Review: Venom #4

Flash Thompson fails to save Betty Brant from a bomb, and it's the symbiote's fault.  How can he recover?

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Venom #4

When last we left Flash Thompson and his alien goo-monster partner, they were in one hell of a pickle.  A villain called the Crime-Master had learned his identity and was blackmailing him into helping protect a contraband shipment of nastiness, as well as kidnapping his girlfriend Betty Brant with every intention of blowing her to smithereens with bombstuffs.  Flash had five minutes to find and save her – plenty of time for a superhero, save for the fact that his nerves were shot with trying to control the symbiote, and who should drop in but Spider-Man, the one guy that sparks the slobbering beast's hatred like nobody else.  Thus, Flash found himself out of control and beating up his childhood hero instead of saving the life of the woman he loves. 

This drops us into Venom #4.  While we miss the amazing art of Tom Fowler, Tony Moore's work is pretty serviceable in this really down and dirty resolution to the first big arc of Rick Remender's series.  Moore provides a really messy and gritty feel to this really messy and gritty situation.  Spider-Man is in full-on no-quips all-business mode with the threat of Betty's demise hanging over their heads, while Flash is mentally screaming at the symbiote to try and get it to ignore its worst enemy and focus on saving her.  Normally, Spidey might be able to figure out what's going on with Venom, but his ire seems to be almost as spiked at the sight of Venom as Venom's is at the sight of Spidey.  Such is the trouble with archnemeses. 

Finally, Flash manages to down a hundred bottles of sedatives to try to regain control enough to get away from the Wall-Crawler and go save Betty, only to get there in time to see the bomb go off, which really shellshocks both Flash and Venom, and the beast finally realizes it has gone too far.  There's a moment of absolute horror before we find out Spider-Man got there in time and she's fine, which leaves Flash free to get back to stopping the Crime Master, now that the suit has been shamed into relinquishing control.

Of course, things still suck for Flash Thompson, as he finds out Jack O'Lantern now considers him an archenemy of his very own… and his arsenal apparently includes fire-breathing demon-shaped tinker-toy robots.  We've seen how much of a sicko he can be, but damn if he isn't entertainingly evil.  Then there's the fact that Flash is compromised by the Crime Master and Jack knowing his identity, but he lies to his superior officer about how much control he lost so as not to lose his opportunity to walk, run and serve again.  That's a pretty interesting story hook to keep us walking a tightrope going forward.

There are a few of story hitches here, although since I don't have the previous issues on hand to reference, perhaps I'm just brainfarting.  First of all, in a darkly funny opening bit where we get some narration from a Henchman just before he explodes, they mention "Australian vibranium" being the anti-metal stuff.  Being a Black Panther fan, I'm well aware that it should be Antarctic vibranium.  Maybe that's supposed to illustrate said Henchman as sort of an idiot, or maybe that's a continuity glitch.  One of those "A" continents!  Secondly, there's a minor continuity issue wherein Spidey plants a Spider-Tracer on Venom – and as I recall, he needed his spider-sense to even use those, and he lost that in his own book.  Perhaps he's found a way around that, which is why it's minor.  Thirdly, the end of the story has both Flash Thompson and Peter Parker hanging out with Betty Brant, quietly debating whose fault the whole situation was, each being unaware that the other was a major participant, until Betty shuts them both up and claims they were really after her because of her crack anti-crime journalism.  An amusing scene, sure, but if I recall properly, Betty had thrown Flash to the curb when last they spoke as she suspected him of hitting the bottle again.  Am I spacing on a reconciliation?  There's no mention of that here.

All in all, this is a series I'll be sticking with, if Remender can keep from resorting to busting out the slobber-monster every other issue, as the slobber-monster is the least compelling aspect of the current situation.  And slobber monsters just feel outdated in comics anyway.  Keep the damn tongue in your mouth and tell some good Flash Thompson stories.  That's the guy I want to know more about.