Comics : Venom (Vol. 2) #1

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This review was first published on: Aug 2011.

Background...

They called it Project Rebirth 2.0. , yet the bonding of the symbiote to Corporal Eugene Flash Thompson represents more than just rebirth- it is the initiative of Marvel to reinvent and redefine the character. For the first time ever since his debut in 1962 as the egotistical bully of Peter Parker, Flash Thompson finally has his own series, and not a limited either. As for the symbiote, well we all know by now what it’s capable of, and if looking at its previous hosts is any indication, the outcome doesn’t seem too positive for the former all star quarterback.

After the symbiote was stripped from long time Spidey foe, Mac Gargan, we all wondered where (or who) it would bond to next. The prelude to Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) 654.1, and 654.1 itself, detailed Flash being an unlikely candidate due to his recent war amputations, and how he benefited perhaps the most from merging with the alien, as he was imbued with a not only a set of legs, but all the amazing spider powers he could ever dream of and more.

Now, working for the US military, Flash was given 20 missions and is allowed approximately 48 hours in the suit, before they press the kill switch and “fry his brain”.

In Detail...

Venom (Vol. 2) #1
May 2011 : SM Spin-Off
Summary: Venom meets Jack O' Lantern
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Rick Remender
Pencils:  Tony Moore
Inker:  Crimelab Studios, Karl Kesel (Pages 12-13), Sandu Florea (Page 6)
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  John Rauch
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Review
Articles: Jack O'Lantern VI (1st)

Terror and panic strikes a town in Eastern Europe, where locals are fleeing for their lives from an entourage of flaming bullets. It appears that help has arrived in the form of UN robotic soldiers that highly resemble the James Rhodes’ War Machine, undoubtedly designed by Stark. Yet they prove to be no match for the onslaught of what we learn is actually Antarctic vibranium bullets capable of eating through any other metal.

Reports tell us that the group behind this attack call themselves “the bright” but we soon see the face of the operation or at least his flaming pumpkin of a head. Jack O’ Lantern assaults the troops and continues video recording the event for his boss’s review. However, Jack is also on a mission to retrieve a certain doctor responsible for the vibranium ammo. All the while Jack and his superior are sharing words, exemplifying Jack’s colorful and playful vocabulary.

Just when it seems like they’ve spotted their target, a helicopter arrives to drop off the hero of this story, and it’s Venom to the rescue. While Venom web parachutes his way onto the scene, he shares his patriotic philosophies with us; which in my opinion, come off as a little preachy but none the less admirable and true to character. Loads of action follows, as venom web swings, absorbs bullets, scoops up innocent bystanders, and uses his suit to fire off multiple machine guns at once.

When Venom happens upon the Doctor, Jack is quick to land an attack in dramatic fashion, and make haste with the doctor. Thinking he has found his exit, Jack flies off on his broom, but before he can truly get away Venom uses his symbiotic tentacles to operate the cannon trigger on a tank. Venom shoots Jack and lands a shot that explodes right beside him.

Venom desperately tries to calm himself and get the innocent woman and child to safety, yet Jack O’ is making it entirely difficult. Jack slices the face mask of Venom using a modified scythe blade, while spatting out strange gothic nursery rhymes. (I have to wonder where he gets his inspiration.) At this point, Venom starts to loose it and knocks Jack for a loop with one heck of a power punch. The fight ensues, until Venom stuffs a web plug grenade into Jack's mouth, and then removes the webbing. The resulting explosion not only blows off Jack’s pumpkin but nearly separates his entire jaw. Jack hops on his broom and takes off with the Doctor; that is until Venom web snatches him back.

Back at base, they remove the suit, and it turns out that everything didn’t go quite as expected. Flash gets a lecture from General Dodge. Apparently, the doctor’s spine was snapped from the yank of the web line. (Sounds very similar to another web related death.) Finally, after one last warning, Dodge tells Flash to go home and get some R. and R.

At home in Brooklyn, Betty Brant is crying over spilt milk. Actually she’s upset that flash missed the V.A. Benefit. Apparently they were supposed to go together, so Flash is getting another dose of harsh guilt and a finger pointed at him. She accuses him of lying and alcoholism, just before slamming the door in his face.

It seems like Flash is having the worst of days and there’s nowhere to turn. He passes a nearby bar with an inviting wheelchair ramp yet, somehow manages the internal strength and courage to resist temptation. Way to go Flash.

In General...

This would be your typical military tale, with less politics and more monsters, if it weren’t for the super powers and outrageous, cool costumes. There’s also all the mellow drama of Flash’s failing relationship thrown in for good measure. This issue really delivered lots of intense action and a very suitable villain.

Joe Quesada provides a lovely cover and Siqueira delivers an excellent but entirely misleading cover for the Variant, but the coloring by Crimelab! Studios is what really spoils the art for me; very subdued, muddy and hard to distinguish important details. Still I have to admit Jack O’ Lantern has never looked better. Jack is a sight to behold but, his dialogue is a bit on the ridiculous side, as well as his choice in weaponry.

In this story,Rick Remender begins to dig into the details of Flash’s psyche inserting layers of tragedy and guilt. I believe Remender really intends to show the tragedy and overwhelming plight, despite Flash’s best efforts to do the right thing.

Perhaps he’s going on a whim that people expect to see the symbiote poison his life just as it did Brock’s. However, I thought the point of this series was to distance itself from the older versions.

My guess is that fans will clamor for more and more of the old brain eating, acid spewing, body builder physique Venom, rather than the current guns and glory, which is probably opposite to what the creative team has in mind.

Overall Rating...

I like the action, the darkness, and pacing of this book. There’s the moment when Flash looses control and basically “hulks out”, which is pretty satisfying. It’s got plenty of oohs and ahhs, such as massive explosions, blazing guns, all kinds of destruction, but the story doesn’t grab me in any other way. What else is going on here besides urgency? Not enough to really intrigue me. Unfortunately the art doesn’t help very much either. Still I feel the level of activity is enough to warrant a rating of just slightly better than your average comic.