It’s a good time to be a ’90s comics fan, and Venom: Lethal Protector is proof of that. Venom co-creator David Michelinie returns to the character this week with a blast from the bast from back when Venom ate brains and Eddie Brock wanted to crush Spider-Man. He’s grown and changed a heck of a lot in the last three years as a character, but you know everyone misses the brain-eating vigilante who saves petty crime victims by eating the assailants. There’s an edge to the character that’s unmistakable, and that edge is prevalent in this new series.
As a spoiler-free review don’t expect much detail beyond what is in the preview, but do know this book nails the classic Venom voice and character. It doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for classic Venom, nor does it skip a beat in showing his daily exploits are dangerous, but subtly heroic too.
The issue opens with Venom fighting some C-list supervillains in a parking garage. Ivan Fiorelli nails the look of Venom, from the crazy long teeth to the hulking body. The fight is exciting because it shows how Venom fights like a battering ram. In fact, he literally chucks a car into one of the villains and, unlike Spider-Man, cares little if they are alive or not.
Soon after the fight, Michelinie reveals Venom is not necessarily reveling in the fight and wants to be left alone. This is a version of Venom where Eddie is still trying to figure things out, which includes his complicated relationship with the Symbiote. They aren’t quite yet saying “we,” but they’re also bonded. Think of it as the beginning of a romantic relationship. AIPT’s exclusive preview shows a handful of the varied scenes in the issue.
Also visible in that preview are the excellent colors by Bryan Valenza. He’s a newer color artist, at least at Marvel, that is blazing a trail of solid work. You can see in the image below, for instance, the slight hue change in the ceiling above Venom that gives the image a bit more depth.
For a slightly pricier issue at $4.99, you get a lot of stories packed into the extended page count. Michelinie has multiple fight scenes, develops a quirky and somewhat silly villain, checks in on Eddie’s life, and even set up a villain you won’t see coming. Often in superhero comics, you get a fight and some slow plot progression, but Michelinie is packing this issue with a lot and it never skimps with decompression.
The fact that Michelinie is using C-lister villains is also compelling. Venom was largely a B-lister in the ’90s, at least to some, never reaching the heights of a Green Goblin type, so it’s interesting to see him interacting with even lesser-known villains. It’s early yet, but it’s interesting to see how these villains are used to prop up Venom. It’s also worth mentioning Venom is very much the star of the issue. Don’t expect a Spider-Man sighting simply to increase sales.
My only complaint might be the title itself, which is the same title as the 1993 solo series by Michelinie and Mark Bagley. There’s literally nothing connecting these stories. Heck, the setting is New York when the original was San Francisco. It’s a rather minor quibble, but it’s also a bit confusing to reuse the title unless it’s simply a way to make it obvious this story is set in the past.
Venom: Lethal Protector is everything I want in a throwback Venom story and more. It captures the ferocity of Venom’s fight style, the complicated place Eddie’s life is in and introduces some interesting C-list villains too. Venom fans, rejoice — this is going to bring you back to your childhood.
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