“Underneath this fragile frame
Lives a battle between pride and shame
But I’ve misplaced that sense of fright
This crown of thorns is perched atop my spine”
(Neon Cathedrals- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, this song always reminds me of Flash)
First, I’d like to thank George Berryman for letting me continue to review Agent Venom’s adventures over in Guardians of the Galaxy.
I thought in order to hype people up for Agent Venom joining Guardians of the Galaxy later this month in GotG #14, I would do an article focusing on the journey of Flash Thompson & Venom. From the Military to Hell to Philadelphia to Submarine Headquarters and Crowded Vans, Flash has been to plenty of places and before long, he’ll find himself on the planet that his symbiote calls home. But first, let’s start back at the beginning:
Flash as Part of Project Rebirth (Amazing Spider-Man #654/654.1, Venom 1-9): Venom has had a series of hosts since his conception in the 80s, most notably Eddie Brock and Mac Gargan, and has always been portrayed in a sinister light. After Gargan’s time in the suit, Venom was given to a new host; a crippled Flash Thompson, a bully turned soldier who lost his legs serving in the military. The military started up Project Rebirth and after several unsuccessful attempts at bonding the symbiote to soldiers, Venom bonded with Flash to become Agent Venom. The symbiote gave him new legs and a new look on life; instead of being the hero-worshipping, “Hail Mary pass” delivering quarterback, Flash was treated as a recovering alcoholic given a new addictive substance in the form of Venom. Flash found himself in an uneasy relationship with Betty Brant, one that struggled because of Flash’s second life as Agent Venom. Things would only get heavier for Flash when a new Crime Master hit the streets, well aware of Venom’s secret identity. Crime Master would manipulate Flash as Flash tried to keep his loved ones safe from a new insane Jack O’Lantern who treated Crime Master as his father. Flash would even end up going against Spider-Man, learning the even though he may try to control it, Venom could take control.
Both Agent Venom and Flash Thompson would be caught unprepared for the Spider-Island epidemic. While Agent Venom fought to help find a cure, Flash’s abusive and alcoholic father entered the final moments of his life, his liver unable to support him anymore after he took up drinking again. While Flash struggled to forgive his father, he would go up against an infected Captain America and be tasked with bringing in Eddie Brock, who as Anti-Venom held the cure to Spider-Island. Flash would end up teaming up with Captain America to help bring down the Queen, the mastermind of Spider-Island, earning him some brownie points with the good Captain. Flash was able to see his father one last time, but in the aftermath of Spider-Island and his father’s death, he would get a young mother and her child killed by acting recklessly. Flash, unable to deal with everything, would allow Venom full control for a brief period of time, making Flash realize just how dependent on Venom he had become.
Flash On the Run (Venom 10-14): Before Flash could begin to seek help with his addiction, Crime Master would recruit him into a mission alongside Jack O’Lantern. At the same time, Captain America would bring about the end of Project Rebirth and Flash would have no choice but to go on the run to protect his loved ones. While on the run with Jack O’Lantern, Captain America would send Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross (Red Hulk) after Flash and Eddie Brock, now aware of Venom’s activity, would set out to kill Flash as well. Flash would lose control of Venom once more, when he discovered that their mission was to capture the Toxin symbiote, being held by Blackheart (Son of Mephisto) who killed the original host of Toxin. Venom would try to kill the Toxin symbiote, but Jack O’Lantern managed to escape with it after Flash regains control to save Betty’s life.
Flash would end up ending things with Betty and take up drinking again, hitting a new low when Ross discovered him. After a brief fight, Flash and Ross end up getting dragged into Hell, when Blackheart uses the new Ghost Rider to unleash Hell on Earth. Teaming up with Ross, Johnny Blaze and Daimon Hellstrom (who would try to stop Hell from spreading), and Laura Kinney (X-23) to take down Blackheart, Flash would end up dying heroically fighting his opposite, a demon named The Evangelist. In Hell with Ross, Laura, and Alejandra (the current Ghost Rider), Flash would make a deal with Mephisto; their lives returned so long as they bore his Hell-Brand and would fight for him another day. Venom and Ghost Rider lend their gifts to Red Hulk, so he can fight Blackheart while the others destroy the device tethering Hell to Earth. They prove successful and in the aftermath of the fight, Ross defends Flash when Captain America comes to take him in. Hank Pym states he can neutralize the symbiote’s influence on Flash and Captain America welcomes Flash into the Avengers.
