Last issue was surprisingly excellent. Can this issue keep the trend going?
Writer: Cullen Bun
Artist: Kim Jacinto w/ Mike Henderson
Color Art: Lee Loughridge
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Spoilers follow after the break—
So apparently this review is very late but in this case it is totally Marvel’s fault for changing the release date. The last page of issue 38 said next issue was 8/28/13. Wednesday happens to be my busiest day at work so by the time I passed the comic shop on the way home it was 8:19 p.m. and they close at 8. But before going to work Thursday I managed to swing by and this comic shop happens to stick their new releases for that week on a separate shelf by the front door, I looked and lo and behold no Venom. So I ask the clerk if the new Venom came out yesterday and he looks at his shipping invoice and is like, nope. Cut to Friday when I have chance to be online after work and I google the release date for this issue to see when it’s been pushed back to and apparently it came out a week early, D’Oh. So yesterday I went back to the same comic store and picked this up off the alphabetical shelves. And while I read it yesterday, it is a holiday weekend in the summer so I didn’t get a chance to be inside and type until now. Probably more than you wanted to know, and on that note on with the review.
The Plot: Andi is shocked to be a symbiote at first, but that soon dissolves as the rage over her father’s death transforms her into a Venomette. She and Flash take the fight to Jack O’ Lantern. Andi wants to kill Jack but Flash won’t let her and once they unmask him they learn someone new is under the pumpkin.
In this case someone new is a warehouse worker, who got hypnotized by one of Jack’s poppets and given all of Jack’s memories and personality. Jack uses the confusion to escape. Flash and Andi follow, when Flash realizes, ‘Perhaps I shouldn’t take a grief stricken teenage girl with me to fight crime.’ He tries to recall the symbiote fragment he sent her but is stunned to learn that Andi is already permanently bonded to it.
Andi is attacked by the numerous mercenaries working for Lord Ogre including Jack, Constrictor, Lord Deathstrike and the Hand, who think she is Venom at first. Flash makes the save, and working together they defeat the villains. Andi uses the symbiote to suffocate Jack but Flash is able to talk her down before she kills him, and promises to stand by her and teach her to use her symbiote for good.
In the epilogue we see Andi has moved in with an aunt, and is fighting crime on her own at night without Flash’s permission. While Flash seems to have the Venom symbiote trapped in a crystal ball in an attempt to get answers on just what happened with Andi.
Critical Thoughts: This was another excellent issue–totally action-packed with enough mystery and character moments to give it depth. It’s a shame this book has been cancelled because it has totally hit its stride and found its identity lately with what I would consider a pair of grand slam homeruns the last two issues, plus a damn good set-up issue prior to that.
Let’s start with the big plot development of Andi getting her own symbiote. On paper this should be a terrible idea. First of all despite lurking for months, Andi didn’t really have a personality until last issue. And on top of that has anyone been clamoring for a teen sidekick symbiote? But wonder of wonders, it totally works in this issue. The scene where her rage transforms her is just really good use of the art to tell the story. Plus the story went exactly where it needed to go. There’s a two page spread of Flash and Andi talking between the two fights, and as I was reading the first page I was thinking to myself how much the instant symbiote bonding did not make sense in the context of Peter wore this thing for months without bonding to it and it was a few years (real time) between Peter discarding it in Web #1 and Brock showing up as Venom so that when Venom could do things with the symbiote Peter couldn’t you had that time gap of the permanent bonding to explain it. And then the next page, Flash says everything I was thinking about Andi bonding with the symbiote, and that what is happening doesn’t make sense based on past events. And just like that you take what could have been a plot hole and instead make it an intriguing mystery. End it with Andi refusing to kill Jack despite him having killed her father and she becomes a true hero, and it makes me want to see more of her. Plus let’s be honest Flash could use a sidekick. I think this is the first time I’ve seen him win a fight since I’ve been reviewing this book, and it is probably because he has someone to fight side by side with.
Speaking of character beats and using old continuity (which is what I would consider having Flash acknowledge the ways Andi’s bonding doesn’t make sense); I loved the scene where the Constrictor refuses to fight Andi when the mercenaries unmask her and he sees she is just a kid.
First of all in a general sense I think it is nice to have a spectrum of evil among Marvel’s many super-villains. Not all of them need to be remorseless maniacal killers. Indeed I think character traits like Doom’s sense of honor or Magneto’s history in a concentration camp shading his motivations is a big part of what makes them A-list villains beyond just their powers. It’s also why the Eddie Brock Venom is my all-time favorite Spider-man villain but I have no interest in ever reading another Carnage story again: Eddie may be a psychotic killer but his obsession on innocence and his background as a reporter flesh him out just as much as his single-minded motivation to kill Spider-man; whereas Carnage’s slaughter and anarchy motivation gets real old real fast once you’ve him in a second story. Yes, there are some villains like Sabretooth and the Marauders whose stories are effective precisely because they are lethal characters, but if every villain is like that then even those that work in that way wouldn’t stand out. Actually Jack O’ Lantern is pretty deranged and lethal in these past two issues, and I’m digging the hell of him as a villain, which makes the Constrictor scene an even better contrast.
However, more than just a generalization in wanting see villains have different lines they won’t cross, this particular character trait of the Constrictor is not willing to harm a child is something we’ve seen before. In the 90s anthology series Marvel Comics Presents there was a two part Constrictor story in which the mob hired him to kill a witness but when he discovered the witness was a child he actually fought the mobsters off and safely delivered the kid to witness protection. I don’t know the issue number but it is a back-up story to the very first meeting of Wolverine and Venom; so if Bunn read that back-up while doing research on Venom and then used it here, kudos to him.
Finally let’s throw some big ups Kim Jacinto’s way on the art. I criticized Jacinto when he first came on the title, but these past two issues more than made up for it. I love his action scenes. Plus he keeps finding new and interesting ways to draw the symbiotes and up the creepy-cool with them—no easy feat after 20 years of Venom stories.
Grade A. Even without Eddie Brock this issue represents everything I want to see in a Venom comic book.