Venom #165 // Review
Mike Costa, Mark Bagley, Scott Hanna, and Domo Sanchez-Almara continue their work for Venom with issue #165. Continuing from 164, Costa finishes out “The Nativity” story arc, spanning only two issues. Pursued by the Symbiote Task Force and captured by FBI Agent Special Agent Claire Dixon, Eddie and Venom are freed temporarily, only to find themselves back in a lab. With no options left, Venom finds an ally in Spider-Woman as the two make their escape.
Directly continuing from the last issue, Eddie and Venom are being escorted in an armored car, restrained on a table. Claire Dixon wants the symbiote for study, for assignment to a host, but Eddie has some words for her. Venom protests, showing concerns for the new symbiote possibly turning evil like the six spawns from before--Phage, Riot, Lasher, Scream, and Agony from the Lethal Protector story arc, and Carnage, first seen in full in Amazing Spider-Man issue #361. When Mac Gargan, known as The Scorpion and a former host of the Venom symbiote, decides to cut Eddie out of the picture and regain control of the Venom symbiote.
With the revelation of this being the end of the current Venom publication, Costa tries to wrap up the Venom present with a white arachnid bow. Ending on the birth of a new symbiote, with some references to Venom's new family--hence the name of the story arc, “The Nativity”--the story just feels hastily written. Almost feeling like a throwaway, Costa knew this run was coming to an end due to “Fresh Start,” Marvel's upcoming re-launch of its universe in May, and did his best to try and round that out on a high note, which met its mark and succeeded. Overall, the writing is very solid, but disappointing when factoring in the knowledge of a forced end due to the May relaunch.
Bagley's work is outstanding in this issue. The choices Mark makes, using wide panels that occupy much of the page space or sit vertically in conjunction, really give him a chance to shine and fill the background with more of his wonderful art. The city skyline stands tall in the background. The streets are brought to a rest from the car crash earlier, with traffic come to a complete halt. Civilians are shown to be left in confusion as they peer out at the wreckage in all directions by the dozens. These decisions, though seemingly irrelevant, really help inker Scott Hanna form a solid basis, with rich inklines that outline the panels. This all culminates in the end result when Sanchez-Almara is given the chance to showcase his talent. Creating deep blacks alongside rich bright colors with masterful layering creates the depth of color seen in the pages. A standout is Spider-Woman; her color palette is dazzling and pops out from the dull city background.
Solid, yet hurried, writing is to be found here, along with the excellent art work. This story arc closes out another chapter in the book of Venom. Had Costa had more time, the plot threads created in this arc could have gone on to produce great things. With the knowledge of Fresh Start on the horizon and Costa leaving the imagination to wander, the question is left to linger in the mind of readers as the comic hurtles towards a new era of Marvel: If Eddie and Venom can shift alignments and do good acts by will, are symbiotes nurtured to be evil or does nature play a part here? Perhaps Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, the creative team behind the Fresh Start relaunch of Venom, can draw some inspiration from this run and answer this posed question with their run of the character.