Demons? Pity? It must be an issue of Venom! Read the review and leave a comment letting us know you did!

VENOM #27.1
“The Evil Inside Us All . . .”
WRITER: Cullen Bunn
ART: Marco Checchetto
COLOR ART: Fabio D’Auria
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER: Joe Quinones

Venom, on a tip from Daimon Hellstrom, roughs up some occultists who may know something about Venom’s selection as Mephisto’s heir. Unbeknownst to Flash, the demon-possessed form of Venom somnambulates Flash’s body at night to terrorize the occultist thugs and to taunt Flash’s mother, who has institutionalized herself to escape Venom’s world.

During the day, Flash visits A.J., a person who Flash bullied in High School for being gay. A.J. seems forgiving but Flash overhears A.J. admitting to his husband that Flash seriously traumatized A.J. by breaking his arm. A.J. can’t hate Flash because he pities Flash. When Flash broaches the bullying matter with Peter Parker, Peter sincerely tells Flash that Flash practically made Peter’s life unlivable, but Peter has moved on. Because of his mother’s mental health and his breakup with Betty, Flash announces that he shall leave New York, never to return.

Venom just really hates mohawks.

Marco Checchetto’s art is this comic’s most immediately-striking feature. The man loves his whiskery shading lines, and although I am often lukewarm about that type of style, Checchetto creates one of the most gorgeously savage-looking Flash Thompson Venoms I’ve yet seen.
But what I really want to talk about is the writing. After months of Cullen Bunn Venom issues that—at best—entertained me as mindless schlock, #27.1 surprised me with its thoughtful approach to Flash’s bullying past. I have studied school bullying professionally, and particularly Peter’s account of faking illness to avoid school and A.J.’s PTSD-like symptoms are true-to-life. I also appreciate this comic’s acknowledging the especial problem of bullying against GLBT youths. This form of bullying literally drives children to suicide, so I commend Bunn for addressing the topic in his comic book.

Both of Flash’s chats with his childhood targets involve Flash searching for forgiveness and trying to take comfort in his victims ultimately achieving successful lives. A.J. tells the lie that Flash wants to hear—that the mental and physical damage Flash inflicted no longer wounds him. A.J.’s cites “pity” as his reason for going easy on Flash. Peter, the better friend, more honestly summarizes the abuse he endured from Flash. From this contrast in sincerity between A.J. and Peter, we can see that Peter has done more than merely move on from and forgive Flash for his victimization. More than that, Peter has it in him to respect—not pity—Flash. Peter can tell Flash hard truths like a real friend would.

This fantastic humanization comes buried amid Bunn’s ridiculous Hell storyline. I don’t get Bunn’s characterization of Daimon Hellstrom. We are told that Hellstrom has quit heroics to pursue a lordship in Hell that would otherwise go to a truly evil being. It’s supposedly a lesser of two evils, greater good type thing. But if Hellstrom is seeking the lesser of two evils, why does Bunn write him like he takes fervent joy in being wicked, sadistic, and manipulative? Also, while Flash’s sleeping body getting taken for a joy ride might remind some of classic symbiote Spider-Man tales, I’m not keen on seeing more scenes like that, probably because it takes Flash’s character out of the picture and leaves us with the cackling, one-dimensional demon doing bad things just because it’s evil.

Finally, after such great use of the Flash–Peter friendship, it disheartens me that Flash will leave New York. Removing Flash from New York removes him from his history and from his relationships. I will wait to see what Bunn is thinking with this creative decision, though. He has earned some goodwill with this issue.


3.5 out of 5 (Good).



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(24) Comments

  1. Robert in New Orleans

    I doubt it was Bunn's idea to send Venom to Philly. Scarlet Spider has had success in Houston and I think editorial/management has decided to diversify. A lot of Marvel's books are editorially driven especially for the B-list characters. Venom is certainly B-list as much as I love him.

  2. CrazyChris

    I think for the most part I see the symbiote as an impulsive, emotional creature. It's constantly going berserk when its in the presence of someone to whom it has an emotional reaction, like Spider-Man or Eddie Brock or other symbiotes. I do think it is more intelligent than an abused dog though. I think there's room for it to surprise us by having an agenda of its own. So I guess my answer is that elements of both should be included in a symbiote portrayal.But mostly I think the symbiote's personality should be very subtly portrayed. I don't want to hear the symbiote outright talking, even if its just talking to its host. Rather, I prefer it when the host describes what the symbiote is making him feel. That way, we know there's another presence there but the inner workings of its mind are still vague and alien.

