was born into. Tendrils writhe and wrap around him. It’s an appropriately unsettling scene.
The best part of the issue is how it adds to-and ultimately changes-the mythos surrounding the Symbiote. Why are they weak against fire and sonics? What happened to the first Symbiote? What’s with the Symbiote dragon? It’s all explained here (and beautifully ties into the mythos of not only another Marvel character, but a famed hero of myth.) Even the oft reviled “Planet of the Symbiotes” plot development in Brian Bendis’ Guardians of the Galaxy series is recontexualized here, to chilling effect. A great creative team can leave a mark on the character they’re working with, and Cates and Stegman have made quite a few marks in the space of four issues.
A well constructed origin for a terrifying villain. All Hail Knull.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 Symbiote Swords. HIGHLY recommended.