"Venom" becomes a "Spider-Island" tie-in this week. Such a turn in a new title is a scary proposition. Luckily, the creative team keep Flash Thompson and his quirky symbiote suit right on character in what they do and how they do it. This doesn't feel shoehorned into the big Spider-Man event at all. Flash is sent in to tackle a large spider monster and bring it in alive.
As Flash gets his orders, Betty Brant calls to inform him of trouble at the hospital. It's almost an old Aunt May situation where Flash's recently relapsed alcoholic father has to be moved from the hospital due to public spider-related incidents, but if he's moved he will most likely die. What will Flash do? He'll still go into battle, that's what he'll do. He hates his father and he wants nothing more to do with the man who constantly let him down. It's a real emotion and one delivered quickly and easily. Watching these convictions change slightly throughout battle is an interesting juxtaposition to the battle itself.
Rick Remender seems firmly committed to bringing the hordes a Venom action comic but one that peddles in characterisation and emotional struggle as well. This books tries every month and it is giving Flash internal struggles as well as external dangers. This adds layers to all the issues and while this month's juxtaposition isn't completely effective it is still an insight into this evolving man.
The twist of the villain Venom faces is an intriguing concept. It's not overplayed, though it could have been, and I'm dying to know where this will go. There are some seriously gross moments in this book, especially if you don't like spiders. There are also some seriously bad-ass moments of the symbiote using a dog to join the battle. It's all very cool, though there's an undercurrent of stupid you have to admire about the proceedings. It's somewhere below "John Carpenter's The Thing," but above that time the dog wore the Mask in the sequel to the Jim Carrey hit.
Tom Fowler does a great job of matching the tone of what Tony Moore set out with this title. It helps that John Rauch's muted colors are so consistent across issues. The detail of the battles is awe inspiring without actually detracting from the flow of action serving the story. This isn't minutiae for the sake of slowing you down, this is purely attention to scope.
"Venom" is still a very fun title after half a year. It's like Remender wanted to honor the character most people love from the 90s and inject just a little more structure and character into the mix. There's a great moment where another hero doesn't know what to call Flash in the suit and it raises a good point: when people see this new hero do they know who it is? If they identify him as a new Venom, won't that only make them think of the villain? It's this sort of stuff addressed in each issue that make this book such a treat. Venom is being redefined right here and now, so come along for this ride into something new.