After reading the Venom story from The Amazing Spider-man 654.1, I wasn’t expecting much from this book.
At first I hated the idea of Flash Thompson as the new Venom. It’s not fair that the bully gets to be a hero. Let’s go back in the way-back-machine. Flash used to be Spider-man’s biggest fan and ironically Peter Parker’s biggest bully. Irony abounded when Spidey would save Flash only to be harassed in the halls the next day at school. Whenever this happened in the comics or the cartoons, it really made us nerds feel conflicted. On the one hand, we felt adoration for Parker as he got to put a high school bully in his place whenever saving him from some boneheaded attempt to be a hero. Yet at the same time, we were frustrated that Flash doesn’t know that his biggest hero is “Puny Parker.” The bully Flash Thompson was part of what made the early Spider-man stories so engaging. Parker’s “turn the other cheek” treatment of this high school bully was one of his most admirable characteristics. The reader always wants Spider-man either to let Flash fall victim to the villain as payback for his own villainous behavior or to at least take off his mask to reveal who saved his bacon. But, Parker, a true hero, doesn’t abuse his powers and abilities.
So I guess I still harbor a grudge against Thompson. I was never a victim of bullying myself, but I’ve always found Thompson’s treatment of Peter to be reprehensible. Why should he get to be the hero?
Apparently, however, my perspective on Flash Thompson is limited. Since I have not followed Spider-man comics closely, I’ve missed that Flash goes on to become a war hero. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder which drives him to alcoholism. His father was abusive, which explains why Flash was such a bully. Thompson enlists into the military a second time to fight in Iraq. Again he is a hero when he saves his commanding officer and in the process sacrifices his own legs. These later developments of Flash make him a much more sympathetic character and help the reader to admire Flash’s hero-worship of Spider-man while understanding his harassment of “Puny Parker.”
So I’m coming around. It is extremely cool that the symbiote is being used as a black ops weapon and I love the new take on the costume, especially because we get the classic Venom whenever Flash loses control. Thus Venom is basically becoming a Hulk-type of character. I also think it fitting and intriguing that Thompson is becoming addicted to the suite because it allows him to escape his wheelchair and recapture his heroic glory form the days on the football field and in the field of battle. Perhaps this addiction replaces his alcoholism. And addiction stories are always interesting. I’m also intrigued to find out what will happen when the new Venom and Spidey inevitably come mask to mask. How will the symbiote’s love/hate relationship with his first host mesh with Flash’s rich and similarly complicated relationship with Parker? These aspects all make for good story-telling. The action-packed violence and dramatic art are a given.
Still, I have my reservations As it stands, endowing a paraplegic Flash Thompson with the suite is nothing more than a rip off of Avatar – although a much cooler idea than those giant, blue cat-people. It is clever to have Flash develop an addiction to the suit because it allows him to escape his wheelchair and be a hero again. Developing his character though, seems to be a bit of a challenge. . I find that Thompson is a bit of a hokey character at this point. Flash should be much angrier and frustrated before being influenced by the symbiote. I don’t buy into a darker side of him. He needs to be conflicted and desperate before the suite begins bonding to him so that we see that it isn’t the suite changing him but rather taking advantage of a darker side that already exists.
Finally, when Betty Brandt leaves Flash because she thinks he’s off the wagon seems rushed and a bit forced. I really found myself not caring at all that she left him. The series is ahead of itself. It really needed to take it’s time establishing the characters before trying to develop conflicts between/within them.
The Venom series do not have a track record of being successful. Overall, I have hopes this will develop into the most interesting version of the character to date.
I give it three out of five skulls.
Here’s some short reviews of three other books:
Ronin Wolverine – three skulls – In the spirit of Marvel 1602, the Ronin books are going to take Marvel characters and place them into the era of the samurai. This is a wicked concept, but the execution is lacking. The story is choppy and difficult to follow. The art tries to be stylistic, but, like the writing, comes off sloppy.
Batman Incorporated #3 – two skulls – Why did Grant Morrison wait so long to shell this out? It starts with a ridiculous flashback that includes heroes I don’t even recognize. It gets worse from there. By the time I got to the ending, I didn’t care that these were two of the most ridiculous villains I’ve seen since the mid-nineties.
Green Lantern #63 – two skulls – More development of the emotion spectrum. The teaming up of the “alpha” members of the various rings to hunt down a rogue Guardian is bogged down by flashbacks aimed at developing the history of the various elements. Yawn. The only cool part is the foreshadowing that Hal might be losing it again. I should know better than to buy a “prologue.”