As Flash tracks down the zombie cyborg from last issue, he is also being hunted by the original Venom, Eddie Brock.
Writer: Cullen Bun
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Color Art: Lee Loughridge
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
The Plot: Toxin (Eddie Brock) battles the zombie cyborg dude with glow sticks on his back from last issue, who according to the recap page is called “Figure,” making it official that all of the good names (and even most of the bad ones) are taken. At first Toxin handles him pretty easily, but Figure insists he has “adaptation matrix in his blood,” which I guess makes him a zombie Borg. So After Eddie rips his arm off and is about to break him in half some tentacles burst out of Figure’s belly and impales Eddie through the heart. You’d think that would be a problem, but it barely staggers Eddie for three panels as he just shouts “Heal” at the top of his lungs and gets over it.
Figure runs off, but Toxin has his scent now and decides he can find Figure whenever he needs to, and knowing Venom is after Figure too Eddie plans to just wait in the wings for Flash to find Figure so he can then find Flash.
Speaking of Flash, he chats with Beast online and apparently both of them are now off the Avengers. The short version is Flash gets Beast to agree to try to cure Figure if he can capture him. Flash then goes to an AA meeting but secretly wonders if his real temptation is to let the symbiote take over.
Meanwhile Figure eats some dogs and then threatens to eat their owner when Flash arrives and webs him up, at which point Toxin emerges to confront Flash.
Critical Thoughts: We finally have some movement on Flash vs. Eddie which is good, and in general we get Eddie actually doing stuff this issue besides hovering around the last page promising to get Flash like he did for three issue straight, so in that sense it’s an improvement, but overall this story is still doing more wrong than right in my view.
I’ll briefly touch on the fight scene and the Figure character before hitting on what I think is the bigger issue involving Eddie Brock and Toxin. First of all I learned more about Figure on the recap page than in the last issue: as besides his name, they also say he is “a victim of alien experiments.” I don’t particularly care what his origin because he’s not interesting but why are we learning this in the recap page instead of in the story and why does Flash psychically know this when he talks about him to Beast? The first page of the fight scene is also just a series incomprehensible panels ending in a bite, which I’d be okay with if it was meant to suggest brutality without showing it but then later this issue has two extremely graphic panels, both where Eddie is gored by the tentacles and where Figure eats the dogs; in which case the first page is just incomprehensible. Speaking of the former, is the Toxin symbiote descended from Wolverine on steroids because that is some impressive instantaneous healing and now symbiotes can smell and track people across the city too? But ultimately these criticisms are not what is causing the story to fail. As lame as Figure is, he does serve a purpose in this story in that Eddie is using him to draw Flash out into the open, which is frankly the only time Eddie feels like Eddie in this story: and that is the big problem.
If it wasn’t clear from the bonding flashback last issue and the lair with a stack of dead bodies a few issues prior, it’s crystal clear now that the Toxin symbiote is primarily in charge and not Eddie. Several times Toxin calls Venom “grandfather” in this story, which if you are looking at the lineage of the symbiotes is technically true, but doesn’t feel like something Eddie Brock would ever say about the Venom symbiote. It’s not just as I said last issue that I don’t buy the logic of Toxin subsuming Eddie’s persona given Eddie’s years of experience as Venom; it’s that it’s a far less interesting story choice. What does the Toxin symbiote want? In the previous Toxin stories, which were not that good to begin with, all it seemed to want was to run free once in awhile because its owner kept it bottled up as a force for good. (Pretty much the same story Flash is telling now.) If the story here is Toxin wants to kill Venom because the symbiotes hate other members of their race and feel there can be only one ala Highlander, well then you don’t need Eddie Brock in this story. Anyone could be wearing the Toxin suit for that story, and in fact if you reread the least four issues there isn’t a single panel involving Toxin that is dependent on his being Eddie Brock, which is such a colossal wasted opportunity.
If this was written as Eddie is using the Toxin symbiote to complete whatever holy mission he got into his psychotic little head this week, you’d have a plethora of far more interesting motivations to choose from than what we seem to be getting. He could be after Flash for ruining his good name/legacy as Venom. Or on the opposite end he could be trying to save Flash from the curse of the symbiote like he wanted to in New Ways To Die. Or, in what I think has the most potential, he could be out to save his beloved Other from Flash since Flash constantly talks about how he’s lobotomized the symbiote in his inner monologue; because that sounds like something that should drive the Eddie Brock who so loved his Other they spoke in the plural and whenever they were separated he’d fall down weeping and inconsolable into psychotic frenzy. Heck what if the symbiote was calling to Eddie for help psychically from within Flash? Imagine the creepy possibilities there. Any of these options are better than the two dimensional ‘I’m here to kill you granddad because isn’t killing fun’ that we’re getting from Toxin now. Eddie brock is at his best when his faith and his psychosis meet and allow him to justify his most violent actions as part of a holy crusade. There’s plenty of opportunity for that here, and we’re not getting it.
Grade: 1.5 Webheads out of 5. My complaints about the first page aside, most of the art looks very good and the last page is a beauty. Despite my qualms over the build up it’s hard not to be excited about the cliffhanger if you are a fan of Venom. Here’s hoping next issue actually delivers after four months of building to this.