Ever since the first issue, Crime Master and Jack O' Lantern have been a thorn in Venom's side. They found out his secret identity and manipulated him into retrieving the Toxin symbiote for them. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock has been killing symbiotes and their hosts in his "Holy War" Venom has been recruited into the Secret Avengers, but they have no idea of how much trouble he's in. Last issue, The Human Fly escaped incarceration, but is in deep doo-doo with The Kingpin. Whew. I'm out of breath.
|Executive Producer:||Alan Fine|
|Chief Creative Officer:||Joe Quesada|
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alomso|
|Senior Editor:||Stephen Wacker|
|Writer:||Cullen Bunn, Rick Remender|
|Cover Art:||Michael Del Mundo|
|Lettering:||VC's Joe Caramagna|
The story begins with Flash beside himself, as always. He is sitting in an abandoned warehouse (Where did that come from?) and is surrounded by many heavy-duty rifles (Where did those come from? Are they legal?) He decides that, since he is now a Secret Avenger, he needs a clean slate from those who know about his symbiote's instability. (It's obvious that Hawkeye is on edge with having a known killer on his team in the pages of Secret Avengers.)
Flash calls Hank Pym, a fellow avenger and Ant-Man, and asks for the symbiote so that he can "lend a hand" to the police and "stop a local thug." Pym minimizes the symbiote and sends it to him through the phone. Venom arms himself and leaves the warehouse. While he is web slinging, Eddie Brock, The Symbiote Slayer, in on his tail. What an unfortunate coincidence!
Meanwhile, Crime Master, accompanied by Jack, a snake-man hybrid, and a guy who looks like he came straight out of the 90s', is pleased to see that The Human Fly has arrived to his meeting. Fly doesn't trust him and says that he's "probably got a pit full of spiders under the rug or something." "The pit's full of irradiated spiders," Crime Master retorts. He introduces his two unknown henchmen as Death Adder and Megatek and then gives The Fly an ultimatum. He offers to protect him from the Kingpin and police if he joins his group. He accepts and a toast is made to The Savage Six! Or...Savage Five? (May I note that Crime Master has panda and koala heads on his wall and owns a genuine baby seal rug. Pure. Evil.)
While this is all happening, Venom is on an overhang above, aiming at Crime Master's head with his rifle. (How did Venom find Crime Master's location?) He debates whether he should shoot or not, but he decides that there is only one way to keep his loved ones safe. He must kill Crime Master. Right when Venom shoots, he is hit by a sonic blast, and misses Crime Master. The shot was fired by Eddie Brock, whom Venom easily webs up to a post. (Poor Eddie.)
The villains below are on high alert. Venom shoots at them, but his bullets are deflected by a force field made by Megatek. Crime Master orders Fly to kill whoever is shooting at him. Jack finds Flash and throws a pumpkin bomb at him, weakening the symbiote. While Flash is occupied by a handful of Jack's creepy demon babies, Fly chucks Death Adder at Flash. Adder falls after his aerial assault, but Venom has already been poisoned by his claws. Both Fly and Jack attack him at his weakest state, and he falls to Crime Master's feet. (Flash just can't get a break!) Venom points his pistol at him, but is brutally smashed into the ground by Megatek. Venom knows that he has lost this battle, and retreats to protect his friends and family.
Once Venom leaves, Crime Master finds Eddie Brock webbed to the wall, and decides that he can be of use. Although Eddie resists, Jack unleashes the Toxin symbiote on him. Eddie, now a giant, red monster, faces Crime Master and roars, "KILL VENOM!" Now, The Savage Six is complete.
First of all, I liked this issue. It sets up the upcoming arc well and contains a satisfying battle scene. I think it's extremely hard to write a story with many villains and give each a chance to shine, but Remender and Bunn pulled it off. Heck, as stupid as Death Adder and Megatek look, I enjoyed their portions of the fight as much as I did Jack and Crime Master's. I also find Remender's dialogue for Crime Master terrific and the pacing is good. I think that the Toxin cliffhanger leaves potential for Brock, but I am a bit disappointed that his symbiote slayer status rolled over so quickly.
Most of all, I am really astonished by how well Remender is casting Venom as a dark shadow of Spider-Man. Jack O' Lantern, Green Goblin. Savage Six, Sinister Six. I wouldn't be surprised if Jack threw Betty off a bridge! It's obvious that Remender's whole run has been leading up to this.
Sadly, if you look at this story closely, it comes apart at the seams. Where did Flash find that abandoned warehouse? How does he have those deadly guns? Are they legal? How did Eddie find Flash? How did Flash find Crime Master? Did Crime Master send a call through the criminal underworld? You would think that he would be able to recruit better allies...There is no excuse for all of these sloppy problems.
Kev Walker handles art duties well. He keeps his panels uncluttered and focused. I've noticed that all of his characters have rectangular heads, but he is able to stylize then to the point where they are recognizable and specific.
This issue could have been better. I hope that more quality comes from the rest of the arc, though.
Cullen Bunn, this issue's co-writer, is taking over at Issue 23. This is also my first review.