“Venom by Rick Remender Vol. 1” is not the flashiest title ever conceived for a book (pun intended). There’s a trend of breaking up titles runs by creator. Over at Marvel, you’ve got “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis,” “Moon Knight by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev,” and so forth. Over at DC, You’ve got “Tales of the Batman” volumes for Gene Colan and Don Newton. I suppose it’s good for branding the work of a particular creator on a series, though it’s the rare title like Moon Knight that’s spreading the love between both writers and artists. We’ll see how long this naming trend sticks around and whether more heavily promoted storylines are collected under the creators’ names (as of this writing, it’s Spider-Man: Spider Island, not Dan Slott’s Spider-Man Vol. *.*”)
Venom by Rick Remender has Remender on writing chores, with the art split between Tony Moore and Tom Fowler, and a variety of inkers on Moore. I pulled this volume out of the library on a lark and it turned out to be a much deeper read than I was expecting.
The series premise is that Venom (the alien symbiote that was Spider Man’s black costume) has fallen into the hands of the military. They’re letting the symbiote bond with soldiers and using it for black ops missions. The latest soldier to bond with it is Flash Thompson. Yes, Spider-Man’s old #1 fan and Peter Parker’s high school bully frenemy. Thompson joined the army and lost his legs in combat. Among other bonuses for Flash, when he’s wearing the Venom suit, he has legs again. On the other hand, if you bond with the symbiote too long, it takes over. The symbiote also can exert its will when its host loses his temper. Flash Thompson lose his cool? That’s certainly an established character trait.
This book is a character study of Flash Thompson with regular bursts of ultra-violence. It lives in a dark place, as Flash has to work through his pathos, least the symbiote take control of his body. He struggles to stop thinking like a bullying jock. He worries about his relationship with Betty Brant, who thinks he’s relapsing into alcoholism any time he disappears for a mission. He tries to deal with his relationship, or lack thereof, with his father in the final act.
What keeps this moving along is the internal monologue as Flash tries to be the man he thinks he should be as circumstances conspire against him. Were you expecting a Venom book to be a character piece? I wasn’t. I wasn’t unsatisfied, though.
This is all moved gleefully along by tag-teaming artists Moore and Fowler. Moore tends to using a few more fine lines than Fowler, but this is a rare instance where you don’t have a jarring transition when you turn the page and a new artist appears. Credit editorial with alternating compatible artists on the monthly title. While Moore and Fowler don’t have exactly the same art style, their sensibilities are similar enough that I didn’t realize there had been a transition for a few pages. Both are good with gore, mayhem and the occasional violently gross image.
Add in a new, particularly glib, Jack O’Lantern, Kraven the Hunter and the obligatory misunderstanding-fueled fight with Spidey (which fits in without a shoehorn) and you’ve got a nice package.
It looks like the monthly title is having a Spider Island interlude and Vol. 2 is due out in March. It’s likely I’ll give that a look and see where this storyline, paused more than resolved, is going.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.