With issue 19, this becomes the longest consecutively numbered Venom series ever. Can Flash Thompson withstand the pressure, or does he let one or two underdeveloped characters die? FIND OUT AND LEAVE A COMMENT!
“Savage Six, Part 2: Family”
WRITERS: Rick Remender & Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Lan Medina
INKS: Nelson Decastro
COLORS: Chris Sotomayor
LETTERS: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ART: Tony Moore & Edgar Delgato
One can summarize Betty’s reaction to learning Venom’s identity thusly:
Circumstances leave little time for reflection, however, because the Savage Six have targeted Flash’s sister and mother. Venom first visits his sister Jessie’s apartment, where our hero finds his sister’s husband’s dead body and some of Jack O’ Lantern’s exploding devil dolls. Jack O’ Lantern throws Jessie off a ledge Gwen Stacy style. Jack actually mentions how Spidey failed in similar circumstances. Venom rescues Jessie, but meanwhile Toxin abducts Betty.
Jack O’ Lantern asks Venom if he has visited his mother lately. Cut to Human Fly gnawing on a skeleton in Flash’s mom’s house.
Let’s take a somber, sanctified moment to mourn for Flash’s sister’s husband. We hardly knew him before he passed away. Oh wait, we didn’t know him, did we? Either I took forgetfulness pills or this guy hasn’t appeared before appearing as a corpse in this issue. If he has shown up, he left no impression. Although I am interested in the repercussions whatshisname’s death will have on Flash’s relationship with whatever remains of his kin, no-name’s demise leaves no void worth grieving over.
A fellow Venom reader who goes by the name Bertone pointed out how conspicuously Flash hasn’t mentioned his brother-in-law even though he has frequently referenced the rest of his family since #Spider-Island. While I understand that Flash’s thoughts would emphasize immediate family over in-laws, you do get the sense that the writers invented captain who-the-frak on the spot just to have someone relatively meaningful for Jack O’ Lantern to kill.
My feelings toward Flash’s heretofore unsung brother-in-law encapsulate my entire assessment of this issue. On one hand I want Flash to successfully protect his loved ones because I care about Flash, but on the other hand I don’t care about Flash’s relatives as characters in their own right. This manifests both how successfully the writers have forged a connection between their protagonist and the readers and how unsuccessfully they have developed the secondary cast. Flash’s mom has appeared since issue 5 yet I struggle to identify one personality trait she has demonstrated. Flash’s sister is almost as anonymous as her descendent groom. Her defining personality trait is that she looks scared when falling. I know Flash’s family has appeared in Spider-Man issues before, but that was so long ago that the writers needed to flesh them out again before tearing off their flesh.
Okay, okay. I’ll get to the positive points because I mostly liked this issue. Actually, let me get one thing off my chest first. I wish we got to see a more complete reaction from Betty regarding Venom’s identity. Although the slap communicated the gist, I still hope for a poignant conversation along the lines of Aunt May and Peter’s confrontation early in Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man run. Okay, onto the good stuff.
This story achieves a sense of heightened stakes. Even while the world was about to burn in Amazing Spider-Man, this Venom story evinced a greater potential to impact the Spider-Man mythos. No one reading Ends of the Earth really thought the planet would end, and anyone with minimal comic savvy knows Silver Sable won’t be gone for long. But Flash’s family really could die, and with those deaths on his conscience he can never be the same character again. Furthermore, his relationships with surviving characters like Betty and his sister can never return to what they were. The comic industry rattles with “nothing will ever be the same again” hyperbole, but with second-tier characters like Flash Thompson writers apparently get more leeway to deliver on that promise. This story could really matter.
This story provides a relentless pace, constant motion, and merciless tension. Reading this simulates being on the run alongside Flash. He finds himself overextended, and Megatak’s invading the phone lines cleverly justifies Flash’s inability to procure outside help. Moreover, I always love seeing Jack O’ Lantern’s grinning face. Finally, the action, thanks to Lan Medina’s pencils, looks fantastic. This is an explosive story. Here is an explosion to illustrate that point:
3 dead brother-in-laws out of 5 (adequate).
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