WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Venom #1
Marvel's new Venom series has revealed a shocking truth; that the United States Government has been running a secret symbiote-soldier unit for decades. Venom agents have been traveling the world, running covert ops on behalf of the US Government. And now those symb-soldiers are dangerously out of control.
The origin story of Venom is a matter of comic book legend by now. In the aftermath of the first Secret Wars miniseries, Peter Parker returned to Earth wearing a new black uniform. He ultimately learned that this black costume was actually an alien symbiote, and rejected it. Furious and angry at this rejection, the symbiote bonded with bitter reporter and soon to be action movie hero Eddie Brock, and created a whole new being - Venom.
It's a tale that's been retold many times; but it seems it wasn't the first symbiote story on Earth.
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Venom #1 opens with that origin story in place, with Eddie Brock suffering horrendous nightmares. His "Other" is in danger of getting out of control; it's taking all Eddie's effort to stop the symbiote from killing innocents. As a result Brock has attempted to pull back from the action, settling for calling in anonymous tips to the police. But when one would-be supervillain makes a break for it, Brock loses control. At that second, Venom is suddenly more alien, and more terrifying, than he has ever been before. Fortunately for the hapless criminal, help is at hand in the form of a man who knows far too much about symbiotes.
The man in question calls himself Rex Strickland, and he reveals to Brock that he used to be a Venom agent himself. "A long time ago some friends and me got bonded with some crazy alien #$%@," Strickland explains, "and went 'round the world killing people for the United States Government." What's more, Strickland suggests this was decades ago, explaining that being bonded to a symbiote slows the aging process (explaining Strickland's vitality).
In recent years, Marvel briefly had Flash Thompson operate as Agent Venom in what appeared to be an unconventional twist. But it seems Thompson was far from the first to bond with a symbiote in service to his country.
Strickland knows the Venom symbiotes in ways that Eddie Brock doesn't. His line of questioning - How old is Brock's symbiote? How many hosts has it had before him? What does it like to eat? And even - what's its name? - reveals Brock doesn't know the answers. Even after all these years bonded with the symbiote, he still hasn't ever acknowledged it as a creature with an identity of its own.
It's a bold move on the part of new series writer Donny Cates, but it's one that shows real promise. This series is clearly set to explore the secret origin of the Venom symbiote, to reveal secrets of the symbiote's past that have until now been unexplored, and even to unveil a secret government operation to use symbiotes as weapons of war.
By the end of the issue, though, Eddie Brock is faced with one more question. His place in the symbiote legacy is one mystery... but the most pressing question is why this black ops team is coming to HIM for help.
Venom #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.