Stillanerd Reviews: Venom #153 review


“The Land Before Crime” wraps up with somewhat of a bang, but also with Venom riding a T-Rex like a bucking bronco. Who says being silly isn’t fun?

Venom #153

“The Land Before Crime, Conclusion”

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Writer: Mike Costa

Artist: Gerardo Sandoval

Color Artist: Dono Sánchez-Almara

Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Covers: Francisco Herrera and Fernanda Rizo; Tom Raney and Jason Keith (Marvel Vs. Capcom variant)

When I first saw the solicitations for Venom‘s “The Land Before Crime,” I had no illusions about what kind of story it would be. My gut told me this would be a silly, but entertaining, B-movie style romp. How could it not, considering Stegron the Dinosaur Man would be the antagonist? Indeed, the first two chapters of “The Land Before Crime” confirmed my expectations and then some. Not every comic book story can be, nor should always be, a super important, life-changing literary experience.

Credit: Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel Comics); from Venom #153

The downside in reading a stupid fun story is that its charm can quickly wear off. When you get on a roller coaster for the first time, it can be an overdose of adrenaline. After multiple times on that same roller coaster, however, you start to feel more than a little tired. Reading Venom #153 gave me that same feeling. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun and didn’t disappoint. Even so, I was still glad it was over, instead of wishing there was more.

The reason I believe this is because, as a conclusion, Venom #153 does precisely what you expect it’s going to do. You know that based on what happened last issue, Venom and Moon Girl will team up against Stegron and his dinosaur army to save New York. They’ll also find a way to free Devil Dinosaur from Stegron’s control. More than likely, there will also be some sort of climactic explosion which will, of course, foil the crazy dinosaur man’s plan.

Sure enough, this happens. Though I will say what triggers the obligatory saving-the-day explosion is quite clever and, believe or not, scientifically accurate. This is also the first time since Wolverine: Old Man Logan in which a Marvel comic features a symbiote-possessed T-Rex. Those are the moments where writer Mike Costa squeezes a little more of the absurdist joy he achieved with the first two chapters.

It also turns out Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur’s involvement isn’t just for pure promotional purposes. Like how Eddie shares a bond with the symbiote, Moon Girl also shares a bond with Devil Dinosaur. Both the symbiote and Devil could be construed as monsters. Likewise, as Eddie is losing control of the symbiote due to its illness, Moon Girl lost control of Devil because of Stegron’s telepathic control of dinosaurs. It’s an odd parallel Costa makes that, strangely enough, still works.

Credit: Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel Comics); from Venom #153

It’s an odd parallel Costa makes [between Venom and Moon Girl] that, strangely enough, still works.

Moreover, this proves instrumental in terms of Eddie’s character development. All throughout Venom, Costa established the symbiote as physically and psychologically ill, becoming increasingly aggressive. It’s enough where Eddie isn’t sure if he can trust it or himself. His arc, therefore, is regaining this trust in his “partner” again despite its being sick. Seeing how Moon Girl refuses to abandon Devil is what makes Eddie finally decide not to give up on the symbiote. It’s an “out of the mouths of babes” cliche, but no less fitting.

The resolution of this story also sets up some potentially interesting, if also bizarre, scenarios for Venom and Eddie going forward. As expected, Liz Allan and Dr. Steven are effectively part of his supporting cast, but so too are Stegron’s former dinosaur minions. This is because once Stegron is captured, Venom is essentially designated as their “protector.” As in a “lethal protector.” There’s also hints Eddie may have found the means of returning to journalism too, though perhaps one not as respectable as his old job.

What this all means is Venom now has three continuous narratives from which to derive stories from. He has an illness which requires medication and regular check-ups, thus creating suspense and interaction with other characters. He has a community to look after, which gives him even more interaction. And he could be getting a secret identity which, once again, could introduce us to even more new characters. Not bad for someone who, during his heyday in the 1990’s, had no stable status quo to speak of.

Credit: Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel Comics); from Venom #153

Even though I feel Venom #153 is just shy of sticking the landing, I still had a blast reading “The Land Before Crime.”

Of course, what really makes the issue is Gerado Sandoval. Though his art doesn’t have the same cover-to-cover dynamism as the previous issues did, there are still moments where it really does pop. His depiction of Venom is still impressive, the constant toothy grin evoking Todd McFarlane’s original character design. His Devil Dinosaur, however, is sublime. He not only projects ferocity and power, he’s also the most realistic looking character, making him truly stand out among Sandoval’s more hyper-exaggerated figures.

I’d also add every panel Devil Dinosaur appears in are the best ones of the comic too.  In those scenes, Sandoval truly takes daring chances with perspective, composition and movement, and it pays off beautifully. But with the lack of dinosaurs also comes a lack of energy. Not that the art still doesn’t look great, but it becomes much easier noticing how inconsistent his proportions are from panel to panel.

Even though I feel Venom #153 is just shy of sticking the landing, I still had a blast reading “The Land Before Crime.” If read in one sitting instead of a month by month basis, I suspect it would work even better. Though perhaps Costa might want to try a little more highbrow for Venom next time. Oh, who am I kidding? We’re still likely getting ridiculous stories of symbiotes and dinosaurs after this, but that also doesn’t sound half bad.

Stillanerd’s Score: 3.5 out of 5

Next: Stillanerd Reviews: Venom #152 review

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (possible spoilers)

Credit: Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel Comics); from Venom #153

  • Yeah, a little late there when it comes to “not making [yourself] known to the warmbloods,” oh mighty Stegron.
  • Whoa, Moon Girl! I know microwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum like radio waves are, but … a microwave oven?! You’re trying to fix Devil Dinosaur, not reheat him.
  • New York City has one of the world’s largest sewer systems. Stegron and his minions could be at any number of places down there. But for our heroes, Venom and Moon Girl? No problem! I guess they’re both really good at playing hide and seek.
  • How exactly did Venom wind up on top of Devil’s head when he was just inside Devil’s jaws? Just because the symbiote is viscous doesn’t mean Eddie is too.
  • In case you’re thinking, “There’s no way the explosion would get that big,” have you seen what happens when potassium metal reacts with water?
  • If I understand this right, Stegron set up his dinosaur kingdom in the sewers, a place where there’s lots of water. And he can’t swim? Not much of a smart scientist is he?
  • “Skrull Invasion Government Hoax!” Ah, so that explains why no one believes Galactus exists in the Marvel Universe. It’s all those jet contrails making everybody have hallucinations. The truth is out there, folks.