On October 5, we are getting a Venom movie. Kind of crazy, right? At least this one won’t have any dorky dance sequences in it. Anyway, if you want to read up on Venom before he hits the big screen again, it’s a bit of a tall order because there’s been a handful of different guys under the black goo and many comics with his name on the cover. Luckily, we have a streamlined list of stuff to get you going.
Now, we’re going to focus on Eddie Brock stuff because that’s what Sony is doing. That said, if you’re interested in the Mac Gargan era, I highly recommend Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-Man. If you want some Flash Thompson Venom action, read the Rick Remender run of the 2011 series. If you come across the 2003 Venom series by Daniel Way, run in the opposite direction unless you’re one of those people who gets their kicks from reading bad comics.
The origin story of Spider-Man’s black costume isn’t too imperative. It says something that every later retelling of that story had Peter Parker wanting to bite people’s faces off when the original take was, “Man, I sure am tired for some reason!”
It helps here that Eddie Brock wasn’t an established character before attacking Spider-Man as Venom. He offers a flashback during his first storyline to get us up to date and from there we get plenty of fighting with an interesting dynamic. Not only is Venom stronger than Spider-Man, but he’s invisible to his spider-sense and knows his identity, meaning that in order to even survive, Spider-Man has to think outside the box at every turn.
For these first couple of years, Venom gets increasingly interesting, especially in the ways Spider-Man has to deal with him. This culminates in the creation of Carnage, which not only means Spider-Man has to undo taking Venom off the table, but the two have to team up against the big, new villain.
In terms of trades, there are two ways to go about it. Spider-Man: Birth of Venom has all of his origin appearances and Carnage Classic has that initial story arc, but you aren’t going to get that cool fight on the island or the other early Venom appearances. They’re releasing a hardcover called Spider-Man vs. Venom Omnibus that will have pretty much every Venom appearance pre-Lethal Protector. It’s really expensive, but it’s an option.
THE ORIGINAL ANTI-HERO RUN
Amazing Spider-Man #374-375 is this great two-parter that temporarily wraps up the Spider-Man/Venom rivalry and sets the stage for Venom to spinoff with his own solo run. It’s just a shame that it’s part of the previously-mentioned omnibus and not part of the Venom: Lethal Protector trade. As a prologue with the same creative team, it really makes for a perfect companion piece.
Anyway, Venom movies to San Francisco for a while to get in his own adventures. Co-creator David Michelinie starts this off with Lethal Protector, where he builds up a new status quo with supporting characters, villains, a more sympathetic rewrite of Eddie’s backstory, and a new home where he guards an underground society of squatters. Afterwards, the series becomes a revolving door of creative teams with each writer essentially turning it into “Venom Team-Up.” Soon the whole San Francisco concept is dropped completely and he returns to New York City to make these crossovers easier to handle.
The whole thing is very mixed bag, but there’s some fun stuff in there. If anything, it shows that we really need more Venom/Morbius team-ups.
Eventually, Larry Hama starts penning the series and mostly remains on it until cancellation. That gives it some much-needed stability, even if we get some bizarre storylines like Venom and Carnage duking it out inside the internet and Venom and Wolverine flying through space inside a silver football.
What makes it all work is the take that Venom is a more sci-fi, yet honest Punisher. Frank Castle tends to be perfect in his behavior. Argue about his morals, but if the Punisher thinks a bunch of drug dealers need to die, he will succeed in only killing those drug dealers and not a single innocent civilian. Venom is the kind of guy who will mistakenly kill a guy he thinks is a drug dealer then move on with his life because at the end of the day, this is just an excuse for him to give into his violent impulses.
The true highlight of this run is when Len Kaminski and Ted Halsted do an arc called Venom: The Hunger. It’s easily one of the best Eddie Brock Venom stories, based on the idea of the symbiote leaving Eddie and Eddie deciding that it’s too dangerous to leave alive. Eddie proceeds to go full prep work in an attempt to kill the creature, only with the challenge that the two of them can see things from each other’s point of view.
