Venom #2

Flash Thompson is the new Venom!

I know, I know, this isn’t news – it’s been in the mix for at least the last two or three months, starting with an excellent one-off issue of Amazing Spider-Man that acted as a back-door pilot for this book, but it’s such a big and smart concept that it’s worth mentioning again.

Flash Thompson, ex-bully with anger-management issues (I’ve decided), and decorated war hero who lost his legs to conflict, has become part of a US government project that is putting the previously uncontrollable alien symbiote that caused Peter Parker so much trouble, and tends to drive it’s hosts to cannibalism and carnage, to good use in top secret missions.

It’s a great concept that revives the Venom character, once so cool and trendsetting and now pretty tired, and also gives Thompson, who once redeemed by heroism became a guy who deserved better than being left to the Z-list, something impressive to do.

And Rick Remender and Tony Moore are working it. This is a perfect opportunity to do frenetic black-ops and espionage action stories, with a super-powered flavour, and they’re not letting it pass. Tony Moore in particular is merging the different elements of this book perfectly, making monsters and monstrosity look perfectly at home alongside the gun-toting, hard-bitten humanity present in Thompson’s soldiering.

There’s a brief look at Thompson’s home situation in his absence that sets the scene for potential problems, with his partner Betty confiding in Peter Parker that Thompson’s secrecy is putting a strain on her.

Remender balances these elements pretty well, too, with a decent crack at a done-in-one story, and a nuanced handling of the two threats that Thompson has to deal with – the external, which in this case is a demolition job in the Savage Land that has been dangerously compromised by the appearance of the demented original Kraven the Hunter, and the more ultimately worrying internal threat of being in contact with the corrupting Venom symbiote. This creeping corruption is already a running theme in the book, with the strict parameters of the government project apparently failing to keep the symbiote in check, and it seems likely that the long-term effects of it on Flash aren’t going to be good.

In fact, the only real issue I had with the book is that the inclusion of Kraven, and Remender’s subtle but potentially confusing call-backs to the classic “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, messes with the coherence of the book a bit, and at points feels a little superfluous and forced. This is a book with enough elements to it already that a “legacy villain of the month” approach isn’t necessary.

By the way, the cover is a lovely homage to an early classic Todd McFarlane covers to Amazing Spider-Man issues 300 and 301, from 1988.