I know, I know, this review for December’s second Venom issue arrived late. I apologize, but it has been a rough few weeks, personally speaking. And what business does Marvel have releasing two issues of a spin-off title, anyway? Oh well, at least it wasn’t something really crazy like five issues in one month. That’ll be the day!
Luckily, this was a uniquely quirky issue so you won’t want to miss our review! Buckle-up, Crawler-Spacer’s, here comes-
“Road Trip” Part 2
WRITER: Rick Remender
PENCILS: Lan Medina
INKS: Nelson Decastro
COLORS: Marte Gracia
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER: Tony Moore & Morry Hollowell
In New York, Eddie Brock arms himself with a big freakin’ gun and rants about how God wants him to cleanse the Earth of symbioses.
Somewhere else, in a motel hallway, Flash Thompson recaps how the Crime-Master blackmailed him into running AWOL toward Las Vegas on a secret errand. When Flash enters his room, Jack O’ Lantern is there, waiting for him. Jack’s gonna accompany Flash on his road trip to Vegas, to make sure Flash completes the Crime-Master’s mission.
Somewhere else, Captain America assigns Red Hulk the task of capturing Flash.
Flash and Jack O’ Lantern hit the highway and hilarity ensues. This is what “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles” would have been like if you had a serial killer for comic relief instead of John Candy. At one point, the AM radio speaks of a cave mine collapse and Flash insists that he and Jack help. Jack helps by murdering an injured miner so that the other miners can leave him behind. Flash disapproves.
The two nemeses hit up a roadside diner, where Jack O’ Lantern shares his origin story. Crime-Master abducted Jack as a child, kept Jack hidden in his basement, and nurtured Jack’s latent psychopathy. Crime-Master groomed Jack into an assassin and made Jack kill his biological parents to demonstrate his loyalty. This shocks Flash so much that he unthinkingly lets Jack pay the bill. What happens to the restaurant staff an’t pretty.
A break from ten issues of action and Thompson angst, Venom #11 reads more like a depraved road trip buddy comedy. Your mileage may very depending on how much the new Jack O’ Lantern amuses you. I have stated, ad nausium now, that he endlessly entertains me, so I like this off-beat issue.
If I were to nitpick, I’d pick at Jack’s origin story falling short of the hype. Jack teases at his origin throughout the issue, commenting on how it will be sooo interesting, but it ends up being ho-hum. Yeah, it’s relatively twisted and explains Jack’s loyalty to Crime-Master, but after so much build up I expected the payoff to shock me more. Perhaps years of sick villain backstories have jaded me. On the other hand, I am confident that there’s more to Jack’s story as of yet unrevealed because he must have some superhuman powers to survive a grenade exploding in his mouth, and we have seen him injecting unexplained chemicals.
In any event, most of this issue tickled me. I’m not saying it was uproariously funny, but the imagery of Flash and Jack speeding down Route 66, with Jack’s mechanical baby-devil henchmen tumbling around in the back seat, and Jack humiliating Flash at every turn, creates surreal yet oddly understated humor. For arch enemies, Flash and Jack have great chemistry. One is a somber hero, the other is a complete jerkass and sociopath, and is loving every second of it.
For a “breather” issue with only one brief action sequence, the tension remains high. Whether and how Flash will put his life back together after becoming a fugitive, and whether Flash can make it through his mission without Jack O’ Lantern stabbing him in the back, kept me turning pages. Though dialogue-driven issues risk becoming tedious, pretentious, or pointless, Venom #11 never falls into those trap. The issue serves as a fantastic change of pace at just the right time, and the perfect complement to the ongoing story arc.
4 Bromances out of 5 (Great).