Venom: The Abyss – Donny Cates, Iban Coello, Ryan Stegman & Joshua Cassara (Panini/Marvel)

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Back in the olden days of cinema, when films used to screen in a loop, my parents were of the breed happy to arrive mid-way through a feature, watch to the end, then sit through the next showing until ‘where we came in’. At this point they left, dragging me – at 9 years old lacking the muscle to whack them back in their seats – along with them. It was a cosmic angst-inducer of the first order if you wanted to see the film as meant to be seen, i.e. from start to finish; as agonising as being bought TV Comic instead of TV21. I thought similar agonies would afflict me in writing this review, in that Venom The Abyss collects Volume 4 issues 7-12 of a story of which I haven’t seen issues 1-6, but ever the pro I jumped without a chute, and found myself not only landing safely but pleasantly surprised.

To summarise, Venom appears to have saved the world. Quite how, I’m not sure, but it involved an almighty scrap with a dragon created by Knull, god of the symbiotes, and as a result host Eddie Brock is in the hands of the Maker. Er, okay. Right. I might have given up there and then had I not been quickly beguiled by the dialogue – after all, who couldn’t be charmed by, “You’re still Spider-Man’s bad laundry day”? Where the dialogue led me was into a cleverly complex dissection, metaphorical and actual, of the Venom symbiote’s relationship with Eddie, and its need to nurture same. In what is essentially the emotional aftermath of the above earlier events, Writer Donny Cates and artists Iban Coello, Ryan Stegmar and Joshua Cassara co-deliver a carefully crafted, multi-layered journey into memory and psyche that encompasses friends, family and foes – in one case an alternate universe version of a very well-known name – that over six instalments never flags and never fails to impress.

It’s usual for me to end my reviews with some strained witticism or other but I ain’t going to do that this time. Venom The Abyss deserves some respect. Whether it be the moments of sudden and spectacular action or the musings on love, loss and loneliness, everything here is handled with deft and touching hands. It’s everything a mature comic should be, and, frankly, for me it has revitalised six decades worth of somewhat jaded faith in just how good the form can be. Mike Wild

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