This is a non-spoiler review of Venom #26, which is filled with interesting reveals and plot twists to mull over for some time. That’s a given when Donny Cates is writing since he’s so good at dropping a hammer of surprise onto the reader in every issue. Venom #26 is a good starting point for the latest story arc, which is clearly a precursor to the upcoming King in Black event. That makes this issue a good place to start as it appears to be closing a door on what came before and moving on with Eddie Brock trying to be a good dad to Dylan.
This issue does a few things very right. The most important is to remind us Venom isn’t the strongest character in every book. Cates and artists Iban Coello and Juan Gedeon do well to show us how Eddie can get his butt kicked just as well as any other character. That lays down the stakes so we know he can be hurt and that doesn’t even factor in Dylan, who is by his side in this issue.
This issue also leans heavily into fan service, and I mean that in a good way. The new villain, Virus, is on the cover and he’s giving Eddie a hell of a time. The character utilizes weapons that readers may be familiar with from Spider-Man comics — really, the entire get-up of the character appears to be a smattering of other characters like War Machine and Punisher — which will inspire readers to guess at who is under the helmet.
The big cliffhanger — nope, I’m not telling! — is also a huge surprise and fun addition to the narrative. The Maker has played a big part in Cates’ plans and this issue proves he wasn’t used simply because he was available. The payoff is solid. Once you close the book you should feel rather satisfied with the number of monsters in play and the fighting between them.
Drawn by Coello and Gedeon with color by Jesus Aburtov, this issue reminds us Eddie wears a monster on his body. You can see it in the opening scene as it forms an arm for Eddie, or how the teeth and tongue show off a frightening visage. These creators know what they’re doing when it comes to the fluid nature of the Symbiote. There’s a cool moment where the Symbiote saves Eddie that’s not to be missed or at least I’ve never seen it before.
The art can at times falter a bit, especially in the last few pages, and the action utilizes speed-lines to avoid drawing backgrounds making it hard to track the action sequence. It’s a chaotic moment, though, so it works on some level. Generally, the issue doesn’t stand out too much and feels like it’s holding back for when the real fun begins next issue. The pacing is slower with moments devoted to opening a door, for example, further making it feel like a table setting buffer issue than a main course.
This is a good issue if you’re looking for some superhero tropes that are still surprising and satisfying. The issue isn’t a knock out per se, but I enjoyed a decent amount of chunks in its pages.