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Venom's guide to parenting
Venom is truly one of Marvel’s best power couples, and I mean that with all my heart. It’s a symbiotic relationship by nature, but true love by nurture. Sure, there was a time when Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote wanted desperately to kill Spider-Man, and, arguably, Spidey probably deserved the hate because he couldn’t mind his business. In Mike Costa's Venom: First Host, however, the duo are now parents — and damn good ones at that. There is much to learn and admire from Marvel-616's parental couple of the century.
A moment most pleasing to me happens in the first issue: Venom stops a thief from holding up a bodega. Venom does so by eating the would-be thief, of course. Afterward, Venom apologizes to the mom and her young child, who were present, reassuring the mom that she’s a good parent. How do they know that? Because they’re good parents themselves. There was something sincerely endearing about this moment. It's very true to who Venom is: an antihero who means well even if they don’t always have the best execution. No one truly knows what they’re doing, but what matters is that they're trying to do the best they can by the lives that the universe has entrusted to them. That’s something that resonates with me as a parent — fictional space alien or not.
It's established right away in this series that Venom is taking this responsibility to heart. Their offspring might be in a state-of-the-art fish tank of sorts, but it doesn't stop them from bonding, nurturing, and protecting it. When prompted to permit pharmaceutical applications, they vehemently refuse anything of the sort, stating that their offspring is too young to be experimented on, that it’s not old enough to experience something like that or even understand what is happening to it. Parents are supposed to be advocates for their children, especially when the child is too young to fend for themselves.
There have been plenty of times I’ve had to do the very same thing for my own child, but with more mundane stuff like scheduling doctor’s appointments or explaining to a family member that my child doesn’t feel like hugging them. No matter how old they get, I’ll be advocating for my child until I no longer can. Harry Osborn of all people gives Eddie some reassurance about parenting when he tells him, "Having a kid to take care of... it’ll make you scared. More scared than you’ve ever been…but it’ll make you better. And when people come and bring danger — God help them. Because it’ll make you stronger too."
As far as I’m concerned, no lies were told.
Venom experiences several stages of parenthood through the coarse of the five-issue series. And no matter what, protecting their progeny is their top priority — even from a crazed Kree hell-bent on finishing a years-old mission. This same Kree, Tel-Kar, is also the first host the Venom symbiote had. When he threatens to harm their child, Venom agrees to go with him. It's then time for the baby Venom, Sleeper, to show everyone — including its parents — what it’s capable of by helping save the Venom symbiote and Earth. Eddie learns their child is not only adept at this whole hero schtick, but they’re also ready to leave home, and that’s all thanks to the care it received from him and Venom.
After Sleeper saves humanity from extinction, it’s ready to go off and see the rest of the world, causing both Eddie and his symbiote partner to experience an empty nest. The heartbreak they both feel for wanting what they felt like would be a better life for Sleeper is sweet and relatable. Most parents want their children to have experiences better than their own. What that means varies from person to person, but for Venom, it meant their child choosing not to lobotomize Tel-Kar and wearing him like a husk. They eventually resign themselves to the fact that they did the best they could and that what matters is that their child is free of anyone’s control for now, and at the end of the day, they can be happy with that outcome.
Children, space monsters included, are individuals who will have their own wants and desires, many of which won’t always align with what you wanted for them. But that’s OK. As Venom learns, and as I continue to understand, the important thing is that you did the best you could, and as a result, your child felt confident enough to go out and seek their purpose in life.