Col consenso del popolo, egli scelse come co-reggente prima il fratello Pietro e alla morte di questi l’altro fratello, Orso junior.

Giovanni organizzò una spedizione contro Marino, conte di Comacchio, «mettendo a ferro e fuoco il territorio circostante fino a Ravenna», per vendicare il proprio fratello: il conte Marino, saputo che Pietro, fratello del doge, si stava dirigendo a Roma per chiedere al papa di governare in sua vece Comacchio, lo aveva catturato e rispedito a Venezia ferito a morte.

Per l’attacco a Comacchio, il doge si attirò la scomunica del papa Adriano III (884-885) il quale temeva che a seguito dell’occupazione dei veneziani l’imperatore potesse revocare il decreto di donazione fatto alla Santa Sede.

Anche il nuovo papa, Stefano V (885-891) mantenne la scomunica, che fu revocata soltanto dopo la restituzione dei territori conquistati dalla Repubblica.

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