Flash as a Secret Avenger (Venom #15-23, Carnage USA, Secret Avengers #23-37): Thanks to fellow Secret Avengers, Hank Pym and Henry McCoy (Beast), Flash is able to use a drug to neutralize the Venom symbiote to prevent addiction; no one knows that Flash is already in a dependent relationship with Venom. Team Leader Clint Barton (Hawkeye), is less than thrilled to have Flash on the team and benches him immediately. After flirting with fellow Secret Avenger, Valkryie, and getting a device that will allow him to summon the Venom symbiote to him immediately wherever he is, Flash returns home to Manhattan.
During Flash’s time in the Secret Avengers microscopic headquarters in space (The Lighthouse), Eddie Brock manages to kill all the other symbiotes wandering around the Marvel Universe, leaving just Venom and Carnage to be deal with. Flash sets out to kill Crime Master, but just as he is about to put a bullet in his head, Brock attacks him. Flash is forced to neutralize Brock, but is unable to stop Crime Master since he assembled a team consisting of Jack O’Lantern, The Fly, Death Adder, and Megatak. Crime Master gives Eddie Brock the Toxin symbiote, creating the sixth member of his Savage Six, whose first mission is to take down Agent Venom.
Flash tries to get to his loved ones before the Savage Six, but shows up to save Betty at the same time as Jack O’Lantern. He fights him and Megatak off, fleeing with Betty before being attacked by Toxin. He’s just able to beat off Toxin, but has no choice but to reveal himself to Betty. Betty is angered by this, but agrees to come with Flash who tries to save his sister. Unable to protect both his sister and Betty against the Savage Six, they kidnap Betty and flee. When Flash arrives at his mother’s, he’s forced into killing Death Adder to save innocent lives, his mother’s included. Flash is then nearly killed by Megatak, but Toxin intervenes, killing Megatak so he can kill Venom. Flash tries to save Eddie Brock from Toxin, but Toxin refuses to let go of its hold on Brock and both are burnt alive by Flash. Flash then throws Jack O’Lantern into a vat of acid and learns that the Crime Master is Betty’s brother, Bennett Brant. Betty kills Bennett instead of Flash and tells him to never contact her again. Flash later discovers both Jack O’Lantern and Toxin survived.
Even though his life is in shambles and his mother is traumatized because of her encounter with Venom and his sister’s husband killed at Jack O’Lantern’s hands, Flash is called in to work when Cletus Kasady goes on a rampage in a small southern American town. Thanks to Pym’s invention, Flash is able to keep Venom calm when he teams up with Spider-Man against Carnage. Flash manages to get a kill shot, but Spider-Man talks him out of it. Scorn, Spider-Man’s symbiote ally, is able to create a device that repels the symbiotes off their hosts, leaving a crippled Flash to fight a crippled Cletus Kasady on his own. Their symbiotes end up infecting animals, creating a Venom gorilla and a Carnage lion that spar. Spider-Man ends up helping the Venom symbiote, who comes to Flash’s aid and puts down Cletus Kasady. Flash finds himself unable to kill Kasady though, not when he would have to answer to Spider-Man afterwards.
Flash spends Father’s Day fighting against Jack O’Lantern, who blames him for the death of Crime Master, his ‘father’. Changed by his encounter with Spider-Man, Flash is unable to kill Jack O’Lantern and instead tells the Avengers everything. Between this and helping save the team when the Secret Avengers encounter The Descendants, living breathing artificial life able to adapt to any situation, Flash is welcomed more warmly back to the Secret Avengers.
With the Secret Avengers, Flash would also go up against The Shadow Council, a secret organization lead by a LMD of Nick Fury called Max Fury. The battle for the future of humanity starts when all three crowns of chaos are united in Bagalia. The crowns unite to form The Abyss, a form of dark possession. The Abyss is unable to be used by a LMD and instead uses the villain Taskmaster as a host, before infecting all of the Shadow Council and most of the Secret Avengers, leaving just Flash and Ant-Man (Eric O’Grady) to save the day. When The Abyss tries to spread from Bagalia, Flash and Ant-Man are able to stop all the planes but one. However, when beaten and brought before the Abyss, Flash is able to infect Taskmaster with the symbiote, which severs the connection between host and Abyss, rendering it moot and saving the day. In the aftermath of the battle, Flash and Valkyrie hook up.
