Venom: War of the Realms (2019)
Reprints Venom #13-16, Venom: Cult of Carnage
Written by Cullen Bunn, Frank Tieri, & Donny Cates
Art by Iban Coello & Danilo Beyruth
Marvel is no stranger to the sprawling event comic. Currently, they usually have one big event with some smaller ones sprinkled in more concentrated ways over a year. War of the Realms was the culmination of Jason Aaron’s run on Thor and saw the hordes of Norse mythological monsters unleashed on Midgard, aka Earth. This doesn’t seem like too natural of a fit for Venom, but with Donny Cates’s expansion of the antihero to include ties to a Lovecraftian god in the form of Knull, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch now.
Eddie Brock is separated from his symbiote right as Malekith leads his dark forces on an attack of Earth. Brock is also keeping his estranged son in tow and has to deal with the reappearance of his nemesis Jack O’Lantern. All of this is complicated even further when a Dark Elf witch gives Brock an item than manifests a mystical simulation of the symbiote, allowing him to become a magically powered version of Venom. He fights a lot of mythical creatures, and the bulk of the event unfolds in other books, with Venom’s role being purely incidental.
After the promise of Cates’s reinvention of Venom and this Knull storyline, War of the Realms is an annoying sidetrack that doesn’t really bring much to the ongoing story. The addition of Cullen Bunn as the guest writer also sidelines Cates, who I am guessing was getting ahead on the Absolute Carnage event, which follows this collection. I have never been able to click with Bunn’s writing though I haven’t sought him out. I do remember his work on DC Comics’ Sinestro series being mildly good, but definitely, all the worst things to be found in decompressed comics writing. Stories that could be wrapped up in a couple of issues drag on for six to eight.
The ongoing attempt to make Jack O’Lantern an arch-nemesis to Venom, trying to parallel with Spider-Man & Green Goblin, is weak. I think it started in Rick Remender’s run on Venom, but these are literally two different people bearing the monikers now, something that is acknowledged in the fiction. The reason Spider-Man and Green Goblin are such a great rivalry is because of the personal ties between the characters. Trying to create a “darker” version of that without doing the character work is just destined to fall flat.
War of the Realms is heavily skippable if you are out to read the Donny Cates reinvention of the character. This collection does include the Cult of Carnage prelude to Absolute Carnage, but I think you can jump into the story without this. Unless you are a completionist who wants to read everything. There really isn’t much to say about this volume beyond that; it’s just pure “meh.”