Venom (Vol. 2) #38

Background

Lately in Venom, our hero has been taking down the operations of Lord Ogre, a crime lord specializing in drug distribution and human trafficking. Venom has teamed up with Katy Kiernan to halt the crime lord. In response to our hero's acts, Ogre has put a bounty for assassins on Venom's head, which has attracted none other that his old combatant...Jack O' Lantern!

Also, Flash's student, Andi, is onto his secret identity.

Story Details

  Venom (Vol. 2) #38
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Publisher: Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief: Axel Alonso
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor: Sana Amanat
Assistant Editor: Dan Lewis
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Lee Loughridge

In Philly, Andi’s father greets his daughter morning and asks what she’s having for breakfast, to which she replies, “While this may look like a colorful box of sugary cereal, it’s really a colorful box of eggs benedict, Belgian waffles, and fresh fruit.” He takes the cereal to pour himself a bowl, disappointed that there is no toy.

Soon, Andi’s father identifies that she’s being bothered by something. She explains that she knows the secret of somebody at her school, but doesn’t quite know what to do about it. Sadly, her father says secrets tend to hurt people, and, when he mentions Andi’s mother, apologizes about not giving great fatherly advice.

Later at the park, Katy Kiernan is playfully disappointed when she finds that Venom’s disguised himself as an old lady. “A big, bad Agent Venom walking around like old Mother Hubbard,” she jokes. He replies that he must remain disguised since Ogre’s got a bounty on his head. Kiernan suggest our hero gives the assassins “something to go after” because “the last thing you want is a bunch of directionless killers roaming Philly.” She convinces Venom to cheer up because she has the “resources” to take his operation “to the big leagues.”

Soon, Venom and Kiernan continue in their mission to establish Venom’s “own network” of informants and spies. He decides that working as a lone wolf hasn’t been working for him, and he’s tired of the bad guys holding all the cards. Venom resolves that he will diverge from the traditional hero’s techniques, such as Spider-Man, and spread his eyes and ears throughout Philly. “Philly is my host organism…and I’m the symbiote.”

After thwarting the assassination attempts of many B-list villains, Venom finds himself surrounded by ninjas. He throws a grenade, taking out a few of the stealthy warriors. Our hero thinks, “I can’t wait to see what’s next,” as Jack O’ Lantern looks on from a rooftop.

Meanwhile, Andi’s father gets “worked up” as they’re watching Wheel of Fortune. After explaining that he’s been watching the show since before she was born, Andi suggests he puts it on his resume. Our gothic teenager leaves her apartment and walks to Flash’s to talk, knocking on the door.

Andi doesn’t quite receive the response she anticipates when Jack answers the door instead of Flash, telling her he needs to “leave our crippled friend a message”…in her blood! Our gothic teenager scurries away as Jack and his demon-dolls follow. He rants, “Gonna give you the full-service mutilation treatment!”

Frantically, Andi enters her apartment and tells her father to dial 911. It’s too late. Jack bursts in and tells Andi’s father to “choke out a blessing before I start slicing.” Luckily, Venom appears, toppling the villain. When our hero threatens to kill Jack, he belches fire at and slices him. Jack prepares to “see if those fancy duds of [Venom’s] can regrow a head” but Andi’s father halts him.

Our villain hits Andi’s dad to the ground and brings up Flash’s father saying, “Bet he wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help his own kid…let alone a complete stranger…” Jack’s still furious about his “father,” Crime Master, being killed by Venom, so he decides to stab and kill Andi’s.

“Gotta expand the familial psychosis footprint, after all,” the crazy villain rants before Venom slams him into the wall. In response, Jack chucks chomping teeth-projectiles at our hero, momentarily occupying him. He explains that he would have come at Venom, bounty or not, and suggests he donates the reward to “an orphan’s fund.”

Jack throws down some poison gas, and to save Andi, Flash sends tendrils of his symbiote to act as a filter for her. Something completely unexpected occurs, though, when a separate part of the symbiote attaches itself to Andi!

General Comments

With this issue, Bunn certainly stepped it up in terms of danger. The stakes in Venom haven’t really been tremendous since the last big arc, The Savage Six, and that’s changed here with the introduction of Jack O’ Lantern. While I have a few problems, this overall plotline satisfied me with the twist and character development that I’ve been waiting so long for.

Let’s start with my biggest compliment of the story: Bunn writes some wonderful character development with the few non-action scenes. Andi and her dad’s relationship is explored terrifically. Bunn has successfully worked with Andi’s character to make her a bit relatable and less sufferable as she has been written. Of course, it’s a bit disappointing to see her father killed so soon after his introduction, but it was an effective gimmick for the story.

I thought Jack’s introduction was handled impressively. The one-liners are all top-notch for his introduction. The whole kill-people’s-fathers-because-my-father-was-killed motivation picks up right where Rick Remender left Venom (Vol. 2) #22. Still, I’m leery that Bunn’s reintroduced Jack, especially because there is no imaginable way he could top the character’s last story. My fears are unjustified so far, luckily.

The twist, of course, is at the end when Andi is possessed by a portion of the Venom symbiote. Of course, she’s going to use it to avenge her father, but it’s going to be interesting where she goes from there. Undoubtedly, Flash is going to feel guilty, and if Bunn plays his cards right, this may turn into a great story about responsibility for him.

My few problems boil down to this: First, I’m a bit tired of Bunn writing scenes Venom battling random B-listers to fill space in the story. As far as plot advancement goes, it does very little. Second, I still don’t like Katy Kiernan. Third, how come Andi obtained part of Flash’s symbiote if parts cannot break from the main symbiote without dying? (This last one was a complaint I had when I first read this, but it doesn’t quite qualify because it’s explained later.)

Jacinto’s artwork is absolutely schizophrenic. There are so many crazy lines and tones everywhere; it’s actually enticing to look at. That is, except for the character scenes. Jacinto’s good at loud and chaotic fight pages, but when characters are simply talking he seems to have trouble. For example, in the first two-page scene with Andi and her father, the emotions are poorly expressed and the hatching on their faces is crazy.

Overall Rating

Great character work, an interesting twist, an excellent reappearance of Jack. I would give it 4 webs, but the art's poor when it comes to character scenes.