Venom (Vol. 2) #34

Background

In our last installment of Venom, Toxin and man turned to a monster by the U-Foes duked it out. Eddie allowed the creature to escape the battle so he could use him as bait for Venom. The title's anti-hero did track down the creature a night later, subduing him in hopes that Beast from the X-Men could cure his condition. Once Venom webbed the monster to a car, Toxin revealed himself...

Story 'Family Bonding'

  Venom (Vol. 2) #34
Executive Producer: Alan Fne
Publisher: Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief: Axel Alonso
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor: Tom Brennan
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Our issue opens up as Toxin slashes Venom, and the first blood of the battle is spilled. Flash thinks to himself, “No matter how big you are… No matter how tough or mean… There’s always someone bigger, meaner, and tougher… Just waiting to take you down.” (Hasn’t he said that before?) Toxin rants that Flash should pray because “a little divine favor is just what you need to get through what’s next!” (Bunn took that line from the “Terry Kavanagh Handbook.”) Flash smacks the villain away with an enlarged symbiote arm, and then pauses to realize the severity of his wound.

Sadly, the action doesn’t break for Venom’s recovery when Toxin attempts to smash him with a car. When our hero dodges it, Toxin tears apart the automobile for no apparent reason. Flash attempts to shoot Brock with no success, and resorts to kicking him in the face. He asks why Eddie has bonded to the symbiote if he believes that they are a cancer, which only infuriates his foe. After Toxin blinds Venom with his symbiote, he explains that he has an understanding with the symbiote that they must unite against Venom before they fight each other.

Soon, the man experimented on by the U-Foes from last issue escapes from Venom’s webbing and enters the battle. Toxin slices the creature’s side, and prepares to bite his head off. When Venom tries to stop him, Brock lobs him around with a tendril, saying, “Still trying to play hero? I’d admire that…if you weren’t so deluded.” Once Venom is worn, Toxin rips the creature’s skull off, which leads to the symbiote retaining control over Flash’s body. Venom bites off Toxin’s left arm, then his right hand when he grabs his head. Eddie reasons, “You woulda done the same [to the monster] -- sooner or later!”

Infuriated with Venom’s attacks, Toxin grows huge and chucks Venom into the air with his enlarged mouth. As Venom falls, Toxin regrows his lost limbs. Flash slams into Brock with his elbow, and our villain takes the opportunity to grab Venom. Toxin then impales him with a symbiotic sword. In a last ditch effort, Flash pulls out the meds used to control his symbiote, and stabs Brock. The red symbiote begins to grow weak, so Brock retreats, saying he will come back and teach him “how dangerous monsters can be!”

Later, Andi, the gothic girl who lives in Flash’s apartment, hears a sound behind her on the roof. Andi spots Flash, bloodied and bruised on the floor and offers help. He rejects her help, which leads to her getting emotional and leaving. Flash decides that he mustn’t get close to anybody because Toxin will come looking for them. Flash’s segment of the story ends with him lying on the rooftop of his apartment building in self-pity.

In a tunnel, a group of hobos have set up a fire. One hobo becomes infuriated that someone took the last of the bologna, and kicks a silent guy beside the icebox. When his hood drops, the guy is revealed to be taken over by a U-Foe robot. Startled, the hobo backs into another guy who has been possessed as well. Then, a parasitic machine takes control of his body, knocking down the fire. As the tunnel begins to burn, the last hobo inside is occupied by a parasite. The victims rise, altered with mechanical limbs, and say, “Target = Toxin. Target… Venom.”

General Comments

This seems to be the major Venom vs. Toxin battle that Cullen Bunn has teased in the many interviews he’s had to promote this book. Now, I have always been a symbiote fan; I loved Toxin’s birth in Venom/Carnage. I like Venom, I like Toxin… This issue should be entertaining for me. It’s not, though. After months of issues ending with a Toxin cliffhanger, this issue disappointed me greatly.

Firstly, Bunn’s characterization of Eddie Brock is terrible. Brock has never been the best characterized individual in comics, but his lines in this issue are corny and irksome. Not only that, but I’m confused as to how he could go from hating the Toxin symbiote to being in perfect relation with it as quickly as he did. I personally thought Eddie’s tenure as Anti-Venom and symbiote hunter added great depth to his character that he had lacked since Michelinie’s early issues. I see his bondage to Toxin as an unnecessary step backwards. I am also left wondering how Toxin revived himself after being burnt in Venom (Vol. 2) #21. And how did Eddie’s arms regenerate after Venom bit them off?

This wasn’t only a step back for Brock: Flash seems to be back in the routine that I thought he was complete with in this series. Flash loses control of the symbiote here, which should have ended after Circle of Four now that he has meds. I already know why Bunn did this: the series is suffering extremely low sales and he wants to bring them up with some good ol’ fashioned symbiote craziness. While I would have been forgiving if Bunn had used Venom’s takeover as a chance to further characterize Flash, he didn’t. Flash shows no regret to losing control and that’s way out of character.

The third major component of this issue, the man altered by the U-Foes, is a villain I have grown tired of. He is simply a device used to set up the story. It led Toxin and Venom together and now, with multiple creatures, I’m sure the hero and villain will inevitably team up to defeat them. When the creature was created, I thought it would be a good villain to add depth to the series. The man was unwillingly conquered over by the U-Foes’ robots, something Flash could surely relate to. Sadly, Bunn didn’t choose to utilize this opportunity.

I found the battle itself, which takes up the majority of this issue, very empty. I find it generally acceptable if a battle takes up an issue as long as there’s a sufficient lead-up to it in past issues and there’s significance behind it. Brian Michael BendisUltimate Spider-Man and Mark Millar’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man used these types of fights well by building up the characters and making the struggle (usually) personal and high-stakes. The fight of this issue is neither; it’s just two symbiotes fighting each other out of hate and revenge. Yawn.

Lastly, Shalvey’s art is serviceable for this story. While he draws symbiotes amazingly, I’m still not impressed with his drama sequence between Flash and Andi. As I’ve said before, Shalvey’s art can be fantastic if he’s drawing the appropriate script, which this isn’t. I highly suggest that you check out Ellis and Shalvey’s Moon Knight (I think it’s Vol. 8). I’ve only read the first issue but it’s brilliant.

Overall Rating

Poor characterization, an empty battle, and a tiresome villain. One web for Shalvey's art.