After a fairly lengthy wait, Marvel’s new symbiotic soldier is back for a second issue. But can the new Venom outfight the newly-resurrected Kraven the Hunter? Is the story as good as that of issue #1? Find out by reading the rest of this review.
And please leave a comment! That’s what makes reviewing these comics worth it!
WRITER: Rick Remendmer
PENCILS: Tony Moore
INKS: Crimelab! Studios
COLORS: John Rauch
LETTERS: Joe Caramagna
The issue starts in media res, with Kraven the Hunter riding a velociraptor and chasing the new Venom through the Savage Land’s dense jungles. We later learn that Venom (who is Flash Thompson, if you’re just tuning in) had airdropped into the Savage Land on a mission to destroy a vabranium mine, the source of last issue’s metal-melting bullets. Apparently mistaking Venom for Spider-Man, raving-mad Kraven had initiated this fight thinking that he will find peace in death at the hands of his webslinging nemesis. At some point in the battle, Kraven had poisoned Venom, and that’s where we are now.
Back in the states, Peter Parker prepares to leave Betty’s apartment, where the two of them ate dinner together. Betty starts crying about how Flash is never around and Peter assures her that he’ll do the right thing eventually.
Back in the Savage Land, Venom tends to his wounds in a cave and realizes that this mission has exceeded the safe amount of time for wearing the symbiote. He also notes that his gun has only one bullet left. He considers leaving Kraven alone but realizes that he can’t in good conscience leave Kraven to be someone else’s problem. However, Kraven finds him and they start fighting again. The noise of their struggle awakens a chamber full of humungous bats. The bat shrieks tear the symbiote off Flash, leaving him naked and legless. One bat snatches Kraven and another snatches Flash, and both bats fly out of the cave with their prey. Flash uses his last bullet to shoot the bat carrying him in the head and grabs a vine before he can fall to his death. The symbiote rejoins Flash, telling him that it will never abandon him.
Meanwhile, the shadowy mastermind behind the vibranium mine has seen Flash’s face on surveillance cameras and has identified him. He summons the new Jack O’ Lantern, who looks gruesomely burned without his mask, to deal with the problem.
I’ll set a positive tone immediately by praising my favorite piece of Venom #2: Tony Moore’s eye-grabbing cover. It pays homage to one of history’s most iconic Spider-Man covers (Amazing Spider-man #300) while channeling everything awesome about Venom’s new commando design. The image improves vastly over Joe Quesada’s hideous cover from last month both in aesthetic value and as a representation of the interior content.
Now for a criticism of the story: although the concept of a commando Venom fighting a jungle man with dinosaurs and giant bats thrown in is inherently fun, and although Tony Moore’s beautiful and visceral rendition is inherently pleasing, I just can’t get drawn too deeply into the action when Rick Remender has premised the entire conflict on a misunderstanding. Generally speaking, fights are more compelling and appear less contrived when they arise from genuinely conflicting goals. If both characters want something that they can’t both have, then the fight means something to them. More importantly, the fight means something to the reader, assuming that the reader cares enough about the characters to care whether or not they achieve their goals. Conversely, if the conflict is merely perpetuated by poor communication and could end at any time with no real consequence to either character, then the combatants have no personal stake in it beyond surviving the manufactured violence. Thus, the plot leaves the reader wondering why this matters.
Here, Kraven has no genuine conflict of interest with Flash Thompson. Mister Kravinoff has simply mistaken Flash for someone else. Similarly, Flash has no real beef with Kraven; he’s just reacting to the hunter’s aggression. The actual goals of these characters, death at Spider-Man’s hand for Kraven and demolishing a vibranium mine for Flash, do not actually clash. Therefore, this is not a compelling conflict. Last issue’s battle between Flash and Jack O’ Lantern was stronger despite the fact that those characters had no pre-existing animosity toward each other, because they really did both want something that they couldn’t both have: to capture the scientist who invented vibranium bullets. It wasn’t an artificial misunderstanding but rather a case of genuinely conflicting goals. This fight with Kraven, on the other hand, comes out of a failure to communicate that only occurred, as far as I can see, because Remender needed a reason for these two characters to fight.
Furthermore, Kraven is absolutely the last character a writer should use in a disposable fight sequence. When, in order to use a character, one must reverse a seminal Marvel story, then each use of that character should be captivating enough to justify that reversal. Kraven’s death story is particularly cherished by a vast segment of Spider-Man fans. Reversing that development was not necessarily a mistake per se, but for the time being any story with Kraven in it will have to be exceptional in order to validate the creative choice to resurrect him. A fight with Flash Thompson over a misunderstanding does not quite qualify as “exceptional.”
Having said that, Remender and Moore still managed to exploit the characterization potential from an admittedly a shallow situation. Privy to Flash’s thoughts, the reader learns that his loyalty to his loved ones and his sense of responsibility drive him to persevere through dire scenarios. The fact that people like Betty Brant think he is unreliable despite his heroic efforts makes him more similar to his idol Spider-Man than he knows. I like that it is Peter Parker, of all people, who gives him the benefit of the doubt.
Yet, isn’t it a little unseemly that Betty has dinner at home with her ex-boyfriend while her current boyfriend is out of town? Hmmm…
Anyway, most of this issue is one long fight sequence and Moore drew that fight beautifully. I enjoy that this run’s globe-trotting premise allows for a diverse visual pallet. The jungle battleground almost looks like a different planet from last issues war torn European city, and it looks suitably lush and teeming with life. The action is larger-than-life, brutal, and clearly communicated through the art. And hey, giant bats! A comic where Venom shoots a giant bat in the head with a gun after fighting Kraven the Hunter riding a velocirapter mount can’t be a total loss.
RATING: 3 giant bats out of 5. I still have a good feeling about this series. However, this issue, while fun enough, did not rise to the standard set by last month’s premiere.
REVIEWED BY: CrazyChris
P.S., Thanks for printing my letter, Steve!
P.P.S., that’s not how my last name is spelled.