Best Shots Review: WEB OF VENOM - VE'NAM #1 'Opens Up VENOM For More Interesting Stories' (8/10)

Marvel Comics August 2018 solicitations
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Web of Venom: Ve’Nam #1
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Juanan Ramirez and Felipe Sobreiro
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

With a movie on the horizon, the thirst of half of the Twittersphere and a hit series on comic book store shelves, it’s clear that Venom is having a bit of a moment. And you know what that means - with great popularity comes a great many opportunities to cash in.

But don’t lock up your wallets just yet. With Web of Venom: Ve’Nam #1, writer Donny Cates and art team Juanan Ramirez, Felipe Sobreiro and Clayton Cowles manage to craft a careful tale that weaves between established continuity and doesn’t feel like a cash-grab. This one-shot stands well enough on its own, but for readers who are also plugged into Cates’ work on Venom this will shine even more light on that narrative. Plus it features some excellent work from the art team that does a good job leaning into the flashback nature of the story.

Over the last few years, Marvel has definitely moved toward fleshing out the mythology surrounding the Venom symbiote to varying degrees of success. If the symbiote becomes a less unique entity in the Marvel Universe, then it might not be as compelling. The proof is really in the pudding on that one — Brian Michael Bendis’ foray into fleshing out the symbiotes in Guardians of the Galaxy was shrugworthy at best, while Venomverse was an exercise in watering down a cool character concept.

But Donny Cates seems to have hit a sweet spot here. This Vietnam War set entry features a twist on the symbiotes that’s straight out of Shane Black’s Shadow Company or Brahm Revel’s Guerrillas but which still feels fresh in this context. A symbiote special forces unit is exactly the kind of thing that a government looking for the next Captain America would do, so it rings very true especially as Cates gets Nick Fury involved. And while Wolverine is soon to be the most ubiquitous man in the Marvel Universe once again, his inclusion here works too.

Juanan Ramirez and Felipe Sobreiro match up quite well with Cates’ script. Ramirez really delivers on the horrific nature of the symbiotes in this setting and I’m particularly impressed with the acting on display from his characters. The script itself doesn’t lean too heavily into war genre conventions which allows Ramirez a lot more freedom in terms of paneling and pacing. Some of the art team’s visual choices are definitely coming from Predator in terms of overall style. Sobreiro’s colors are strong, too - as his flatter color palette gives everything almost a layer of dust. So we get something that doesn’t necessarily look like it’s set in the time that it should be, but it certainly feels like it.

There’s a lot to like about Web of Venom: Ve’Nam, as long as you’re on board for all the weird dragon god Symbiote stuff that’s been building. Cates draws from a number of obvious influences, but he’s proven to be adept at remixing them and inserting them effectively into the Marvel Universe. Juanan Ramirez and Felipe Sobreiro deliver on the notes of horror in the script and communicate the time period without beating readers over the head with it. Usually, adding stuff to a character’s backstory only serves to make them more complicated and less compelling (just look at ol’ Canucklehead), but Cates and company avoid those pitfalls. Ve’Nam is a solid book that actually opens up the Lethal Protector for more interesting stories moving forward.

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