Once upon a time, there was a symbiote. One symbiote, singular.
We didn’t even know it was a symbiote at the time — all we knew was that Spider-Man’s new black costume looked pretty cool when it was first introduced more than three decades ago. Later revealed to be an alien lifeform, the symbiote that became Venom begat another — Carnage — and eventually, the Marvel Universe was awash with the alien creatures.
Cullen Bunn and Iban Coello’s Venomized #1 serves largely as an exponential extrapolation of that trend. Spinning out of the events of Venomverse, Venom Inc. and the “Poison X” story arc, Venomized #1 features the symbiote infection spreading into the heart of the Marvel Universe. No longer contained within the scope of the Spider-Man and Venom titles, countless spores have been brought to Earth and have started to infect some of the world’s most powerful heroes.
While it’s easy to say enough is enough regarding the proliferation of symbiotic entities, Bunn prefers to argue that too much is never enough. The cosmos and multiverse-crossing excess of the series’ first issue is so loud and over the top that it’s hard not to enjoy for its extravagances. Does it all necessarily make sense? No. Is it contrived in spots? Yes. But is it fun? Absolutely.
Bunn’s story entertains much in the same way as Xenomorphs brutally slaying hapless victims in Aliens, or zombies devouring the living in The Walking Dead — the repetition doesn’t quite get old. Watching a familiar hero getting “Venomized” isn’t as grisly, though — in fact, there’s a kind of fascinating curiosity in examining how Bunn and Coello will pull it off each time. Coello has the enviable duties of creating hybrid looks for various heroes, and readers get to reap the benefits of it.
Such a storyline doesn’t exactly evoke any kind of literary brilliance, but then, that’s not the level of excellence Bunn is striving for. That’s not to say that his story is a mindless, one-dimensional romp, though — there are some clever twists that show some depth to Bunn’s outwardly straightforward script. Spider-Man’s previous bond and experience with symbiotes are shown to be a factor in this issue, as does Carnage, the Marvel Universe’s second symbiote. These developments stand to serve as potential conflicts to further strengthen Bunn’s story down the road.
Coello delivers a pleasing look to the issue that matches Bunn’s high-octane story. A large and diverse array of heroes and villains from across the world and beyond make appearances, and Coello revels in drawing them all. He even finds opportunity to pay homage to the original Secret Wars event, and Spider-Man’s introduction to his new costume — the first chronological appearance of the symbiote.
Venomized #1 isn’t high art, but it isn’t meant to be — nor should it be. Instead, it’s fun in the tradition of the original Secret Wars event, only not quite as mindless.