Warning: contains spoilers for Venom #12!Marvel’s Sleeper has officially overcome Venom’s traditional weaknesses. Symbiotes like Venom are immensely powerful, possessed of great strength and endurance, but they also have two extremely common weaknesses: fire and sound. Numerous foes have used these to best Venom and other symbiotes, and Peter Parker even originally repelled the symbiote suit by exposing it to a tolling bell. However, Venom’s spawn Sleeper has found a way around these limits, declaring itself the “most powerful symbiote.”
Sleeper first appeared in 2018’s Venom #165, created by Mike Costa and Mark Bagley. Sleeper is the seventh symbiote to spawn from Venom and was originally intended to bond with Spider-Man villain the Scorpion. Venom thwarted this effort, deciding not to bond Sleeper with a host for the time being, so as to avoid it becoming corrupted. Venom left Sleeper in the care of the Alchemax Corporation, but Sleeper eventually broke away. During the King in Black crossover event, Venom defeated Knull and ascended to the role of the new King in Black; afterwards, Eddie went into space, leaving his son Dylan behind as the new host of the Venom symbiote. Since then, Dylan has come under siege from the forces of the Life Foundation, wanting the symbiote for their own ends. Sleeper has sworn to protect Dylan while Eddie is away, and in Venom #12, readers see Sleeper’s quest has led him to overcome two common symbiote weaknesses.
In the issue, Sleeper is fighting its way through a Life Foundation Medical Research Hub, where Dylan is being kept. The Life Foundation sends troops, who upon seeing it as a symbiote, attempt to kill it with flames. However, Sleeper is ready for them, and uses its abilities to fabricate chemical responses. Sleeper devises a “rapid-hardening fire-resistant polyurethane” to negate the flames, then responds to a sonic-resonant spear wielded by the villain Spearhead, coating himself in “an air-filled non-Newtonian fluid.” Sleeper points out that symbiotes’ weaknesses have been known for years, and mocks the idea that it wouldn’t have devised protections by now. The issue is written by Ram V, drawn by Bryan Hitch, inked by Andrew Currie, colored by Alex Sinclair and lettered by Clayton Cowles.
Interestingly, Sleeper points out that symbiotes are “infinitely stronger” with a host, and claims it’s “the most powerful symbiote you’ve ever met.” This is pretty shocking, as Spearhead has faced Venom himself, but it’s backed up by Sleeper’s actions in this issue. Venom, Carnage and other symbiotes have been defeated with flames and sonic weapons time and again, but now Sleeper has found workarounds for both. What’s even more impressive is that Sleeper seemingly pulls off these feats with an extra ‘clone’ body it’s remotely controlling. Sleeper may not have the pure power of a King in Black, but with Eddie Brock tumbling through time, its genius use of its powers could well mean it deserves the accolade it gives itself.
It’s likely this is just the beginning of Sleeper’s extra abilities. No-one knew that he was inventing workarounds for these common symbiote weaknesses, so it’s probable it’s thought up other offensive and defensive uses for its powers. With Dylan Brock’s Venom being pursued by a host of enemies and Eddie Brock trapped as the plaything of Meridius, Sleeper is an essential ally for the forces of good, and it seems that it’s more than up to taking the mantle of Marvel’s most powerful symbiote.
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