This will be my last regular review of the series, as the team is given the task of killing Agent Venom by none other than…. Agent Venom. Does the farewell of their resident symbiote make for the best issue of Thunderbolts yet?
Thunderbolts #23: Flash’s Farewell
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Colorist: Israel Silva
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Julian Tedesco
Editor: Jordan White
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Our Team of Thunderbolts: Flash Thompson (Venom), Thunderbolt Ross (Red Hulk), Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider), Samuel Sterns (The Leader), Wade Wilson (Deadpool), Elektra Natchios (Elektra), Frank Castle (The Punisher.)
Long Story Short: Deadpool decides to give Flash his mission, as a parting gift to a team member thinking about quitting. The team tries to stop Venom individually, but are unable to beat him. As a team, they take down the symbiote and Flash walks away from the Thunderbolts, glad to know he can rely on them to stop him when he goes critical.
Story Commentary: Man, this is bitter sweet. Not only am I losing the one book I’ve enjoyed reviewing the most, but Marvel just revealed that after the next arc, Charles Soule will be stepping away from the book to handle his numerous other projects. Ben Blacker and Ben Acker (who did the Annual) will be taking over and while it’s a solid enough team to justify my continued purchase of Thunderbolts, it won’t be the same without Soule. And honestly, the team won’t be the same without Flash either.
No character quite represented the core value of the team like Flash did. The team was about these terrible people coming together to do good things, which reflects the core relationship between Flash and Venom. He was always trying to be the hero and even though he failed time and time again or was outdone by characters like Deadpool, he never stopped trying. On a team full of morally grey characters, Flash was trying to be the white knight in black armor. And though the book leaves Flash in a dark place, he’s on the path to redemption and we’ll see his journey continue in Guardians of the Galaxy starting in April.
But let’s look at what happens when the hero gives up and let’s the symbiote take control. Because, it was a sight to behold, in terms of both the art and the revelations about Flash’s character. This was a version of Venom we haven’t seen in awhile, not since Rick Remender’s day on the Venom solo title. I don’t think it was by coincidence that this massive hulk of a symbiote we saw was colored in a nice grey palette. It was a nice way of showing that even though he fights it, Flash is at the same level of moral ambiguity as his teammates. If you’re a fan of the big bulky Venom, you will want to check this issue out, as it has some beautiful renderings of the symbiote.
Flash and Wade have the least amount of time together in this final issue, as Venom bulks out and tears Deadpool into several little pieces after his “Road Runner” plan of dropping a plane on him fails. Still, it was cool to see Deadpool give his mission to Flash as a parting gift, even if it was only to prove he could kill his teammates if it came down to it (he failed in proving this.) Deadpool’s outfit in this is meant to look wrinkly and disheveled, but ends up looking like Spider-Man’s outfit more than anything.
The Leader decides to show that he can take down the symbiote. Tying back to the road trip issue, The Leader decides to show the newly discovered weakness of magnesium on the symbiote… only to have it not work. The best joke of the issue is definitely The Leader learning he can’t rely on the internet as fact. Venom breaks his arm and then goes after the love birds on the team.
It was nice to see The Punisher and Elektra bicker about killing Flash, especially Frank’s reaction. Stating that “Way I see it, the monster won’t let him kill himself, so he’s asking us to do it. First thing he’s done that makes me respect him” was a nice moment for the character and it reminds us that the Punisher still wants to put down several members of this team. Also interesting was the symbiote’s use of Flash’s feelings towards the team as a way of trying to disarm. Of course, this doesn’t work so Venom tries to get in their head by telling them that Flash always wanted Elektra and was just waiting for Frank to die. They put up one helluva fight, but they’re not able to take down the symbiote and have to go on the run from it.
Johnny Blaze tries his hand at staying the monster, but when he uses the Penance Stare on Venom, it wounds Blaze instead. Blaze threatens to burn the symbiote alive, but the symbiote says it will abandon Flash to die by fire if Ghost Rider, putting them into a stand still that Venom retreats from. The visuals are at its strongest here, as it’s a very dynamic fight between the symbiote and the Spirit of Vengeance.
Ross is able to rally his team and uses Ghost Rider and flamethrower armed Punisher and Elektra to herd the symbiote into a room. Then he powers a sonic device with a gamma clap, powering it to a high enough level that they drive the symbiote off of Flash. One of the most interesting aspects of the ratio is the conversations between Ross and Venom, then Ross and Flash. Venom tells Ross that Flash thought he was the worst of them, because he was the only one who didn’t realize what a monster he was. After Flash re accepts his curse, he bids farewell to Ross. Ross asks him if what the symbiote said was a lie and Flash tells him that the symbiote doesn’t work that way, but there is always the chance to redeem himself. Ross promises they will put him down if the symbiote ever takes control and Flash thanks him, before leaving the Thunderbolts.
Verdict: It sucks that this was a weaker issue, but it still had a lot of great moments. While I’m looking forward to Flash’s future on Guardians, Soule displayed a deep understanding of the character and I fear Venom might be written too like Spidey under Bendis’ pen. I quite enjoyed my time with the Selfish Avengers and I hope I get to write a few reviews here and there if Flash ever decides to swing by his old team.
- We see Venom go to town and it looks great
- Great character piece for Flash Thompson
- Can’t Trust Them Internets
- 23 Issues in, This Team Still Doesn’t Feel Like a Team
- Venom and fights aside, the art was pretty weak