Extreme Venomverse #5- “Neon Jeffesis Eddievangelion”

Symbiotes! Baseball! Giant Robots! Jeff the Land Shark! This one has it all!

Extreme Venomverse, like Edge of Spider-Verse, is an anthology that lets creative teams use Marvel’s multiverse to tell a wide variety of stories with one common element linking them together. However, instead of focusing on loveable webheads, this title puts the spotlight on variations of the Lethal Protector himself: Venom. This issue has a whopping four stories worth of gooey symbiote goodness, so let’s waste no time and dive right in.

The first story, “Rhythm of the Night”, is definitely going to be the big reason I decided to review the fifth issue of an anthology in the first place. “Rhythm of the Night” reunites the creators behind the It’s Jeff! Infinity Comic: Kelly Thompson and Gurihiru. This adorable tale sees my personal favorite Marvel hero, Jeff the Land Shark, once again bonded to a symbiote (he previously got “Knullified” in Deadpool #10), only this time he grows to a monstrous size like a proper Venom.

“Rhythm of the Night” mostly reads like a standard issue of It’s Jeff! (god-tier comics), only it includes dialogue rather than being mostly wordless. There’s also a brief moment that’s heavier than what’s usually in It’s Jeff!, where Kate Bishop wonders if she’ll have to use violence to stop Jeff. Hawkeye (obviously) can’t bring herself to hurt the precious boy, and lucky for her, big ol’ Jeff is more interested in playing than devouring people. I won’t spoil how Kate manages to de-Venomize Jeff (though the title “Rhythm of the Night” drops a big hint), but the story is quickly wrapped up in the cutest way possible.

Kate Bishop watches a giant, Venomized Jeff the Land Shark roll around in the grass in Extreme Venomverse #5.

The inclusion of dialogue is definitely an interesting way to shake things up. I get why Thompson would take a slightly different approach for an anthology title rather than a standalone digital comic for Marvel Unlimited. The extra words provide just a bit more cohesion with the rest of the issue. Overall, I can see Jeff’s opening story serving as the reason a lot of people will check out this specific issue of Extreme Venomverse (and so does Marvel, as they gave Venomized Jeff a Peach Momoko variant). Jeff the Land Shark fans won’t be disappointed by this little “tail”. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s Jeff!

The second story, “Field of Screams”, is written by my pal Jordan Blum, co-creator of Minor Threats (probably my favorite comic ever) and Hulu’s M.O.D.O.K. In a short span of time, this story gives us some pretty fun connections between the Earth-616 versions of these characters and this universe’s focus on baseball. Eddie Brock’s career as a journalist is translated into “Ed Brock” specifically being a sports journalist, and the enemy symbiotes he battles are bonded to a baseball team looking to get an edge over the competition. It’s a short-yet-sweet tale that knocks it out of the park (sorry) with five pages of “dudes rock” vibes.

I really love the art on this. Brian Crosby pencils, Scott Hanna inks, and Chris Sotomayor brings the colors to make “Field of Screams” delightfully dark and grimy. I particularly like how the flashbacks have old-school “comic halftone” colors to make them visually distinct from the scenes set in the present. My one nitpick is that this distinctiveness isn’t carried over to young Peter Parker and Ed’s childhood friend, Richie. They’re both introduced around the same moment and look very similar to one another: brown-haired kid with round glasses. At first, I did a double take to make sure that Peter was a separate character from Ed’s buddy and I wasn’t misreading his name or something. Still, it’s just a minor thing that led to a second of confusion- nothing big.

Major League Venom tackles some orange symbiotes in bath towels out of a window. They're falling towards a baseball field below. From Extreme Venomverse.

Speaking of character designs, Major League Venom has a really solid look. When doing these multiversal mash-ups, it’s important to get a good balance of the original recognizable design and the gimmick that’s being thrown into the mix, and I think that’s accomplished well here. Little things like the pinstripes on Venom’s body and the Venom insignia being situated on the corner of his chest like a team logo really pull the whole thing together. I definitely look forward to his teased return in Death of the Venomverse.

