'Venom' Gives Bedlam a Familiar Face
Follow Eddie Brock's winding, non-linear path to Bedlam in Al Ewing and Bryan Hitch's 'Venom' series.
Since Spider-Man donned his black alien costume during the original SECRET WARS (1984), the symbiotes have been one of the most dangerous and unpredictable forces in the Marvel Universe. Along with its frequent host Eddie Brock, Venom has often embodied the chaotic nature of the symbiotes, acting as both one of Spider-Man’s deadliest foes and a world-saving lethal protector.
Now, Eddie and Venom must face new challenges in a world that is more terrified of symbiotes than ever. With new revelations about Venom and the powerful new symbiote Bedlam coming to light in Al Ewing, Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie, and Alex Sinclair’s VENOM (2021) #9, let’s take a closer look at how the time-twisting villain Meridius has tormented the Venom family.
The New King in Black
At the end of KING IN BLACK (2020), Eddie Brock and Venom defeated the symbiote god Knull and inherited his role as the King in Black, the all-powerful leader of the symbiotes. As Eddie learned after defeating Knull, his status as the King in Black gives him the ability to instantly transfer his mind and consciousness into any symbiote at any time. While his body stays on Earth, Brock’s mind is free to roam the universe, allowing him to take full advantage of his role as the center of the symbiote’s hivemind.
As Brock tried to forge the symbiotes into a universal force for good in VENOM #1 (2021), he received an ominous warning about the future from a symbiote possessed by an unseen force. During a deep space mission, the rogue symbiote killed the crew they were trying to rescue and threatened both Eddie and his son, Dylan.
Unnerved by this encounter, Eddie used his symbiote-traveling abilities to get a glimpse of the future. However, this left Brock’s consciousness flailing and unstuck in time. By the time Eddie returned to his body, Dylan was being targeted by someone impersonating him. Although he was able to warn Dylan, Brock was seemingly killed in a helicopter attack before he could reunite with his son.
Eddie’s body was destroyed in that blast, but his consciousness survived. He woke up in the Garden of Time, the domain of the mysterious Meridius, a time-traveling King in Black from the future. Eddie was marooned and effectively imprisoned at the end of time alongside a few other future Kings in Black who appear to be under Meridius’ command, including the vicious symbiote Bedlam.
Meridius and the Life Foundation
While Eddie was traveling through space and time, Dylan was back on Earth with the symbiotes Venom and Sleeper. Despite Eddie’s warnings, Dylan started regularly merging with Venom as he went on the run from the mysterious Absent Throne group, an effort orchestrated by Meridius to encourage the evolution of the Venom symbiote. Initially, Dylan turned to Archer Lyle, an old friend of his father. While she gave him some information about the Absent Throne, Lyle betrayed Dylan and turned him over to the Life Foundation, an organization that has been interested in symbiotes for years.
Since its introduction in 1987’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #298, the Life Foundation has been dedicated to the idea that symbiotes are a critical part of humanity’s future. Under its leader Carlton Drake, the organization played a key role in creating symbiotes like Scream and Phage before falling into bankruptcy. In the wake of major symbiote attacks in ABSOLUTE CARNAGE (2019), KING IN BLACK (2020), and EXTREME CARNAGE (2021), the Life Foundation reemerged just as symbiotes evolved into a hot-button political issue. After the assassination of Senator Peter Crane, the Life Foundation found a natural partner in Sen. Arthur Crane, his son, who is secretly loyal to Carnage. With the sociopathic politician’s help, Drake and the Life Foundation could effectively control national policy over symbiotes.
While Dylan was being held captive, the Life Foundation sent its armored trooper Spearhead after the Venom symbiote. After Dylan briefly spoke with a vision of his dad, the Venom symbiote found the younger Brock and escaped, leaving a violent trail of destruction behind. This escape played perfectly into the Absent Throne’s plans by positioning the Life Foundation to assemble a new, symbiote-targeting incarnation of the Jury as part of Kane’s anti-symbiote fight.
After escaping, Dylan, Venom, and Sleeper tried to hide in a small town where he stayed with a reformed biker gang leader. However, this relative stability was shattered when Dylan and Venom attacked a rival group, setting off a wave of fiery violence. This violence also drew the attention of Bedlam, who was hunting Dylan for Meridius. Bedlam quickly overpowered Venom and brutally attacked him, seemingly revealing himself to be Eddie Brock in VENOM (2021) #7.
Although Bedlam debuted fighting other symbiotes in the Garden of Time, Meridius released the violent creature, another apparent King in Black, in the modern day as part of his multi-pronged effort to encourage the Venom symbiote’s evolution. Using his abilities to travel through time, Meridius personally orchestrated several elements of the Absent Throne’s attack on the Brocks. Beyond unleashing Bedlam, this King in Black effectively rebuilt the Life Foundation, restored Carlton Drake, threatened Eddie in space, and posed as Eddie to capture Dylan at the start of the series.
As all of this was going on, Eddie sat at the end of time until his nascent time-traveling powers sent him back to the 602nd century, where he took over a symbiote that served Kang the Conqueror. After Eddie fought his way through Kang’s forces, the Avengers villain welcomed the confused Brock into his command center as a friend. When he saw this, Kang realized that this was their first meeting and sparred with Eddie as he hinted at the future of their friendship. After stabilizing Eddie’s position in the timestream, Kang even offered to show Brock how to use his time-travel abilities. Kang helped Eddie think differently about nonlinear interaction with the timestream and how to foster its development.
Despite those hints of friendship, Kang appears to be working in cahoots with Meridius. Even as Eddie tried to save Dylan through time travel, he played into the Absent Throne’s plans. After outmaneuvering Eddie at every turn, Meridius took control of Eddie as he bounced around the timestream and trapped him within Bedlam. Feeling consumed by the familiar rage of the symbiote, Eddie can only watch helplessly as Bedlam’s tendrils try to kill his son and force Venom’s next evolution. Caught in the Meridius’ web of plans, the future of Eddie Brock and Venom looks more uncertain than ever before.
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