Immediately following the Abyss mission, Eric O’Grady is revealed to be dead and replaced by a Descendant, who brings several of the Descendants to the Lighthouse, to kill Valkyrie and Flash while they are preoccupied with their lust. Natasha Romanov (Black Widow), the only Avenger to openly suspect Eric O’Grady, saves the day and teleports them out of a crashing Lighthouse, right into the heart of Descendant territory.
The Descendants are now led by a new leader in the form of a converted Secret Avenger Human Torch (Jim Hammond), who also convert Hank Pym into a part human, part machine hybrid. While Flash, Valkyrie, and Natasha are fighting for their lives, Secret Avenger Brian Braddock (Captain Britain) reveals he knows how to stop this; an artifact called the Orb of Necromancy was used in the creation of the Descendants and if they can destroy it, they can stop the Descendants. He, Hawkeye, and Beast enter another dimension to retrieve this orb while Human Torch ends up starting a techno-revolution by releasing a virus that will convert all humanity into machine hybrids like Pym. Britain’s team arrive back on Earth, freeing Pym to get his help with the robot invasion. At the same time, Flash’s team is incapacitated by Eric O’Grady, save for Flash himself. Flash is able to beat Ant-Man, but is unable to make the kill and Ant-Man escapes. Captain Britain is able to convince Human Torch that this is not what should be done, humanity should not have to die for a new race to be born, and Human Torch is able to make the hard call Hawkeye is unable to make; he destroys the Orb of Necromancy and kills his entire race. In the aftermath, Hank Pym is returned to normal, Natasha warns Flash that there is no happy ending for him or anyone he decides to be with (Valkyrie), and Hawkeye dismantles the Secret Avengers.
Flash as Philadelphia’s Dark Protector (Venom #24-35, Minimum Carnage): After his time with the Secret Avengers, Flash finds himself working with a reporter named Katy Kiernan to take down a group of Nazi Occultists known as The Department of Occult Armaments. Flash discovers that Daimon Hellstrom is leading the DOA, having gone mad after the events of Circle of Four. Flash also discovers that he is a lot more resilient against magic than before, thanks to Mephisto’s Hell-Brand. When Flash encounters Daimon, the Son of Satan is able to put a demon inside Flash, which works with Venom to take control from Flash. The demon and Venom together take control, but Flash is able to fight them down long enough to turn to Katy for aid. She takes him to an exorcist who tells Flash that the demon is trying to escape but is unable to. Flash takes on Hellstrom once again, who is raising an army of monsters infected with demons. Flash learns he can command demons and uses this power to stop Hellstrom and take him into custody. Flash is able to get Hellstrom to explain what is going on; the lords of Hell are preparing for a war, known as The Descent, to see who will become the true devil. Flash was given status in Hell when he made his deal with Mephisto, and both he and Hellstrom will be drawn into the conflict before the end.
Immediately after the Hellstrom fiasco, Flash learns that Cletus Kasady has escaped from prison. Kasady kidnaps Flash’s paranormal expert partner Katy Kiernan and Flash teams up with Kaine Parker (Scarlet Spider) to take down Carnage. Their adventure brings them into the Microverse, where Flash learns an entity called Marquis Radu lured both Kasady and himself there to create an army of symbiotic soldiers off Carnage and Venom. Carnage ends up taking control of the army and plans to invade Earth with them. Flash, still struggling with killing even Carnage after his encounter with Spider-Man, is unable to kill Cletus but Kaine ends the symbiote invasion by lobotomizing Cletus Kasady.
After everything that happened, Flash decides to get out of New York for a time. Katy Kiernan once more drags out Agent Venom when she disappears in Philadelphia. Flash goes to investigate and discovers the U-Foes working with paranormal devices. Even with the aid of his girlfriend Valkyrie, they were too much to handle. Flash ends up being taken over, by the symbiote or demon he was uncertain, and then was able to infect the minds of all around him, leading to his victory over the U-Foes and his rescue of Katy.
