The Spiderverse is a well-known part of the Spider-Man mythos and we all knew the Venomverse would soon be on its way. This entry, titled Venomverse: War Stories #1, contains a handful of stories that feature some big names from both the character and creator side of things. Although, fans of Venom will want to pick this up for a whole other reason: this compilation encourages an exploration of how the symbiote functions with various characters thanks to its closely condensed nature. Because there are a lot of big hitters and part of the fun is seeing all the characters they fit in, I am going to focus on three of the short stories and leave out many details.
The first story I want to focus on is titled “Blessing in Disguise.” I admit I just adore this one. The main character is a young girl named Ngozi. She uses a wheelchair and loves grasshoppers. Despite the fact that the symbiote attaching to her is described as “being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she quickly discovers that she can now walk! Even more impressive is the fact that she can will Venom to do what she wants instead of the other way around! Writer Nnedi Okorafor handles the inner dialogue perfectly and never shies away from exhibiting her inner strength. The ending is especially well done with all the contexts in balance making what might be a hard sell feel seamless. Tana Ford’s Art is also wonderful with Ngozi’s dreds and Venom’s tendrils becoming one. The Dora Milaje poster in her room is also a great bit of foreshadowing.
“Deal with the Devil” is the second story that sticks out to me because we see a character who is mostly known for working alone try to harness Venom as a weapon. After a story about Venom being an empowering force for good, it is interesting to see a story where Punisher thinks he is doing the same thing. Declan Shalvey consistently delivers great images throughout and the narration nails both characters. Even though the art style was cleaner than the previous tale, Chris O’Halloran’s colors are very thematic with a dirty quality in the majority of the color palate emphasizing Punisher’s gritty aesthetics. My only major critique for this story is that it seems much more like a Carnage story than a Venom one and this is seen in both the narration and the use of all the reds and oranges.
Finally, we get to “Force Majeure.” This story features Doctor Doom who, like the other two characters I talked about, believes he can control the power that is Venom. This story is awesome in the original meaning of the word and the new one; it is both scary and cool. I mean, Doom is a juggernaut all on his own, but with the power of a symbiote too… The thing is, Aaron Covington deftly inserts enough doubt to make this a particularly compelling read. Khary Randolph’s art in this story is the highlight of the whole issue. From the tendrils in Doom’s eye to the cape billowing behind him, the hybridity is perfectly captured. There is also a three panel sequence that is just deliciously gothic. They could each be a painting on their own. Additionally, the was that Doom’s Castle is a constant presence in the panels that contain him is a reminder to the readers that this is a character unlike any of the others.
In conclusion, all these stories are tightly paced and fun to read. I also want to note that Joe Sabino’s inclusion of the spider symbol on the left side of the occasional internal dialogue box was a great thematic touch that glues all the stories together. For anybody that was going to give this book a pass, I encourage you to check it out. It looks like fan pandering, and there is some of that to be sure, but it is a lot more interesting and enjoyable than I thought it was going to be! I for one can’t wait to see what comes swinging into the next issue!
(W) Declan Shalvey, Magdalene Visaggio, Cullen Bunn
(A) Annapaola Martello, Declan Shalvey, Tana Ford
(CA) Francesco Mattina