Marvel has finally put out a “Planet of the Symbiotes” collection after 23 years, and it’s essential reading before you see the Venom movie.
When Eddie Brock decides to separate from his “other”, the symbiote lets out a shriek that draws the rest of his species to Earth. Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider (this was 1995, after all, in the midst of the “Clone Saga”) must team up with Venom to stop the invasion and defeat their would-be conquerors before it’s too late.
Director Ruben Fleischer has stated that “Planet of the Symbiotes” is one of two storylines that serve as the primary inspiration for the Venom movie (“Lethal Protector” being the other). Though, after reading it, it’s safe to assume that the inspiration will be derived from Venom’s inner conflict and not the full-scale alien invasion plot.
The collection includes all five parts of the story from Amazing Spider-Man Super Special, Spider-Man Super Special, Venom Super Special, Spectacular Spider-Man Super Special, and Web of Spider-Man Super Special. It’s all written by David Michelinie, and illustrated by Dave Hoover, Joe St. Pierre, Kyle Hotz, Darick Robertson, and Steve Lightle, respectively.
Inks are by Ralph Cabrera, Greg Adams, Armando Gil, Arne Starr, and Steve Lightle. Colors are by Tom Smith and Marianne Lightle, and letters are by Bill Oakley/NJQ.
Ralph Macchio wrote the introduction for the collection.
At first glance, “Planet of the Symbiotes” might look like a cheesy, dated, over-the-top 90s comic. And it totally, 100% is. But guess what? It’s also fun as hell.
In his introduction, Macchio states, “[Venom’s] presence seems to give license to both the writer and artist to go nuts and test the boundaries of the medium.” It’s true. This story goes crazy places, and while it may seem silly by today’s standards, there’s a goodness to it that shows why Venom has stood the test of time and not disappeared like so many 90s characters. It’s of course aided by the presence of Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider, whose natural charismas both go a long way.
But at the core of this story is the conflict within Venom. Eddie Brock separates from his symbiote because he’s not sure who’s in control anymore, and it scares him. He thought they were partners, but he begins to question whether his violent means are a mutual decision or by his “other’s” persuasion. This turmoil fleshes out Venom and makes him more than just cool to look at. This is the part of the story that’s being lifted for the movie.
So yes, it’s cheesy and some of the references are dated (“Does Clinton like cheeseburgers?”), but “Planet of the Symbiotes” is also a lot of fun and full of great character-defining moments for everyone from Venom to Mary Jane.
This five part story is drawn by five different pencil artists, and some of it works, while some of it doesn’t. Ultimately, like with most art, it comes down to personal preference. I, for instance, liked Steve Lightle’s work best. It had a creepy, strange, horror story vibe to it, and that’s what I gravitate towards. Other parts had a more action story vibe, and that might work better for you.
And speaking of horror vibes, Kyle Hotz seemed to be channeling his inner H.R. Giger for his chapter. As seen in the image above, Hotz’s work is clearly inspired by Giger’s design for Alien. It’s fitting for the story. Making the symbiotes resemble Xenomorphs just makes them more terrifying antagonists.
With all that being said, even though each chapter has its own style, it’s never jarring. Each style manages to flow well into the next. It definitely looks like a 90s comic, and anyone who’s ever read a 90s comic knows what that means. The only issue of note is that faces can be a bit wonky at times. And that’s not directed at any one artist; it happens in a few places.
But Venom always looks awesome. Each artist has fun with the character in his own way, but it always works. Always.
“Planet of the Symbiotes” reminded me why I loved Venom so much as a kid. It’s a light, fun story that’s quick to get through, but has enough depth to make Venom a more interesting character. It’s surprising that Marvel took this long to collect a story from 1995, but definitely check it out before seeing Venom.
Venom: Planet of the Symbiotes is in stores now. Venom the movie hits US theaters October 5th, 2018.