Oh, and at one point, Venom kills some dudes while singing David Bowie. Sure.
CALLING OUT SICK
With his anti-hero series winding down, Venom goes back into straight-up villainy. The stories that come out of that are…not so good. More specifically, it’s Spider-Man writer Howard Mackie coming up with cool concepts but never following up on any of them. In other words, any given Mackie comic.
It isn’t until Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos’ Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Hunger that we get something worth reading. In this story, it’s retconned that Eddie Brock has been suffering from cancer since his very origin. The symbiote is the only thing keeping him alive and part of Eddie’s drive to kill Spider-Man comes from knowing that it prevents the costume from choosing the better host and leaving Eddie to die.
This leads to the events of Marvel Knights Spider-Man Vol. 2: Venomous by Mark Millar and Frank Cho. Eddie comes to terms with his situation and decides to auction off the Venom symbiote to the criminal underworld while giving the money to charity. This alters the status quo like crazy and separates Eddie and the symbiote for well over ten years.
Within the pages of Peter Parker Spider-Man: Back in Black, there’s a two-parter from the pages of Sensational Spider-Man called “The Last Temptation of Eddie Brock.” This Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa/Lee Weeks joint is about a withered Eddie discovering that he share the same hospital as a comatose Aunt May. With the “voice” of Venom constantly egging him on to kill the woman in order to get revenge on Parker, Eddie ends up on one hell of a crossroads.
REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
In the late 00s, a book came out called Venom: Dark Origin. Ignore that book. Not only is it not very good, but it was a story that made Eddie look like a total asshole, released in a time when Eddie was being reintroduced into Spider-Man comics as a decent guy.
This brings us to one of the cooler stretches of the character’s existence, the days of Anti-Venom. Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. give us Spider-Man: New Ways to Die. The cocktail of cancer and the symbiote remnants in Eddie’s bloodstream meet with the powers of Mr. Negative to create a new kind of organism that cures Eddie and turns him into a violent vigilante with the power to heal. While he has no intent on killing Spider-Man, unfortunately his very healing presence has a negative effect on Spider-Man’s powers and shuts them off when they’re near each other.
Anti-Venom gets his own miniseries in New Ways to Live, where he teams up with the Punisher during the days when Frank is hanging out with Jigsaw’s son and has access to a lot of villain tech. It’s a small dose of throwback to the 90s anti-hero stuff that really works, but man, three issues just isn’t enough.
Anti-Venom would make another appearance in Spider-Man: The Return of Anti-Venom, where we finally get some closure on the whole Mr. Negative storyline. Anti-Venom would then be written off via Spider-Island, but that’s not exactly high on the list of Venom stuff you should check out. He’s a minor supporting player for the most part and his role is more of a plot device to keep the game-changing healing powers away from the Marvel public.
I’M MY OWN GRANDPA
Back during the whole Venomous storyline, a miniseries came out called Venom vs. Carnage. The Venom symbiote was such a hot potato at the time that the comic didn’t even make it apparent who was under the fangs and tongue. Anyway, the series introduced Toxin, the spawn of Carnage. Toxin got his own miniseries and then fell into obscurity around the early days of Bendis’ New Avengers.
Fast-forward to the Flash Thompson era of Venom. There’s a good guy Venom in existence, but he’s a far more respectable figure to the point that guys like Captain America respect him and allow him into the Avengers. Eddie Brock ends up the new Toxin host during Venom: The Savage Six and gets a return in Venom: Toxin with a Vengeance.
Honestly, while they’re fine stories, Eddie’s time as Toxin is little more than a footnote. He does have a supporting role in the Gerry Conway Carnage ongoing series (featured in Carnage Vol. 1: The One That Got Away, Carnage Vol. 2: World Tour, and Carnage Vol. 3: What Dwells Beneath). In it, there’s a task force put together to capture Carnage and, ultimately, prevent him from unleashing some kind of religious, Lovecraftian apocalypse. Eddie doesn’t get to do too much, but his Toxin appearance is kicking rad and it does give us some closure on Toxin as a concept.
