New Venom novel reveals a villain evolving into a Marvel anti-hero

Review by C.J. Bunce

Along with reprinting some novels based on comic book stories from Marvel’s past, a few new stories were released last year (and reviewed here at borg) as part of Titan Books’ line of novel tie-ins, including Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, Ant-Man: Natural Enemy, Deadpool: Paws, and Civil War.  Now the Spider-Verse character Venom has his own hardcover novel.  Venom: Lethal Protector joins Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover among the newly written novels, although unlike Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover‘s new story as prequel to the 2018 PS4 game, Venom: Lethal Protector is based on the very first Venom-titled six-part mini-series from back in 1993.

James R. Tuck writes a faithful adaptation to the original comic books by David Michelinie, Mark Bagley, and Ron Lim.  The story catches up after Peter Parker parts with the alien symbiote that looks like a dripping ink blot, after he makes an arrangement with the new host, Eddie Brock, to leave and do no harm.  But trouble comes looking for Eddie when he joins a group of underground people in San Francisco.  The father of a man killed by Eddie/Venom is determined to avenge his son.  He and his lackeys, the Jury, take him on, plus a mastermind arrives and creates five spawn from the symbiote, spawn that Venom must eliminate with or without the help of Spider-Man.

The comic books Venom: Lethal Protector is based on provided much of the source material for last year’s Marvel Venom movie, so fans of the character, the comics, and the movie will be familiar with this take on the villain as he more overtly switches away from villainy to the stuff of anti-heroes–much like Deadpool and Punisher.  In fact it’s difficult not to see Deadpool, Punisher, and Marvel standards like the Hulk in both Venom’s origin story and his ongoing handling.  Like Hulk’s Banner, particularly from the classic TV series, Eddie Brock is constantly moving from place to place to escape his past.  The book telegraphs what a Venom story in the vein of the 1980s The Incredible Hulk could be like.

The new novel does not have the room for the level of humor from the movie.  This story is darker.  Eddie is troubled and alone despite his constant companion, and Peter Parker is still that young, well-meaning superhero do-gooder.  The struggle presented for the reader is identifying what bad actions are worthy of punishment.  Brock/Venom have their own code, but it differs from Parker’s.  Just as Deadpool will shoot to kill at the drop of a hat, that, too, is the instinct of the symbiote, and Brock seems to concede his will to Venom if the culprit merely has unclean hands (figuratively speaking).

For fans of the monster side of comics heralded by Todd McFarlane, note that the alien presence in the book is evocative of McFarlane’s influences, both from his artistic style and his universe of characters that Venom, in part, emerged from stylistically.

Those interested in the source material can check out the compilation of the original comic book mini-series in a re-release published last year available at Amazon here.

A good read for any fan of the character Venom, and coupled with plenty of content featuring Spider-Man, check out Venom: Lethal Protector, the novel by James R. Tuck, available now from Titan Books here at Amazon or order it from your local comic book store.

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