As of Venom (Vol. 2) #31 Flash is living in Philadelphia, PA since he needs to protect civilians from dangerous technology on the streets. Sadly, Flash is alone in his new city, trying vainly to make new friends. Eddie Brock, bonded with the Toxin symbiote, has been following our lead hero to Philly...and he's hungry for vengeance.
Our story begins with a scene from Venom (Vol. 2) #17, where Eddie Brock was forcefully bonded to the Toxin symbiote be Crime Master. But this flashback is only Brock’s nightmare and he is woken up by the driver of a truck he’s taking a ride in. The trucker tells him that they have reached his stop: Philadelphia.
In Flash’s Philly apartment, our main character is preparing for his new job. He calls Katy Kiernan, the closest thing he has to a friend, but gets her voicemail. Flash goes through his options of friends to call: his mom doesn’t have a phone in her room, Valkyrie hates cell phones, and Peter Parker stopped returning his calls. He figures that he will make friends at his new job and practices his introduction:
“Hi! Nice to meet you! I’m Flash Thompson. I have a murderous alien symbiote in my bloodstream.”
When Flash’s about to leave, he grabs the medication the Avengers supplied to him. As he’s about to take the shot, he reflects on how he first got the symbiote from the military. He determines that he’s in control and doesn’t need the meds; he takes them with him just in case.
At West Philadelphia High School, Flash is feeling hung over (even though he hasn’t drank) and hides his feelings to make a good first impression. The P.E. coach introduces Flash as the assistant coach and orders that they treat him with respect. A boy makes a crack to his friend that Flash should coach the Special Olympics. When they jog around the gym, Flash figures that the “teenagers know a pity party when they see one.” Then, he looks around and recognizes the BMOC and a kid he saved from a gang last issue.
Flash also identifies the Goth girl from his apartment building in the bleachers. She introduces herself as Andi and he asks her why she didn’t dress out. Andi explains many reasons for not dressing out; all of which revolves around her not caring. Luckily, the negative nattering is interrupted when the BMOC calls out to Flash for attention. Flash smiles that he used to be like that and Andi explains that every school has a kid like him.
Later, Flash is relived to go on patrol as Venom. He thinks about how he still doesn’t know his way around Philly and concentrates on finding some of the loose U-Foe technology. A hunch-backed man walks by Venom with two bags. The man enters his house, throws down his coat and bags, and reveals himself to be a skinny, sickly person with four glass cylinders containing squid-like creatures bonded to his back.
The creature begins eating a can of dog food in front of a group of his human hostages. When it finishes, it prepares to eat a boy, apologizing first. Fortunately, Venom tramples the creature and assures the captives that he will save them. Venom pulls a gun on the villain and it tells him that “they” won’t let him kill him. The creature lunges at Venom, tearing away its flesh to reveal robotic limbs.
The creature pins down Venom, opening his jaws and asking Venom for forgiveness. Then, it reflects on how the U-Foes experimented on him when he was normal. He remembers how Vector took the squid-like creatures and injected them into him to find out if they would kill him.
Back in present time, the creature tells Venom that it hungers and prepares to eat him. Flash exclaims that he knows a thing or two about hunger and chokes it with a symbiote tendril. When he throws it across the room, Flash reveals that the symbiote sent out the tendril, not him. He decides the symbiote may be waking up again and he needs to take his meds. Venom finds that the creature must have fled and releases the prisoners. He swings off, looking for the nauseating fiend.
Meanwhile, the creature treads down the streets of Philly until it collapses because of starvation. It’s attention is caught by the muttering of what looks like a hobo in an alleyway. The homeless man explains that it has the stink of a friend of his he was looking for. “And you were looking for—what?—a quick and easy snack?” the hobo asks as he reveals himself to be Eddie Brock. He transforms into Toxin and snarls, “Looks like we both picked the wrong guy, huh?”
I wasn’t particularly impressed with Venom (Vol. 2) #32 and there are many levels to my problems, all of which mainly center on Flash’s depiction. Bunn’s Flash, as I have begun to notice from the past few issues, has become very focused on self-pity. Constantly, he’s reflecting on his life and bemoaning about how he is alone and has to deal with as a superhero. In the past few arcs, he’s been groaning about how he is bonded to the symbiote and has no friends.
You know what I miss about this Venom title? Ever since Remender left, Flash’s character development has become nearly nonexistent. I remember a time when the main premise of Venom was about Flash dealing with his personal problems, ranging from his father difficulties and his fight against the temptation of alcohol. I’ve given Bunn some time to see what he does before I make this complaint, but it’s been ten issues and he hasn’t had any major character development. It’s really aggravating because the book has become centered on senseless action rather than Flash’s advance.
I remember how Flash Thompson’s stint as Venom began as a duty; he didn’t really enjoy doing it but his country needed him. Therefore, he was constantly fighting for control of the symbiote. Where is that here? Flash actually yearns to be Venom to get away from personal obligations. Even worse, his battle against the symbiote feels like a very lopsided one. Flash has practically given into it by not taking his meds. He knows the symbiote has been taking control and harming people after it attacked his neighbor…and he still doesn’t take his meds! Now this might have been reasonable if there was some kind of character development leading up to it. But there isn’t.
The conflict of this issue is that Flash faces a guy that was forced into his situation by the U-Foes and must feed on people for survival. Any person capable of sympathy would feel bad for this guy; he was unwillingly turned into a monster and may still be helped. But Flash just jumps in at him, guns firing and jokes cracking. The guy apologizes and Venom still harbors every intent of killing him. It’s all senseless action, which is what Venom has become.
Lastly, Declan Shalvey’s art feels empty. The emotions of the characters are poorly demonstrated (not that he had much to work with) and the panels are full of empty space and strange shading. As I said in my last review, the action looks pretty cool. I still think Shalvey is a solid artist that just needs to be used right for his art to look good. At least Toxin's new design is solid.
Flash lacks character development and character depth. This issue is just senseless action. The art feels really empty too.