Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #654

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Absolutely Amazing

This review was first published on: May 2014.

Background...

The Venom symbiote was extracted from Mac Gargan in ASM #648 and is currently in government control...

In Detail...

"Rebirth"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #654 (Story 2)
Summary: Flash Thompson given the Venom symbiote
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Paulo Siqueira, Ronan Cliquet De Oliveira
Inker:  Greg Adams, Paulo Siqueira, Roland Paris
Colorist:  Fabio D' Auria
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Review

In a government facility, Flash Thompson is placed into a chair profuse with strange mechanics by a man in a lab coat. A man in a military suit watches with his dog, saying, “Fair warning, Corporal. There is still time to pull out.” Flash objects, which leads to Doge explaining that the procedure performed by the lab coat man, Mackenzie, will be painful. “On a scale of one to ten? This is… ‘Oh dear god! Why me? Why me?!’” the scientist clarifies.

Flash asks the general why he was chosen, with his disability, and he elucidates, “I can look past that. Let me tell you what I do see. Corporal Eugene ‘Flash’ Thompson, a man who literally risked life and limb to save every man in his unit.” Plus, his dog Samson likes him. Mac exposes that they’re ready to initiate Project Rebirth 2.0. Flash mentions, “Do we have to call it that? No offense to Steve Rogers, but I’ve always been more of a Spidey-guy than a Cap-guy.”

It’s revealed that, beside him, Flash adjacent to a tube containing the Venom symbiote.

Mac presses a remote, and the symbiote floods over Flash’s body. While Flash grimaces in pain, the scientist reveals that the symbiote has been pumped with chemicals to make it easily controllable. Flash’s legs are reformed by the alien substance, and he rises, beginning to walk. “If you want, you can walk up walls,” Dodge reveals.

Excitedly, Flash displays his new powers as Venom: crawling up walls, web shooting, enhanced strength, shape shifting, increased speed, and agility. Flash exclaims, “Check it out--I’m Spider-Man!” Mac informs him that he’ll be Venom, and he asks why there can’t be multiple Spider-Men. “We’re sending you after terrorists. We’ve done psyche profiles. And terrorists aren’t afraid of Spider-Man. They know he doesn’t kill. Venom, however, will kill ya, eat ya, and come back for seconds,” he explains.

Soon, Mac gives Flash new weapons: a multi-gun keyed to his DNA that transforms to a rifle, knockout drugs, truth serum, chemical weapons, various knives and cutting tools, and a syringe. The scientist reminds, “But never forget, that suit—the alien symbiote is your greatest weapon.”

Then, a no-nonsense woman introduces herself to Flash as Captain Katherine Glover, Special Forces. She explains that she’ll be monitoring Flash thanks to an implanted listening device. Flash tries to soften her up, saying, “The minute you walked in, you were the voice in my heart.” She throws Flash to the ground, mentioning they already know about his girlfriend, Betty. She angrily explicates that she isn’t babysitting him and has a “kill-switch” to push the minute the symbiote takes control.

Later, Venom is worn after easily taking down a dozen of non-lethal soldiers. Kate reveals that Flash’s forty-eight hour window is closing, and they decide to end his drills. As Venom walks by, Dodge’s dog, Samson, growls. Mac describes that he has twenty missions left, and Flash is giddy to be rid of the symbiote. A sonic purge is initiated and our hero is released of the parasite.

As he leaves, Flash salutes to General Dodge, thanking him for the opportunity. As they leave, Mac asks Flash, “Y’know, there’s this really neat science exhibit at the Smithsonian and I was thinking we could—” Our main characters responds, “You remind me of this guy I know…and not in a good way.” With him gone, Kate and Dodge discuss how Flash isn’t the first soldier to be put through their process. They “nuked his brain” and Kate’s worried about their new attempt.

Dodge simply says, “Captain. Thompson. Will. Be. Fine. That is why I picked him. Because he is a first class soldier, a true patriot… And he is willing to make any sacrifice.”

In General...

As far as backstories go, this one is very entertaining and isn’t throw-away like many of its nature. It tells a story in which Flash Thompson gains the Venom symbiote and prepares to perform missions for the government. Personalities and themes are hinted at here, but things are really elucidated in ASM #654.1.

Slott tightly plots this story and introduces the new Venom with his many powers very effectively. The pacing of the story is very good too; things don’t feel too rushed and an efficient amount of space is given for the introduction of the symbiote, Venom’s new costume, and Kate. The dialogue, although limited, is very resourceful in the little space given.

Paulo Siqueira and Ronan Cliquet De Oliveira’s artwork is very efficient and provides some interesting layouts. In backstories, the art usually outshines the script because the artist needs to get a bit inventive with designs, which is the case here. For example, Siquera introduces the new costume and its many abilities very cleverly on a single page. Also, the art here sets the visual tone for the Venom (Vol. 2) series. (Ramos’ art in the Point-One issue is something entirely different, though.)

Overall Rating...

This works very well with the limited space it's given and is inventively drawn. It introduces Venom and his abilities interestingly.