Written by Donny Cates
Pencils by Iban Coello
Colours by Rain Beredo
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Cover price: $3.99 USD
Event comics spinning out of ongoing series can be a double-edged sword. They increase the scope of the story and allow for further exploration of the concept, but what happens with the ongoing can be awkward, where it can feel unimportant or necessary, or even both. Venom #17 does not fall into that category, instead expanding on the supporting cast of Venom‘s role in the event, which feels important while not completely inseparable from the events of the Absolute Carnage miniseries.
Despite the cover indicating otherwise, Venom #17 does not heavily feature Eddie Brock or the Venom symbiote. We are given a handful of pages where we peak into Eddie’s thoughts between Absolute Carnage #1 and Absolute Carnage #2, but that is the extent of his involvement in the issue. Instead, we follow Dylan Brock, Normie Osborn and the Maker during the events of Absolute Carnage #2. The trio are working on the Maker’s solution to the event’s problem when they are attacked by Carnage’s forces and must fend off the assault.
The plot of the issue itself leans into thriller territory, with Carnage’s forces relentlessly chasing our trio through Eddie’s warehouse. There is a real dread to the comic, helped by the horrific designs of the enemies the trio face. This gives Cates an excuse to let loose with creative action scenes that take advantage of the unique characteristics of characters like the Maker and the symbiotes, with some excellent choreography in these moments. The numerous close calls feel genuinely close and the wins feel brutally earned when characters narrowly, and temporarily, fend off Carnage’s forces. The tension that fills this issue is palpable and the stakes never feel fake, helped by this issue’s events not heavily tying into the events of Absolute Carnage‘s issues. However, Cates adds a wildcard in the form of the Maker, whose care for Dylan and Normie feels tenuous at best, especially when, within the span of this issue alone, Cates establishes that the Maker is not a man of his word or one who holds high morals, despite what he says, which is conveyed in a very understated way.
The best part of this comic is that it finally gives Dylan Brock a starring role. Donny Cates had previously established the character as a Venom fan and something of a brat, but otherwise has not done much with him — he largely serves as a plot device to motivate his father. However, with this issue, Cates gives establishes the kind of character Dylan is, giving him his own voice and agency, where he is portrayed as a snarky but well-meaning little boy who is willing to kick ass to protect people and do what he thinks is right — Dylan feels like a more innocent version of Eddie, with less darkness in him. Separated from his dad, Dylan is a fun character to read in his own right, especially because Cates has him interact with the cold and calculating Maker, who he plays off wonderfully, with his emotional and loud responses to the Maker’s cold and subdued dialogue. While I was not particularly fond of Dylan himself prior to this issue — I was mostly interested in the doors he opened for Eddie’s character — I really liked him here and I hope we get more of this kind of story for him.
Iban Coello’s pencils are a perfect fit for this comic and he is finally allowed to demonstrate some versatility. Coello previously illustrated some issues of Cates’ Venom, where he was tasked with the emotional story of Eddie and the Venom symbiote’s “break-up”. There, he did admirable work and demonstrated an affinity for expressive, emotional faces, if not action scenes. Venom #17 contains the stellar character work he’d previously demonstrated, with dynamic characters and strong facial expressions that work especially well with child characters like Dylan Brock and Normie Osborn, giving them a likeability that is required for the kind of thriller narrative, while giving the Maker a constantly powerful and sinister presence.
However, this time Coello is allowed to cut loose with big action scenes and creative choreography. The fight scenes between the protagonists and the invading symbiote forces is delightfully frenetic, while the choreography makes good use of their unsettling appearances and characteristics to keep things interesting and maintain the creepy tone Cates’ writing establishes. Rain Beredo’s colours are nice and vibrant, combining with Coello’s great facial expressions to create really vibrant and likeable characters, which is important when writing kid characters in this type of story, as well as sinister characters like the Maker. Coello’s work in Venom #17 is just a joy to read and a great demonstration of his versatility.
While Absolute Carnage is busy being a blockbuster smash with Eddie Brock taking on Cletus Kasady, Venom is telling a smaller story that simultaneously feels like it has higher stakes. While likely important to the events of Absolute Carnage, Venom #17 is compelling on its own, and gives us a nice look at how the Venom cast does without their wicked webslinger. The result is a really enjoyable comic that is just a lot of fun.
4.5/5 – Terrific