Hello, my friends. Marvel has had a long and winding history when it came to adapting its comic book properties into films, be it in animated form or in live action, whether they be straight-to-home video or given a theatrical run. Not only that, but various movie series centered on a particular group of characters have also come about throughout the vast history of the comic book/superhero film genre. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest and most successful media franchise of them all, other studios have tried their hands at adapting the Big Red M’s numerous properties. One primary example is Sony, who acquired the Spider-Man film rights in 1999 and have had their ups-and-downs with the Web Head and his plethora of supporting players & opposing fiends. For this article however, we’ll be focusing on a piece of tie-in material that’s dedicated to a vicious being who’s been a fan-favorite ever since his official debut in 1988. With his solo sequel officially on the horizon (at the time of this review), let’s revisit his inaugural outing and check out a comic that’s connected with the film simply known as…
Released on September 14, 2018, this digital comic helped tie in to the movie that ultimately saw its general release in U.S. theaters on October 5. Physical copies do exist, but they were solely given out to those who purchased tickets for the movie at AMC Theatres. For this particular entry, Sean Ryan handled the writing duties, Szymon Kudranski took care of the artwork, while Ian Herring took command at coloring. So, how does this material handle its job at tying in to a major comic book movie, particularly one that’s also the inaugural entry of “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe”? Let’s feed our curious hunger by checking it out for ourselves.
We open at a particular moment within the film as ex-investigative reporter Eddie Brock is shopping at Mrs. Chen’s convenience store. In the movie, this takes place six months after he dealt a huge blow to both his personal and professional life by reading a classified document from his girlfriend Anne Weying’s e-mail concerning the Life Foundation’s tests involving humans and their newly-acquired Symbiotes. When Eddie brought this up during his interview of the company’s CEO named Carlton Drake, it ultimately got him fired from his job at the MNBN broadcasting network. Not only that, but he also got Anne terminated from her position as a lawyer for the law firm of Micheline and McFarland, since they were representing the Life Foundation. For said action, she officially ends her relationship with Brock. Getting back to the comic at hand, Eddie mumbles how he used to be a reporter and that it required him to discreetly follow those “who don’t want to be followed”. Suddenly, he reveals that he knew that someone was following him as he tells a particular woman who was eying him that she lacks “the fundamental ability required to form even the most basic covert existence”. She tells him that she’s Dr. Dora Skirth, a scientist who works at the Life Foundation and that she needs his help. However, he’s initially dismissive of her offer.
We then cut to sometime later, particularly after a series of events where Eddie ultimately decides to take up Doris’ offer to expose Carlton of his devious experiment, gets snuck into the Life Foundation, ultimately comes across a familiar homeless woman named Maria, attempts to break her out before having the titular symbiote leave her body & go into him and ultimately managing to escape back to his apartment. After a silly series of events where the symbiote causes him to be abnormally ravenous (which includes the infamous restaurant scene where he climbs into a lobster tank and eats a live lobster) followed by a check-up courtesy of Anne’s current boyfriend named Dr. Dan Lewis, we return to the comic at hand as Eddie is back at his apartment, trying to deal with the symbiote and its inner voice that he’s hearing. Suddenly, there’s a knock at his door as the symbiote tells him to not open it. However, Brock does open it up as he’s approached by Roland Treece and his men, having learned about him through Carlton after their boss managed to get that detail out of Dora before killing her with another symbiote (not that this particular fact is present here). Roland then says that they’ll need “Mr. Drake’s property back” before they hold Eddie up with some tasers. He tries to hold his hands up, but the symbiote keeps pulling his limbs down on account of it making them look bad before he says that he’ll take care of this. Treece’s men then fire their tasers at Brock and although they do hit him, the symbiote’s structure allows him to resist the charge before it proceeds to beat up Roland and his men. Unlike the movie where he’s viewing this incident back at the Life Institute alongside his fellow scientists, Carlton is remotely observing this from an adjacent van just as Brock jumps through a window out onto the streets. As Treece orders for the launch of several drones, Eddie sees Venom’s reflection on an adjacent car and calls it a parasite. As a result, it sticks Brock to a nearby wall and chastises him for said description. In some comic-exclusive dialogue, Venom tells him that this kind of insult would be “a good way to get yourself eaten” before revealing that it comes from the planet Klyntar. As a Life Foundation drone moves in, Eddie apologizes for calling the symbiote a parasite as he gets freed from the wall before the drone crashes and explodes. From there, he hops onto a motorcycle and rides off.
