Super-villains galore in this book as Lord Ogre places a bounty on Venom.
Writer: Cullen Bun
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Color Art: Lee Loughridge
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
(Spoilers follow after the break) – – And sorry for the slight delay posting, had a lot of work to finish in the real world before the holiday weekend yesterday
The Plot: Flash is at school when Katy Kiernan shows up investigating reports that Venom has set up shop in Philly based on the Brock fight at the school. She interviews Flash but he plays dumb and then she hits on him. When Katy leaves perpetually lurking teen Andi then questions Flash on what was going on.
As Venom, Flash takes out his frustrations on some generic thugs when he is attacked by a group of faux Avengers; and not the Dark Avengers—no this is a different group of evil Avenger knockoffs with names like Death Shield, Jagged Bow and Blood-Spider. The Hawkeye clone puts a hurting on Venom with exploding and sonic arrows. Then as Venom starts to turn things around, he gets attacked by the Constrictor and a silent Japanese assassin named Lord Deathstrike. Constrictor has Venom more or less defeated with his electric coils but then the villains all turn on each other because Ogre has placed a bounty on Venom’s head and they each want to be the one to collect it. Flash uses the confusion to escape.
Venom then meets with Katy and questions her on her investigation. She claims it was her editor’s idea, and that she volunteered so she could throw him off the scent. Venom is not sure he believes but he needs her help to get information on Lord Ogre.
Finally we cut to Lord Ogre’s penthouse where more villains are arriving to collect the bounty including the Hand and some characters I don’t recognize: they look like Bane (from Batman so clearly it’s not actually him) maybe Spiderwoman v3.0 and possibly agents from either Hydra or the Secret Empire but neither of those groups would traditionally work for some gangster. In the cliffhanger Jack O’Lantern arrives to collect the bounty as well.
Critical Thoughts: Wow did this story arc turn around fast. Last issue I complained nothing was happening and what little was happening was nothing I wanted to see play out. This issue was chock full of interesting developments in both Flash’s life and the superhero stuff.
Sure Lord Ogre himself is still just some crime boss with a lame name, but the bounty idea was inspired. Considering last issue it looked like Flash was going to be working his way though a bunch of oddly dressed crime enforcers to get to Ogre having actual super-villains instead is a huge improvement. And actually off the top of my head I can’t recall seeing the bounty idea play out before. We’ve see arch-criminals hire one or two henchman but the idea of just throwing a pile of money out there for whoever wants to kill your foe manages to be obvious on the one front and yet inspired and intriguing on the other since now the doors are open for a host of established super-villains to show up and attack the next few months. I’ll certainly take that over unnamed weirdly thought ideas like “Figure.”
I will say Flash continues to be the worst hero ever. Even the faux Avengers pretty much trounce him, and then when Constructor and Deathstrike arrive they mock those same villains as amateurs and Flash is forced to once again run for his life. With the faux Avengers, I’ll say this: in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe are they stupid and unnecessary? Absolutely, but they also serve a function in this story by setting the stage for the everyone is coming out of the woodwork theme of the bounty threat. So I’m not going to trash them. They’re meant to be a preliminary threat, not the main event, and in that sense they do their job fine. Plus again unlike Figure at least Bunn actually bothered to give them names within the actual text of the story.
One last fanboy nitpick on the super-villain fight before we move to Flash’s personal life. Why is Deathstrike able to cut Constrictor’s coils? I’ve seen Constrictor in the pages of Captain America before and his coils have always been made of adamantium. Heck even if they are only steel, what kind of sword can cut them? Well that and Venom tells Blood-Spider, “You’re no Spider-man, I’ve fought Spider-man,” which begs the question of what memories of the symbiote does Flash possess since Flash has never fought Spider-man.
This is also the first issue since the Philly move that I actually cared about Flash’s personal life. Katy Kiernan is exactly the type of supporting character this book needs and her presence brings much needed dramatic and romantic tension to the title. The investigative reporter character is a comic book staple for a reason, and I think there’s a lot she can bring to book like this. Although Venom accusing her of bullying him is just bad dialogue as they shoehorn the bully theme into a spot where it doesn’t fit at all. Seriously Katy should have laughed in his face when he said that. Even if Flash wasn’t a trained soldier bonded to an evil alien life form it would be a laughable claim because he’s a grown man—act like it, you weenie.
Finally Jacinto’s art is pretty bad throughout. It’s very scratchy looking for lack of a better term. The faces in the initial scenes in the school are terrible looking. The gallery of mercenaries shown in the end is hard to make out; although I did like the final splash page of Jack O’Lantern.
Grade B. We got interesting progress in both the super-heroics and civilian sections of the book. Hard to ask for more than that, especially when the cliffhanger has me looking forward to next issue.