“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.
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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