I always think of Venom as being drawn to heroes and antiheroes off the traditional track. Looking at the characters from X-23 to Deadpool, featured in Edge of Venomverse, none of them are your typical 1960’s hero. They’re all a little rough around the edges with anger issues and a dark sense of humor. The downside of this is that it can be difficult to discern the impact Venom has on any particular host. However, Cullen Bunn is tackling this challenge. With the exception of our favorite red, white, and blue Captain, the characters that appear in Venomverse all fall into this outsider category as well. Issue #2 plays up these differences, and in doing so it is full of action, character, and thankfully some more information about these new enemies. Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, and Matt Yackey come together to create a formative second entry to the “Venomverse” event.
Starting up where #1 left off, Peter Parker makes the colossal mistake of touching the meddlesome little white monsters that crave the symbiote. The Poison, as we later learn they are called, utilizes Brock’s tumultuous history with Spider-Man in an attempt to beat him. Instead of just seeing Peter pick on Eddie for all of his weaknesses, the Poison is much smarter about everything and digs into Brock’s soft spots to gain the upper hand. Brock is a crazy, weak, unworthy host that should give in to the Poisons. He could be so much better than he is. It can clearly access Peter’s memory, making the Poisons a villain that is not only powerful physically, but also psychologically.
While the dynamic between these two is always interesting, this issue delves a bit deeper into the other Venom hosts we encountered last time as well. We learn that Rocket Raccoon has lost all the other Guardians to the Poisons. From the downtrodden tone with which he conveys this, it seems as if the Guardians situation mirrors that of X-23 and her friends. Venom hasn’t just taken over one Guardian, but all of them, and in doing so, has bonded them together with something other than just friendship. By the end, we also have more understanding of Deadpool. He may be overconfident in general, but he also sees this fight as useless. This Deadpool is not one to fight a losing battle. It’s as if he just gives up and views merging with a Poison as inevitable. This isn’t the cocky Deadpool to which we are accustomed, but he still runs into danger with the same cheeky attitude he approaches any fight. Even though all of these heroes are hosting the symbiote, they all have differences that have them reacting to this situation in distinct ways. I still can’t say that it’s easy to notice how Venom actually impacts all of these hosts’ personalities and decision making, but it’s still intriguing to see all of the ways in which the symbiote has changed their lives.
As we learn a little bit more about this ramshackle team, we also learn about the Poisons. The most obvious thing, which we first get a hint of as Peter gets beaten, is that Poisons get juiced up when they take over a Venom host. They are strong, and they know what they are doing. They also view themselves as better hosts to Venom than the heroes we’re used to seeing, a sentiment which Doctor Strange reinforces during a conversation with Eddie. Additionally, in what may foreshadow the way to defeat the monsters, it seems as if appealing to the human side of the host might be the key to defeating them. When the infected Spider-Man also comes into contact with MJ, Bunn hints that Peter is still in there somewhere. He doesn’t want to hurt his red-headed companion, even if she is not the MJ of his world. We still don’t know how these little guys came about or a slew of other things about them, but Bunn lays the groundwork in a meaningful way.
Since it begins with a battle, Iban Coello and Matt Yackey craft much more dynamic panels than issue #1. This is especially evident when Eddie tries to use his Venom tendrils to try and strike the poison. The panel has energy and is lively. Additionally, when Wolverine launches himself at Peter, Coello sketches this with a fluidity that still portrays the rough disposition of Old Man Logan. This all leads up to the strong panel where our newest villain sits atop a riff on the Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones.” It’s a powerful spread that conveys the gravity of the situation the Venom hosts are really in as well as drop enough bread crumbs to create excitement for the next issue. Bad artwork can kill an otherwise intriguing comic, and as Coello and Yackey demonstrate here, confident art and fun coloring can lift up a good story to even better heights. I came for the story, and stayed for the art with #2.
In order to have a successful event that only lasts five issues, every comic has to be a tightly crafted work. There’s no time for superfluous panels that don’t aid the story, and so far, this team has thrived. Even though Venomverse #2 lacks some of the excitement of the premiere issue, there are enough answers scattered throughout the pages to keep me coming back for more. I might be an event skeptic, but Marvel is delivering here, and I’ll be eagerly purchasing issue #3.