A Look Back at Venom: Funeral Pyre #1 (1993)

Disclaimer: This is my original work with details sourced from reading the comic book and doing personal research. Anyone who wants to use this article, in part or in whole, needs to secure first my permission and agree to cite me as the source and author. Let it be known that any unauthorized use of this article will constrain the author to pursue the remedies under R.A. No. 8293, the Revised Penal Code, and/or all applicable legal actions under the laws of the Philippines.

Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s arts and culture enthusiasts, Marvel Comics fans and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the year 1993 and explore a part of Marvel Comics’ universe through the first-ever limited comic book series featuring one of Marvel’s most iconic supervillains – Venom.

Previously, I wrote about Venom with his appearances in What If comic books (click here and here) as well as in issues of Venom: Lethal Protector (click here and here). Venom also appeared in the disappointing crossover comic book Spider-Man Meets Spider-Man 2099.

Moving back to the year 1993, the Venom: Lethal Protector limited series ended and Marvel went on to release a 2nd limited series composed of three issues complete with an all-new creative team. That series was Venom: Funeral Pyre and the most notable thing is that Venom gets to be with the Punisher (read my other retro reviews that include the character here, here, here and here).

With those details laid down, here is a look back at Venom: Funeral Pyre #1 published in 1993 by Marvel Comics with a story written by Carl Potts and drawn by the late Tom Lyle.

The cover.

Early story

The story begins on the streets of Oakland, California. There, a young guy named Gray Russell watches gang members severely beat up another guy which disturbs him deeply. He is part of the gang. A short time later, he rides with the gang in a car which hits a man (who managed to have his young nephew move out of harm’s way).

Somehow the man survived and moves to another direction deliberately to lure the gang away from his nephew. As the gangsters move towards a local building, Gray separates from his harsh companions to find a phone booth. Gray finds Calvin (the nephew of the man who got hit) nearby and decides to comfort him. From a distance, they heard the gangsters beat Calvin’s uncle to death.

The next day in the underground city beneath San Francisco, Calvin meets Eddie Brock and hands him a note meant for the police. As Calvin reveals more details, Eddie gradually turns into Venom with his alien costume covering up his body. After learning of the death of Calvin’s uncle and hearing the young boy’s plea for help for Gray (an investigative reporter in secret within the gang), Venom agrees to help him as it is their mission to save the innocent and destroy the guilty…


Punisher and Venom’s first-ever encounter with each other.

I want to start first the with the overall presentation crafted by the Potts-Lyle creative duo. In terms of story and setting, this comic book has a very strong urban crime vibe which is not a surprise given the fact that Carl Potts wrote lots of stories of the Punisher and his personal war against criminals. That being said, the tone is very different compared to what was shown in Venom: Lethal Protector and other Venom tales that got published before this comic book. Very clearly, this story is dark, gritty and even disturbing to read due to the subject matter of crime and senseless violence caused by people who are obsessed with violence. The fantasy elements of Venom: Lethal Protector are unsurprisingly absent here.

Carl Potts’ take on Venom’s personality is technically an extension of what was established previously. Venom, who is truly a murderer on the loose, continues to live with his very distorted code by helping the innocent by means of using violence and death on others he personally views as guilty. His getting involved in the turf of crime here is, however, a fresh approach on the super villain now acting “heroic” helping Calvin who lost his uncle. Being a former journalist himself, Eddie Brock “relates” with the investigative journalist involved with the gang.

The other major character – the Punisher – is his typical self in this story. He gets involved in the conflict in Oakland not purposely but accidentally as he was just passing by in his weapons-filled van as he heard the local police communication on local crime. The only thing notable about the way the Punisher is portrayed here is his first-ever interactions with Venom which is a crossover scene filled with a decent amount of hard action.  

Gray, the investigative journalist, is presented here as technically the third major character of the story. In some ways, he even overshadows Venom and the Punisher in key parts of this comic book. He is not really an interesting character himself but there are some interesting Marvel universe details shown from his personal memories. What is clear about this uninteresting character is that the creative team planned something with him in a key role within the core concept of this mini-series.

As for the plot itself, it clearly has a dark and gritty concept of street crime in 1990s Oakland which itself plays a big part of the build-up of the story and the eventual crossover between Venom and the Punisher. The problem is that the build-up has an uninteresting character with Gray involved and there is a lot of exposition to go through before the Venom-Punisher encounter.

The encounter between Venom and the Punisher here came with the superhero comics crossover trope of the players misunderstanding the situation and each other, and getting into a conflict very early on. Both characters have their respective obsessions and so-called codes of purposes, which predictably leads them into conflict as they stayed hard-headed towards each other. While it is flawed, the Venom-Punisher crossover here is the highlight as well as the relief from having to read all the exposition and build-up.


A scene like this could inspire Black Lives Matter terrorists, SJWs, woke activists and North American socialists to become violent and cause havoc around America.

Venom: Funeral Pyre #1 (1993) is a flawed comic book that happens to highlight the Punisher and Spider-Man’s greatest nemesis of the time. It delivered on its promise of showcasing the two characters – a cold-hearted anti-crime vigilante and an alien costume-equipped murderer – in a crossover but the pay-off was barely enough when you take into account the build-up, the exposition and the involvement of the uninteresting third player named Gray. Compared to what was shown in Venom: Lethal Protector, this comic book clearly has an urban crime flavor which Carl Potts strongly implemented. As for the art, Tom Lyle showed he is really good in visualizing Venom, the Punisher and street gang wars.

Overall, Venom: Funeral Pyre #1 (1993) is serviceable. Definitely this is not the fabulous 1st issue described on the foil cover.


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