There was a time that Venom was a horror character in the Spider-Man universe. And if the first issue of Mike Costa’s new Venom series is any indication, the horror is back.
For those unfamiliar, the story of Venom began in Marvel’s 1984 Secret Wars event. Before there was Venom, there was an alien symbiote that was initially thought to be a new and improved costume for Spidey. But in fact, it was an alien lifeform, and as it bonded with Peter Parker, it began to corrupt him. When Peter finally broke free of it, the creature bonded with a host that hated Spider-Man almost as much as it did–Eddie Brock. Eddie was a reporter who blamed Spider-Man for the collapse of his career. When he bonded with the symbiote, one of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies was born–Venom.
In the early years, Venom was legitimately scary, and he haunted Spider-Man. Because of the symbiote having been bonded to Spidey, Peter could not detect Venom with his Spider-sense, which meant Venom could sneak up on him anywhere, anytime. Eddie Brock will always be my favorite Venom host.
After Eddie came Mac Gargan, AKA the Scorpion, another of Spidey’s famous rogues gallery, and that run was pretty interesting as the Gargan version became part of Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers. There’s some good stuff in that run about the itnernal struggle a host has with the symbiote, but it wasn’t particularly scary.
Venom’s most heroic time was more recently, when the symbiote’s host was Flash Thompson, former high school bully of Peter Parker’s that went on to become a soldier. He lost his legs in the Iraq War, but bonding with the symbiote allowed him to walk again as the symbiote replaced his lost limbs while they were bonded. This version of Venom had the creature at its most heroic (and not very horror-inspired at all). Still, it’s an excellent run, and I love Flash Thompson.
But in November of this year, a new Venom series was launched, and with it came a new host–Lee Price. Lee is also a veteran–a former Army Ranger. But unlike Flash Thompson, Lee has no intention of playing the hero. And in issue one of the new Venom series, we see that it’s the symbiote itself who wants to do good, and is subjugated by Lee’s desire to use its power for his own gains.
The new Venom series is written by Mike Costa, who just finished a great run on Web Warriors. Artist Gerardo Sandoval and colorist Dono Sanchez Almara give the book a dark and gritty feel that perfectly matches the story Costa is telling. I love the idea of the symbiote being the good influence this time around, and it experiencing the horror of being bonded with evil. There’s a lot of potential for great stories there.
But mostly, I’m glad that Venom is evil and scary once more. Having him as an antihero was fun, but there are plenty of them in the Marvel universe already (Punisher, Wolverine, Deadpool, etc.). Venom started as a character that could be right out of a horror movie, and I’m glad we’re seeing a return top those horror roots.
I’ll leave you with this–even though Spider-Man 3 was not the bet of Sam Raimi’s Spidey films, he is a horror guy at heart (Evil Dead series, Drag Me to Hell), and his approach to the symbiote’s bonding with Peter is the most frightening part of that movie.