Throughout his run on Venom, Donny Cates has done a lot to update both the mythos surrounding the symbiote and the history of its most well known host, Eddie Brock. Along the way, the series has successfully sown the seeds for the Absolute Carnage event. This volume collects the tie-ins from the main Venom series.
Following the events of “War of the Realms” and Eddie Brock’s separation from his ‘Other’ in Venom #12, this volume catches up with Eddie trying to live his life post-Venom…again. Back in New York City, Eddie is just trying to take care of himself, and more importantly, his recently discovered son, Dylan. However, starting a new life is the least of Eddie’s troubles as he finds himself haunted by hallucinations of Venom whilst facing a crisis of identity, not to mention the blood red shadow of Carnage lurking around every corner.
That’s issue #16, at least; the following two issues mainly focus on Dylan, Normie and The Maker trying to fight off an attack from a group of symbiotes infected by Carnage. It makes sense to give focus to Dylan, as over the course of the series he’s become an essential part of Eddie’s life — the previous arc served brilliantly to inform both his family history and relationship with the Venom symbiote. While I do like that Dylan and returning antagonist The Maker are given more attention throughout these issues, it is noticeable that Venom himself is only briefly glimpsed. In fact, it’s only within issue #20 that we see the titular character reunited with Dylan.
There are a lot of positives within this volume. We learn more about the significance of Dylan, and also the significance of Sleeper (Venom’s offspring from 2018’s Venom: First Host). There’s also a scene with the Thing and Spider-Man performing a version of the fastball special which is comedy gold. However, I feel that this is a volume that only provides a peripheral of the event it’s connected to, and in some ways that makes it overly dependent on the main Absolute Carnage collection. With that being said it, does serve to develop many of Venom’s supporting cast. There’s a new level of mystery surrounding Dylan and Sleeper, and the cliffhanger ending with the Maker builds endless intrigue around an already interesting character.
The majority of the artwork throughout this volume is provided by Iban Coello with the exception of issue #16 which is illustrated by Juan Gedeon. Both artists’ styles are in keeping with what we’ve seen so far in Venom, with both bringing the darker elements associated with the character to life. Moreover, this volume embraced some more cartoonish moments that may have been missing to lighten the mood previously.
Truthfully, I can’t say enough positive things about Donny Cates as a creator. His Marvel work has been brilliantly creative, often exploring characters in new, interesting ways and introducing different takes on long established heroes and villains. His run on Venom is no exception. However, I do have some reservations regarding Absolute Carnage. It’s an event spread across 28 individual issues, including the main event series, six tie-ins and four one-shots. While this isn’t exactly a surprise for a Marvel event, I do feel like it makes this volume of Venom feel like a side attraction to the main event, whereas it would’ve been cool to see more of Absolute Carnage take place within Venom rather than in addition to it.