Flash Thompson's in Philadelphia. Yeah...That's all you need to know.
While recapping the past week, Flash Thompson asks himself what makes him special. He inquires if it’s that he’s a school all-star, a war vet, a hero, or a monster. He figures that his gimmick is…that he’s terrified of overcomplicating his new life. Therefore, Flash thinks it’s “time for a little course correction.” Our hero decides to keep it simple and straightforward.
On Sunday, Venom finds himself busting a meth lab at a church. He figures that the crooks aren’t smart enough to manage an operation on their own. As Venom shows one of the lowlifes his best symbiotic smile, he asks that they explain who their master is.
The next day, Flash is watching his PE class as they play dodgeball. He thinks about how his job isn’t that complex: “When bad people crawl out of their holes, I thump them back down.” Flash tells Andi, a gothic girl who refuses to participate in PE, to stop playing on her phone and pay attention to her classmates’ game. The two debate over the academic significance of dodgeball until a jock throws a ball a bit too hard at a “gimp.” Flash tells the jock, Darius Fowler, to avoid unnecessary roughness, and he replies, “Thought I’d just give these dead-weights some incentive to avoid the ball.”
Flash begins wondering why he hates Darius so much and figures that it’s because he used to be like him. Our main character thinks about how he would shake his past self “till his brains oozed out his ears” if he could. When Darius hits a kid so hard that he falls to the floor and cries, Flash, with the help of his symbiote, lobs a ball at the jock that sends him to the ground. While it was unintentional, Flash is satisfied. That is, until he notices that Andi saw his symbiote. Our main character thinks, “I should’ve just let her play with her phone.”
Soon, Venom is atop a car as a gang member takes shots at him. He contemplates how he’s overcomplicating things again. Flash reassures himself that Andi probably didn’t see anything because she left quickly without saying anything. Then, he concentrates at the task at hand. Inside the car he’s atop is a drug shipment going to a crime boss named Lord Ogre. Eventually, the criminals succeed in pushing Venom off their car.
Once again, Venom ponders if Andi is “posting gothic poetry about her shape-changing gym teacher on tumblr or some other angsty corner of the internet.” Flash forces himself to concentrate on catching the punks in the car and spots a jalopy in an alley.
At the gang meet-up, the lowlifes are about to unload the drugs when they are startled by…the Venom-Mobile! Flash leaves the jalopy and quickly takes down the gangsters. When Venom asks a thug where Lord Ogre is, the crime boss reveals himself behind them. Ogre and his entourage of freaks assume that Venom is the one who has been interfering with his gang affairs. Venom tells him not to make assumptions, but confirms that he has been “peeing in [his] corn flakes.” Our main villain reveals that he could have set up a meeting because he’s a businessman, and Venom says that he’s practically put him out-of-business. After explaining that he has to wake up to his heartless head every day, Ogre asks what he has to “fear from the bogeyman”
Soon, the crime lord releases his vicious dogs. One attacks the man Venom was holding and the other goes to our hero. After throwing his pooch at the other, Venom points his guns at where Ogre was but finds that he’s fled the scene. Flash figures that he isn’t as tough as he boasts considering that he left while he was distracted.
Venom spots the van aside the door and opens it to see if a gangster hid in there. Inside, Flash finds a collection of filthy people. Venom judges that Ogre is not just a drug dealer and drug runner; he’s a monster. “And just like that…nothing’s simple anymore,” Flash reasons.
Reading through, it feels as if this issue is the beginning to a second part of Bunn’s Venom. The writing overall feels invigorated and the tone renewed. This sets the street-level atmosphere for the next six issues and creates a few interesting plot points that the next two arcs follow up on. While the Toxin arc had a street level tone, it didn’t quite feel like a new status quo beginning like this one.
One of the plot points this issue introduces is Andi’s heightened role in the series. Seriously, I’m not a fan of Andi since she’s the stereotypical teenager in comics. Perhaps somebody at Marvel should tell Bunn and every other writer that every teenager isn’t a depressive Goth. I don’t even understand who Andi’s character is meant to appeal to; mainly, the people who read Venom aren’t teenagers. Still, it’s nice to see that Bunn has finally begun building Flash’s personal life in Philly. (In an interview, Bunn said that Andi’s purpose in this series is to remind Flash of the people he saves, but that hasn’t really been accurate so far.)
The other plot point this issue introduces is Lord Ogre. Ogre is obviously the typical crime boss but his human trafficking business will hopefully provide an interesting moral situation for Venom. For those who read Scarlet Spider (Vol. 2), you’ll know that the idea of trafficking and prostitution isn’t a subject foreign to Spider-Man spinoffs. In a book that has been lacking depth, the inclusion of the serious subject will hopefully add some layers to Flash’s current one-dimensional character.
I enjoyed Pepe Larraz’s dynamic art and it added energy that the title has lacked since Lan Medina left. The panel layout is excellent, using overlapping panels to lead your eye along the page quickly. The flow of the characters is also exceptional. Larraz did a fantastic job at making Flash’s everyday life visually lighter than Venom’s street-level battles.
The writing of this issue is invigorated and sets up the street-level tone of the next issues well. The dynamic art is excellent.