In current Marvel continuity, Spider-Man is still reeling from an inter-dimensional battle with villains from the year 2099 and Venom is attempting to survive in the aftermath of the bloodbath that was Absolute Carnage. Those types of mature, hyper-violent stories make up the majority of the superhero comics readers see from the Big Two publishers, but there’s always room for something that diverges from that norm. Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble is the perfect palette cleanser for those fans who need a break from the doom and gloom, breathing a sense of levity into a genre that far too frequently takes itself too easily.
Picking up from the cliffhanger of issue #3, writer Mariko Tamaki’s script finds both the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and his sometimes-friend-sometimes-enemy-current-roomate Venom in quite the predicament: after accidentally switching bodies with one another earlier in this mini-series, they’ve now switched bodies with a squirrel and cat. As to be expected, high jinks ensue.
Gurishu’s cartoonish illustrations and bright color palette set the perfect backdrop for the body-trapped Spider-Man and Venom to chase down their animal counterpart through Brooklyn Pizza Fest 2020. If you thought Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock had a bad case of the munchies in Venom, just wait until you see what the symbiote does with a pepperoni pie straight out of the oven. Despite the intentionally over-the-top zaniness, this doesn’t feel demonstrably “dumbed down” for its intended youth audience. It’s something out of the Pixar playbook in that regard. Whether this is a reader’s 1000th web-head comic or just the beginning of their comic journey, Tamaki understands what makes Peter Parker so endearingly funny, creating a story that’s hilarious no matter the reader’s age.
The topic of the comic book industry dying out is slightly antiquated. Comic book sales were on the rise in 2019, but the need to draw in new generations of readers will always be key to the health of the medium. It’s so often hard for readers, even adult ones, to decide where to start when reading comics. This complication is even more troublesome for children without disposable income and parents with little patience for collecting never-ending event crossovers. Spider-Man & Venom: Double Trouble #4 is the ending to a series that is the perfect antidote to that problem.
Tamaki and Gurihi have crafted something that should appeal to readers both new and old, drawing the youngsters into this wonderful superhero world and reminding the elders why they fell in love with these sorts of tales in the first place. It’s a delicious slice of sweet potato pie just like the one your grandma used to make. This should be every kid’s first comic book.