More than any other series, Venom embodies what Marvel's Fresh Start relaunch is trying to accomplish. It offers a clean entry point for a long-running franchise. It captures just enough of what readers loved about this character in his glory days while bringing a whole wealth of new elements to the table. This Venom relaunch is completely unlike any that's come before, and that's a very good thing.
The new series started off strong in its first issue but stumbled slightly in issue #2 thanks to a decompressed script. That's not a problem here. While Donny Cates still crafts a fairly minimalist story that relies on imagery more than dialogue, there's a lot going on in issue #3. He briefly but effectively showcases the dynamic between Eddie Brock and Miles Morales (making full use of Miles' history with the Ultimate Universe version of Venom). Then he turns his attention to the big showdown between Venom and the Klyntar dragon storming its way through Manhattan. By the end, the mythology of this franchise has been completely turned on its head.
And therein lies the appeal of this series. Cates and Ryan Stegman aren't content to just give us more Venom: Lethal Protector. They recognize that if Eddie Brock is going to make his mark all over again, it needs to be in a status quo that doesn't play things safe or recycle old formulas. After three issues, this series has completely changed Venom's back-story and place in the Marvel Universe. Cates and Stegman are not only reinvigorating the character, they're ensuring that he stands on his own more than ever, away from the shadow of Spider-Man. And for all the epic tone and dynamic imagery driving this story, Cates' script never loses sight of the intimate bond between Eddie and his "other."
It's doubtful this book would find nearly as much success without Stegman's art propelling this story forward. He has a unique ability to channel the best of Marvel's bombastic '90s comics with a modern flair. His rendition of Venom is straight out of the Todd McFarlane camp - sleek, powerful and bulging with muscles and teeth. But the series frequently carves its own visual path, whether it's Stegman's stunning depiction of symbiote monsters or the way he visualizes the psychic bond between host and symbiote. There's an almost Lovecraftian quality to the series at this point, particularly as Cates and Stegman delve deeper into the nature of this new villain and the true origins of the symbiotes.
Colorist Frank Martin rounds out the book's stellar creative team. This entire story has so far unfolded at night, with every page bathed in a stark mixture of foreboding shadow and stark lighting. Martin's colors tend to have a harsh quality on any book, and rarely has his work found a more fitting home.