This was a big year for comic books in general, and Marvel especially, as the publisher moved away from its Legacy branding and relaunched most of its titles, taking familiar characters in new directions. Black Panther headed off into space, the Avengers thwarted a Dark Celestial invasion, and the Fantastic Four, at long last, reunited.
But among all of those noteworthy developments, one comic set itself apart. While no one could have foreseen it coming, Venom by writer Donny Cates and artist Ryan Stegman took readers on a dark and exciting ride that ultimately became Marvel's best series of 2018.
Debuting in May, Cates and Stegman's Venom hit the ground running. From its opening pages, the relaunched series carried a sense of purpose. This wasn't just a new volume but instead an ambitious new take. Thanks to Stegman's dark and moody art, the character was taken back to his horror roots, and made more frightening than ever. Never did the symbiotes look so alien, and dangerous, a terrifying threat that couldn't be reasoned with or controlled.
Venom became the equivalent of a metal space opera that redefined the symbiote's place in the cosmic tapestry of the Marvel Universe. From its first page, the series demonstrated that what readers thought they knew about the history of Venom was only part of the truth. Each new issue revealed more layers that stretched back to medieval times, and all the way to the birth of the universe. With the addition of the symbiote god Knull, the mythology of the extraterrestrial race -- the Klyntar -- was fundamentally altered. And it became all the better for it.
With this series, Venom became a linchpin of the Marvel Universe. His history became linked to other characters, such as Thor and Wolverine, and it only made the character feel bigger and more important than ever. So fascinating was the series, so important were its developments, that Venom grew, with the Web of Venom spinoff issues further informing the parent series. The latest of these issues, Carnage Born #1, by Cates and artist Danilo Beyruth, also redefined another fan-favorite symbiote, Carnage.
Through all of the cosmic shifts and the monster-sized action, Venom was also a series that cut to the bone of the relationship between Eddie Brock and his "other," the symbiote. The series demonstrated the strength of their bond, and how one depended on the other to survive. By highlighting the differences between other hosts, the comic proved there is only one real Venom. There's a melancholy to Venom, a beautiful sadness that explores codependency. It's an emotional anchor that gives the series its weight, and what allows its high-octane action to soar.
This was a banner year for Venom, made all the bigger because of the release of Sony's hit live-action film. But if you ask us, the reason 2018 was the year of Venom was not because of Tom Hardy. It was because of the comic by Cates, Stegman and guest artist Iban Coello, which not only pleased longtime fans but also got new readers interested in the character. And what's even better is that, by the look of things, 2018 was only the start. Venom has put puzzle pieces in place that promise to lead to a bigger picture -- and a massive 2019.