Venom: Lethal Protector #1 is a deadly dose of ’90s nostalgia from the heyday of the symbiote anti-hero, with a solid story and great art.
While he is busy nowadays traipsing across the cosmos as a God and dealing with cosmic-level threats, it can be easy to forget that Eddie Brock and his symbiote buddy came from truly humble beginnings. Two entities bonded through hate and loss to become Venom, arguably one of the most popular Marvel Comics characters. His distinct look and sensibilities of him were all the rage in the ’90s, leading to nearly a decade of spin-off comics filled with his heroic (and often lethal) antics of him. Venom: Lethal Protector borrows its title from the groundbreaking 1993 comic series of the same name, a pleasant throwback to those times when Venom’s concerns constituted of finding his place in the world, slaughtering the odd villain or two, and threatening to kill Spider-Man every now and then .
Venom: Lethal Protector #1, written by David Michelinie with artwork from Ivan Fiorelli and Bryan Valenza, starts like any old-school Venom story. The hero beats up some helpless C-list villains with no care for their well-being. Alongside his “heroic” antics of him, Eddie and the symbiote are still coming to terms with where they fit into the world and with each other. It’s still the relatively early days of their relationship and a period of adjustment that both parties are having some trouble coming to terms with. As Venom tries to stumble through life, unexpected issues with villains, a complicated relationship with his ex-wife of him, and shadowy figures all seem ready to make life difficult for the lethal protector.
There is no better fit to write the classic Venom story of Venom: Lethal Protector #1 than the character’s co-creator, David Michelinie, who understands the character inside and out. Michelinie takes the reader back through a treasure trove of ’90s nostalgia and presents the reader with a more verbose, hard-headed, and stubborn Eddie. He is trying to do good but has no regard for the consequences of his actions, smashing villains, public property, and hearts in the process. Eddie and the symbiote are still adjusting and trying to see where they stand in this new relationship, reflecting an interesting dynamic of Eddie growing more dependent on the symbiote in his attempts to build connections with other humans. Michelinie’s writing is tight and harkens back to the character’s heyday, with action movie-esque fight scenes, darkly comedic sequences, and some fun interpersonal drama creating intrigue.
A particular revelation for Venom: Lethal Protector #1 is the art by Ivan Fiorelli. His lean and mean design for Venom perfectly captures the raw savagery and cool factor that put the character in people’s minds in the first place. Following closely in line with Mark Bagley’s stellar work in the original Deadly Protector, Fiorelli’s style pays loving homage while remaining distinctly his own. From Venom’s toothy grins to his more brutal movements of him, the art does justice to the character. Working alongside Fiorelli, Bryan Valenza’s bright color palettes evokes the pomp and circumstance of the ’90s to a tee. Vivid displays of costumed figures prancing through the streets break up the grimy cityscapes. VC’s Travis Lanham also deserves a special mention for his lettering from him, which gives Venom’s dialogues a particularly monstrous tone thanks to the horror font and his trademark black-on-white speech bubbles.
Venom: Lethal Protector #1 crams a lot of action, drama, and adventure into its first issue, but it never feels bloated or rushed. It is a fun comic that is great to look at and read while bringing the character back to its basics. The issue also provides a quick reminder that Venom is still very much in Spider-Man’s world. The hero is web-swinging through New York and fighting D-list villains with wacky powers in all his angst-driven glory. Whether Spider-Man will show up in the series is still up for debate, but the story really does not need him to. Deadly Protector #1 ends with evil forces rearing their heads as one can only hope and look forward to what comes next in this ’90s throwback wonderland.
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