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) attacks Flash and immediately inflicts a serious wound. The Toxin symbiote is apparently significantly stronger than the Venom symbiote and combined with Eddie’s experience Flash is seriously on the defensive.
Figure (the zombie cyborg alien-infested homeless dude from the past two issues who Flash tried to apprehend before Eddie showed up) joins into the fight but Eddie literally rips him to pieces and eats his head. This causes Flash to surrender control to the symbiote and Venom bites Toxin’s arm off.
Both combatants escalate the viciousness of the fight until Toxin impales Flash. With his last bit of energy Flash injects Eddie with the symbiote repressor drug causing Toxin to become dormant. Eddie vows to Flash to treat even worse when next they meet before retreating. Flash manages to crawl to the roof of his apartment where teen chick finds him bruised, bleeding and legless in his civilian state. She tries to help but Flash chases her off because he’s concerned Eddie could show up again at any moment.
Meanwhile in an alley more homeless dudes get infected by the mechanical aliens that were part of Figure in a scene reminiscent of the Alien movies. The creatures decide both symbiotes are a threat to them and then evolve their four hosts into more insect-like cyborg creatures.
Critical Thoughts: This is the best issue of the series since I’ve been reviewing it by far. It felt like it took forever to get to this point but damn if this isn’t exactly the type of fight scene that you’d want to see as soon they promised Eddie Brock was coming for Flash.
Even on the issues of this book I didn’t care much for, I’ve consistently praised the art. Now that something is actually happening in the story and Shalvey is given a bit more to do than draw Flash moping in his apartment the art really shines. This fight scene is rendered really well. We get a sense of both how viscous it is as well of a sense of space and tactics during the action. Even the finale with the cyborg alien creatures works better than it has in the past because the art makes the spreading infection look organically horrible in a way the original generic zombie dude didn’t.
I also really liked Flash’s interior monologue during the fight. His description of how the symbiote is healing conveys the inherent creepiness the Venom concept should have (and does in all of the best classic Venom stories). The “Did he just kill me” thought balloon when Toxin lands his big blow is also a remarkably effective moment that also fits tonally with Flash’s narration throughout the fight.
Additionally I said the fight had clear tactics, and this is really the most effective I’ve seen Flash as a hero since I started reviewing the title as previously he loses the fight and either lets the symbiote take over and/or calls in reinforcements. Yes, he still loses this fight pretty badly too but he makes a good accounting of himself despite fighting a more powerful foe. The barbed tongue trick is damn neat and using the symbiote suppressor as weapon was not something I saw coming. That leads to another positive in that this issue pays off some of the weaker dangling plot threads since the Philly move like the symbiote suppressor or Figure’s presence in the story. I said last issue that while Figure was a poor character his presence was acceptable since Toxin was using him as bait in the only moment last month that felt like classic Eddie. So now that Figure’s served his purpose I’m all for Eddie finishing him off as it shows how serious a threat Toxin is.
I also think Eddie’s voice is a bit more on target than it’s been since he’s shown up. I’m not sure I buy into the Eddie hates the Venom symbiote explanation Flash gives us but other stories, some of which are among the best the character has been in, have also gone in that direction. At his core Eddie is an unstable psychopath so a certain amount erraticism in his portrayal from one story to the next can be overlooked. It’s still not perfect. For example it’s a cool moment when Eddie kills Figure, but in the past despite threatening it all the time Eddie wasn’t actually into eating people. To my knowledge he only did it once before (in The Hunger limited series) and that was when the symbiote took control and Eddie was so horrified afterwards that he and the symbiote separated and Eddie ended up in a mental hospital. But overall, perhaps because of the frenetic pace, this feels like a classic Eddie story and for my money that is always a good thing.
My only major criticism is I don’t think the symbiotes should have the level of healing factor portrayed here. I said that last issue and it still stands. It’s not that the concept of a healing factor is contrary to the concept of the book; after all it’s a comic book about alien costumes that biologically enhance human hosts so when you accept that premise that they are then healing the host isn’t a stretch. It’s more if you are going to let them heal the degree of grave bodily harm we’ve seen the past two issues, and so quickly at that, it lessons the stakes dramatically for future fight scenes because then what can really hurt them? In this issue Toxin loses an arm and a hand, yet they almost instantly reattaches and when the symbiote repressor kicks in we can see Eddie has both arms when he reverts to human form so despite the violence there is no consequences for the character. Last issue Toxin healed from a wound through the heart in two panels. For a point of contrast when Thanos was killed a few years ago in Annihilation it was from the exact same type of chest wound. Should a Spider-man foe really be more resilient than the big bad of the Marvel universe? That’s my criticism about the healing factor.
Grade 4.5 Webheads out of 5. Good art, defined character motivations, a few creepy asides and a fight scene that delivers on the expectations they’ve spent months building towards make me a happy reviewer.