Flash decides Philadelphia could use a hero and decides to move there and try to live a more heroic life style where he won’t have to compete with all the heroes in New York. After reconnecting with the head of a school board that he used to bully, Flash is able to gain a job as PE teacher in a Philly High School. His first few weeks are simple patrols and alternate identities so nobody will link Venom and Flash Thompson moving to Philadelphia together. However, once Eddie Brock comes to town, Flash is forced to fight him on both the Venom and Flash Thompson fronts, while dealing with an outbreak of homicidal techno-villains. It all comes down to a battle in Flash’s high school where Toxin teams up with Venom to protect innocent lives from the insane techno-villains. Flash tells Brock that he never had a reason to fight the symbiote, but Flash does. He fights the symbiote every day to protect the ones he loves and Flash promises he won’t stop fighting. Brock decides to spare Flash’s life, but tells him it’s only a matter of time before the symbiote takes control and he will be there when that happens, to put Flash down. In the aftermath of the battle at the high school, Flash’s teen-aged neighbor Andi discovers that her teacher is also Agent Venom.
Flash as a Mentor (Venom #36-42 & Superior Spider-Man #22-25): After several weeks of routine school, AA meetings, and Venom patrols, Flash finally met the head of organized crime in Philadelphia; Lord Ogre. Venom teams up with Katy Kiernan to fight back against Lord Ogre, working in the shadiest corners of the Marvel Universe. Lord Ogre begins hiring heavy hitters to take out Venom, which leads him to recruit Flash’s arch nemesis, Jack O’Lantern. Jack O’Lantern attacks Venom where he’s weakest; as Flash Thompson. He ends up killing Andi’s dad and is about to kill her too, when Flash gives her part of the Venom symbiote to protect her. Jack O’Lantern escapes after Flash realizes he’s just a brainwashed stranger with the memories of the real Jack O’Lantern, who is still imprisoned. Flash tries to recall the Venom symbiote fragment, but he is unable to remove it from Andi, who decides to keep it and takes the moniker of Mania. She begins a rampage as she bonds with Mania, but it is one that Flash is able to talk her out of. Flash consults the only entity he can about being unable to take the symbiote back; Venom. Venom reveals that he passed off the Hell-Brand and the demon off to Andi to protect Flash, despite whatever Flash’s feelings about it doing so are.
Just in case things weren’t too complicated, Flash discovers that Crossbones has recruited the DOA to bring down those marked by Hell. Flash goes to Daimon Hellstrom for advice, but Hellstrom is unable to help. At the same time, Mania goes after Lord Ogre and is able to bring him down, but not before Crossbones attacks her. Flash summons Mephisto, demanding he rid Andi of the demon and Hell-Brand. Mephisto says he never made the deal with Flash but with the symbiote and tells Flash that before long the Descent will happen and he will need to be there to protect Andi. Mephisto helps them defeat Crossbones and Flash makes a promise to himself to be there for Andi when the time comes.
Before long, Flash is called back to New York by Betty, who states that The Crime Master is back in action. Flash investigates and discovers that it’s just some schmuck who brought the name, but then he encounters the Superior Spider-Man (Otto Octavius) who lures him into fighting him. Flash barely manages to escape and turns to his friend Peter Parker for help, unaware Peter is ‘dead’ and Otto lives in his body now. After giving Flash a new set of legs, Peter switches into Spider-Man mode and pulls the symbiote off Flash to become the Superior Venom. Having the symbiote ripped from him so suddenly pushes Flash towards death, showing that he has become so dependent on the symbiote he cannot live without it. Captain America sends Iron-Man to retrieve Flash, since they need him to take the symbiote back from Spider-Man, and Flash uses the Iron-Man armor as temporary life support. Venom is reluctant to rejoin Flash after all he’s done to cripple the symbiote but he is forced out when the real Peter Parker begins to manifest in Spider-Man’s body.
