SCRIPT: Rick Remender
ARTIST: Kev Walker
COLORS: Chris Sotomayor
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ART: Michael Del Mundo
Venom patrols a bullet train transporting the Human Fly to the Raft prison. Fly pleads that he stole cash from the Kingpin and must escape to return the loot, or else Kingpin’ll murder Fly’s nine-year-old son. During a ruse meant to expose the Kingpin’s agents on the train, Venom deactivates Fly’s cell.
Hired by the Kingpin to assassinate Fly, the Phil Urich Hobgoblin attacks the train. Phil-goblin offers Venom ten million dollars and the Kingpin’s help in killing Crime-Master and Jack O’ Lantern if Venom helps kill Fly. Venom feigns agreement, but ultimately helps Fly fight Phil-goblin.
Hobgoblin, having fire weapons and a sonic scream, throws Venom from the train. Fly and Hobgoblin then battle, with Hobgoblin unabashedly massacring obstructionist prison guards. Venom returns riding a motorcycle, which he slams into Hobgoblin, launching Hobgoblin from the train. Fly’s begging about his son makes Venom hesitate to shoot him. Venom rescues an imperiled guard, allowing Fly time to escape. Fly swears to turn himself in after returning Kingpin’s money. Fly also asks Venom to deliver a letter to Fly’s son, a letter stashed among the Fly’s belongings on the train.
Venom finds Fly’s letter. It says “I don’t have a son!”
With two to five Venom issues churned out monthly, I somewhat doubt Marvel needed a stock issue on hand in case the churning fell behind schedule. But this issue sure reads like a stock issue. Venom #16 could have fallen anywhere in the sequence of issues after #5 if an editor deleted “Secret Avengers” and replaced it with “army” in whatever dialogue references Venom’s status quo. The story bears no connection to Flash’s disintegrating personal life, nor does any development since issue #5 affect its plot.
Filler or not, I enjoyed the issue. Last issue boasted no Venom action, but this one boasts nothing else besides. With both fire and sonic powers, Phil Urich proves a tailor-made opponent for Venom. I like that Venom defeated Hobgoblin despite Hobgoblin’s physical advantages, and I like that Venom resisted Hobgoblin’s tempting bribe. Flash Thompson has risen to the occasion of becoming a super hero. I know jack about the Phil Urich character, but based on his Amazing Spider-Man story, I find him an irritating and unworthy successor to the title, Hobgoblin. Remender dials back Phil’s grating personality, writing him more like a mildly giddy mercenary. Remender also makes the Human Fly his own, and the three characters’ battle royal produces a fun, chaotic, and violent comic.
Kev Walker’s tight and vibrant style upholds this book’s prime artistic legacy. He tends toward big, flashy panels, which suit this slugfest well. Sadly, the issue includes a few lapses in clear storytelling. First, I could not tell how Hobgoblin arrived on the train. I think he might have posed as one of the guards but the art does not show whether Hobgoblin has the ability to change his appearance. And second, the art shows Venom riding his motorcycle off the edge of the elevated railway and then landing on top of the train car. How did that happen?
Oh, and Fly carries a paper that says “I don’t have a son!” with him at all times? This is hilarious. He must have had it when he was arrested for it to be in his personal property storage. Did he plan this trick out ahead of time, planting the note as a way to say “gotcha,” and just hoping that through sheer stupidity the authorities would not find the note when they inventoried his belongings upon arrest? Since the time Venom captured Fly, all of “Spider-Island” occurred, Venom traveled from New York to Las Vegas by car and motorcycle, and all of “Circle of Four” occurred. Fly has thus been in custody for a least several weeks. The authorities went that long without opening and reading a sealed envelope found in a murder suspect’s possession? And I love how the Fly must have been carrying this thing around for ages just in case he got arrested on any given day!
3.5 “I don’t have a son!” letters out of 5 (good). Okay, I harped on the letter thing but only because it strikes me as especially preposterous. Truth be told, Venom #16 provides a visceral and well-drawn bit of comic book mayhem. I recommend it to anyone looking for a one-and-done issue that cuts right to the chase and delivers flaming, puking, and exploding entertainment.
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