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Venom/Dylan Brock snarls with his tongue out on a collage of characters featured in the Venom series on the cover of Venom #18 (2023). Image: Bryan Hitch, Alex Sinclair/Marvel Comics

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Venom’s latest transformation is everything good about superhero comics


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The superhero genre contains many moods, but as I have written extensively before, one of its great joys is the unselfconscious juxtaposition of the sublimely meaningful and the totally ridiculous. Like the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” and a teenager who dresses in no way like a spider to fight crime.

Or a deep, issue-length conversation about personal growth, doubt, the nature of good and evil, the pitfalls of detachment and attachment — capped off by a character growling, “I’m going back in... and I’m gonna kick my own ass!” followed by the caption “TO BE PUNCHTINUED!”

What else is happening in the pages of our favorite comics? We’ll tell you. Welcome to Monday Funnies, Otto Mankitap’s weekly list of the books that our comics editor enjoyed this past week. It’s part society pages of superhero lives, part reading recommendations, part “look at this cool art.” There may be some spoilers. There may not be enough context. But there will be great comics. (And if you missed the last edition, read this.)

Venom #18

As a floating severed hand... watches? ...Eddie Brock emerges from a pool of black liquid, having altered his human form to have the venom symbol on it in black, as he says “And I’m gonna kick my own ass!” A caption at the bottom of the page says “To be punchtinued!” in Venom #18 (2023). Image: Al Ewing, Cafu/Marvel Comics

In this week’s Venom, Eddie Brock had a conversation with a cosmic being — in the form of a severed floating hand that could answer one question for each of its fingers — about who he is. Venom, co-written by Al Ewing and Ram V, with this issue drawn by Cafu, has made that a central theme for Eddie, who is on a dark Everything Everywhere All at Once-style time-travel adventure meeting his future selves, realizing he’s already become a few of them, and earning the ire of the implacable Meridus, who claims to be his own ultimate incarnation.

It turns out Meridus isn’t Eddie’s ultimate incarnation — this floating hand is. And the King in Black, a cosmic role Eddie stepped into shortly before the series began, is actually the opposite of one of Marvel’s most detached and powerful group cosmic muckety mucks, the Beyonders. The Beyonders are beyond matter, beyond physical existence, beyond the body, while the King in Black is nothing but embodiment at the most fundamental level, matter at its most simple and versatile — a vast psychic network of goo that can become anything.

This is all pretty far from the character’s Lethal Protector days on the streets of San Francisco, but not that far. After all, the Venom symbiote was originally found inside a Beyonder device. And Ewing brings it around to the core idea of Venom as Spider-Man’s opposite number. Instead of a guy who always does good in spite of being a habitual fuckup, he’s a guy whose habitual fuckups are habitually insurmountable. What does that guy do when given cosmic-level power? Does he fuck up the universe, or just fuck up his life?

Or does he reform his body with his superhero symbol on his own flesh chest and snarl that he’s gonna go fight his future self, as even the comic’s narration declares “To be punchtinued”? What a wonderful page.

Poison Ivy #11

“Why does it take mushrooms for us to be nice to each other?” a woman asks Poison Ivy in a room full of spores. “The scientific answer is that we need a lot more dopamine [...] to be this cooperative. “The poetic answer,” she continues, smiling, “is that we’re so bound up in our own nonsense that we need permission to be this nice,” in Poison Ivy #11 (2023). Image: G. Willow Wilson, Marcio Takara/DC Comics

I’m running out of ways to say it: Poison Ivy is one of the best books on the stands today. It’s easy to recommend graphic novels like Ducks and long-form serialized superhero epics like Immortal Hulk — but Poison Ivy, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Marcio Takara and various guest artists, is the best of serialized, monthly comics, weaving between short and long fiction, main plot and digression, but with consistent character and theme.

The character is obvious, and the theme is fuck capitalism, make human connections, eat the rich, delivered as softly and as insistently as the growth of a kudzu vine.

I Am Iron Man #2

Standing at the bottom of the ocean with arms akimbo, Iron Man repeatedly tells a somewhat despondent psychic mosasaurus that he’s not trying to kill them in I Am Aron Man #2 (2023). Image: Murewa Ayodele, Dotun Akande/Marvel Comics

I don’t need a long explanation for this. In this week’s I Am Iron Man, Iron Man gets stuck at the bottom of the ocean and meets a sardine that’s been irradiated into a huge beast, Godzilla-style. I love Iron Man’s pouty little pose. I love this sardine.


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