Review: Venom #1

Venom #1

Written by Rick Remender

Art by Tony Moore

Cover by Joe Quesada

Published by Marvel Entertainment

 

One of the characters I care the least for from the last decade or two of comics would have to be Venom. An interesting idea spun out of Secret Wars and brought into the mainstream Spider-Man titles in the mid-eighties, it very quickly became the dead horse that every single Marvel writer desperately wanted to beat the shit out of. In my mind, Venom is the poster boy for everything that went horribly wrong with comics in the nineties.

So if you told me that 20 years later I’d not only purchase a new Venom comic but actually enjoy it? Well, incredulity hardly seems a strong enough word. Nevertheless…

Writer Rick Remender and artist Tony Moore spin the tale of a new, “black ops” Venom. Seems these days the alien symbiote is in U.S. Military custody, where it serves as uniform, armor, and weaponry for a series of specially trained soldiers. The latest volunteer for the program is Corporal Eugene “Flash” Thompson. Yeah, THAT flash Thompson. That genius bit of casting right there might have been enough to catch my interest. But it gets better.

As Venom, Flash has most of the superhuman abilities of his hero Spider-man and then some. He’d lost his legs in the Iraq War, but the symbiote generates new ones for him while on missions. It grants him strength and speed, web-slinging and wall-crawling. But it also constantly seeks to bond with him, to take him over. If that ever happens there’s a “kill switch” built into the program, destroying the suit, and Thompson, at the first sign he’s losing control. So he’s limited to missions of no more than 48 hours, after which time he is strapped into a chair and bombarded with sonics till the symbiote separates. And it’s back in the wheelchair till his next assignment. Further, he will only be permitted to perform 20 missions before the suit is removed permanently and a new volunteer takes on the mantle of Venom.

So lots of layers to play with here. Flash idolizes Spider-Man and now basically gets to BE Spider-Man. But there’s the ticking clock right there from the beginning: this is a temporary gig, which may lead to him becoming possessed by a murderous alien creature and having his brains fried out of his skull by his new boss. Plus, he has to keep this secret from his friends and family, which is putting a serious strain on his already rocky relationship with his girlfriend Betty Brant. Which adds just one more parallel, albeit one he doesn’t quite appreciate, between himself and Peter Parker.

But dude… LEGS!

Anyway, Remender does a great job capturing the well-meaning but desperate heroism ofFlash. It’s thrilling to watch him utilize the suit in combat. Even without the looming threat of him “hulking out” against his will and going all toothsome on innocent bystanders, the new soldier Venom is a frightening creature. And I really like the new look for the character. I think Moore’s design is visually dynamic without being too overtly superheroish. This looks like a black ops badass. Here’s hoping we get to see some more covert missions in the future. I’d like a little undercover spy/assassin action to balance out the swatting tanks and firing multiple machine guns at once stuff.

Oh, and in addition to the miracle of making me care about the character of Venom again, Remender and Moore also managed to make Jack O’Lantern genuinely scary. What the hell?

3.5 Wattles – Worth Gobbling

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