Venom by Donny Cates Vol. 1: Rex review – a new take on one of Marvel’s top anti-heroes

Fresh of his theatrical debut, Venom returns in his latest solo series from two of Marvel’s top creative talents. In the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s collapse, an ancient and primordial evil has been awakened beneath the streets of New York. And with it, something equally evil has been awakened in that most wicked of web-slingers: Venom! The symbiote may still be a Lethal Protector of innocents in New York, but this never-before-seen threat could possibly force Venom to relinquish everything it holds dear – including its human host, Eddie Brock!

Venom is a character that is very easy to get wrong which has resulted in some inconsistency in the past. Fortunately, this new series is one of the best takes on Eddie Brock possibly ever and has become one of Marvel’s standout titles. There are elements of The Lethal Protector character that was imposed upon Venom in the 90s, but Donny Cates has a far more nuanced approach when it comes to this.

Eddie is a clear psychological mess and has a history of blaming others for his failures, though he is in possession of some redeeming qualities. The symbiote however tends to enhance his negative qualities, which comes to a fore in this opening arc as the symbiote has returned to its bestial side to the point that Eddie has to use anti-depressants to keep it in check. This along with his symbiote becoming possessed by the symbiote god known as Knull (who has some rather worrying plans for humanity) leaves him in a rather delicate mental state. Cates does a terrific job of exploring Eddie’s mental state and you are never left questioning the character’s motivations.

Ryan Stegman has already demonstrated he is one of Marvel’s very best artists in his work across various Spider-Man titles and this series further cements that reputation. His work on the Spider-Man story arc Venom Inc. showed he had plenty of skill when depicting Venom and now he has a whole series to play with the character. Stegman happily displays the influence Todd McFarlane has had on his art and getting to draw a solo book featuring a character McFarlane co-created is clearly a blast for him. Not only does Stegman do a terrific job at making Venom even more intimidating than usual, but also excels at showing the psychological toll the symbiote is having on Eddie (Eddie downing anti-depressants whist looking increasing dishevelled is particularly harrowing).

This is a fresh take on one of Marvel most popular anti-heroes and a great showcase for two of the most exciting talents working in comics today. Venom has never been better.

Venom by Donny Cates Vol. 1: Rex is out now from Marvel

9781302913069 – P/B – £14.99

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