“Savage Six: Prologue”
WRITERS: Rick Remender & Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Kev Walker
INKS: Terry Pallot
COLORS: Chris Sotomayor
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ART: Michael Del Mundo
Flash Thompson has decided he cannot protect his loved ones without slaying Crime-Master. As Venom, Flash infiltrates Crime-Master’s lair, where the villain has gathered Jack O’ Lantern, Human Fly, Death Adder, and Megatak to join the “Savage Six.” Venom contemplates shooting Crime-Master, but before he fires Eddie Brock, who followed Venom to Crime-Master’s layer, shoots Venom with sonic bullets. Venom webs Brock and the villains attack, forcing Venom to retreat leaving Brock behind. Crime-Master imprisons Brock and forcefully bonds Brock with the Toxin symbiote.
Venom #17 continues this run’s high quality and welcomely reacquaints us with some long-running story lines. I have but mild quibbles. The recap page incorrectly describes Toxin’s symbiote as “one of the first offspring of Venom symbiote.” Toxin’s symbiote is actually the offspring of the Carnage symbiote. Also, Venom re-utters the worn-out catchphrase “hail Mary” for the third or fourth time this series. Think of new ways to show that Flash likes football, guys.
Otherwise, Cullen Bunn seamlessly enters as Rick Remender’s co-writer, and if the credits had not included his name then I would have not noticed a change. Still present are the quirkily ghoulish tone, the charismatically demented villains, and the inspired portrayal of Flash Thompson as a hero forced to make dark choices through sheer desperation. Flash’s introspection prior to and during his attempt to kill Crime-Master prove that Flash-as-Venom carries dramatic substance even when the writers downplay the addiction and corruption subtext. Simple guilt and vengeance drive this story. Bunn can write Venom forever if he keeps getting it this right.
We meet the Savage Six. I have expressed affection for Jack O’ Lantern and Crime-Master in prior reviews, and Human Fly remains surprisingly entertaining. I must see more of Death Adder and Megatak before forming an impression, but Megatak’s power to manifest computer programs as reality (e.g., smashing Venom with Tetris block constructs) should at least create some unique battles. The fight, as standard for a long story arc’s “prologue,” one-sidedly favors the villains, non-hyperbolically conveying the steep odds facing Venom. Kev Walker’s action sense and impressive Agent Venom rendition make this initial skirmish independently satisfying as opposed to merely tasting like an appetizer.
Walker also draws a horrifying Toxin, which brings me to my final topic. Eddie Brock becoming Eddie Broxin may become this story’s most fascinating and controversial aspect. Will Toxin fans hate that Remender and Bunn gave short shrift to Toxin’s ex-host, Patrick Mulligan? Will Eddie Brock fans hate Brock’s relegation to symbiote sloppy seconds? As an enthusiast of neither Toxin nor Brock, I see potential to enhance interest in both entities by combining them. We’ll see.
3.5 Tetris blocks out of 5 (good). This is your typical “hero encounters new villains and gets his butt kicked” issue, elevated by superb art and Flash Thompson characterization. I have high hopes for this story.
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