  3. Jack Brooks

    Dear Chris, Which do you personally prefer: the symbiote as a rational, plotting, sentient entity (a la Spider-Man: Reign), or the symbiote more as an abused-pit-bull -- smart but more like an animal than a "villain"? (I like the latter, it seems more tragic somehow, as if the symbiote could have, maybe, developed into a good creature, but was as ruined by Brock as Brock was ruined b y it).

  4. fantasyfreak

    @13: Speaking of that Kevin, what do you think of that shift? Looking forward to that review! :) I´m very on the fence on it.

  5. CrazyChris - Post author

    I think originally Flash was meant to be the popular jock that picked on nerds because they weren't cool enough. Somewhere down the line he evolved into a child abuse victim who beat people up as an outlet for his own pain, and the popular athlete thing is a face he put on to compensate. I do think the latter interpretation has more layers so I don't mind this Venom run taking it further.I'm really liking the comments this time, everyone. This is giving me a lot of ideas to discuss in future reviews.

  6. E. Wilson

    @14I'm not saying it's not believable; I guess I'm saying the AJ subplot is taking Flash to the edge of where I could still find him sympathetic, and they did so via retcon. But since it will probably never be mentioned again after this issue, it probably doesn't matter so much.

  7. EddieD

    "I never thought that Flash was supposed to have been this utter villain in HS. Just a clueless jock who bullied a couple of kids." I agree. From Flash's point of view, he was just screwing around and having a bit of fun. But from the perspective of those he bullied, it was much more traumatic. I don't think of it so much of a retcon of him being a much worse bully than he really was, but more of a look at the outcome of his mindless teasing on others. I thought his meeting with the old student/now gay couple was the best part of this issue by far.

  8. Jack Brooks

    I never thought that Flash was supposed to have been this utter villain in HS. Just a clueless jock who bullied a couple of kids.

  9. CrazyChris - Post author

    E. Wilson and Roxas, I think with Flash they can get away with retconing his past to make him a worse bully without ruining his present-day likability because the whole point of Flash's character arc is that he has changed since then, The worse they make him in the past, the further his journey of change must have been to bring him to the point he is now, so in a way it strengthens the character. Obviously, there is a range of parameters they can do this kind of thing within. If we find out he raped someone in the locker room shower, then we should have this discussion again. But twisting someone's arm because he's different and an easy target seems like a believable thing for highschool Flash given what we have learned about Flash's home life over the years.Jared, maybe if Bunn makes it a little more clear what specific subconscious motives Flash has that the demon/symbiote are acting out, I could get on that page. I see it a little better with terrorizing the crook, but why his mother? You could say Flash resents his mother for letting his father beat him, but even still it doesn't feel right. Everything we hear about Flash's "inner bully" is that it is this raw anger and hurt that lashes out towards whatever target is convenient. This nighttime demon symbiote seems more calculating, specifically going to Massachusetts and New York to find particular people to terrorize. And he's a grinning, cackling, cruel kind of monster, not the manifestation of an angry child. If Bunn is trying to make the demon/symbiote some kind of release for Flash's subconscious, then it isn't really sitting right with me just yet. I think he's going to go the route where Flash is still somehow a bully when it comes to his crime-fighting career, though. There is a thematic connection between Flash saying how he wants the crooks to see his face at night and how he traumatized A.J.

  10. Kevin Cushing

    @12: From all indications, that's not the case with the Marvel NOW Thunderbolts. It looks like basically a non-mutant version of X-Force with General Ross putting together a proactive hit squad to take out the bad guys.

  11. Phantom Roxas

    E. Wilson, that's because Norman and Otto are SUPPOSED to be people were despise, so retconning the guy who is supposed to be the hero of this story just makes us question why we should care about him. Then again, the Thunderbolts are all about trying to make up for their past crimes.

  12. Jared

    "Also, while Flash’s sleeping body getting taken for a joy ride might remind some of classic symbiote Spider-Man tales, I’m not keen on seeing more scenes like that, probably because it takes Flash’s character out of the picture and leaves us with the cackling, one-dimensional demon doing bad things just because it’s evil."I disagree--I think those short scenes are very much related to the theme of this issue with Flash and his past. In Flash's conscious mind, he's seeing just how horrible he was to people around him and how he's alone and everyone he's bullied has moved on. But, in his subconscious mind, the part where the symbiote is connected to him and the demon inside him...he's still terrorizing people, even his own mother. While Flash isn't consciously part of these scenes, I would imagine that this will continue to be a theme moving on.

