Web of Venom: Ve’Nam #1 / Writer: Donny Cates / Artist: Juanan Ramírez / Letterer : VC’s Clayton Cowles / Color Artist: Felipe Sobreiro / Publisher: Marvel Comics / Aug 29, 2018
Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom has had an incredibly meteoric rise in popularity with the story it is telling. The main premise is future movie stars Eddie Brock and his symbiote facing off against the god of all symbiotes. The creative team has redefined the Venom origin story, effectively rebooting the franchise into a dark, gritty space goo epic. Stegman’s art, Mayer’s inking and Martin’s coloring created a cosmic aesthetic of dark blacks and orange hues completely new to Marvel. Meanwhile, Cates’s penchant for myth making, as seen in Thanos and God Country, planted the seeds for interesting stories in “lost” moments of history.
This brings us to the comic of note: Web of Venom: Ve’Nam #1.
The First Spinoff
Ve’Nam #1 is the first spinoff one-shot from the main Venom comic. It is focused on a revelatory plot point that the organization SHIELD created symbiote super soldiers to fight in Vietnam. It is also a bit of a character spotlight on new character Rex Strickland and his future role in Venom.
Let’s get it out the way, and say this is a solid book and a competent one-shot story. Donny Cates has always had great writing chops. Juanan Ramírez is a great artist to follow-up on Stegman’s storytelling, with compositions that make each panel unique. Felipe Sobreiro’s coloring also provides the unique feel that a 1970s monster fight in a Vietnamese jungle needs.
There are two stand-out moments, one in the middle and one at the end, that land perfectly. Each moment gives new insight to a recent development in the main story, and more character to the symbiotes. It’s a war story about foreign agents that go feral, due to the torture of their superiors.
The premise of this book is a solid base for fleshing out the Venom-crazed world Donny Cates is making. Unfortunately, the book never goes beyond that premise.
The main problem of this book is how insubstantial it feels. As a spinoff it works fine enough, but the energy present in Donny Cates’ other work is nonexistent. There was a chance to make something truly off-the-wall crazy, in a different setting and genre, but the priorities feel misguided, and end up weakening it.
The biggest blow against it is that, instead of being it’s own thing, it brings in less interesting concepts from outside of Cates’ story.
Web of Venom: Ve’Nam #1 is not a Venom story. It is a mediocre Wolverine/Nick Fury team-up story that ties into a better narrative. In fact, perhaps “tying in” is giving too much credit. It just draws a straight line from Point A to B. Not to mention, the line it draws got presented so much better in the main Venom comic. While it is fun, there is not much beyond that to get invested in, if you aren’t already onboard with the main story.
I can’t help but feel we’re watching an excellent creative team merely filling a plot hole that didn’t really need to be filled.
The Web of Cates
The main problem of this comic is that it isn’t really about anything. I don’t mean that there is no plot; it’s just a very thin one. There is no meaningful through-line. No thematic depth to latch onto or make what’s happening seem like it actually matters. What depth it offers, is just lip service. I find it unfortunate that a story so gung-ho about changing up its fake world can’t bring itself to say anything about our real one.
This comic, while good and expertly crafted, reminds me of my least favorite aspects of mainstream superhero comics. It is more interested in explaining the logistics behind plot points, than developing said plot points. It has more preference toward shaking up the status quo and introducing “everything you know is wrong” twists. However, what I dislike might be any other fan’s favorite thing.
If you already love all of Cates’ Marvel comics, especially Venom, you should definitely pick this one-shot up. It does have the things you are bound to love, just to a lesser degree. If you like continuity, even better. It threads into nerdy minutiae and showcases cameos in the most gratuitous ways possible.
Just don’t expect major revelations on why this book exists. Besides an amusing pun of a title.
Verdict 3 out of 5
When he doesn’t have his head in the clouds, Jose keeps his head down studying and reading books, both graphic and novel. When he’s not reading, you can see him writing his own sci-fi adventures, photographing life in Los Angeles, catching up on television he’s missed, or watching the latest MCU film. He’s happy to live in the now.