Since it was announced back in January exclusively on AIPT, I’ve been dying to read Web of Venom: Wraith. A space cowboy somehow connecting to Knull and the Venom narrative sounds delectable. Plus, Wraith has been used sparingly of late, appearing in Guardians of the Galaxy but still very fresh and ripe for more storytelling. This isn’t just any space western story though, as it has underpinnings of some truly great science fiction storytelling.
I can say with certainty I didn’t care about Wraith until reading this. As a one-shot tale, this book stands alone. Yes, it ties into Venom’s story and the whole King in Black Knull story, but for the most part, it serves as an interesting story about a man trying to find something taken from him. That something ties to his past, to his lineage, and to what was done to him. Wraith is the perfect space cowboy story because he is filled with anger and wants revenge. He just doesn’t know exactly where to point his gun.
This book opens with a beautifully written opening, with short and sweet captions that get inside Wraith’s head. Wraith is that quintessential loner who is trying to find himself in his work and journey. He’s soon saving a life, but not because he was trying to. As the book progresses we learn more about who he was and how he got here. In a way, this is a hero’s journey starting from the beginning, eventually stripping the character of who he thought he was and potentially creating something even more powerful. I can’t say where this story will go, but I’m now invested in seeing where Wraith’s journey may lead from here.
This book is also a great preview of what is to come in December with King in Black. In a way, this book offers a chance to see how dangerous Knull will be in the event, but it also plays into that story ever so slightly to help whetting our appetite for it.
There are moments where this book doesn’t quite work, though. There’s some trouble with the teleportation device Wraith has, but it’s a convenient plot device. How the book ends is a big question mark, but in a way that’s frustrating since there’s no way to really know what it means for Wraith. One could guess, but there isn’t enough here to know how to care about Wraith’s situation.
The art by Guiu Villanova and Dean White is moody, dark, and a good blend of grungy sci-fi meets grotesque horror. Wraith is rendered in his pale look as if he’s a hollow man himself, which matches the journey he’s on in the story. There are visuals here that are like a nightmare or dream, blending light and darkness in a way that’s visceral and unreal. Placement of captions and panels are also inspired, helping tell the story drawing your eye in the right way.
What makes this fever-dream of a comic work so well is how it blends sci-fi with concepts of pure evil, identity, and loneliness. There are visuals that are batsh*t crazy and dark, like one might see in film noir. Web of Venom: Wraith drips with techno-fetish darkness with a touch of cyber-punk and a loner revenge tale you don’t often see in superhero comics.