Written by Donny Cates
Art by Iban Coello, Ze Carlos and Rain Beredo
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
With Carnage having met his end, where does that leave Eddie Brock and his son Dylan? With Venom #20, writer Donny Cates wraps up the dangling emotional threads of the main event and looks forward to the next chapter in the Brocks’ lives. And that’s a good thing, because in the wake of the larger event, the main title has felt like it’s been spinning its wheels a bit, handing over more exciting beats to the overarching Absolute Carnage tile. But here we get to see the momentum shift back to Venom while artists Iban Coello, Ze Carlos, and Rain Beredo keep the whole affair running on schedule. You mileage with it may vary, but it is a skillful hand-off for the entire creative team.
If you strip away the symbiote god and the codices and the cult of Carnage, Cates has been crafting a very human story at the center of Venom. I think in a lot of ways, blowing Absolute Carnage up into a big event robbed it of the small bits of catharsis that are present in this issue. The finale of Absolute Carnage kind of just stops - the threat is over - but Eddie still has so much to contend with, and really all the action is building toward the conversation that he gets to have with his son here. So the dialogue might feel a little melodramatic and over-the-top, but it’s such a charged moment that that energy is understandable.
On the other side of the coin, Cates is looking toward what he’s going to do next, and he makes sure that his inclusion of the Maker in Absolute Carnage was not for nothing. The Maker has big plans and Cates lays the foundation for a story that undoubtedly has larger implications for the Marvel Universe than Absolute Carnage did if certain elements come to fruition. It could be a red herring or something that Cates doesn’t intend to immediately explore, but it’s definitely the kind of payoff that will have even non-Venom fans sitting up to take notice. It’s impressive how Cates has made the Lethal Protector a more important player in the Marvel U.
Coello, Carlos, and Beredo keep a lot of the visual continuity intact from Ryan Stegman and Frank Martin’s work with these same characters, and I think that’s the right move. Big shifts in art can be jarring for new readers, and anyone who latched on to this title after liking the event can ease into the story more easily. Coelloand Carlos’ character work is strong across the issue, and they keep things simple. There’s a lack of action in the scripting that forces the artists to take their time. It’s more important for them to choose shots wisely to find the most emotional impact or hold back a reveal than try to force an odd layout. They do a decent job of following and then simplifying (but not overly so) Stegman’s stylistic approach. Beredo’s coloring style feels a bit brighter than what we’re used to seeing from Frank Martin, but I think that’s only because the linework is a little bit simpler, leading to less heavy inking and more open space. Overall, it’s a good looking book, even if it’s mostly just staying within the visual expectations set by previous creators.
Venom #20 isn’t necessarily a gut punch - I don’t think it’s emotionally heavy on that level, but it does provide a more satisfying character conclusion for Eddie Brock than Absolute Carnage did. And Cates pulled out some fun toys for that event, so it’ll be interesting to see where the revelations in this issue take his plotting. The art team does a solid job with this one as well, keeping the visuals interesting enough without distracting from the beats that Cates is looking to hit. This feels like the start of a new era for Eddie Brock, and that means that Cates and company have achieved exactly what they set out to do.