Venom #9

"Venom" has been swept up in the 'Spider-Island' event recently. This interconnectivity has made what could, and possibly should, be an inclusive title feel mildly exclusive. This issue is the epilogue to Venom's connection to the event. While there are a few references and moments that utilize knowledge of the event, the instinctive nature of this issue relies more on your understanding of masculinity and the oppressive feelings of being a helpless ripple in a very wide ocean. Rick Remender continues to do a superlative job of writing superhero comics that are still actually about something.

Comic events nearly always end with the good guys winning, naturally, and then the world resetting back to usual. Remender takes a different approach by showing realistic aftereffects with looting and destruction. The heroes might have stopped the big bad, but it is then the little bads that are harder to patrol during clean up and back patting. There are a few key moments in this issue that are genuinely affecting. They work on the main character as much as they will the reader.

The progressive actions of Flash Thompson in this issue are indicative of a frustrated response bred from years of restraint. Thompson spent years in the armed forces where protocol surrounding each bullet fired is more hassle than it is worth. Now, he is a part of the superhero set, and that comes with its own code of conduct. The expectations and implied actions are restrictive and no doubt frustrating. The release is then all the more cathartic, even if the ramifications might not feel as carefree.

Venom, as a hero, takes a sharp turn here. He might not be the hero people think they want, but he's the one their id will sympathize with. Hell, it will even cheer him on. In a world full of dirty bombs and Occupy movements sparking vitriol on all sides, people have proved they do not wish to remain passive anymore. People want action and here Remender gives it to them in a romp that's entertaining but also a subtext that makes you think.

Stefano Caselli is an interesting choice for this issue because his slick style contrasts greatly to the one-two punches of Tony Moore and Tom Fowler. Caselli has a shiny action to his flow. It almost looks like a computer game, but a little more expressive. His Venom looks massive and oppressive but lacks the detailed nuance we've come to know so far in this volume. Caselli's art is fine, no doubt, but he feels slightly ill-matched to this issue and its tone. He draws human faces exceptionally well but his two main characters here wear masks and symbiotic goo puddles and this restricts connection through his style.

Every now and then a superhero comic stands up to shake a fist at the world. It rattles its saber in the cool night air and some of us take heed. This issue isn't without its faults, yet through sheer force of will it demands to be taken seriously. Remender gives Flash Thompson a moment to define who he will be in the future, and Flash sprints forward into that murky haze. It's not the action of this issue that makes it a good comic but rather the implications and meaning behind those actions. The action is brief and yet it grips you to the page. This is a sequence that will be remembered.

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