Venom is a character who is all about duality. A good guy in a bad suit. A dark version of Spider-Man. A legless man running. A military power used for good. A best friend and an inherent enemy. There are constant opposites and reflections in this book, so it is fitting that it does some things really well and other things not so much. Sometimes it’s a great throwaway scene that works, other times it’s a longer scene entrenched in continuity that steps up to the challenge. Pages later, the same efforts fall flat.
Rick Remender is working hard to establish new shines on old villains and he’s making most of it stick. Who would have thought Jack o’ Lantern would be someone you’d be not only interested in, but also fearful of? This creep is exactly the step up we need to fit this book. Then there’s the Crime Master, who has a stupid name but is smarter than you might think. One page sets up the Crime Master, for now, and the Lantern gets one slightly expositional scene that shows he’s around for the long haul, and that makes me very happy.
The massive throw down between Venom and Spider-Man might make some old school fans rejoice, but all it really does is slow the narrative down. There’s a girl and a bomb to get to, but the old grudge match slows it down like a bad sitcom joke that simply won’t resolve. There’s some dramatic irony to be mined, but it’s nothing compared to the other set pieces of this book.
The final two scenes bring this book home. Flash Thompson chews down some home truths back at Project Rebirth as he starts to question the machine of which he is such a powerful, and yet at times helpless, cog. The dialogue is controlled and the meaning is clear. Remender is selling the character drama better than he is the bombastic fights. However, the final scene is fantastically sublime. Flash and Peter Parker debate the merits of the fight between Spider-Man and Venom, of which they were the combatants and neither knows of the others’ presence. It’s a layered scene and the clueless Betty Brant caught in the middle is a delight. The tension builds and quickly ebbs to finish on a final panel that will bring a smile to your face while it drives home the true duality of this book: the endless gray both sides of life share but cannot equate to the other.
Tony Harris must be having fun drawing this book because glee is certainly present in the hulking Venom crushing his arachnid friend and then a toothless and haggard mug beneath the Lantern helmet. This book still resides in the realm of creepy, and that’s exactly what this title needs. John Rauch’s colors give everything an eerily lit tone and make it all feel like some late night Halloween special that’s taking things too far.
“Venom” is a very good comic, completely enjoyable and mad cap fun. It’s yet to traverse into the realm of greatness, but the offerings of this first arc portent enough towards some quality coming down the pike, and Remender’s other work must engender some sort of faith credits. “Venom” has more tricks and treats to offer and is worth sticking around for. If you like the Spider-Universe but don’t want the wholesome everyman of Parker then this is the title for you. It has the classic Spidey feel mixed with a funhouse mirror and some serious nightmare dust. Indulge the kid within; The twelve year old you would have dug this so hard. The adult you won’t mind it either.