REVIEW: Venom #23

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Rick Remender’s run on Venom came to an end last issue, as Cullen Bunn now takes over writing duties. Major Spoilers takes a look to see if the new creative team succeeds in bonding with the material in the latest issue of Venom.

VENOM #23
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Thony Silas
Inker: Nelson Decastro
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Chris Sotomayor
Editor: Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Venom: Flash Thompson defeated Crime-Master and the Savage Six. But that came at a price as his relationship with Betty came to an end. Now as a member of the Secret Avengers he is an official hero, but he is constantly holding the symbiote at bay…

NEW CREATIVE TEAM, NEW STORY ARC

The new creative team of Cullen Bunn and Thony Silas take over for Rick Remender and Lan Medina with the start of the new “Monsters of Evil” story arc. A new character, Katy Kiernan, is introduced giving Venom information on the Department of Occult Armaments. While brief, her appearance is fun and fresh and I can see her possibly being a love interest for Flash in the future.

Venom’s recon mission doesn’t go as planned, and a shootout occurs with members of the D.O.A. Soon after he runs across people who have been cocooned so they can be possessed then used to start a new army. Elements of the “Circle of Four” storyline are brought back as Helstrom returns, now a villain and possible leader of the D.O.A. The inevitable fight ensues, and Venom’s symbiote starts to take over and the monster we all know and love returns.

It is an okay start for the new creative team as this is the beginning of a new story. The issue consists mainly of action with exposition heavy dialogue taking place at the same time. It’s snappy with some humor thrown in (I particularly enjoyed sneak and peek operations being called “Code: Uatu missions.”) There is a lot of mysticism and occult elements in this story, which I’m not sure mix well with Venom. I enjoyed the “Circle of Four” story, but prefer the covert operations and spy stories better. Hellstrom’s change to a villain is intriguing and I’m curious as to the reasoning behind it. The turn to Venom’s monstrous side (now complete with horns and strange looking wings) was well written as the description of organs twisting and bones breaking really give you the sense that this is an extremely painful process.

As a setup issue it’s not bad, but there isn’t much to grasp onto. I can’t say I’m particularly excited with where the story is going but I’m not disappointed either. Bunn has a strong understanding of the material, but for me there is a been there done that feeling which leads to an indifference overall. To me, that’s an incredibly frustrating place to be with a book as the decision to stick with the title or not becomes a difficult one to make. I’ll stay around to see where the story heads for now, but if things don’t pique my interest I’m afraid I may be dropping the title.

SOME THINGS GOOD, SOME THINGS… NOT SO GOOD

The art by Thony Silas is well done but there are some composition problems that creep up. It seems as if for every part that works, there is another one that fails. The double page spread of Flash sitting on a web of his memories is extremely well done, but in the shootout that takes place with the D.O.A. it’s difficult to tell who’s getting shot by whom and where the characters are in relation to their surroundings. At first glance I thought the characters were falling until a second look revealed that it was actually an overhead shot. Venom and Hellstrom’s fight, on the other hand, is choreographed well and easy to tell what is taking place. The art fits the creepy tone of the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the final shot of Venom at the end. Still, the faults can’t be ignored as they did detract from the story for me.

BOTTOM LINE: I’ll STICK WITH IT, FOR NOW…

I’m in an incredibly difficult situation with this book right now. I loved what Rick Remender did, and am slightly worried that the new team may not live up to what came before. It’s not fair to judge a book on what it’s not though, and as a first issue of a new story arc it succeeds in setting up the story and characters. But the feeling of indifference and some of the issues with the art don’t sit well with me. If I had to recommend this book, it would be to borrow it. I’ll see where this is heading, but if my impressions remain the same I may have to drop the title. And that really is unfortunate. Venom #23 gets 2.5 out of 5 stars

Rating: ★★½☆☆