“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”– Robert Burns (translation)
Venom Spaceknight #5: I Have A Plan
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist/C.Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Consultant: Dan Nevins
Editors: Kathleen Wisneski & Jake Thomas
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
I Wasn’t Always A Good Guy: The issue opens with Flash doing some physical therapy with his new prosthetics. 803 expresses some concerns for Flash’s plan of attack on Mercurio’s base, particularly the trust Flash is placing in Pik Rollo. Flash consoles 803 and confers briefly with the Klyn’tar, before suiting up as Venom and creating a symbiote-missile that allows Flash to transport himself and Pik Rollo from the ship to Mercurio’s planetary base. Pik Rollo quickly betrays Flash and Mercurio strips him from the Klyn’tar. Mercurio backpedals on his agreement to return Pik’s son to her and she attacks him, but is quickly incapacitated. Mercurio tells Pik that she will have to kill Flash to keep her son alive, but apparently this is all according to Flash’s plan. The issue ends with Mercurio bonding with the Klyn’tar, who is also in on the plan.
But People Change: I have one fundamental problem with this issue that drags it down, but I will get to that in a bit. I have been taught to start with your pros if you are going on the offensive, so lets hit them quickly. It is nice to finally see some physical therapy happening, since it has been promised since issue 3. It adds a nice character beat as we see Flash struggle on the ship, but not in the heat of battle. Also, I remain a fan of Flash communicating with the Klyn’tar and I am really curious to see how its bonding with Mercurio will play out next issue; it does seem like the Klyn’tar is in on the plan, but what if the emotions of Mercurio corrupts it like Peter Parker’s did? As always, Ariel Olivetti’s art is beautiful but there is a lack of unity between writer and artist that I will touch on later. Lastly, 803 is a scene stealer, coming a long way in the past four issues. Robbie Thompson is reeling in his masochistic tendencies (but not removing them entirely) and making him the one pers… er, robot looking out for Flash. If 803 ever obtains his desired destruction, it will be a sad day for the series. Also, he is totally right when he calls Flash’s plan stupid; lets team up with the ambiguous character and give the bad guy the symbiote he wants, which Flash knows can be influenced by negative emotions.
There are also a couple scenes, such as the scene where Flash slowly realizes Pik betrayed him, that come undone because of that fundamental problem mentioned earlier. We do not know everything that happens is Flash’s plan, until issue’s end. There is kind of an unspoken rule when it comes to plans: Either you reveal it and somewhere down the line something goes wrong, or you don’t reveal it and you have a “Ah-ha” moment when everything plays out as expected. The later is suitable for a character like Batman, but not Flash Thompson. I also believe one should always lay out their plan, because keeping your audience in the dark is poor story-telling. When one reveals their plan upfront and it leads to a situation where the plan goes askew, it presents your characters an opportunity to be clever and improvise, which is entertaining storytelling. If you do not reveal your plan up front and something goes wrong, then the writer has to tell the reader something is wrong, instead of showing it.
So how do these rules apply to this issue? Well, keeping the reader in the dark really hurts Pik Rollo this issue. When she betrays Flash, it is unsurprising because she is a wild card in this conflict. Then when she betrays Mercurio, there is no surprise because Pik is an underdeveloped character and rather than characterize her, Thompson opts to keep her motives in the dark. Then she reveals her loyalty is and always was to Flash, and that is the moment where I flip off the book and walk away, because I hate how things are playing out. I now hate Pik Rollo and can not wait until she is out of the series, but it is not even the character’s fault. It is the writer’s fault for utilizing her poorly.
And then there is a scene where Flash is stripped of the Klyn’tar and continues to fight, because a hero fights to the end to do the right thing. Except Flash’s plan is to lose the symbiote, so this show of heroism is just that, a show. The heroism is gone in that scene now. Same with the humor in the scene where Flash realizes Pik betrayed him, because it is just an act. And if things go wrong with the Klyn’tar next issue, Thompson is going to have to use one of the characters to tell us that the plan is not working; telling, not showing.
Another issue I have with the issue is it stretches credibility. I can buy into the Klyn’tar turning into a missile that travels through space, protecting those inside it. Just barely though, because the Klyn’tar has been shown keeping Flash alive in the vacuum of space before. But there is a panel where Mercurio attacks Pik Rollo and he electrocutes her so badly, that lightning shoots out of her eyes. This series has shown less severe acts of violence killing people, so why the hell is Pik still alive? At the very least, she should be blind, but there is no repercussions of this violence and it rips me out of the story.
And lastly, a good chunk of this story is recapping Flash’s journey to being a hero. And what being a hero means. It’s very first issue stuff, but we’re already five issues in and Flash has been a hero for a long time. I know each comic has the potential to be someone’s first, but there is more organic ways of establishing a character’s past. Flash does not pull off anything particularly heroic in this issue, he is much more of a con-man this issue, so maybe this issue could have explored his shady past and then saved the heroic bits for the arc’s conclusion.
Verdict: Ouch. This issue pisses me off, mostly because Robbie Thompson holds back Flash’s plan from the reader. This withholding of information diminishes nearly every aspect of the story, but thankfully it affects only this issue and maybe the next. It hurts to give this issue such a low grade, because without this flaw, it would be more of the same; an enjoyable Venom series heading in interesting directions. But even the greats have off issues, so I hope next issue is better.
- Withholding the plan
- Pik Rollo
- Lack of repercussions for violence
- Feels like a first issue