Venom is regarded as an iconic Marvel villain-turned-hero. He is one of Spider-man’s biggest adversaries as well as one of his biggest mistakes. He rose to fame in 1993 when he got his very own comic series which brought him to the forefront. Unfortunately, with the focus of the Marvel universe being on the Avengers and their cast of characters, we’ve seen a decline in the monstrous symbiote’s appearance in popular media.
All of that changed in 2018 with the release of the Venom film and Titan Books’s novel Venom: Lethal Protector. The book is written by author James R. Tuck and serves as a retelling of the 1993 comic series of the same name written by David Michelinie and illustrated by Mark Bagley, Ron Lim, and Sam DeLarosa.
Venom/Eddie Brock – Eddie and Venom, truly feeling guilt over their past mistakes, have moved to San Francisco to figure out where to go with their lives. Although their methods are gruesome, their main goal is to protect the innocent, and the two find themselves as guardians over an underground city where the homeless have taken refuge.
Spider-man/Peter Parker – Feeling responsible for putting Eddie down his path of chaos, Peter travels to San Francisco after seeing Venom pop up on the news. He believes, incorrectly, that Venom has reverted back to his evil ways and is determined to stop him.
Roland Treece – Roland is a rich businessman in search of hidden gold rumored to be buried under San Francisco. Using machined thugs, he is determined to destroy the sanctuary to find the gold. Partnered with Carlton Drake from the Life Foundation, and General Orwell Taylor, his goal is to take Venom down in order to get to the city.
Carlton Drake – Head of the Life Foundation, Carlton’s goal is to capture Venom in order to replicate the symbiote so he can create super soldiers which he can sell to rich clients.
General Orwell Taylor – Former military general Orwell has a personal vendetta against Venom. He claims that when Venom broke out of confinement he killed his son. He has put together a military force, calling themselves the Jury, in order to kill Eddie and Venom.
The story doesn’t seem to deviate far from the original comics as far as I can tell. It takes place after Spider-man and Venom come to a truce. Eddie (Venom) promises Peter (Spider-man) that he will no longer hurt innocent people in exchange for Peter allowing him to walk free. Against his better judgment, Peter agrees to the deal hoping that he hadn’t made the wrong choice.
The opening of the book occurs much as it does in the comics. Venom saves a woman being mugged in an attempt to amend his past mistakes. He’s moved to San Francisco, his home city, in hopes of finding a sense of purpose and a place to call his own. Along the way, he stumbles across a city underneath San Francisco that originally got swallowed in a past Earthquake. It’s there where a society of underground people are being threatened by Roland Treece, a rich businessman looking for buried gold.
Unbeknownst to Venom, Roland has allied himself with two other men who are looking for the symbiote. Together, they hope to help each other get what each one wants: Roland wants the gold, General Orwell Taylor wants revenge against Venom, and Carlton Drake wants the symbiote to experiment on. Furthermore, Spider-man has arrived in San Francisco to stop Venom as he believes that he’s gone back to his old ways.
As the story progresses we see clear character development within Venom/Eddie as they begin to find themselves and understand the world around them. I think this was the best way to feature Venom and truly allow readers to get a firm grasp of who this character is. He’s misunderstood, and while his method of killing bad guys is controversial, he is not the first Marvel character to choose this path. We also see a clear struggle within Spider-man who isn’t sure what course he should take. On one hand, Venom is biting the heads off of bad people, but at the same time his intentions are good and he’s trying to protect the innocent.
Aside from the two of them, however, we don’t see much character growth of any of the minor characters who seem to be thrown in for convenience. Roland, Carlton, and Orwell come off more as 90s cartoon villains almost down to the “Curse you, I’ll get you next time!” schtick. Perhaps this was intentional as the story is ripped straight out of 1993, however it is made painfully clear that the book takes place during modern times.
The writing is done well and consistent, overall. As mentioned before, some of the lines and the plot itself is a bit campy and have that early 90s comic book style to them. This wouldn’t be a problem if the book took place in the 90s, but the writer makes it overtly clear that it is taking place during modern times with his over-insertion that social media is big. It’s so big that it serves as many plot points as in how Spider-man recognizes many people from “social media” or how the people of San Francisco know who Venom is from “social media.” The words “social media” appeared so many times throughout the book that it came off as almost a lazy writing crutch. If the writer couldn’t explain something, it was because of social media.
There was also the constant jumping of perspective that took me out of the book. It’s one thing to jump perspective in-between chapters, but the writer chose to do so multiple times throughout a single page. Sometimes it was necessary to show what two separate characters in different parts of the city were doing. However, we’d get introduced to a random person sitting in their car just to have them comment on seeing Venom in action. I think the intent was to make the reading style more like a comic book, but it just felt messy and confusing.
The book is 239 pages long which is about average for this kind of book. It’s something that you could binge in a day or two, and even taking your time might take a week to finish. I wish it was a little bit longer since some of the aspects of the plot seemed to be rushed or dropped altogether. For instance, we never see what happens to General Taylor. It could be the author leaving things open for possible sequels, but I think things would have felt more polished had we had a resolution to the different plot points.
Venom: Lethal Protector is a solid adaptation of a comic book. The writing choices are a little questionable at times, and some of it comes off as being cheesy. However, I absolutely loved Venom’s portrayal throughout the story. I feel like the writer really understands who Venom is and did a great job capturing what makes him Venom. Sometimes these sorts of books come off as bad fan fiction of the source material, but I really enjoyed reading this story and seeing things from Venom’s perspective. You can grab your copy of Venom: Lethal Protector from Titan Books!