Warning: Contains SPOILERS for Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha # 1.
Recently, a popular version of Eddie Brock's symbiotic relationship, the Anti-Venom, returned to life in Marvel Comics. Could its return be related to an increased Venom activity on the film front?
Since the slippery symbiote's debut in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8 (1984), Venom and Peter Parker evolved into an archetypal love-hate relationship. Others, such as Eddie Brock and Flash Thompson, found the symbiotic relationship more rewarding, going on to form the anti-hero duo the Lethal Protector, the heroic Agent Venom, and even Venom: Space Knight.
Flash was the latest host of the Klyntar, until recently anyway. After he and his second skin returned to Earth during Civil War II, Flash’s compatriot was stolen from him. The sentient skin surfaced before long, though, teaming up with less-than-honorable former Army Ranger, Lee Price, before finding its way back to its most famous host, Eddie Brock in the anniversary special, Venom #150. Lonesome for his crime-fighting cohort, Flash goes in search of it, asking his old buddy Peter Parker for help. In the first issue of the Amazing Spider-Man and Venom crossover, Venom Inc., Flash and Spider-Man discover quite a bit more than they bargained for.
Marvel also might be giving us our first taste of things to come in Sony’s upcoming Tom Hardy-fronted Venom movie... perhaps even teasing a Venom-Verse in the making.
The Many Lives of Venom
Eventually, Eddie was diagnosed with cancer. Tired of anti-heroics, he and the alien creature parted ways, with the symbiote bouncing around from several short-term hosts before hooking up with an outright villain, former Scorpion, Mac Gargan. When they stumble across his former host, Eddie – recently cured – the alien skin wants to rekindle its relationship. The battle of wills ends with not one but two symbiotes: classic Venom and Anti-Venom, created by a fusion of antibodies and Klyntar DNA, in The Amazing Spider-Man #569 (2008).
Of course, that’s all water under the bridge now that Eddie and Venom are reunited once more. The first true host is always the best, right?
The Return of Anti-Venom
By Venom Inc #1, Brock is back in codependency city, bickering over his Klyntar pal's tactics. Flash is also on the hunt for his old chum, especially after his former student-turned-symbiotic superhero Andrea “Andi” Benton is accosted and separated from her symbiote Mania by recent Venom host, Lee Price – who steals it with a sonic weapon and christens himself “Maniac." Flash uses his latent connection to the symbiote to track it (and Eddie) down at Alchemax Corp. There, Brock's been working with Dr. Steve to synthesize a medication from the Anti-Venom suit, which he suppresses Venom’s homicidal tendencies with.
When Flash and Spider-Man confront Eddie, Venom is torn between hosts, as well as his anti-hero and heroic natures. The Wall-Crawler’s had enough of the rom-com plotline, though, and knocks over a vat of antipsychotics, drenching Flash, Eddie, and the symbiote. In the aftermath, Eddie and Venom survive the overdose, and Flash emerges in glistening white, as Anti-Venom reborn. They'll need to sort things out ASAP, though, because Maniac is on the loose and turning unwitting criminals into symbiote-clad super-criminals.
A Taste of What’s to Come?
Venom Inc kicks off the Venom/Spider-Man crossover in a big way. But its timing is also curious with respect to the upcoming Venom film. Even though Sony's Spider-Verse will operate without Spider-Man as a keystone, at least for the moment, it might include a surplus of symbiotes. The film is focused on Eddie Brock, and Tom Hardy recently confirmed the Venom: Lethal Protector six-parter as the script's key influence. Written by David Michelinie and drawn by Mark Bagley, the story debuted the anti-hero "pair" in 1993. The storyline also featured sinister corporate string-pullers, the Life Foundation, who used Venom spawns, Scream, Agony, Lasher, Rio, and Phage to advance their agenda.
Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) also recently confirmed Hardy's reveal, noting the film's other influence as the 5-part storyline, Planet of the Symbiotes. In the 1995 miniseries, also written by Michelinie, Earth is invaded by symbiotes, forcing Spider-Man and Venom to form yet another wary alliance. It features, once again, Scream, Agony, and their cohorts, as well as Peter Parker's clone, Ben Reilly, as the Scarlet Spider. While Reilly and the children of Venom aren't confirmed, the implications point towards something multiversal –as well as the presence of more than enough symbiotes to spread around.
Some fans have already speculated the Life Foundation will be responsible for birthing the film's main adversary, Carnage (possibly played by Riz Ahmed or maybe Woody Harrelson). The group could then unwittingly unleash a swarm of symbiotes in Sony's Spider-Verse, setting up their own Peter Parker-lite Spider-Verse and corresponding nicely with Marvel’s recent mini-event, the Venom-Verse. The return of Anti-Venom in the comics could also lay the groundwork for future Spider-Verse crossovers between both movie universes.
Although unlikely, the Anti-Venom-swap could set things up for a Flash Thompson-based symbiote in the MCU, perhaps establishing his new identity and a potential role with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The full extent of Sony and Marvel's usage agreement is unclear, but Marvel often frames future studio projects with comic book events (such as the Planet Hulk sequel released during Thor: Ragnarok's theatrical run). With the original Lethal Protector team reunited and Flash suited up again, Marvel may be hinting at something very symbiotic in the MCU's future as well.
Admittedly, Marvel's comic book and film divisions operate on separate wavelengths, especially with regards to Sony's own shared universe. The return of a Flash-based Anti-Venom is probably just a fun MU switcheroo. Still, Marvel has roughly a decade of world-building under its belt and knows how to bait the hook. Somehow, all their recent Klyntar activity doesn't seem like a coincidence.
Amazing Spider-Man & Venom: Venom Inc. Alpha # 1 is currently available. Venom Inc continues in Amazing Spider-Man #692 on December 13th.