Marvel and DC regularly trot out new series for their intellectual properties, presumably to keep them visible. Sometimes, the end result is a truly inspired, fun take on a concept that makes the return of that character something to be celebrated. Other times, it feels more like a book merely going through the motions. In the case of “Venom: Space Knight” #1, it feels like Robbie Thompson and Ariel Olivetti are trapped in the latter category.
“Venom: Space Knight” #1 spins out of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” as Flash Thompson is armed with a healed Venom symbiote and is now officially an Agent of the Cosmos. This entails missions that are beamed into his head, with the first one involving a shipment of illegal drugs on an alien world — but, of course, not is all as it seems.
Thompson’s story for “Venom: Space Knight” #1 is perfectly reasonable on some level. It sets up a villain, has Flash go after said villain and works out a way to defeat him while saving innocents. In terms of basic plotting, it works well enough until around the 2/3rds mark. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hold together at that point. It makes little sense that a spaceship would have a big red button that not only opens up the cargo hold into deep space with no overrides or special permissions needed, but also ejects everything in the entire ship; it seems like a deadly design flaw at best, and something for convenience’s sake rather than a better way to plot a victory for Flash.
More importantly, there’s no particular hook for “Venom: Space Knight” #1 besides, “Hey, it’s Venom.” Flash doesn’t come across as anything but a generic hero and, similarly, his story doesn’t seem to have any real drive behind it. I’m not sure what’s supposed to lure readers into coming back month after month; “Venom: Space Knight” has devolved Flash and the Venom symbiote into nothing out of the ordinary.
Olivetti’s art is drawn in that polished, bulbous style he’s become known for over the years. The problem is that — as his art has gotten more and more computer-rendered — it also looks stiffer. The moment where Flash has the Venom symbiote blasted off of him looks very posed and static; instead of the suit oozing or splattering, we’re getting something that looks like it was dipped in wax and then allowed to dry at an odd angle. Similarly, the asteroids floating past as everyone is ejected into space are so unnatural looking that I first thought they were the space version of explosive mines, with their perfectly round craters and cones dotting their surface. Those spheres also continue when Olivetti draws the owl-alien-woman in the office, whose one non-owl feature are massive breasts barely held in place by a straining top.
It’s too bad, because all of this is a distraction from when Olivetti plays to his strengths, like multi-eyed aliens or beings with lots of tentacles for limbs. The crazy, far-out concepts fair well with Olivetti, at least. While the sudden appearance of vacuum-space monsters would have worked better if there had been any sort of visual telegraphing of their arrival (and the entire sequence feels disjointed), I will give Olivetti credit that the monsters look wonderfully creepy and dangerous.
“Venom: Space Knight” #1 is off to a rocky start; it needs a better hook than “Venom is now a hero” or “Venom is in outer space.” For the moment, there’s nothing else offered as a reason to buy the second issue; this series runs the very dangerous risk of being forgettable. Hopefully, Thompson and Olivetti can come up with a better lure, and quickly.