“Venom” brings us your friendly neighbourhood symbiote wrapped around everyone’s favorite high school bully, Flash Thompson. It’s a new direction and one that works so well because it is so different from the past, or anything else out there right now. This issue is exposition heavy to deliver the rules of this new arrangement, but it also still finds time to deliver a satisfying spy tale with plenty of action and intrigue that stands completely on its own. This is pretty much exactly how a debut issue should go; It shows you what to expect, but also hints at slices of more.
Rick Remender tailors this script to Tony Moore’s style perfectly. This is Venom going in to a hot zone and yet the villain turns out to be Jack O’ Lantern. That might sound silly, but you certainly won’t think so after seeing this juiced up bad guy perched above some Nrosvekistan locals hollowed out and glowing out the face. It’s spooky, and this edge is what this comic offers that you won’t get elsewhere – thrills and chills. Moore packs his pages with menace and motion and his dual Venom designs are dynamic and well suited to the story.
This comic has a hero but no rules state he must be perfect. He’s not flawed in the way antiheroes are these days, rather Flash is too patriotic and determined not to miss a thing. Every person counts and he doesn’t want any innocent casualties on the mission card. He’s not trying to be the hyperbolic personification of heroic perfection, he just wants to be a man doing more in the world. This first mission might not go as planned but it doesn’t end as disastrously as it could have. Flash weighs up every angle and his decisions and actions are going to have strong meaning in this book. His resolution, in particular, sets the entire tone for this series. If you read those four panels then you’ll know exactly what this comic is.
After the mission, Flash gets two scenes to shine. One shows that in the scheme of this suit being used, he is merely a soldier fulfilling orders. The suit is the irreplaceable element, Flash is a variable that can, and will, be subbed at any time. If Flash is going to make the most of this opportunity, he cannot afford to waste a single moment. The final pages are a coda of sadness where we see that Flash’s decision to do this better thing for the world is going to cost him dearly in his personal life. Sacrifices are made and Flash is being tested.
John Rauch’s coloring works so well over Moore’s art to make everything feel muted, dangerous, and subversive. People look clammy and the world is a harsh environment. A bad colorist could ruin this comic, but Rauch only elevates it with his own choices that match Moore and Remender. It’s a cause for celebration when such a good penciler gets a colorist that can keep up with him.
This relaunch works so well because it uses the familiar in a totally new way. Whether you loved old Venom or not shouldn’t be the major factor. You need to read this new incarnation and decide. This new direction has a distinct feel and vibe to the art and writing. This isn’t the body chomping monstrosity (though that aspect certainly lurks close beneath the surface) and this isn’t the 90s Lethal Protector. This is very high-octane superspy thrills set firmly within the Marvel U. “Venom” is set up to be the best spy-fu action comic with a heart and this first issue sells you on that with a toe-dipping tale easy to consume and enjoy.