In Review: Venomverse #1

A great beginning that captures the spirit of fun of 1980s Marvel comics.

The covers: I was able to find fourteen different variant covers online. There could be more, so have it, collectors! The Regular cover is by Nick Bradshaw & Edgar Delgado and features a slew of characters who have been taken over by a symbiote. In the dead center is the title character himself, surrounded by, from left to right, Doctor Strange, Rocket Raccoon, Deadpool, Sabertooth, Captain America, Black Panther, and, above Cassidy’s right leg, Ant Man. It’s difficult to make out all the characters due to the colors being black and gray. Some of the poses on the characters are rather odd looking. Todd McFarlane ushers in the Variant covers with a Remastered Sketch cover that’s a black and white image of Venom looking down upon him as he swings between several close buildings. If you love McFarlane, you’ll want this. There’s also a Remastered Color Variant of the same image. The credits list a Variant by Frank Martin & Joe Frontierre, but I couldn’t find an image of it anywhere online, so good luck tracking that one down, collectors!  A series of connecting covers has been created for a Variant series by Clayton Crain. Venom’s in the foreground, looking like a Marvel Zombie, while several Spidey related characters are behind him. I’ve been out of Marvel Comics for a while, so I couldn’t tell you who these characters are, but I think it’s safe to say that Peter is behind the book’s star. It’s also difficult to make out the art due to the incredibly dark coloring on this evening scene. The Variant cover by Elizabeth Torque is why I picked this series up. It features an image of the Hulk possessed by the book’s Poisons. He looks incredible and the coloring is stellar. If she does a cover like this for every issue, I’ll be chasing them down. The Variant by Gustavo Duarte is a spectacular comedic take on Venom and his infected comrades. Looking like a cartoon created by Al Hirschfeld, the design of the characters is amazing and they really pop on the all white background. This is one to chase down! Mike Deodato also created a Variant cover, this one with a head shot of X-23 transforming into Venom. The colors are so dark it’s really hard to make out the art, unfortunately. Mary Jane gets the Venom treatment on the Variant cover created by Tyler Kirkham. This has Venom in the same pose as he was on the Deodato cover, but this looks much better because the coloring is so much brighter. MJ’s got her fiery locks and the light green background really makes this one pop. The final female to get Venomized on a Variant is Spider-Gwen created by Chris Stevens. This is my favorite of the three because the character look the best and the coloring is the brightest! Ladies aren’t only getting the spotlight on Variants, as Cable is shown transformed by InHyuk Lee. This looks cool, but I wouldn’t have figured out this was Cable unless I read it, and that’s what happened. An Exclusive Variant by Marco Checchetto was done for and it’s sharp for having a symbiote Rogue in the foreground who looks stunning. I have no clue who the three characters are behind her. This would have looked better had it focused solely on the mutant.  Francesco Mattina also does a Variant which is tight close-up of Venom putting his hand onto a beaten Spider-Man’s face. It’s cool, but, as with several of these variants, the coloring makes it difficult to make out much of the details in the art. There’s also a Blank Sketch Variant cover that only features the book’s title at the top, if one wants to get an original illustration created for their copy. I think this is a terrific idea for a cover, but on it’s own, it’s pretty boring. The International Comic Expo (ICE) has an Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher, who crushes these variants on Star Wars comics. This shows a carded Venom figure with interchangeable heads, such as two Eddie heads, and two pairs of hands. Flawless. Overall grades: Regular C, McFarlane Variant Sketch A, McFarlane Variant Color A, Crain Variant B-, Torque Variant A+, Duarte Variant A+, Deodato Variant C-, Kirkham Variant A, Stevens Variant A+, Lee Variant B+, Checchetto Variant B-, Mattina Variant B-, Blank Sketch Variant C, and Action Figure Variant A+

The story: Jack O’Lantern is flying through the streets of New York City, on the lookout for Venom because “Guy needs to learn some boundaries! Respect my territorial bubble!” That’s when the title character emerges from the darkness and takes the flying foe down. Holding the flaming headed villain off a balcony, Venom is surprised to hear him beg for mercy. However, he says, “You’re a butcher, Jack…A serial killer…a dyed-in-the-wool murderer.” He then drops Jack to the ground and jumps on top of this body. Witnessed by some teens, Venom tells them Jack got what he deserved. Suddenly he says he doesn’t feel good and his body warps and implodes, leaving one teen to ask, “Anybody get a video of that?” Cullen Bunn starts this series well by establishing Venom’s sense of justice and then transporting him to a universe where Poisons, white creatures that consume a symbiote and their host to acquire their powers, killing the joined characters. He’s been summoned to this universe by other Marvel heroes, joined with symbiotes, to do battle with these Poisons and kill them. That’s all one needs to know and the action begins. This was a fun series, very much in the mold of an 80s Marvel comic, and that’s what I grew up with, so this story made me feel nostalgic and rekindled my love of Eddie Brock. If the following issues are as fun as this first one, this will be a neat mini-series. Overall grade: A

The art: Iban Coello is a name I’ve not encountered before, but is one I’ll remember because his art is impressive. Jack O’Lantern’s entrance on the first page and his short trip into the city is extremely well done, with the second panel outstanding. Venom’s entrance is a full-paged splash on Page 2 and is also good, but better is the punch he lays on Jack at the start of 3. The final panel on 4 had me inhaling at the pain delivered. The warping Venom on 6 is very cool. The frail character introduced on 9 was neat and what happens to that individual on the same page was appropriately startling. The reveal on 10 made my heart soar, for who it is and what he looks like. A double-paged splash comprises 12 and 13, showing all the other characters that will be appearing in this series that are also attached to a symbiote. There’s an excellent Venom roar on 16 that transported me back to the 1980s. 18 wowed me with a character’s entrance and the pain that his individual brings is outstanding. The design of the character on 24 was confusing and had the text not told me who this was I wouldn’t have known: this was not a good design or entrance. That said, the fight that occurs is good, with Venom fighting wonderfully dirty. Another new character appears on the final page and this design was freaking awesome! The visuals have me excited for more! Overall grade: A-

The colors: Given the extremely dark colors on several of the variant covers, I was very worried that the art inside this book would also be difficult to discern. My fears were unfounded because Matt Yackey does a great job. The opening scenes do take place at night, but every element of the visuals can be seen. The high point of this sequence are the spectacular colors done on Jack O’Lantern’s flames — seriously epic! A majority of the characters in this book are sporting black, but not once do they blend into the backgrounds or each other due to Yackey’s talents. The character that is introduced on 18 is beautiful with his coloring and was a stand out on every page he appeared. The yellow backgrounds on the last fight of the book really allowed the ebony clad characters to pop off the page. I’m liking what Yackey is doing. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates scene settings, yells, dialogue, Venom speech, sounds, whispers, and the unique speech for the characters that appear on 18 and 24. I’ve not been pleased with Caramagna’s work on the Star Wars titles that Marvel produces, but this book shows me that’s due to editorial decisions — note him, because this work is good. I love the three unique fonts for characters’ speech, making them sound strong. I also like all the sounds, they made the action incredibly fun. Mr. Caramagna, I wish you were allowed to make Star Wars comics this fun. Overall grade: A

The final line: A great beginning that captures the spirit of fun of 1980s Marvel comics. There’s nothing deep, just action and adventure starring Venom and slew of familiar faces bonded to a symbiote. If more Marvel comics were like this, I’d be buying more Marvel comics. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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