VENOM (2011) #12 REVIEW

Today I am offering an extra-special double helping of Venom reviews to make up for lost time! So make sure you also check out my review for issue #11, below. Please, please, please leave a comment on both reviews. Anyhoo, let’s dive into the latest installment!

“Road Trip” Part 3
WRITER: Rick Remender
PENCILS: Lan Medina
INKS: Nelson Decastro
COLORS: Marte Gracia w/ John Rauch
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER: Tony Moore & Dean White

Flash Thompson swaggers into The Devil’s Den casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, feigning drunkenness to draw out security. Flash “Venom’s out” and plows through the guards, making his way to the casino’s secret laboratory, where persons unknown have stored the Toxin symbiote. Capturing the Venom symbiote’s grandchild was Crime-Master’s plan for Flash all along! The plan goes awry when Flash’s symbiote freaks out at the sight of its kin. The symbiote drugs Flash by releasing opiates into Flash’s body, taking total control. Speaking through Flash, the symbiote proclaims that Toxin is its competition for world domination.

All the better to eat your brains with!

Flash breaks up with Betty over a payphone, presumably to make her safer. Flash next chugs a bottle of liquor with a homeless dude.

Red Hulk, on assignment to apprehend Flash, closes in on Vegas.

I mostly focus on the writing in my reviews, but Venom #12 is all about the visuals. The art team of Lan Medina, Nelson Decastro, Marte Gracia, and John Rauch deliver one face-melting page after another, as Venom continually erupts into bigger and more savage versions of himself. In the past, I have not cared for the Hulk-like interpretation of Venom’s physique, but by brilliantly tying Venom’s size with his emotional state, this series has finally sold me on it. And here we see the most monstrous venom ever rendered on a page.

The trade off for showing this twenty-feet-tall, three-mouthed, spike covered Venom in all its glory is that this issue features many pages with single panels dominating two thirds of their space or more. Also, many pages feature little dialogue other than Venom roaring or Jack O’ Lantern making wisecracks. The action flies by quickly and with nothing resembling subtlety. Fans who deplore decompression and yearn for a dense, character-driven Venom story should look elsewhere. The appearance of Red Hulk reminded me of how similar this issue is to Jeph Loeb’s Hulk run in its sensibilities. Try not to see that as too much of an insult.

As much as a like this issue’s art, it has a weak story. The last few issues established the rivalry between Venom and Jack O’ Lantern very well, and I hoped this issue would finally let them release that tension through a vicious and personal battle. The tension was deflated, however, by the revelation that Jack O’ Lantern really stands no chance against Venom in a heated fight. Venom is just too unstoppable and the best Jack O’ Lantern can do is run away with his broomstick between his legs. Although the symbiote lashes out with palpable anger, Flash’s personality gets buried, so his personal vendetta against Jack O’ Lantern becomes lost in the mix.

Not the pumpkin seeds!

Also, what a waste of Toxin! I couldn’t help but think of our administrator Kevin Cushing, who posted a while back stating he would order Venom #12 only because Marvel advertised Toxin’s appearance. Readers in his shoes will be disappointed that only Toxin’s symbiote shows up, and as little more than a prop at that. Furthermore, this issue offers no explanation of how the Toxin symbiote came to be separated from Patrick Mulligan and stored in a . . . secret casino laboratory? Huh?

Mr. O'Lantern is only the second most dangerous "Jack" in Flash's life.

And, yes, I am one of those fans who yearns for a dense, character-driven Venom story, so the abundance of splash pages and/or near-splash pages showing nothing but Venom ripping into things did not satisfy me. Flash breaking up with Betty and hitting the bottle were character-y enough to put some meat on this issue’s bones. The drinking scene lasted just long enough to be effective, but Flash dumping Betty deserved more. We only see Flash’s side of the conversation, with nothing of Betty’s reaction shown.

3 pumpkin seeds out of 5 (Adequate). No artist has ever drawn Venom with more visceral brutality. Nevertheless, Venom #12 disappoints on the story front. 

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(7) Comments

  1. CrazyChris - Post author

    1 - Yeah, so far its hard to tell whether or not Flash Venom has done more harm than good. 2 - I'm guessing Remender did have it in mind. He seems like a fairly thoughtful writer and I don't think he'd do something like that by accident. Or maybe it was Lan Medina's idea. 3 - I'm definitely looking forward to more Lan Medina art on Venom. 4 - The only time I've ever gotten a James Bond vibe from this version of Venom was in that point one issue that Dan Slott did in ASM right before the new series started. Remender's run doesn't remind me much of Bond at all. He hasn't put on a tux in the whole series. Mostly he just goes around killing people. I can see the My Chemical Romance comparison in that I see MCR as being mostly toungue-and-cheek even though they play their schtick with a straight face. This book sometimes delves into angsty, self-loathing, but on the other hand it regularly features a villain with robotic baby devil henchmen--you just can't take it that seriously. Besides, I expect angst in a book staring an alcoholic cripple with an evil alien monster messing with his mind.

  2. Ray

    correction: not "James Bond" but James Bond meets My Chemical Romance...a little to angsty, self loathing there.

  3. Ray

    Ok, I stopped reading Venom. I picked up the first issue based on the cover and expected a whole series based on "we are Venommmmmmm" but instead got James Bond. Has it picked back up? Do we have more symbiote sightings than once every three issues?

  4. Sarcasmic

    GD, Venom was insane this issue and Medina totally won me over on to loving his work with this issue. But you were right of their being a lack of meat to this issue...

  5. MeetThyReaper

    "Mr. O'Lantern is only the second most dangerous "Jack" in Flash's life." Such excellent wordplay! I whole-heartedly approve! It makes you wonder if Remender had this notion in his noggin' all along.

  6. Enigma_2099

    Well whadaya know... looks like letting the Venom symbiote out WAS a bad idea... stupid government... *slaps hand...*

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