I have been championing Venomverse since the end of the shaky Edge of Venomverse. The team that Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, and Matt Yackey form is generally cohesive which makes for impactful stories. The Poisons are relatively smart and large-scale enemy that become vicious once bonded with a host and its symbiote. However, Venomverse #5 rushes the ending to an otherwise strong event.
From the get go, this issue is all about the battle. Although not a shock to the readers who saw Deadpool change alliances last issue, in #5 he quickly cuts to the chase as he initially takes Cap out of the picture and releases Carnage into the Poisons hub. From there, it’s a blood bath for both sides. Characters that we have come to know well, like Old Man Logan, are offed just as often as Poisons that we see for the first time. Unlike “Spider-Verse,” where one could safely guess that Peter, Superior Spider-Man, and Silk were probably going to make it, the only character I think that has been inherently safe from the start is Eddie Brock. I’ll save you the spoiler of whether or not he really does make it through the end though.
As there is so much emphasis on action, every character that is still alive makes an appearance before the final panel. Instead of enhancing the story and fleshing out characters who may have started out on the sidelines, the cast of characters becomes overwhelming. Mania and Panther have been pretty pointless throughout this entire series, so checking in with them once again pulls away from the few pages Bunn has to successfully complete this story. However, I’d probably be complaining if we never saw them again either. The answer is probably a combination of more pages, better editing, and balance, but this issue fumbles all of that. Additionally, Peter who has been absent for the latter half of the series feels shoehorned in here. We may not have seen much of the heroes I mentioned about throughout the series, but at least they’ve been in more than one panel since issue #2. There isn’t time for a satisfying conclusion to his conflict with Eddie. All we get to see is a quick punch in the face and then Peter is never to be heard from again. It’s indicative of the flimsy farewells we get across the board, and we don’t get much more depth than this scene throughout #5.
Overall, this issue is abrupt and unsatisfying on so many levels. The small twist on the final two pages following the letters section leaves the door of the event open a bit, but it’s not enough to justify the quick dispersal of the heroes and all the questions left unanswered. I didn’t get invested here just to see a few heroes make it home and seem entirely unaffected by the Poisons. These villains, although maybe not as smart as Moon Girl or as innovative as Iron Man, pose a real threat to Venom hosts. Wouldn’t an adversary that could stamp out everything within oneself and take over a body without a second thought warrant more thought than a rushed battle that results in all of the survivors merrily headed home? While I do believe the ever increasing price of comics is prohibitive to many fans, I would have gladly paid an extra dollar here for extra pages to flesh out the ending.
Although in other issues I’ve discussed the cohesive addition of the artwork to the script, in Venomverse #5 it’s the saving grace. Once again, one of his best panels is a few silhouettes against a red backdrop. Old Man Logan gets taken out, and even though he is rough and crotchety, the way Coello portrays it is fluid yet jarring. It’s an almost calm break in the dynamic, energetic art that dominates the issue. Coello and Yackey provide passionate art and exciting coloring, yet it’s not enough to help this conclusion to “Venomverse.”
An event like “Venomverse” isn’t just about the action. It’s also about the story. Unfortunately, while there was a lot of intriguing build up in the first four issues, most of it is forgotten by this one. I wish someone had been there when I finished this comic to take a photo of the dumbfounded expression on my face. The worst part isn’t that it’s a weak end to another Marvel event, but that I definitely got my hopes up. I’d still like to see this team come together again, though maybe their storytelling talents will shine more if put on an ongoing and not a series confined to a small number of issues. There’s a lot of potential still here, and this trio can do some great work. Hopefully Marvel will give them that opportunity.
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