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
The Venom series has found a way to stand out during the Absolute Carnage event. While some series would have it feature the lead character, whereas the core miniseries would not, with Eddie Brock heavily featured in Absolute Carnage, Donny Cates has taken the opportunity to focus on Eddie’s supporting cast. While Absolute Carnage is dripping with 90s nostalgia and a gritty atmosphere, Venom has found a unique role, being a fun adventure, albeit one steeped in the sinister machinations of twisted characters and an undertone of horror.
After the arrival of the Sleeper symbiote at the end of the previous issue, we learn what it has been up to since the end of Venom: First Host. Afterwards, we follow Dylan Brock and Normie Osborn as they continue rebelling against the Maker in the wake of learning that he’s not as friendly as he initially seemed. During this, the symbiote forces of Carnage continue to press the trio, in particular the Life Foundation symbiotes.
What makes this comic such an enjoyable read is the characters. While there are definitely some very intriguing developments for Cates’ ongoing Venom story — and by extension, that of Absolute Carnage — Cates’ characters are what carry this story. Dylan Brock is still a very fun character, with a brashness and stubbornness that feel suited to a character who is essentially a smaller, more innocent version of Eddie Brock. He has good interactions with Normie Osborn and Sleeper, with the former in particular allowing Cates to demonstrate Dylan’s differences from a seemingly normal boy and allowing for the boyhood adventure undertone this comic possesses. The Maker’s more pragmatic side rears its ugly head as his conflict with the boys comes to a head and his sinister and overly evil presence creates genuine dread while also being enjoyable to read for how maniacally evil he is.
Despite the dark story at hand, Cates never forgets to inject a degree of levity, self-awareness and humour into his story. Considering the events of the issue and the Absolute Carnage event overall, it would have been very easy to lean into a darker style of writing, with heavy violence and disturbing themes, but Cates’ fun characters and knowingly cheesy script make this comic more of a fun adventure, if one that has darker moments at times. The moments if levity all land and keep Venom #14’s tone light enough to not feel too heavy, differentiating it from the intensity of the Absolute Carnage miniseries.
Iban Coello excels at expressions, which are extremely important in an issue like this that is heavily focused on character interactions. The exaggerated expressions of Dylan work well in emphasising his age and making him likeable. His face never shows an arrogance that isn’t seemingly self-aware, and he comes off as a very heroic figure despite his small frame. In contrast, the Maker never doesn’t have an air of dismissiveness and arrogance to his demeanour, eventually move back into the outright sinister presence the character is known for and that Coello depicted last issue. Coello also uses what opportunities that Cates’ script gives him to depict some horrific facial expressions and disturbing body contortions, which keeps the issue tonally in line with the rest of the Absolute Carnage event to some degree.
Rain Beredo’s colours further aid in lightening the tone of the issue. Despite Coello’s pencils at times very easily justifying a darker colour palette, very rarely does Beredo indulge in this. When extremely appropriate, Beredo’s murkier colours and heavy use of black serves Cates’ script well, but colours are more often than not brighter, awash in a pleasant orange that isn’t so much conducive to horror as it is the aforementioned sense of adventure. This helps to keep the comic light and fun, while also making the moments where Beredo does use darker colours more noticeable.
The Absolute Carnage event has done wonders for Venom. Beyond giving the series some well-deserved exposure, its focus on Eddie Brock in Absolute Carnage has given room for the supporting cast of Venom to shine. This more adventurous tone is a refreshing read, especially in a Venom comic and during an event like Absolute Carnage, and I can’t wait for more.
4.5/5 – Terrific