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"Venom #21" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by Marvel Comics

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Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Mark Bagley
Inked by Andy Owens
Colored by Frank Martin & Erick Arciniega
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
2019, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on December 26th, 2019

Review:

Eddie Brock has defeated Carnage once and for all, absorbing dozens of symbiotes, including the one bonded to Cletus Kasady in the process. Things should now be on the up-and-up, but Eddie can't quite get over the hump. Knull, the symbiote god, has awakened and he's on his way to earth. Dylan has learned that Eddie is actually his father, not his brother, and he's been rather cold about the idea. Can't this poor guy just catch a break?

The short answer to that question is “no.” Of course, it wouldn't make for a very interesting story if he just walked away into the sunset, now would it? Venom #21 kicks off the Venom Island story arc in a pretty cool fashion. See, Carnage isn't as dead as we thought. The symbiote's personality is so strong, it's cutting through Eddie's connection with his current “other” and forcing him to do horrifying things.

Writer Donny Cates presents an interesting idea here. We knew that Cletus was crazy, but is his symbiote just as insane? Could the two have affected each other to such a point that the Carnage persona has become an entity of its own? In any case, the most dangerous villain Eddie has ever faced is now lurking within his head. That's a chilling thought.

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Click images to enlarge

This conflict comes to a head by the end of the issue, where the island really comes into play. Colorists Frank Martin and Erick Arciniega do some great work here, turning the peaceful setting into one of fire and destruction with bright yellows, oranges, and reds. It's like staring into the pits of Hell. This strengthens Eddie's resolve to put this monster down once and for all.

There's some history with this place, as it's where Eddie took Spider-Man years ago to try and kill the wall-crawler. It's also where he was when Carnage began his reign of terror in Maximum Carnage. This is a great touch for continuity fans.

Artist Mark Bagley brings some great emotional depth to Venom #21. You can see the pain and torment on Eddie's face and it varies based on the obstacles he encounters. The look of shock on his face is pure and absolute when Carnage's voice pops up in his head. This contrasts with the expression of sadness and regret he gets when Dylan insists on calling him “Eddie” instead of “Dad.”

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The action in this issue is mostly internal, save for the fiery ending. Bagley plays this up with the aforementioned facial expressions, aided by inks from Andy Owens. Each line on Eddie's face is a story, tracing back to the horrors he's witnessed and some he's committed.

The conflict within Eddie's body plays out in overlapping caption boxes from letterer Clayton Cowles. The Venom symbiote is struggling to stay in power while Carnage is overpowering it. This is shown perfectly with the boxes as they are piled on top of each other, with one growing larger as more control is gained.

We're not quite done with Carnage even after we saw him killed at the end of the Absolute Carnage event. I'm happy with this, as he's a great and terrifying character. This presents a new angle with him, playing with all the symbiotes Eddie absorbed at the end of that arc. We're going from a big, epic story to a more personal and emotional one and it's somehow just as frightening. Venom continues to be the horror hub of the Marvel Universe.

Grades:

Story: fivestars Cover
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Art: fourandahalfstars
Overall:  5 Star Rating

About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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