Venom #164 // Review
Writer Mike Costa, penciler Mark Bagley, inker Scott Hanna, and colorist Dono Sanchez-Almara are the team behind issue 164 of the Venom solo. In it, Costa sets up for what is claimed to be this fall's “epic Venom saga.” Eddie is having nightmares of his own, but over the course of the issue, learns of a rather impacting and heavy secret the Venom symbiote has been keeping from him.
This issue builds on to the storyline of Eddie and Venom trying to make a name for themselves as heroes, rather than anti-heroes or villains. After Eddie experiences a nightmare about Carnage and the symbiotes Phage, Riot, Lasher, Scream, and Agony from the classic Lethal Protector story arc and waking up to vomit, Eddie and Venom leave to get some air. During their nightly roam, the pair happen across Shocker attempting to rob a jewelry store. Shocker, in a very humorous series of panels, gets the upper hand on the pair only to be caught by police. Passed out from the intensity of Shocker's vibrations, Eddie has another nightmare, this one about the Venom symbiote being pushed around in a stroller. Waking up on a rooftop, the pair leave. Strolling the daytime streets, Eddie happens across Claire Dixon, an old friend. Their reunion is anything but pleasant as the streets clear and Dixon calls in an specialized task force to capture Venom; which is successful. Waking, yet again, in a lab and restrained, it's revealed to Eddie that the Venom symbiote is going to give birth again.
With this being a quick read, the book flows smoothly. While this is a page turner, what's presented here feels like a trope of itself already. In a world with numerous other symbiotes, Costa feels the need to bring another one into the fray when so many are background players already. By this point, the concept is all but eye-rolling. What is worth mentioning is how the characters and comedy are written. With Venom, Costa has the two written quite well and it shows that this is a fan-written book. Worth a few chuckles, the highlight of the issue is when Venom encounters Shocker during the jewelry heist.
Bringing his signature style and expertise to the series, returning Venom veteran Mark Bagley's pencil work is top notch. In particular, a nightmare scene, where Bagley draws the symbiote in a way that is reminiscent of a hellish octopus, is a highlight in the issue. Grotesque and disgusting looking, Almara's coloring compliments Bagley's outstanding pencil work. Using bright colors in multiple layers works in tandem with the deep hues of the dark palettes and makes each panel stand out more than the last. The multi-page fight between Venom, Dixon, and her forces are a highlight reel of Almara's contribution, with some of the best color work in the issue finding its way here.
While this issue deems itself the start of something epic, first impressions are anything but. Using the tired trope of another symbiote birth, it just feels as if this is a throwaway story for contractual purposes. The pencil and color work are done well, making Venom and his book look better than ever, but it feels like this path has been gone down before. By this point, what else can be done with Venom and Eddie? Costa’s answer is to usher in a new generation of symbiote antics, which hardly feels “epic.”