A chase ensues as Roland, his men and several drones go after him. As several fiery explosions occur during the intense pursuit, Venom briefly mentions that he doesn’t like the flames. Eventually, Brock drives up an incline before he reaches the top. His constant upward momentum causes him to soar off of the motorcycle, but the symbiote manages to get Eddie back on. Ultimately, he’s approached by a pair of enemy cars on opposite sides of him. Venom manages to bail Brock out of his situation as it grabs onto the steering wheels and causes the automobiles to crash. Suddenly, one last vehicle comes in and rams into Eddie, causing him to wipe out onto the street. Roland emerges from the car and prepares to detain him, but Brock suddenly grabs him as the symbiote completely covers his body and confronts his foe as Venom.
From there, the comic ends much later within the actual film. Over at the course of several events, Eddie begins to bond with his Venom symbiote, drops off his cell phone at his former boss’s office (since it contained snapshots of the Life Foundation’s test subjects), fights off an entire S.W.A.T. team before meeting up with Anne again and gets brought to Dan’s hospital where the MRI machine emits enough sonic disruption to separate Brock from the symbiote. From there, he attempts to take his leave before Roland & his men bump into him and kidnap him. Back at the hospital, the Venom symbiote manages to escape before it makes its way into Anne. Over at the Life Institute, Eddie gets interrogated by Carlton (who’s recently bonded with the Riot symbiote) and demands to know where his Venom symbiote is. When he’s unable to get any useful information, Drake orders his right-hand man to execute their subject. As such, we return to the comic where Brock gets taken out into the middle of the nearby woods as Treece and a pair of his henchmen are about to slay him. Eddie tries to disorient Roland in order to escape, but Treece easily shuts his attempt down. Suddenly, the two goons are captured and dragged off into the darkness before a She-Venom emerges as she kills Roland by chomping onto his whole head. She then picks up Brock and kisses him as the Venom symbiote makes its way back into his body. We then truly end on a major difference between this comic and the movie. In the film, Venom informs Eddie (who then tells Anne) that Carlton has bonded with Riot and together, they have their own “arsenal of weapons”. As such, they have to stop him. Even though Weying says that she can help out and Brock agrees with her, Venom turns down her offer before he & Eddie head out. Here, she initially says that she got here by taking a taxi cab before Brock then says that he has to get her to safety, but she refuses to stand by and do nothing. Afterwards, Venom knocks her out (with a nerve pinch, I think) as Eddie carries her off.
Overall, this is far less of a “prequel” comic and more of a “preview” comic. After all, it is officially credited as the “Custom Sony Pictures 2018 Venom English Comic”. With that being said, it does provide a few glimpses into what the movie ultimately has in store. It leaves out the more bafflingly comical scenes, as if to not turn audiences off from the insanity contained within the final film and making those revelations more of a surprise when they actually go see it. In terms of its artwork, it’s very muted and shadow-heavy, mainly comprising of blues and blacks. While those selected scenes do take place at night, some variety would’ve helped in delivering a better color balance in order to make this feel more pleasantly presentable. In terms of representing the actors who portrayed the notable characters, it’s not exactly faithful. Eddie doesn’t look as gruff & muscular-esque with the proper kind of hair that Tom Hardy would sport for his portrayal. Dora is one of the most faithful recreations here, even though this comic version doesn’t have the exact hair style (ponytail and all) that Jenny Slate had. Roland is also fairly portrayed throughout and doesn’t differ too greatly from Scott Haze’s look. Carlton does look like his actor Riz Ahmed when he’s shown from the side, but his portrayal takes a bit more of a downturn when his face gets properly shown. It’s not awful by any means, but it feels somewhat off. Finally, Anne’s actual appearance doesn’t come until the very end. While it’s actually not a huge problem for me that she doesn’t look exactly like her actor Michelle Williams, she’s not even given any kind of room to emote any crucial facial expresses, especially since she’s arguing her importance in helping Eddie and Venom stop Carlton & Riot from accomplishing their devious mission. Format-wise, I understand the use of these three scenes for this comic helps in giving its audience some idea of what they can expect from this movie. However, I feel like there’s a missed opportunity to not expand on some numerous backstories. For example, John Jameson and his fellow astronauts coming across the symbiotes in the first place could help expand on what Carlton has in mind with his plan towards curbing overpopulation, more details on how Eddie rose as an investigative reporter initially in New York City before coming out to San Francisco & meeting Anne, or even exploring Drake’s scheme from the lens of a supporting player like Dr. Dora Skirth could’ve given some added relevance to them in hindsight. It works towards promoting the movie and it’s a nice addition to anyone’s comic collection, but it doesn’t leave much of a memorable impact in hindsight. Despite that, it’s still interesting that a piece of tie-in material was made for a Spider-Man spinoff movie. Check it out if you’re curious, with some “tator tots and chocolate” on the side.
Venom (created by David Michelinie & Todd McFarlane) is owned by Marvel Comics.