  13. E. Wilson

    Huh. You know, it never bothered me in particular when guys like Norman Osborn or Otto Octavious got more evil deeds retconned into their backgrounds. (Well, save a pregnancy here or there.) But the more that's added to Flash's high school days, the less likeable the character tends to become. Sure, in light of some of the things that go on in schools today, Flash's treatment of Peter in the Lee/Ditko originals can seem downright chummy, but...I dunno. The whole AJ subplot just didn't sit right with me. Maybe I just had the skewed perception that Peter was the only person Flash harassed.

  14. CrazyChris - Post author

    Kevin, I can't wait to see what you have to say about Thunderbolts. Everything about it looks so, so bad to me.As for this Venom issue, I can see how you think it jumped around too much given that the A.J. story had nothing to do with the demon story, and the transitions between scenes were pretty forced. Like, when Hellstorm asks about Flash's family drama, there's no reason for him to say that at all except there's a scene with Flash's mother coming up. And the transition between A.J.'s house and Flash waking up in his apartment caused a little confusion for me as well.

  15. Phantom Roxas

    @5 So that's a no, then.@7 True. I don't care for the Thunderbolts to begin with, so I'll just wait and see what happens.

  16. Kevin Cushing

    I found this issue a little more uneven than you did, but it wasn't bad. Definitely better than what we've been getting, but it jumped around rather schizophrenically. And yes, casting Hellstorm as a Hannibal Lector character is seriously annoying. Oh! Also - the glass on Hellstorm's cage in the Raft Maximum Security prison where supervillains are regularly housed can be broken by one punch from Venom? No wonder there are so many breakouts!@fantasyfreak: Secret Avengers is getting relaunched for Marvel NOW with an entirely new concept from Nick Spencer and no Venom involvement (at least at the outset), so Thunderbolts should be Venom's only team book once the current SA wraps up in three more issues. And I'll be reviewing Thunderbolts starting next week with number 1 so make sure to swing by those reviews as well! :)

  17. Nick MB

    @2 Secret Avengers is indeed being renumbered for Marvel NOW and Venom isn't on it. So I guess Thunderbolts is his only team gig.And @4 seems a little harsh to wish cancellation on a comic that hasn't been published yet.

  18. CrazyChris - Post author

    Phantom Roxas, I don't recall any mention of Minimum Carnage other than in the recap page.

  19. Phantom Roxas

    Is there not a single reference to Minimum Carnage here? Just immediately going back to building up The Descent?From what I understand, as a jumping on point, all this accomplishes is establishing Flash's decision to move away from New York. I spoke with Bunn on Twitter a while ago, and he agreed that 28 would make for a great jumping on point. This is more of a transition, which I suppose fits the numbering.I want to know how Thunderbolts is going to work, since Punisher: War Zone is still going on. Mind you, it's one book from Marvel NOW! I really want to see among the first wave of cancellations, but still.

  20. CrazyChris - Post author

    fantasyfreak, I'm pretty sure we haven't seen anything indicating that Venom is part of the new Secret Avengers line-up. And no, I don't think I'll be reading Thunderbolts. I'm not a Daniel Way fan.

  21. fantasyfreak

    Sounds like a good issue :) The cynic in me says he´ll be back in New York in a year(at the most), after all how will he be able to be on the Thunderbolts if he is in Philadelphia(that´s where he was headed right?),speaking of which, will you be picking up Thunderbolts? And I don´t recall Secret Avengers being renumbered for Marvel NOW so I guess he´ll be on that team instead. What you think of that? Okay, I´ll stop there, I tend to ramble a lot otherwise(even more than what I already have done).PS! This Point One nonsense seriously has to stop, I´m so freaking sick of it. I mean, it´s even infected the Ultimate books now FFS! You don´t need silly numbering gimmicks to have jumping on points in a title(which was in their own words the whole point of Point One issues), just write a good enough story and readers will stay on the book anyway. It´s not impossible to introduce the important characters while still progressing a story. Okay, now I really WILL shut up :)

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