WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Venom #1 by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, in stores now.
Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman's Venom #1 doesn't waste any time in yanking the rug out from under longtime fans of the character. They start by revealing that the history of the symbiotes on Earth started in medieval times, and then they reveal a symbiote god has just been let loose upon the Earth. And, on top of all of that, amid the world-shattering revelations packed in the issue, we also come to learn Flash Thompson was nowhere near the first Agent Venom.
As it turns out, there was an entire squad of Agent Venom-like soldiers who were active a very long time ago. This bombshell may not be as massive as the god of symbiotes in the grand scheme of things, but it's still one that manages to re-write what we thought we knew about Agent Venom -- something that pulls the curtain back on the secret history of the project.
Venom #1 starts relatively calmly, with Eddie Brock trying his best to use the Venom symbiote for good, but it isn't long before trouble comes knocking. Soon, he finds himself held prisoner by a man named Rex Strickland, who appears to know exactly how to exploit the weaknesses of the alien symbiote. But Rex isn't Eddie's enemy -- he's actually someone just like him, and he needs a bit of help.
As it turns out, Rex is a war veteran and, along time ago, he and his friends were recruited for the Sym-Soldier program of Operation Rebirth 2.0 -- the same program that created Captain America -- to create a strike team of symbiote-wearing soldiers. Rex shows Eddie an old picture of his squad, and we see him standing alongside four other soldiers partially covered by symbiotes. Their job was to follow orders, and execute targets for the U.S. government. While Rex continues to tell his story, we come to understand that, contrary to what we originally believed, Flash Thompson was only the latest in a long line of Agent Venoms.
Flash Thompson made his debut as Agent Venom in the pages of 2011's Amazing Spider-Man #654 by Dan Slott, Paulo Siqueira and Ronan Cliquet. There, he was recruited by Operation Rebirth 2.0 to become a new type of super-soldier, one who used the alien symbiote as his weapon. At the time, this was an entirely new direction for Venom, one that lasted for a number of years and even led to Agent Venom joining the ranks of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
However, in the pages of Venom #1, we learn that Flash wasn't the first test subject of Project Rebirth after all. There were at least five other symbiotes on Earth before Venom, and five other Agents who went through the same, or at least similar, type of program.
These symbiotes spent all this time under the care of S.H.I.E.L.D., and now, with the super-spy organization disbanded, the alien parasites are being relocated -- but it seems the symbiote god has other plans for them. This might be a new start to Venom, but it's also one that revisits past history, and adds a bunch of new layers to it. Whatever happens next, it appears as if a war of symbiotes is on the horizon.