Venom is on a mission to save the world and his son Dylan, but sadly he’s been sidetracked by a new villain named Virus and the little problem of being stuck in another universe. Venom #26 sent Eddie and his son to another dimension thanks to the Maker, but before he can figure out how to get home, Eddie needs to figure out which universe he’s in. Venom #27 introduces us to a whole lot of weird, what seems to be a planet where Symbiotes have taken over, and brand new powers for Venom too, but alas, it’s a mess.
When you put this book down you see there’s a decent sci-fi story with action-adventure qualities, but it doesn’t quite all come together. Part of the problem is the clunky dialogue that feels forced and overly dramatic. “…Every time you do it adds an hour of pain before you die,” isn’t very natural, especially during an action scene. It sounds pretty lame coming from Venom, too.
This is exacerbated by Virus, who is a raving lunatic and more the embodiment of the dictionary definition revenge than a person. He too spouts random threats and anger that don’t add much. We also don’t know a thing about the character or his ability to tangle with Venom for even a second (with armor held together with tape, mind you!), making him not only uninteresting but frustrating, since he hasn’t earned our respect. He’s super powerful just because.
All of this hangs on a fish-out-of-water story that doesn’t spend any time showing us the world thanks to the nonstop action. There is literally no direction for the characters — at one point Eddie simply shambles down into the sewer without a thought in mind as to why. As a result, the book reads like a filler action book and not much more. It certainly gives us little hints at the world around Venom, and how Symbiotes have tainted it, but it’s hard to care. There’s nothing here driving Eddie to want to stay, help, or learn anything.
There is the case of Venom’s powers, which seem to be getting stronger with more Symbiote around. Likely this will serve as a feather in the cap of fans who pay attention, but it adds little to this issue. Adding to this, the major conflict in the book is resolved with a Scooby-Doo level of distraction and it makes most of this book feel utterly pointless.
If the book was trying to attempt some kind of magical journey for Eddie — the cliffhanger seems to suggest it’s all magical dream of Eddie’s — the art doesn’t help. This futuristic world of flying cars looks like it was splattered in graffiti thanks to the many colors splashed across the backgrounds to liven things up. The cityscapes add dimension to the scenes and imbue a sense of futurism, but it’s hard to care due to the action zigging and zagging across the page. It’s also hard to follow, with Virus inches from kicking Eddie in one panel and then in the next two, Eddie has time to turn and say something. The pacing is off.
The layouts are hard to follow for much of the book because the gutters are not completely white. Instead, a white border surrounds panels, and gray gutters separate things further. The action is chaotic, likely on purpose, but it’s overly hard to follow further making Virus pointless to the narrative since we can’t even care about the blows he’s delivering. Panels can also be overly stacked on top of each other, creating less a storyboard and more a series of pieces of art thrown together.
Captions and dialogue boxes are used quite a bit to pull the panels together, and Clayton Cowles does a good job throughout to pull the book into something linear to follow. The lettering itself works and word balloon placement helps in most cases.
The usually electric twists and turns Cates is known for don’t quite work throughout, either. There’s a funny delivery of a line like a cop would give someone who is speeding, but there is a hollow comedic beat featuring a supervillain that falls flat, and the cliffhanger doesn’t work either. The emotional nature of the cliffhanger scene makes sense on some level, I suppose — Eddie is meeting someone he thought long dead, but he has no reason to believe anything in this world is real or worth caring about. Midway through the book there’s a major new power Venom gets to use, but it’s so haphazardly thrown in you’ll throw it into the pile of new god-powers and carry on.
I wanted to like this book, but it doesn’t come together. The action is hard to follow and colors are overused, all the while relying on fight comics to get us through. Dangling off these are moments that should have been cool or shocking, but they don’t land due to a lack of believability. Venom #27 is a book that doesn’t quite add up and will likely be forgotten when collected.