We Are Venom
Who doesn’t love Venom? The wildly popular Spider-Man foe (and sometimes ally) turns 30 this year, making it a great time to look back on the character’s publishing history. For being “only” 30 years old, Venom has a surprisingly complex history with multiple hosts owning the mantle. I’ll do my best to sort through it all for you.
Venom first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #300 in May of 1988 and instantly became a fan favorite. Eddie Brock, as Venom, rode this popularity for most of the next decade until falling into a quiet period in the early 2000s. And although there were a few attempts at rejuvenating the character (including bonding with former Scorpion Mac Gargan), his resurgence really didn’t take hold until the early 2010s.
I have thus divided the best Venom comics list into two categories: the 90s and the 2000s. Each represents a different era of Venom and you will probably have your own preference as to which you like best. The vast majority of these comics are available on the lovely Marvel Unlimited service or available for purchase via Amazon (and don’t forget your local library).
If you’re a fan of Venom, you are probably also interested in my list of the Best Carnage Comics Ever Published. Enjoy!
1990s – Comic book cliche in all its glory
Birth of Venom – Amazon
Okay, this isn’t technically the 90s, but it’s close enough. You can’t enjoy the best Venom comics without understanding where it all began. The Birth of Venom collection is exactly what it sounds like, the origin of one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes. Not only does it collect Venom’s first appearance and initial story arcs, but it also throws in some classic “black costume Spider-Man” backstory to round everything out.
For anyone unfamiliar with Venom, this is the best place to start. And even if the story feels a bit dated 30 years later, the Todd McFarlane art remains as gorgeous as ever. The man is a Spider-Man legend (and co-creator of Venom), so these issues of Amazing Spider-Man are a must. The Birth of Venom is the perfect entry point for all things Eddie Brock, “black costume” Spider-Man, and the origins of Venom.
Venom: Lethal Protector – Amazon
Now we’re getting into classic Venom. Lethal Protector is often first on the list of best Venom comics and for good reason. Simply put, the story defines Venom for a decade to come. Heck, I wrote a whole article on Lethal Protector and why I love it.
The plot revolves around Eddie Brock trying to find his place in the world. In many ways, it’s the classic origin story. Along the way he encounters a mysterious underground city, a group of mercenaries known as The Jury, and a healthy dose of Spider-Man. And if a slightly goofy 90s story isn’t enough, the art alone is worth the price of admission. Mark Bagley’s work is wonderful to look at and quintessential Venom. It’s easy to see why Lethal Protector is considered one of the best Venom comics published.
Maximum Carnage – Amazon
The famous (and sometimes infamous) 14-part Maximum Carnage event series is 90s Venom at his best. Similar to the entry above, I have written an entire article looking back at Maximum Carnage and the craziness within.
To sum up the series, it’s everything good and bad about the 90s world of Spider-Man and Venom. It’s a classic crossover with an assortment of various heroes, villains, and everyone in-between. It has amazing art and cringe-worthy dialogue. In many ways, Maximum Carnage is a microcosm of the comic book world at the time. But for fans of Venom, this is a must read. The story establishes Carnage as the premiere Venom antagonist (sorry Spider-Man) and contains plenty of memorable moments. Shakespeare it is not, but it is still one of the most noteworthy and best Venom comics out there.
Venom: The Enemy Within – Amazon
The Enemy Within is a fairly succinct Venom story. On a Halloween night in San Francisco, Venom must team up with the living vampire Morbius to take on an army of goblins. Despite being only three issues in length, this is often considered one of the best Venom comics and is not to be missed.
Thankfully, for those looking at bang for your buck, the current collected edition also contains Venom’s Funeral Pyre and The Madness. Taken together, these three stories make up a strong few years of Venom-centric tales. It is in these comics that Venom finally steps out from Spider-Man’s shadow and establishes himself as an independent character. Crossing paths with other “darker” characters at the time, Venom stands triumphant. All in all, a nice set of comics during Venom’s earliest years.
Separation Anxiety – Amazon
Separated from the Venom symbiote, Eddie Brock must battle the five symbiotes first seen in Lethal Protector. The tale is a deeper look at Eddie Brock himself, his motivations, and the truth behind the symbiotes.
Despite there being an entire video game created around Separation Anxiety, it does not exist in a single collected edition. But lucky for you, as with the above entry, the current collection contains some other classic Venom stories from the era. While The Mace and Night of Vengeance may not be as noteworthy, they help in rounding out the Venom mythos of the 90s. Take what you can get, because from here on out Venom stories lose some steam for the next decade or so.
2000s – Comic book cliches with a bit more sophistication
Venom vs. Carnage – Amazon
In many ways, Venom vs. Carnage is both a return to form and the last hurrah of the classic Venom we know and love. Published a decade after the titles above, the story focuses on never-ending battle between Venom and Carnage. But this time, Carnage is producing an offspring. Throw in appearances by Spider-Man and Black Cat and it feels like you’re right back in the 90s.
As alluded to, this is very much a transitional work for Venom. It’s one of the last times we see Eddie Brock/Venom and Carnage do battle so directly. The series also introduces Toxin, who goes on to play a bigger role in the future. From here on out, the entire world surrounding Venom changes. For better or for worse, this is the last truly classic Venom story.
Venom by Rick Remender – Amazon
There is a new Venom in town and his name is Flash Thompson. No longer a lone vigilante, Agent Venom works for the government. Flash must now complete “black ops” missions, battle Venom’s foes, and find a balance between the Venom symbiote and his own sanity.
It took many years for a new version of Venom to “stick” with readers and Rick Remender finally pulls it off with his series. The premise is a shocking departure from the original Eddie Brock/Venom, but sometimes change is good. Remender’s Venom is a fresh, modern take on the alien symbiote and an excellent place to start for new fans. Little to no previous knowledge of the character is necessary to understand the story, but those who loved 90s Venom will find something to love here as well. Remender’s complete run is collected as two trades and are some of the best Venom comics published to date.
Venom: Space Knight – Amazon
If you thought Agent Venom was an interesting take on the character, then hold on to your butts. Venom: Space Knight takes Flash Thompson’s Venom and turns him into an intergalactic ambassador for Earth.
Fresh off his middling stint with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Venom: Space Knight is an unexpected love letter to epic sci-fi fare. Robbie Thompson crafts a weird and wild adventure story where Venom isn’t always the craziest alien on the page. And I have to mention the art from Ariel Olivetti is wonderful to look at too. It’s the perfect combination of old-school sci-fi with a modern flare. What’s so great about this collection is how different it is from everything that came before. Sometimes risky stories pay off, making Venom: Space Knight a lovely addition to the Venom mythos.
Venomverse – Amazon
In an effort to protect the universe from a mysterious new enemy, Doctor Strange transports numerous Venom’s from different dimensions to join the Resistance. Together, they must protect the multiverse from the evil Hive.
This one is just crazy fun. The plotline is really just an excuse to see what the heroes we know and love would be like if bonded with the Venom symbiote. Captain Venom. Venom Rocket. Venompool. Pretty much anyone you would want to see as Venom gets to be Venom. It’s chaotic, it’s wild, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It might not be the deepest of stories, but Venomverse is an obvious read for all fans of Venom.