Surely we all remember the strange hyperventilating horniness of the Tom Hardy Venom film back in 2018: What was meant to be an edgy superhero-ish action film lodged into the Internet’s collective libido as a gooey romance, against all odds. The premise, essentially, is that an alien ball of ooze has decided to co-inhabit the body of a journalist (oh, if only), and then the two of them go on extremely muscular skintight adventures.
Why is this so sexy? Well, allow me to theorize, as someone who reports frequently on sexual subcultures and has asked that question about pups, furries, balloons, diapers, dragons, donkeyplay, pumpkins, hypnotists, tinglers, leather, clowns, and the lawyer whose camera made him look like a cat on a Zoom call.
The Venom stories have two intersecting preoccupations, both of which are prime triggers for certain readers: Renouncing control over one’s body and mind, and also getting extremely sloppy. It’s no surprise that some people are delighted by goo — such scenarios are adjacent to bodily fluids — but body and mind control are elements that appear in virtually every kink I’ve ever reported on.
It never fails (literally never) that when I’m reporting on a kink, and I scratch the surface of “why is this hot?” the answer is invariably fluctuations in power, control, and autonomy. (If you have theories on your own regarding the hotness of Venom and goo in general, please chime in on this Twitter thread.)
I have also noticed that a person’s sexual preoccupations often (not always, but often) align with their personal anxieties, and Venom is, to be sure, quite scary. And on that topic, he’s the subject of a new body-horror comic out this week; and I would encourage you to get to know yourself better by paying attention to the nature of your reaction to the book, and your balance of fear to arousal.
Thanks as always to Phoenix, who helped select this week’s top comics, and had no idea I was going to get so raunchy in my lede.
SPIDER’S SHADOW ISSUE #1
An excellently creepy speculative body-horror, Spider’s Shadow imagines what would happen if Peter Parker allowed himself to form too close a connection to Venom, the alien symbiote goo. We see Peter descend into a horrified helplessness, unsure whether he can control himself or what feels like an addiction to the comfort of the black suit’s power. In the official continuity, Peter eventually broke Venom’s hold over him; but in this “what if” side-story, Peter seems to be an observer to his own life, regarding himself as a stranger who tortures him while feeding him with an adrenaline that he just can’t kick. If indulging in the black Venom suit is so wrong, then why does it feel so good? If it’s ruining his relationships, why does he keep going back to it? If it’s leading him to make so many wrong choices, why does he choose to stay? The addiction allegory is a bit on the nose, but it’s told with surprising sensitivity.
Rating: 🕷️🕷️🕷️🕷️☆ (4/5)
HOME ISSUE #1
America is kidnapping and torturing children in this book that I wish, oh how I wish, was more speculative than it is. We meet Mercedes Gomez, trekking fleeing gangs in Guatemala with her son, Juan, seeking safety with family in Houston. Alas, they encounter a larger, more deadly force upon their arrival in the US, which is to say Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mother and son are separated from each other and processed through an uncaring immigration system, with panels that will be familiar to anyone whose stomach was turned by the photos of America’s real-life concentration camps for refugees. There is, however, something different about this particular family, a secret about Juan that is one of the best issue-one cliffhangers I’ve ever read. There's an excellent blending here of our terrible reality and fantasy — an imagined response to the US government's abuses that is intriguing. The power of ICE to ruin lives seems absolute, both in real life and in the book, and it is a relief to envision a reality in which their cruelty might be undone.
Rating: 🔥🔥🔥🔥☆ (4/5)
Every page is absolutely gorgeous from beginning to end in this anthology of myths and fables from New Zealand, Hawaii, the Philippines, and other Pacific Island cultures. If you’re familiar with the stories, this book will likely be a delightful comfort; if not, it’s an excellent jumping-off point to learn more. There are cautionary tales about spirits; a legendary sledding race; a ghost story, science fiction, and angry gods. I’m impressed by the diversity of graphical storytelling techniques employed by the various contributing artists — despite the paperback being impressively thick, no two chapters look alike. Not only will you discover new stories to enjoy, you’ll also discover new artists and writers to follow.
Rating: 🏝️🏝️🏝️🏝️🏝️ (5/5)
ALSO: WANDAVISION BOOKS, '20s MYSTERIES, and '90s SCI-FI
Also intriguing this week: I don’t know if Jules Verne’s: Lighthouse is meant to look like a '90s syndicated TV show, but I couldn’t get TV shows like Cleopatra 2525 and Farscape out of my head while skimming it. Maybe it’s all the rimlighting? Take a look at the new Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone #1 if you appreciate a good ‘20s style mystery with an element of the supernatural. Phoenix just got in a ton of reprints of books that connect to WandaVision, from House of M to Vision & Scarlet Witch. And oh hey, there’s a new Owly book for the all-ages set! Always a cute fun time, I recommend Owly for all readers, even those too young to read without help from a kind adult.