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(Marvel – writer: Rick Remender; art: Tom Fowler)
This is an event tie-in that is not completely necessary to read, but it does reveal a major spoiler – one that I won’t say here. But whereas I’ve enjoyed the previous Venom issues, this one was a mess – both in its visuals and its story.
Venom has been an interesting read in the past because Rick Remender found a way to humanize Flash Thompson so that readers actually care about him when he puts on the symbiote. The first few issues of Venom were well plotted, mixing both impressive action with good storytelling and allowing Flash to develop before readers’ eyes. They added a new dimension to an overused character. Once Venom became a hero, he lost his appeal. So Remender did an interesting thing. He kept the character as a hero but made sure to keep the symbiote as a separate, villainous entity. It worked well.
Here, however, the issue feels rushed. It bounces from scene to scene in jarring fashion, lacking any smooth transition. For example, a scene on the George Washington Bridge involving Gravity and a mutated spider-being ends after a quick and violent fight, but we’re given a thematic transition (Gravity asking Flash, “Who the hell are you?”) that is never followed up on in the story.
I mention this because while Flash is out trying to help control a spider-infested New York City, his father is dying in a hospital. Yet Flash cares nothing for his father – he hates him, in fact, and wishes he would choose another day to start dying. This was covered in an earlier issue, so to see it planted here – with no clear effect on the story – makes it feel out of place.
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Fast forward to the mutated monster in a lab, trapped in a containment chamber from which nothing can escape, and you can guess the rest of what happens.
There are, however, two neat events. The first is that a dog puts on the symbiote and gives readers the most interesting page of the issue. The second is the return of the mutated being who was first introduced in an earlier Spider-Man comic; his identity was withheld – until now. And I have to admit, it’s pretty cool once you find out who the Jackal (yes, he’s back) has made into his mutant spider-monster.
Lastly, the art is an absolute train wreck in the issue. I like Tom Fowler’s art. He’s illustrated four of the six Venom issues that have been released, but too much was packed on every page in this issue, making the images appear sloppy. The action scenes are a mash-up of explosions, flying metal, sound effect words (like “SKLAAMM”) and movement lines. It’s too much for the eye to take, and my peepers felt exhausted after I read through the comic.
Couple this with a very confusing ending, and you have what amounts to a misfire as far as Venom goes. I can’t recommend completely passing on the issue (or the series for that matter) because it’s been entertaining so far. There are many reasons single issues fail, so I won’t say this is the beginning of the end for Venom. Remender has done a great job establishing a character who is interesting and engaging, and I’ve enjoyed the series so far. Tom Fowler normally has cleaner art too, so I can’t see this as the beginning of a trend. I’ll chalk this issue up to being part of an event tie-in. Look forward to the next one and leave it at that.