The third story is a bit of an outlier, as instead of purely being its own thing like the others, it’s a continuation of the Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow miniseries. Titled “Spider’s Eclipse”, the segment is written by Jason Loo, drawn by Gavin Guidry, and colored by KJ Díaz. I hadn’t read the original miniseries, but Loo does a good job of catching you up: when the Peter Parker of Earth-21619 bonded with a symbiote, he behaved more violently than his 616 counterpart ever did, and he almost killed Kingpin. Now that the symbiote has been separated from Peter, his identity is public. Oh, and this Spidey is a member of the Fantastic Four, so he wears a classic Fantastic Four costume.

“Spider’s Eclipse” itself is about Kingpin obtaining the symbiote and becoming “King-Pain”. King-Pain isn’t remarkably different-looking than your standard Venom, but the lack of a neck and shirt collar-like shape of his insignia give him a decent amount of personality. This segment isn’t groundbreaking in terms of story or art, but it’s a pretty reliable “Spidey vs. Venom/Kingpin” fight where both characters’ looks are a little different than what you’re used to.

A venomized Kingpin (King-Pain) fights a version of Spider-Man who is wearing a Fantastic Four costume. From Extreme Venomverse.

At least, that’s how it is until the end of “Spider’s Eclipse”, when Kingpin proves that he’s more adequate than most symbiote hosts by almost killing Spider-Man. The only reason he doesn’t succeed is because of a sneak attack from a surprise character, whose presence confused me a bit until I realized what the upcoming Death of the Venomverse mini is about.

This is a decent story, though it kind of sticks out from the other stories both in that it’s a continuation of another story you may have not checked out and that it’s not as zany or out-there as the other segments in this issue. Still, these anthology books are all about variety, and I’ll always enjoy a good throwback to an existing corner of the multiverse, even if I’m not familiar with it.

In the final story, “Full Symbiote Panic”, we get to see Venom go full-on Neon Genesis Evangelion. Written by Cody Ziglar, drawn by Jim Towe, and colored by Dee Cunniffe, it’s the ultimate tribute to the iconic anime series, though its basic premise is a little familiar. You might be wondering if this is set in the Evangelion-inspired universe of Peni Parker and SP//dr that was created by Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt for Edge of Spider-Verse #5, and… it’s not. That continuity received a very different Venom from the one in this issue in the form of Addy Brock and her VEN#m suit in Edge of Spider-Geddon #2. If I had a nickel for every time a multiverse-centric Marvel anthology introduced an Evangelion-themed universe, I’d have two nickels- which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice.

However, this story in Extreme Venomverse #5 features a much larger Venom mech piloted by an aging, eyepatch-wearing Flash Thompson. The influence of Evangelion is even more apparent in “Full Symbiote Panic” than in Peni’s stories. We get homages ripped straight from the anime, like the mech shooting up to the city’s surface and Venom holding a blade sideways, like that iconic shot of Asuka’s Unit-03 with its prog knife.

A Venom-themed mech fires a beam at a giant monster, also firing a beam, in a reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion. From Extreme Venomverse #5.

You can tell that Ziglar is having so much fun with this, and you know what? I’m having fun too. I love things like Mayday Parker being a Misato-like girlboss commander and the Spider-Gwen mech that wears a massive tarp as a hooded cloak. And it’s all just so delicious to look at. Towe and Cunniffe are bringing some kickass Pacific Rim energy to this epic robot/monster battle, and I love that shit. It’s big, loud, and freaking delightful from start to finish.

Extreme Venomverse #5 is definitely one of the better anthology comics that I’ve read. It’s got a very satisfying mix of tones and ideas that provides something for everyone. Also, Jeff the Land Shark is in it, and you can’t go wrong with Jeff the Land Shark. He’s the best.

By Quinn Hesters

Quinn is a vat-grown living advertisement created by the LEGO Company to promote their products. When he's not being the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a billboard, he's raving about the X-Men on Twitter.

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