WARNING: This article contains massive spoilers for Venom #1 by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, in stores now.
After a successful run on Thanos, writer Donny Cates turns his dark attention to another of Marvel's villainous mainstays: Venom. Cates and Ryan Stegman have launched the "Fresh Start" series with a new story that can be picked up by anyone, whether you've been a longtime fan of the long-tongued anti-hero or you've only heard about that character thanks to the trailer for Tom Hardy's next film.
At first glance, everything in the book seems normal -- well, as normal as things can get for Eddie Brock, who lives with a parasitic alien symbiote attached to his body. But it's clear by the end of the issue that the foreboding vibe that fills the comic's pages aren't your imagination. A different kind of darkness seems to be waiting just around the corner, and it isn't long before it reveals itself, and in a single issue, Cates and Stegman revisit ancient history, and rewrite everything we thought we knew about the alien parasites known as the symbiotes in the process.
The history of how the first symbiote came to Earth is well known to longtime Spider-Man fans. In the mid-80s Secret Wars series, Peter Parker came into contact with a black symbiote on the planet known as Battleworld and brought it back to Earth. Years later, it was revealed that the symbiote, which eventually bonded with Eddie Brock and became Venom, was one member of an entire race of parasitic aliens known as the Klyntar. As far as we were knew, this symbiote was the first one to make it to Earth, though in recent years, there have been numerous stories involving the symbiotes, both cosmic and Earthbound.
However, in Venom #1 (LGY #166) we are presented with a bit of revisionist history. The issue opens with a flashback sequence featuring mentions of the legendary Norse hero Beowulf, placing the events of this prelude somewhere around the year 700 AD. There, we see warriors being mercilessly slaughtered by a symbiote, one whose language appears foreign even to longtime Marvel readers.
This appears to confirm that the story of the symbiotes on Earth predates Spider-Man's adversaries relationship with the alien parasite by thousands of years. No, the Venom symbiote wasn't the first to touch down on Earth -- not by a longshot. Later in the issue, we also learn that there was an entire military squadron of Agent Venoms, years before Flash Thompson would wear the alien parasite. As for where these symbiotes have been all these years, the answer is simple: They've been kept on ice by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Now however, these symbiotes have awakened, and worse, they've been taken over by the malevolent presence that stalked Beowulf's men centuries ago. Soon, it becomes quite clear that this is no mere symbiote. It's more powerful, and it's capable of taking control of other symbiotes, Venom included. As the asphalt of New York cracks open, as the very bedrock of the planet is shattered, the symbiote warns us, "God is coming." When a winged creature emerges from the depths of the Earth, the issue ends, with the shocking revelation that we are witnessing the second coming of the symbiotes' god.
What's more, it appears as if this deity has been on Earth all this time. Surely its return does not bode well for the planet and, with its arrival, we might learn even more about the secret history of the symbiotes as Cates and Stegman's Venom unfolds.