Venom: First Host – Mike Costa & Mark Bagley (Marvel)

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There’s a handy cover guide on the inside of this five-issue graphic novel collection of Venom: First Host, which has, for those possessing little or no knowledge of the Klyntar symbiote’s preceding adventures,  a bloody big arrow saying, START HERE! As I am firmly twixt both brackets in the Venom knowledge stakes –  I know only he was in Spider-Man and that there was a recent fillum – and the START HERE! was not the book filled with pictures I was holding in my hand, my immediate thought was oh-oh, I’m going to be completely lost with this one … how can I fairly write a review when I don’t know what’s going on?

As it happens, First Host turned out to be the ideal starting point for me – and by extension, I guess, anyone similarly ignorant – given that it’s a kind of back-cum-origin story, if not actually of the symbiote itself then the hosts with which it has lived. Throwing in editorial flashbacks to previous The Avengers and Venom: Spaceknight storylines as it does, the end result offers what a Venom For Dummies might, a pocket introduction to this particular quadrant of Marvel Comics’ mythos, one that is good enough to allow me to race-drop the name ‘Klyntar’ into the paragraph above, in any case.  The question is, knowing what I now know, is it any good?

I’ll come at that sideways. You see, Venom: First Host contains Skrull, and I’ve always thought the Skrull looked a bit daft. Even in the sixties, when I was six, they looked a bit daft. The sort of daft-looking alien that gave pulps a bad name. That daft. As a consequence, I could never take them seriously. But here, enmeshed in the Kree/Skrull War whilst at the same time facing a DNA-targeted plague bomb in danger of being unleashed by the First Host himself, I almost began to empathise with them, which is a major accomplishment after almost sixty years of suppressed giggling. The First Host – the Kree, Tel-Kar of the Lesser Megellanic Special Tactics Division – initially shows himself aboard the refugee ship ‘Hala’s Glory’, seriously kicking the arses of  Skrull boarders before deciding one ship full of liquidised pointy-eared green corpses isn’t enough and he must destroy them all. The symbiote gets lost in convolutions along the way but eventually Tel-Kar’s zeal brings him to Earth and to current host Eddie Brock, who finds his symbiotically induced abilities abruptly severed and conjoined by the Kree. Thankfully, help is at hand, and together with a female Skrull assassin, Brock embarks on what may well be his final journey to stop Tel-Kar before the bomb can be unleashed.

It’s a fast and explosive ride at the end of which I found myself no longer a Venom neophyte. What’s more, I found I’d enjoyed ceasing to be. Before Eddie Brock … Before Peter Parker … There Was The Venom Symbiote’s First Host! declares the back cover blurb. And indeed there was. A rarity in newer comics. A recommended read. Mike Wild

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