REUNITED AND WE FEEL SO GOOD
After two cancelled ongoings and a finished tenure as a Guardian of the Galaxy, Flash Thompson’s role as Venom host comes to a close. Mike Costa is given a new Venom book and it starts off with a new host in Lee Price. While the symbiote really wants to be a hero based on its time with Flash, Price is actually a terrible person and wants to use this newfound power to take over the criminal underworld.
This is all a roundabout way of bringing Eddie Brock back into the picture and giving us a new era of the original Venom. Through Venom Vol. 1: Homecoming, Venom Vol. 2: The Land Before Crime, and Venom Vol. 3: Lethal Protector – Blood in the Water, we see a modern attempt to retry the old anti-hero days. There’s even a subplot about Venom being the protector of an underground society, only this time it’s a bunch of dinosaur people.
To give Eddie a supporting cast, he ends up acting as muscle for Liz Allen’s organization Alchemax, in return for Dr. Steven trying to figure out why the symbiote has been acting so erratic lately.
There are two big crossover stories through this run. One is Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc, which is a big team-up between Spider-Man, Venom, Agent Anti-Venom (Flash), and Black Cat against Lee Price as the new symbiote criminal Maniac. It’s basically Peter Griffin’s Big Jaws, only with Venom.
The other crossover is Cullen Bunn’s Venomverse saga. As a cash-in answer to the Spider-Verse event, there’s this multiversal war involving alternate universe Venom hosts and creatures called Poisons. Poisons are usually harmless creatures, but if they make physical contact with a symbiote and its host, it turns them into an even more powerful creature with the Poison in control and none of the usual weaknesses. So regular Venom has to join the war alongside Captain America Venom, Rocket Venom, Mary Jane Venom, and so on against Poison Thanos’ attempts to subjugate the multiverse.
For this one, the order is Edge of Venomverse, Venomverse, Venom & X-Men: Poison-X, and Venomized. Yeah, the X-Men Blue team gets heavily involved for the latter half of that. Mixing the symbiotes’ ability to see in all directions and Cyclops’ powers leads to some fun shit.
The main Venom series then comes to an end with Venom Vol. 4: The Nativity. It has a strong ending that acts as a cliffhanger, but it’s apparent that it isn’t for the next writer to take on. Released concurrently with the newer Venom ongoing is Mike Costa’s Venom: The First Host. This miniseries follows up on Costa’s run by introducing a Kree warrior who used the symbiote originally as a way to fight fire with fire against the shapeshifting Skrulls. Years later, this warrior ventures to Earth to get his weapon back and violence ensues.
GOD IS COMING
Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman give us Venom Vol. 1: Rex, a beautiful and darker direction for the character. Since Brian Michael Bendis threw the symbiote race’s origins out the window to come up with his own, Cates decides to retcon THAT origin as well and reveal a new big bad with Knull, God of Symbiotes. Through this book, Eddie discovers that there is much, much more to his costume than he ever knew, mainly in terms of Knull’s insane backstory.
Like, there’s a giant dragon made of symbiotes called the Grendel and it’s coming to wipe out Earth. Comics!
He also discovers that the government was using symbiotes since way back in Vietnam. This not only introduces new character Rex Strickland, but a one-shot spinoff called Web of Venom: Ve’Nam gives us a good look of where he came from.
And that’s all I heard about Venom and Eddie. Can’t tell you more ‘cause I told you already, and here we are waving Venom and Eddie goodbye.
Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and feels that you should read All Access #1 for the sake of seeing Venom hand Superman his ass while boasting about the time he beat up the Juggernaut. Yeah, that was a thing. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L
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