Venom battles the U-Foes in attempt to free reporter Kathy Kiernan and some other hostages.
Writer: Cullen Bun
Pencils: Tony Silas
Inks: Nelson Decastro w/ Terry Pallot
Color Art: Soto, Mossa & Fabela
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Shane Davis & Morry Hollowell
“Drowning in a Nightmare”
Spoilers to follow after the break.
A Brief Introduction: Howdy all, my name is Bill and I’ll be your new Venom reviewer. I’ve been reading Marvel Comics for many years. My favorite heroes among Marvel’s A-list are Spidey, Cap and the Avengers. Within Spidey’s corner of the universe my favorite characters have always been Black Cat and Venom (Eddie Brock). This will actually be my first time reading a book with Flash-Venom in it as I had been ignoring this series since I had lived through the 90’s succession of bad limited series featuring a heroic Venom, I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of Flash becoming a superhero, and on-paper the concept seemed like a rip-off of the film Avatar when this series was first announced. That said I was getting curious about this book just because a) it had lasted this long, and b) the new jumping on point move to Philly has been pretty heavily hyped out here. So let’s jump on and see what there is to see.
The Plot: Last issue the U-Foes apparently killed Venom. We learn Flash used the symbiote to mimic death as he crawls from the flaming wreckage of a building. Flash in his interior monologue admits this wasn’t the most heroic act but was the only thing he could do to save his life.
Meanwhile, the U-Foes have reporter Kathryn Kiernan hostage in an underground bunker filled with science fiction technology. The U-Foes stumbled upon this tech and have been kidnapping people to experiment on so they can learn what it does. In Kiernan’s case the machine they use on her creates holograms of her memories, which include encounters with Venom, a meeting with the Kingpin, a wedding and a funeral, and Jonah yelling at her.
Flash meanwhile meets with a museum curator who has the street name of Jimmy Z. Z tells Flash the Philadelphia Experiment from 1943 was real, and of course despite official denials is still being funded by the government in secret. There is still a warehouse of this stuff in Philadelphia that Z confirms he told Kiernan about earlier in the week.
Flash suits up and heads over there. The U-Foes instantly spot him on security camera and teleport him inside for a fight. Flash pulls a gun and a sword on the U-Foes and X-Ray is quite surprised when the sword actually hurts him. He’s even more surprised when Valkyrie teleports out of it to assist Venom. Valkyrie takes the fight to the U-Foes, while Flash dispatches their generic thugs and finds Kiernan and the other hostages. He is unable to free them however as Valkryie needs assistance against the UFoes but even fighting together they fall victim to Vector’s telekinetics. As Flash loses consciousness the symbiote takes over, morphing their face into the classic long tongue and fangs look.
Critical Thoughts: For the most part I enjoyed this. I liked that the U-Foes are presented as threat. I think far too often Marvel takes any character that isn’t A-list and writes them as a complete joke. Sure the U-Foes are not super-popular characters or in-universe worldwide threats; but they should still be taken seriously. They started as Hulk villains and morphed into Avengers villains over the years so Venom should be out of his league fighting them. X-Ray and Vapor in particular have lethal powers that seem to be fairly unique to them.
Likewise the scene with Valkyrie is handled well. It’s always a tricky choice to have your protagonist need outside help to deal with a threat, but it is certainly a sound tactical decision and Flash-Venom’s military training seems to be the core character trait of how Flash deals with the world of super-powers his missions thrust him into. I think his interior monologue that opens the story makes Flash’s decision to get help acceptable since he already lost a fight to the U-Foes last issue and he is surrounded by civilian deaths when he awakens. This harkens back to the Valkyrie scene as when she shows up he has her take the fight to the U-Foes while he tries to save the civilians. Side note: as a long time fan of Venom I like seeing him use the mimic death power as it harkens back to one of the all time great Brock scenes during one of his Vault escapes in the character’s early years.
As someone who lives close enough to Philly to visit it once or twice a year, I like the touches in the art to draw the city and the references to local shops, some of which I’ve been to, peppered in. It shows an effort to make the change in setting for this jumping on point mean a little more. On the flipside I’m not sure the Philadelphia Experiment stuff is needed. While I can appreciate using an urban myth as a springboard for a fantastic story, it seems extraneous for what the U-Foes are doing with it. They could certainly kidnap people without using teleporters, and there seems to be no clear connection between the Philadelphia Experiment and holographic memory machines. However, I’m going to give Bunn the benefit of the doubt and hope this is building to something in the future. I think it is clear Z is going to be a recurring character as he claims to be “an expert on all sorts of things normal people don’t want to know about” and he indicates there may be more than one warehouse so I could see this being a long-term subplot after this story ends, in which case let’s see how it plays out.
The art in general is good. The action scenes have a clear sense of space to define what is happening. The sword trick and Valkyrie’s arrival is a stand out scene. The art also does its job in the finale of showing the difference between the symbiote being in control instead of Flash. Classic Venom also looks particularly cool on the cover.
Finally, this brings up what I think is the oddest dynamic of this series. That ending makes me actively want to see the hero fail. I don’t mean fail in this mission so that the U-Foes kill civilians. I mean if he fails personally then apparently the symbiote gets to take over. Well for my money classic Venom is the greatest of Spidey’s foes and I can never get enough of him, whereas from what I’ve seen here Flash-Venom is just a dude in a black suit shooting people, which If I wanted to read that I could read the Punisher. Thus at first glance Flash-Venom is far less interesting than classic Venom, which is going to make me (and probably a lot of other readers given Venom’s popularity) want to see classic Venom take over whenever possible.
So that’s it for this issue. I’ve got two more reviews to come in very short order. Until then feel free to leave some feedback.