Last issue concluded the arc where Venom took down Crime Master's Savage Six. It all ended with Betty never wanting to see Flash again and Flash's brother-in-law killed by Jack O' Lantern. But Jack is still out there.
Also, Venom is coming clean and telling the Secret Avengers about his problems with losing control in the past and such.
The issue begins with Venom web slinging in NYC, thinking about the normal family. "Some marketing genius decoded our core ideal and played it on repeat for the past sixty years," he thinks. Flash recalls that there is no place in that fantasy for leading killers to your brother-in-law and mother. He think about the normal family and how it's "a painting that makes a normal family look dysfunctional."
"But in the case of the truly broken," Flash examines, thinking back to his father drunken, "It only serves to make the memories that much worse by comparison. Growing up surrounded by that rage, it was normal to me." Then, he remembers beating up Peter Parker. He recalls how he "bit everyone around him" and "could see it." "Inside the puncture wounds I would leave," he thinks.
"I see that venom."
Soon, Venom lands on a wall at the scene of some sort of crime. Apparently, Jack made it out of Crime Master's chemical pit and has been killing every day, leaving a trail. It's Father's Day, and Jack was brainwashed into believing Crime Master was his father. He's escalated things on this day, which isn't a coincidence. "Killing doesn't begin to describe what I'm going to do to him," Flash thinks.
Then, his memory journeys back to a young Flash walking into his house one day with his dad slouched on the couch, drunken. Flash told his dad about how he traded cards with a kid down the street and wanted to unmake the trade, but the kid didn't give him his cards back. His dad told Flash that he can't "let people screw with [him] like this."
Flash's dad walked down the street, found the kid, and took the cards out of his hands. The boy ran to his father and Flash's dad yelled, "You want to escalate this?! Come on then--I'm right here--nothing else to do!" The dad did nothing and Flash's dad threw the cards at Flash, saying, "My old man would have never done something like that for me."
Flash ponders why he still defends his father. He considers that he might have deserved it, but his dad was a sociopath. "He didn't love me because he didn't love anyone," Flash thinks. "Because he was broken down the middle.
Flash's memory goes back to when he was talking to Liz Allen on the phone when his father burst through his door, angry about a speeding ticket that he didn't tell him about. He asked if he knew how much this will cost him and picked Flash up by his jacket. "Get off me!" Flash yelled at him, which led to his dad beating him. Flash's mom watched it all.
Back in reality, Flash thinks that he only remembers the bad things. "Bad stuff that leaves an impression that clouds the majority of normalcy," he calls it. Venom walks through the sewers, following Jack's trail. But he still ponders his dad. He thinks about how the normal days, "in-betweens," were worse. How he always thought that the last time would be the last time, but it wasn't.
When Flash walks into a room, Flash finds his father's dead body has received the Jack O' Lantern treatment and sits at a table. The door slams behind him and Jack's voice says, "Have a seat, sonny boy. Let's have a talk."
Flash remembers yet again when he was laying on his bed after his father beat him and his mother talked to him. He asked why she let him beat him and Flash's mom defended her husband, saying he "provoked" him. Flash responded, "He's crazy. He's crazy and he beats your kids and you don't do anything about it!" His mother told him that she won't let him "badmouth the man [she] married" and that it's his fault. But when she left, she obviously felt bad for Flash and knew she was wrong.
Back in the sewer, Jack is imitating Flash's dad over the speakers, telling him, "You know, I never really did like you." Venom gets infuriated and smashes the table, cursing. Then, he sees the bomb on his dad's dead body. "I'm back to finish it, sonny boy. Back to kick your #@$ one more time," Jack says. GRADOOOOOM! The room blows up.
Right at the best time, Flash goes back to a memory when he had just made the winning play in his football game. Flash's dad responded, "Your cousin graduated medical school this week. Let me know if you do some thing important, will you?"
At the main story, Venom is surrounded by fire and Jack sits on a perch above him. Jack asks if it was nice to see his dad. "I lost my dad recently. It hurts. This is gonna hurt more," Jack tells him, stabbing Venom in the back.
Flash remembers when his dad was yelling at Jesse when she was young. "How many times have it told you to clean this room, little piggy!" he yelled at her as he hit her with her brush. Flash tried to stop her, but was thrown into the wall instead.
Jack slashes Venom with his knife again and rants to him, "At least I knew my dad loved me. Knew he was proud of me. All the things Jesse told me about your dad. Really tough stuff, Eugene." Venom craws to his father's body and Jack tells him that he must think that people will give him a break after all he's been through. "But you and me are like brothers. I know you wouldn't want me to pity you. I know you wouldn't want special treatment because of who your dad was," Jack says as he raises his knife for the final blow.
Venom reaches his gun and shoots Jack three times. Then, he cracks open his helmet, channeling his childhood pain into his attack. After another punch, he takes down Jack. Venom stops himself from shooting his head, though, and tells him that they are both poisoned. "Their hatred will always run through our veins, Jack. But if we make different choices...who knows?" Venom says as he picks up Jack and carries him away.
Later, Jack is escorted to his prison cell, Flash finishes up telling the Secret Avengers about his mistakes, Betty throws away her pictures with Flash and Flash's mom looks out her window, reflecting. Flash goes to bed alone after looking at a picture of his family.
The issue closes with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
This was Remender's last issue, and quickly his best. Remender has a great grip on Flash Thompson and his father troubles. He's great at voicing Flash and knows how to show pain in a character better than most every writer. I felt Flash's torment in each of those flashbacks and, even more surprising, I felt his mother's torment too. At the same time, though, you could feel Flash's rage when you see his father's dead body has been given the Jack O' Lantern treatment.
Also, I think Remender did a great job at weaving all the flashbacks with the main story. Usually, flashbacks drag down a story for me, but Remender made sure none of them lingered and kept them all building up the story.
I have one quibble with this issue, even though it doesn't really affect my grade of this issue. How did Flash survive that explosion? Mere seconds after it happened, the symbiote seemed fine, even though it was surrounded by fire. Come on, Remender!
Last but not least, Declan Shalvey's art is golden. Shalvey is one of those artists who needs to really be used right for his art to be great, and Remender did that. Declan made Venom's web-slinging exciting. Did you see that beautiful two-page splash? That's my screensaver right now! (It actually has been for a month, which is crazy because I'm known to change my screensaver every two days.) Declan also did this innovative trick where scenes were colored red to show the pain of Flash and his mother.
Five webs. I will miss Remender from this title. I averaged the scores for his Venom run from Jess and my reviews and the average issue got about 3.5 webs, which is pretty good for 22 issues. Remender truly reinvented Venom after his around 10 year period I like to call the Dark Times for Venom. Let's hope Bunn follows his run well. (Hint: He doesn't.)