As any well-travelled fan of comic book mythos will tell you, we as readers have a desire to both demand change then fear it once it comes. Rick Remender takes this double-edged sword and thrusts it into the hearts of all who say Venom was an idea better left in the ’90s.
If you missed the previous issues, all you need to know about the latest iteration of Venom is that protagonist Flash Thompson is pulling off the Spider-Man routine better than Spider-Man himself. I’m not one to knock the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, but after nearly fifty years of stories it can be tough to make the idea less stale. Everything that ever made Spider-Man fresh is happening in this book right now for Flash.
Issue #18 opens with long-running character Betty Brant feeling strained by boyfriend Flash Thompson’s lack of commitment. Unknown to Betty, the crippled war hero, Flash, is one of the latest additions to the Secret Avengers, also enjoyable and written by Remender, and as such has trouble making their coffee dates on time. The constant confrontation of his power and responsibility manage to be reminiscent of the Peter/Mary Jane/Spidey triangle and yet feel new all the same. The similarities don’t stop there either.
Arch-nemesis Jack O’ Lantern pays Betty a visit, sans pumpkin head, in an attempt to get under Flash’s skin. In a world where Norman Osborn spends his time taking on the gods of Asgard or the Avengers, Jack O’ Lantern is the glider-riding, pumpkin-bomb-throwing maniac you’ve been missing. The meeting of these two characters sends Venom charging in to the rescue, but things take a turn for the worse when Betty believes Venom to be the bad guy and Jack an innocent. Seriously, if you thought Spider-Man had issues with being labeled a menace, think about the people who have worn Flash’s suit before him!
Artist Lan Medina provides pencils for the issue. He has a straight-forward style that, for me, neither hurts the book nor sets it apart. There are only a handful of images that come to mind that define the book, but there are also no panels where you need to question what’s happening. It’s not Rob Liefeld bad. It’s not Jae Lee good. It’s just Lan Medina, working for a paycheck.
Good, not great artwork aside, this issue is a must read! For the first time since his creation, Venom doesn’t feel like a worse version of Spawn but a cooler version of Spider-Man. With a final page that will have people talking for years to come, you’re going to want to get on board!