Lately, Venom has been going around and busting the operations of the new crime boss of Philly, Lord Ogre. The gravity of Flash's missions was heightened when he discovered that Ogre also deals with human trafficking. Also, Andi witnessed Flash using his Venom symbiote during school.
Our story begins with Flash angrily wheeling through the hallways of the school he works at. Reporter Katy Kiernan walks up to our main character and simply says the word, “Venom,” which quickly stirs him. She reveals that she’s interested in talking about Toxin and Venom’s battle in the school earlier, not inferring that he’s Venom himself. Our main character prevaricates her by saying that he knows nothing and, before leaving him, Kiernan gives him her card and offers to go for a drink some time.
When Andi approaches him, she asks if Kiernan was his girlfriend. “You were eavesdropping. You know perfectly well she’s not my girlfriend,” Flash snaps. She clarifies that it seemed like they knew each other but didn’t admit it, but Flash quickly brushes it off.
Later, while beating up a bunch of thugs as Venom, Flash is angry that Kiernan is targeting him for her next exposé. “These guys pay the price for that,” he thinks. He figures that they still deserve it for kidnapping people and forcing them to work. Venom orders the victims to leave and begins interrogating a criminal as to Lord Ogre’s whereabouts. Sadly, the thug passes out and backup shows up, which Venom quickly subdues.
Our hero is caught off-guard when he is slashed by a shield, though. The evil versions of Captain America, Spider-Man, and Hawkeye from ASM #367, Death-Shield, Blood Spider, and Jagged Bow reveal themselves. (Gotta love the 90’s.) Venom asks, “Has anyone ever told you… Pretending to be super heroes is dangerous business?”
As soon as the battle begins, our hero is disturbed when Jagged Bow shoots explosive and sonic arrows at him, weakening the symbiote. After being attacked, Venom tells Blood Spider that only one “knock-off wall-crawler” is allowed in Philly and prepares to beat him with a spikey symbiote ball. Death Shield hits Venom in the rear when Venom thinks of the idea to use these villains to track Ogre.
Venom is fooled that he has the advantage after throwing Jagged Bow and Death Shield together, but is electrocuted by a new villain in the mix, Constructor! A mime-looking guy who Venom figures has a name that contains word “death jumps to watch Venom crippled in agony. Then, all the villains begin fighting over who gets to finish and take in Venom. While everybody is clashing with each other, our hero escapes.
As Venom swings away, he figures that Lord Ogre has “heavy muscle on the payroll” and he’s “feeding me just enough bait to keep me eating my way up the line.” He figures that he’ll need intel and calls Katy Kiernan to set up a meeting.
Soon in a parking complex, Venom confronts Kiernan over how she’s been questioning people about him. Katy explains that her bosses wanted a reporter to “poke around” in his business, and reassures that she’s loyal to him. Anyways, if she wanted to know his secret identity, she already would. Venom divulges that he needs her help and they needs to work quickly because he already has a contract on his head.
Later at Lord Ogre’s Penthouse, Ogre is holding a conference for tons of assassins over the contract on Venom’s head. He says, “Some might say that sending so many assassins against one man is overkill” but, in his opinion, “overkill is a teacher.” The crime boss explains that he wants to make this “would-be bogeyman” fear. This arouses one assassin that we’re all very familiar with. “I think I’ve got a bit of an edge over these yahoos. After all… It takes a bogeyman to kill a bogeyman,” Jack O’ Lantern rants.
This is the second issue of Bunn’s new street-level status quo for Venom and I remain as impressed as I was with the first. To me, Venom’s always worked best as an anti-hero beating up gangs and organized crime and that’s exactly what Bunn gives us. It’s nice to see that Bunn has finally stopped with the crazy sci-fi, mystical, and horror stories to go back to what makes Venom interesting.
This issue works pretty well to advance Venom’s mission against Lord Ogre that began last issue. Ogre brings out the “big guns” and puts a bounty on Venom’s head, leading to the return of Jack O’ Lantern. I’m a bit unsure as to how Jack will play into all of this; I thought he was done after Remender’s terrific Venom (Vol. 2) #22 and Bunn certainly can’t top that story. Still, with Ogre calling for all assassins to come out of hiding, I’m interested who will come out and what the crime boss has planned next.
While I really enjoyed this issue, I’m not exactly wild about the return of Katy Kiernan. Cullen Bunn really seems to be milking Kiernan’s character for all it is; she’s just a typical reporter everybody sees so much of in movies and on television. Bunn obviously didn’t really think Katy’s character out and, while I’m happy to see that Flash’s personal life is finally getting attention, I think any other character the writer creates could take her role satisfactorily.
With the return of Kiernan and Jack, people may miss the reappearance of the villains we’ve waited 20 years for… Blood Spider! Jagged Bow! Death Shield! As an avid 90’s fan, the return was overall very satisfying. My minor complaint is that Bunn expounded the villains as “big guns” and matches for Venom, even though we all know that they’re anything but. Still, it’s Blood Spider, guys! I’m not the only one who read that throw-away issue!
I think my only problem with this story is that I’m left waiting for some depth to be added to Flash’s character. The human trafficking situation seemed like it would give him a subject that he could really contemplate, but that isn’t really present here. Maybe I’m asking a bit too much of Bunn for some interesting characterization…
Lastly, the word I would use to describe Kim Jacinto’s art is bizarre. The art is so eccentric and chaotic that you almost can’t stop looking at it. There are so many tones and lines everywhere that it’s enticing. Looking over it, though, I found the beginning sequence excessively dark, but the shadowy art works well with the long action scene. Loughrige’s bright colors also add disorder to the pencils.
This was an interesting issue that maintains the street-level status quo began last issue. I can't give it any more than an average rating because of the return of Katy Kiernan and lack of character depth, sadly.