Man, it feels like forever since I did a review. And sure, I got like two Venom reviews, Generations/Legacy issues, Monsters Unleashed VenomVerse tie-ins, and Spider-Men 2 to do…. but my boy Flash has got himself a new symbiote so that takes top priority. For this crossover, Neil and I have switched titles to avoid bashing the same old low-tier writers in favour of… bashing other low-tier writers.
Amazing Spider-Man 792: Venom Incorporated Part Two
Writer: Dan Slott (with Mike Costa)
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterers: Joe Carmagna & Joe Sabino
C.Artist: Alex Ross
Design: Anthony Gambino
Editors: Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis & Allison Stock & Tom Groneman
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
You Know What You Are, A Big Bully: After the events of last issue, Flash Thompson finds himself bonded with a new Anti-Venom symbiote (is symbiote the right term?) and is eager to be a superhero again. Peter Parker is eager to finally put an end to the weakened Venom, but both Flash and Eddie attempt to stop him. Eddie is taken down with ease, but Flash escapes with Venom. Spider-Man gives chase but Flash is able to talk him out of killing Venom, in order to use him to track down Maniac. Peter takes Flash to Bobbi Morse’s apartment, ignoring Betty Brant and his job at the Daily Bugle in the process.
On the other side of town, Maniac turns Black Cat and her crew into mindless Venom goons called Inklings. Peter and Flash track him to the base, where they are attacked as the issue comes to a close.
Unbelievable, Flash Thompson Thinks I’m A Bully: Let’s start with the big thing: Agent Anti-Venom. In the first issue, Flash Thompson returns sassier than ever and is easily the highlight of the issue. That continues into this issue, with Flash taking all of the best lines and the best moments. As Venom continues to deteriorate physically and mentally, he resorts to pet like behaviour and watching Flash trying to calm Venom by petting him is adorable; who would have thought Venom would be adorable one day? Ryan Stegman really draws the hell out of the central symbiotes (Venom, Anti-Venom) with plenty of tendrils, emotive features, iconic poses, and strong body language. Very few details are given on the new relationship Flash finds himself in, but the Anti-Venom symbiote seems to be non-sentient which bothers me a lot. What made Agent Venom so strong was Flash’s purity and struggles showing Venom he could be something better than what Peter and the others warped him into; having a silent partner strips a lot of that away. Still, Flash is back in action and it feels so good.
This series does an excellent job of reminding why I hate Eddie Brock. Not only is Eddie a poor host for the continuing evolution of Venom, he actually drags Venom back down into the muck with him. He’s just a bitter on-again-off-again lover. Dan Slott writes Eddie worse than Mike Costa, who at least knows how to capitalize on the jilted lover angle. But Eddie is nothing compared to Peter Parker. In a year where Gwenpool was a thing, Peter Parker is still easily the worst character at Marvel. Slott’s Peter Parker is immature and makes enemies out of his allies with ease. He shows no signs of maturity at any point and makes the worst jokes about his secret identity; speaking of, just fucking unmask in front of Flash already. Flash is kind of an idiot for not figuring it out after this issue, but I imagine he has other things on his mind. This whole event would read so much better if Peter and Flash knew each other’s identities and could actually have a grown up conversation; think of how much better the scene where they both admit to dating Felicia would have been if Flash knew it was Peter.
Speaking of, Dan Slott cannot write female characters to save his life and his ‘feminist’ Peter Parker is total bull. Slott has no understanding of the ways in which the world ware gendered and it scares the crap out of me that he is charge of feminist icon Bobbi Morse right now (although I do hope she comes home to Venom in her bathtub). Slott’s characters do nothing to challenge the inequality in the world, which is the statement of feminism, and he writes the worst female characters. Case in point? Black Cat. She is apparently blind, because she can not see that a bunch of goons are covered in symbiote goop. We never actually see her fight, she just capitalizes on one of her goons stumbling into burning a symbiote. When she does order her men around, she basically orders them into defeat. She has teleportation tech built into her belt-whip, but does not use it. Slott references her luck powers in dialogue, but does nothing to show them; classic Slott telling not showing. Between Defenders (which killed Hammerhead, yet somehow THE FOUR EDITORS OF THIS ISSUE missed that), Power-Man and Iron Fist, Silk, ASM, and Spider-Man I have no idea what the actual state of her criminal empire is; I don’t think anyone at Marvel does as it seems to change from series to series.
Lets talk about the good stuff. I do think some of Slott’s dialogue is funny, but it is Ryan Stegman, Joe Sabino, Joe Carmagna, and Brian Reber that carry the team here. The Joes do an excellent job of fitting wordy dialogue into panels, but it is Stegman’s stellar page layouts that tell a strong visual narrative out of crowded space. A nice detail in the letters is when Venom recoils from Flash in pain, its dialogue is white in response to the Anti-Venom. Stegman also includes tons of little moments to bring his world to life, like the way Spider-Man is reflected in the mirrors of Bobbi Morse’s house. His cityscape backdrops are insane with detail and Brian Reber does a great job of capturing the feel of the ‘City That Never Sleeps’. Reber does an excellent job with playing with different types of lighting from industrial lighting to natural light sources like fire.
Stegman’s symbiotes take a note from Iban Coello’s VenomVerse issues, with strong rigid forms but fluid movements and tendrils. His minimization of features is strong and his characters (both masked and unmasked) have strong emotive features. When the Venom symbiote pulls back to reveal faces, its jaw hangs loosely around facial features in a unique way. Most importantly, Stegman makes Venom’s pain ooze off the page, which does a ton to endear the reader to a murderous alien. When it comes to the central four characters (Peter, Flash, Venom, and Eddie) Stegman’s artwork is on fire.
Unfortunately, the Inklings are some of the most uninspired symbiote designs I have seen in a Marvel comic. And Mac Gargan’s return to form, while decent looking, makes no sense whatsoever. There is also a lot of dull colour palette choices, which hurts the scenes that rely on coloured backdrops rather than detailed backgrounds. Stegman’s female characters are also weak, although I felt his Betty Brant looked better than Felicia Hardy; poor Cat, just getting screwed in this issue.
Verdict: When I first read this issue, I was ready to give it a high level B grade; I was riding high off having Agent Venom back and the issue made me chuckle more than your average Dan Slott issue. But I sat on it and the longer I sat on it, the more I started to hate this comic. It butchers Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy and I never thought I would say this but… I miss the minor nuance that Costa gives Eddie Brock. Ryan Stegman and the artistic team do amazing things with page space, but there is no element of the art that makes up for the shortcomings of the writing. This is not an awful issue, it’s just run of the mill with some awful aspects. I really cannot recommend this to anyone, except fans of Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man run.
- Flash Thompson
- Page layouts
- City backdrops
- Lazy enemy design
- Weak color palette