Flash as A Selfish Avenger (Thunderbolts #1-23): Flash had finally come into his own as a superhero, realizing that he may not be the most heroic like Spider-Man, but his connections in the darker edges of the Marvel Universe makes him capable of doing things that heroes like Captain America and Spider-Man can’t. To this end, he joined a new version of the Thunderbolts, headed up by Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. The team also included Wade Wilson (Deadpool), Frank Castle (The Punisher), Elektra Natchios, and Samuel Sterns (The Leader.) The team was put together to help Ross clean up his past mistakes and in exchange each member would get a mission of their own that the team would help out with. Together, they fought gamma powered Crimson Dynamos, crime families and aliens during Infinity, Hellish minions, and each other. Flash would often serve as a point of tension for the group, his morals going up against the team’s goals. When the team is dragged to Hell to deal with a threat called Mercy, Flash learns that Guido (of X-Factor fame) is the Lord of Hell, though The Descent has yet to happen. Flash ended up recruiting Johnny Blaze for the team, before asking the team to kill him and the symbiote. As a team, the others were able to subdue the symbiote, but Flash revealed that he does not wish to die, he just wanted to make sure someone could stop him if Venom took control. He leaves the team to seek out a less controversial line of work, comfortable in the knowledge that if Venom ever took control, he had a team out there able to stop him.
Serving in Space (Guardians of the Galaxy #14-TBD): In a recent interview, Brian Michael Bendis explained why he choose Venom to join the Guardians of the Galaxy. He said he wanted his version of the Guardians to be linked to the rest of the Marvel Universe, but didn’t want to take Venom just to have a Spider-Family member on the team. Realizing no-one had ever visited the planet the symbiotes hailed from, Bendis began to develop a storyline that will bring Flash and the Guardians to the home planet of the symbiote. Not before Flash gets to go on a shopping spree with Drax the Destroyer though. We’ll see this plan begin to pan out starting this Wednesday when Guardians of the Galaxy #14 hits stands.
Conclusion: From Government Soldier to Supernatural Agent to Selfish Avenger, Flash has been on quite a journey and he’s soon to add Cosmic Guardian to his impressive resume. He’s fortunate to have been handled by such a small and talented group of writers, most of whom had their preferences for his cast but seemed to have the same goal in mind for Flash. I’m a huge fan of legacy characters and I think Agent Venom is possibly my favorite one yet in the Marvel Universe. A character with such a dark past, given a chance to blaze a new heroic trail with help from a broken soldier in need of redemption as well. In just three years, Flash has made it into my top five favorite characters and while I don’t see a happy ending for Flash, I’m here for the long haul. I don’t know about you, but I’m flarking excited to see him going into space and discovering the home planet of the symbiotes. I hope you guys will join Agent Venom for the ride as well.
Major Unresolved Plot-Lines: Mania, Daimon Hellstrom and The Descent, relationship with Valkyrie (it just kind of fades away)
Amazing Spider-Man #654 & #654.1 (First Appearances)
Venom #1-42 (Including #13.1-13.4, Venom #27.1)
Spider-Island (Amazing Spider-Man #666-673)
Thunderbolts #1-23 (Including Annual #1)
Carnage USA #1-5
Secret Avengers #23-37
Minimum Carnage (Minimum Carnage Alpha, Venom 26/27, Scarlet Spider 10/11, Minimum Carnage Omega)
Superior Spider-Man #22-25
Bleeding Cool Interview: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2014/04/09/powers-united-states-of-murder-guardians-of-the-galaxy-the-bleeding-cool-mega-interview-with-brian-bendis/
Notable Contributors (Providing Three or More Issues of Material):
Rick Remender-39 Issues
Cullen Bunn- 26 Issues
Dan Slott- 14 Issues
Charles Soule- 11 Issues
Daniel Way- 11 Issues
Lan Medina- 11 Issues
Humberto Ramos- 11 Issues
Declan Shalvey- 9 Issues
Matteo Scalera- 8 Issues
Christopher Yost- 6 Issues
Tony Moore- 6 Issues
Thony Silas- 6 Issues
Steve Dillon- 6 Issues
Phil Noto- 6 Issues
Robbie Williams- 5 Issues
Jefte Palo- 5 Issues
Tom Fowler- 5 Issues
Christos Gage-4 Issues
Jeff Parker- 4 Issues
Kim Jacinto- 4 Issues
Gabriel Hardman- 4 Issues
Zeb Wells- 3 Issues
Carlos Barberi- 3 Issues
Clayton Crain- 3 Issues
Stefano Casseli- 3 Issues
Khoi Pham- 3 Issues
Joel Coelho- 3 Issues