Doctor Strange and Ironheart have managed to find Spider-Man and Wasp — just in time to come face to face with a vengeful Venom!
One of the issues I’ve had with previous installments of this series has been the fact that the wraparound story has felt more than a little slight. This issue does a much stronger job of weaving Doctor Strange and Ironheart’s involvement in and out of the tale at hand. There are some very fun moments in which Riri is still having a difficult time coming to grips with the more supernatural side of the Marvel Universe, and finding more grounded approaches to dealing with the extra-dimensional threat they’re facing. Doctor Strange still feels more like a tour guide than an active participant in the adventure, but I really enjoyed seeing the two heroes mostly take a bit more of a proactive approach to the task at hand.
That being said, this was another issue that felt like little more than a fight comic, and one that didn’t quite feel like it matched the tone of previous issues. The first two issues certainly felt more horror-themed when it came to their villains (a demonically-possessed suit of armor, a werewolf, vampires), but this one has the villain produce Venom seemingly out of nowhere.
The justification seems to be that this issue has a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde theme (hinted at even more by the mentions of the Lizard being on a rampage), but it does feel like a bit of an outlier among the more supernaturally-charged conflicts of the previous issues.
Even so, there are a few fun surprises in this issue that made me smile, particularly as a fan of the creepier side of the Marvel Universe. In particular, the reveal on the last page made me both laugh out loud and got me excited to see what the next issue has in store.
The artwork throughout the book is a lot of fun. Gretel Lusky sets the tone with a series of foreboding establishing scenes inside the school that continues to sell Ironheart’s skeptical attitude with some truly funny facial expressions. Also, Lusky delivers an incredible final image that I won’t spoil — but it’s exactly the kind of cartoony horror imagery that has made this series a fun read. Meanwhile, Bowen McCurdy is clearly having a lot of fun drawing Venom, giving the Symbiote a hulking and monstrous look that still fits with the spooky-lite tone of the story.
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