Congratulations are in order. Eddie Brock and Venom's beautiful, dark, twisted nightmare family is about to get a little bigger.
The cover of Venom #165. Illustration: Mark Bagley, Scott Hana, Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel)
The most important thing to know about Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote is that the pair are currently in a long-term, committed relationship with one another that's equal parts romantic and parasitic.
Eddie and Venom have been through so much together and spent enough time apart that after years of villainy, confusion, and the occasional bout of insanity, they have finally reunited and recognised the intense love that they feel for one another.
As is true with all couples, though, there's still plenty of dysfunction between Venom and Eddie, and their underlying trust issues are about to change their relationship in a very major way.
It's important to remember that neither Eddie nor Venom are really the people you might remember from the classic Spider-Man comics any more.
After being bonded with a series of abusive hosts and briefly visiting its home planet Klyntar, the Venom symbiote's become a much more thoughtful, compassionate being who simply wants to be safe and happy with the only person in the world who understands it. After losing the symbiote and doing some soul searching about his past as an arsehole, Eddie's realised that he simply isn't complete without the symbiote and now feels the strong desire to protect it.
Put simply, the two like each other a whole lot, but over the past couple of issues of Mike Costa's Venom series, there's been something amiss between them. While Eddie sleeps, the boundaries between his and Venom's consciousnesses become even more blurred, which has a curious impact on the dreams they tend to have.
In the past, when Eddie would dream of swinging through the skies and viciously mauling people, it typically meant that Venom had simply taken over their body without Eddie's knowing and gone for a joyride.
But as "The Nativity" opens in Venom #164 (and continues in this week's Venom #165), Eddie can't wrap his mind around the dreams of Venom's previous children that startle him from his slumber.
Eddie Brock awakening from a nightmare that gives him morning sickness. Illustration: Mark Bagley, Scott Hana, Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel)
Though nothing about the dreams is particularly violent or horrifying, they curiously cause Eddie to violently vomit, and when he questions Venom about whether the dreams came from him, the symbiote deflects and insists that they're simply the products of Eddie's subconsciousness.
Initially, Eddie's willing to trust Venom's word, but after the symbiote attempts to flee during a fight against Shocker and the baby-related dreams continue, his suspicions are renewed. It isn't until the horrifying anti-hero is captured by a resurrected Claire Dixon and a symbiote recon task force, though, that Venom's secret is revealed: They're pregnant.
Eddie Brock learning that he and Venom are pregnant. Illustration: Mark Bagley, Scott Hana, Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel)
Communication is one of the more interesting things about the way symbiotes reproduce. Even though symbiotes are able to psychically sense their offspring while gestating and after they have spawned and moved away physically, it doesn't necessarily mean that the host will be aware of the fact that a new symbiote has been created.
When the symbiote was first preparing to spawn Carnage during its and Eddie's escape from prison in The Amazing Spider-Man #345, Venom didn't think to tell his human partner because of all the commotion and danger they were in. In this case, however, Venom's reason for hiding its biological process is much more emotionally-driven.
Because both Eddie and Venom have more or less given up their lives as villains, the symbiote fears what sort of being its progeny might be - benevolent like its parents, or a horror like its older siblings.
It's an understandable concern that the symbiote didn't feel comfortable sharing with Eddie, but did make a point of conveying to Spider-Woman, who springs them free from the organisation looking to harvest the baby and allows them to find somewhere safe to give birth.
Eddie and Venom's issues with trust and communication have been one of the most fascinating aspects of their interpersonal dynamics since Venom's introduction, but this particular kind of dilemma represents a major evolution for them both.
In a very literal sense, the symbiote is living up to its title as a lethal protector and confronting Eddie with the fact that, on some level, it has reservations about the stability of their relationship. In not being honest with Eddie about their situation, the symbiote put them squarely in danger, but it's difficult not to sympathise with the being's all-too-justified concerns.
Venom's difficult labour. Illustration: Mark Bagley, Scott Hana, Dono Sánchez-Almara (Marvel)
Venom and Eddie's labour is more difficult than normal, in large part because Scorpion crashes into the operating room in an attempt to snatch the newborn symbiote for himself. But Eddie rises to the occasion and proves that he's ready to become a father (?) by separating from the symbiote and taking Scorpion on by himself out of a duty to protect his family.
It's a kind of heartfelt, sincere heroism that illustrates just how much Eddie Brock's grown as a person - and it's also what makes the final moments of "The Nativity" so heartbreaking and exciting. Though the task force sent to retrieve Venom's baby is led to believe that it was stillborn, as it turns out, the new creature's actually being hidden away by Liz Allan's company Alchemax.
In exchange for agreeing to let Alchemax perform non-invasive studies on the baby, Venom demands to be allowed to visit their child twice a week and that they get to decide when it is ready to bond with its first host.
It's an odd, wild turn of fate for the happy parents, and it could be the beginning of a whole new life for a species of aliens who, up until this point, have been woefully misunderstood.