The death of appointment viewing in modern entertainment media creates an odd balancing act when it comes to a producer teasing new content. On the one hand, it’s their natural desire to generate as much hype for an upcoming story event as possible; on the other, they don’t want to alienate consumers who may be enjoying the series at their own pace, thus causing them to tune out from news updates and releases entirely. I appreciate when sites and press releases take the time to scrub their article titles and stubs of spoilers so only those who elect to read the full article are privy to information involving either recent or upcoming events.
On the other hand, you’ve got releases like the most recent developments for Venom, where Marvel decided to throw suspense entirely out the window. If you’ve managed to miss that news and aren’t interested in finding it out, by all means, stop reading here.
I wasn’t certain how to integrate the news of Eddie Brock’s impeding reunion with the alien into reviews of the intervening issues. I opted to simply ignore it, and take each issue’s story on its own merits. However, this issue’s conclusion is such that Brock’s presence can’t be ignored any longer. I’m not interested in speculating on what the nature of Brock’s reunion with the alien will be, so much as I’d much rather discuss how that knowledge frames the events of this storyline. Honestly, it kind of taints some of the developments of this issue, but it’s not as if there aren’t already some flaws.
For starters, the symbiote’s flight from Spider-Man is never explained. The two parted on reasonable terms when their paths crossed in Venom: Space Knight, and if the symbiote hates the situation it’s trapped in, why not turn to Spider-Man for help? While I’m sure Spidey will figure into the plot of future issues, he didn’t actually alter the outcome of this issue’s events. We don’t even see if he takes down the Scorpion.
Speaking of, apparently it was the Black Cat’s lacky, Adams, who figured out that Lee was Venom, and suggested Gargan equip his armor with anti-symbiote ordinance. Now, I get that Adams’ involvement was a surprise, and the audience wouldn’t see him piecing the mystery together. But…we actually did see Gargan work through that process. Saying he needed a third party to spell it out for him undermines his credibility as a threat. Oh, and Lee now says he actually was a threat to the Cat’s organization, even though his stated goal in the first two issues was stay under the radar and let the Black Cat be the face of the organization. If his goals or motivations changed, the audience hasn’t seen it. Then again, the symbiote is speaking in complete sentences again, so there’s another change that apparently transpired off panel with no explanation.
More is provided regarding Lee’s backstory, but it all reads like information we should have already received to sympathize or follow this character. With Eddie Brock’s return and the future developments advertised on the very last page, the events of this issue read like they’re speeding towards Lee’s swan song; perhaps he won’t die, but his time as Venom is certainly coming to a close. Further, so much of the character has been informed by his relationship to the alien and his scheming within Cat’s organization; there’s not much to latch on to without those attributes in play.
This issue really does pack a lot of plot in, which would read much more enjoyably if the characters were a bit more consistent. The attempts at intrigue and backstabbing power plays are what consistently hamper this series, as they muddy characterization in a way that the plot doesn’t actually require. This isn’t a case of plot driving characters; characters are recontextualizing prior plot beats in a manner that doesn’t quite fit.
This is frustrating, because I know Mike Costa can handle varied characterization; Web Warriors had a dozen or so characters in play at any given time, and even the less-central figures had a unique voice. For whatever reason, this smaller cast is getting compromised by its own Machiavellianism, but I’m looking forward to the return of Eddie Brock. If anything, it should push this book in a different direction.