In Marvel Comics‘ Venom #25, on sale May 27, writer Donny Cates smoothly wraps up the first major branch of his run and leaves the reader anxiously waiting for the next chapter. This oversized issue serves as the culmination of “Venom Island” and a captivating preview of its follow-up. Plus, Cates indirectly thanks readers for their support and promises us that he’s just getting started.
Writer: Donny Cates
Penciler: Mark Bagley
Inker: Andy Owens
Color artist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Two-Page Montage Sequence Artists: Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer & Frank Martin
Early in the issue, Cates expresses his appreciation for the fans’ loyalty with this series, you could just leave it at that. “You’ve stuck with me,” Eddie Brock says. “So thank you.” Later, Cates also assures us that the best is yet to come. Maybe he’s just discussing his own series. But it’s all too easy to connect Cates’ sentiment with the real world, where the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the comic book industry. Comics are slowly resuming some semblance of normalcy, and that may be the reason Cates’ message to his readers particularly resonates. If nothing else, we can all agree, as Cates writes in this issue, that his Venom run as been bonkers from the start. He acknowledges that, at times, the series seems like it’s going off the rails. But, 25 issues in, it’s been a wild, fun ride and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
The week’s installment concludes “Venom Island,” but it also revisits some of the hero’s classic hits. Two staples of any Venom comic are the character’s morality (or lack thereof) and his relationship to symbiotes and/or other people. Cates has consistently explored these themes and they both come to the forefront here. On the first page, Brock asks, “Is Venom a good guy or a bad guy?” He then reflects on his morality, and penciler Mark Bagley brilliantly captures this emotional struggle. He shows prominent worry lines all over Brock’s face to convey Brock’s turmoil. The antihero questions his past self and wonders, “What was wrong with me?” as he shamefully covers his face with his hand. Lifelike facial expressions have always been a strength during Cates’ run, and Bagley continues that tradition.
Brock’s relationship with his son, Dylan, is also a major factor in this issue. When the Carnage symbiote possesses Eddie, it’s up to Dylan to save him. But the boy’s inexperience is costly, as he’s outmatched by Carnage’s powers. But one of Cates’ primary themes, that we are stronger together, tips the scales in Dylan’s favor. United once more, the father-son duo counter Carnage’s evil force with their connection. The art team’s subtlety adds a lot of nuance to a scene that begins with a fight involving a Tyrannosaurus rex.
As seen at the end of Venom #24, Dylan arrives on Venom Island in the form of a Tyrannosaurus rex, thanks to his symbiote powers. Bagley, inker Andy Owens and color artist Frank Martin combine to make the ensuing battle as wild as anything featured in Absolute Carnage. In a full-page spread, Carnage and the dinosaur battle against a blood red background, and the creature’s teeth look like they’re as sharp as knives. As exciting as this battle is, Cates and the art team dig deeper and pack it with emotional weight. Brock is mentally trapped in a prison cell that’s floating in a sea of blackness. The cell’s bars are scarlet red, clearly showing that Brock is imprisoned within Carnage. The fight continues to escalate but the real conflict comes in Brock’s mind, where he, Dylan and Carnage all vie for his soul. The war on both fronts sets up a thrilling climax that firmly changes the status quo in Venom.
Venom #25 is the perfect book to celebrate the return of comics as we know them. It pays tribute to the character’s past and paves the way for his promising future. With Cates at the helm, Venom remains in good hands, and we can’t wait see what happens next.
What did you think of Venom #25? Did you enjoy “Venom Island?”
Check out your local comic book shop to see if you can get Venom #25 and other books.