In Venom #16, Donny Cates puts a fresh spin on Eddie Brock’s struggle to control the monster within.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Juan Gedeon
Color Artist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC”s Clayton Cowles
At first glance, Venom #16 might feel like a typical story featuring Eddie Brock and his famous symbiote. All the usual dynamics are present; Brock struggles to balance his humanity with the monstrosity inside him, he beats up some goons and he even discovers that Carnage is back. (Writer Donny Cates smoothly sets up the upcoming Absolute Carnage event here.) But none of these elements are the hook of the issue; that can be found in the fresh way Cates captures this conflict between man and monster.
Brock winds up at a bloody crime scene and, seemingly, he suits up as Venom to protect himself. A number of clues make the transformation seem legitimate. Artist Juan Gedeon draws Venom, rather than Brock, throughout the anti-hero’s time at the scene. Plus, letterer VC’s Clayton Cowles uses gray blocks to denote Brock’s speech and black blocks to signal that of his “other.” A number of panels clearly show Venom brutalizing some brainwashed goons. But Cates slowly reveals that Brock might not be wearing the symbiote after all.
Frankly, the reader experiences a “eureka moment” when it’s clear that Brock has maintained his human form for the majority of the issue. However, he still battles his inner demons on almost every page. Cates consistently focuses on Brock’s attempts to escape his past and the symbiote acts as a classic example of a character’s demons continuing to haunt them. The symbiote prevents Brock from getting rehired at the Daily Globe and it also interferes in his quest to be a good father to his son Dylan. Though the famous black goo and the consequences of its actions stubbornly cling to Brock, he keeps trying to live in the present. Unfortunately, he discovers that, sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, it’s impossible to leave your demons behind.
Cates, Gedeon, Cowles and color artist Jesus Aburtov all team together to play mind games with the reader. When one flips through Venom #16, they shouldn’t be mad at the creative team for this deception; instead, one should applaud this masterful manipulation. The reader is led to believe that Brock is magically Venom again and the team slowly peels back the curtain to show what’s really going on.
Of course, the other shoe eventually drops; Brock chooses to give into his base desires to ensure his own survival. He unleashes Venom and the moment showcases Aburtov’s contribution to the issue. The symbiote evolves from a dark purple shade, which is consistent with its appearance in a few nightmare sequences throughout the issue, to its classic black look. This subtle adjustment makes Venom’s jump from Brock’s subconscious to the real world even more impactful. Aburtov also deserves recognition for his portrayal of the War of the Realms; many other artists used bright colors to demonstrate the fantastic nature of the event but Aburtov employed harsh reds and oranges to show the brutal, hellish side of the conflict. With these small choices, Aburtov significantly augmented the quality of this issue’s art, which was already impressive.
What’d you think of Cates’ characterization of Brock’s battle with his inner monster in Venom #16? How do you think it’ll continue to progress?