Venom (Vol. 2) #39

Background

After Venom took down many of Lord Ogre's drug/human trafficking operations, the crime lord put a bounty on his head, attracting none other than Jack O' Lantern! The villain attacked Venom's neighbors, Andi and her father, killing the latter. Luckily, Venom managed to save Andi, but in doing so, she became possessed with with part of Flash's symbiote!

Story Details

  Venom (Vol. 2) #39
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, Mike Henderson
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Our story begins with Andi’s response to her new symbiotic self: confusion. Flash thinks to himself, “The symbiote’s not some house-hold appliance. It’s alive. It has a mind of its own. It’s unpredictable. Try as I might, I can’t control it.” Andi finds a tool on the floor and, turning it into a weapon with the symbiote, attacks her father’s killer.

When his helmet is knocked backward, Jack sends demon-dolls at Andi, which she quickly destroy. Our villain turns his helmet back around, only to watch Venom sock him. Andi continues to beat Jack, and Flash decides that he wants to kill Jack, not Andi, because he’s his responsibility.

Suddenly, Andi’s symbiote begins acting up, so Venom restrains her. When Flash looks at Jack, with his helmet shattered, he finds that the man is an imposter! Venom asks who he is, and the fraud replies, “No matter what you do, you’re gonna pay for your sins. We’re Jack, baby--and we’re everywhere!”

The imposter decides to share his story with Flash, explaining that he had once been a nobody, working at a storage facility. One day, he found a “little surprise” that the real Jack, who is still in prison, had left for him in a unit. There were a bunch of demon-dolls, and they hypnotized the man “so Jack’s good work could continue.” “And by ‘good work’ I mean the wholesale slaughter of every banal little lamb who just mewls through the day-to-day grind. And--of course revenge for the senseless murder of my dad,” he rants.

Venom tells Andi that the man’s a victim; he’s been mind-controlled and isn’t in control of his actions. As our hero is educating the gothic student, the imposter grabs his broomstick-glider and flees. The two symbiotic warriors follow the villain, and Flash decides that he must bring the imposter down or he’ll kill as many as the original Jack. But he’s conflicted as to how to do it.

On a rooftop, Flash tells Andi that she cannot follow him, which infuriates her. Our hero stretches his hand in Andi’s direction, falsely assuming he can retrieve the symbiote. Venom’s astonished, thinking, “But it’s just a satellite. A fragment. The bond shouldn’t be…permanent.” Andi tells the hero not to attempt that again, pushing him out of her way. Venom follows the rebellious teenager, amazed at how quickly she adapted to her symbiote.

When Andi stops, she is hit in the back and falls. She finds her assailant to be Constructor, who is accompanied by Jack’s impersonator, the mime-looking villain from Venom (Vol. 2) #37, and a group of ninjas. It’s a trap! Jack led her to the group of Ogre’s assassins! Constrictor is surprised to find Andi isn’t Venom, and Jack tells his fellow villain that he will “allow” him to kill her.

Angrily, Constrictor decides that he doesn’t follow Jack’s orders, won’t hurt a kid, and cannot allow Jack to do so either. Luckily, Venom doesn’t allow the situation time to escalate when he attacks and defeats Constrictor. Andi saves Flash from being sliced by the mime, but Jack’s imposter assaults our hero quickly afterwards.

Venom subdues Jack with his tongue, and watches as Andi lifts the villain by his neck. Flash figures the symbiote’s fueling her anger, “using raw emotion to cement the bond between them…urging her to seal the deal…in blood.” As Andi begins suffocating the murderer with her symbiote, Venom yells, “Don’t do this! You go down this path…there’s no coming back.” Our hero figures that she won’t listen to him, like he has never listened to himself.

Andi halts though, and yells, “This guy doesn’t deserve another second on Earth! Not if my dad doesn’t get one! Why’d you give me this power if you didn’t want me to use it?” Flash explains that he was trying to protect her, but something went wrong. “I do know wearing that suit comes with a cost. If you let me, I’ll shoulder some of the burden with you,” he offers.

Venom continues, “But if you kill him…whether he deserves it or not…you’re on your own. Even if you had the world on your side…you’ll be alone.” To his satisfaction, Andi releases the impersonator. When they hear police sirens, Venom tells her that they’ll figure everything out, but they must “get gone.” The police find the villains all webbed up for them when they arrive.

A while later, Flash resumes his job as a coach, but still doesn’t find things to be back to normal. After her father’s funeral, Andi moved with her Aunt in Jenkintown, but she stays in touch with Flash with untraceable Starkphones or, as he calls them, the “Venom-hotline.” Otherwise, Flash has contacts finding information about Lord Ogre for him, the hired assassins that were arrested have refused to talk, and Jack slipped into a coma soon after being arrested.

Flash thinks about how he asked Andi to “cool…to lay low until I can figure out her…situation.” He doesn’t think she’s honoring the agreement, though, and she isn’t. Our hero is left with questions such as how the new symbiote spawned like it did and how Andi “got up to speed” so quickly. The only person capable of answering the questions is the Venom symbiote, but it’s not talking.

General Comments

While I have been enjoying Bunn’s current story on Venom, I found this conclusion to have a few major problems but it was overall satisfying. The street-level tone was successfully continued and, above all, it feels like Bunn finally has some direction on this title. It’s too bad he didn’t begin his run with this arc because it’s quickly his best.

Mania, the name for Andi’s symbiotic persona, was well-introduced with this issue. I will admit that I don’t like her actual costume at all, but the use of Mania’s character in the story is excellent. Bunn gives Andi depth with her father’s death and her decision to not murder Jack’s imposter. I’m left wondering where Mania will go after this story.

This issue also succeeds in developing Flash’s character. At the beginning of the issue, Flash is concentrated on killing Jack O’ Lantern, but when Andi is about to kill him herself, he halts her. It’s a terrific character moment. Venom realizes his error when he watches another attempt do what he planned on doing himself. Of course, Flash’s change may have been involved with the revelation that the man wasn’t actually Jack, but when he convinced Andi to drop Jack’s imposter, he said, “If you kill him…whether he deserves it or not…you’re on your own.” It’s a very revealing line for Flash.

With the praise behind me, I had two problems with this story. Firstly, I don’t understand why Bunn sent Andi’s character off to Jenkintown if he just introduced her. It seems a bit counter-productive to the story. Second, I was very disappointed to find that Jack O’ Lantern was revealed to be an imposter. If Bunn wanted to bring back the villain, he should have done it right with the actual Jack. The real Jack would have wanted to kill Venom himself instead of ordering an imposter he created to do so.

Oddly, I really enjoyed Jacinto’s art is this issue. The dynamism and chaos of the action is excellent, keeping my eyes locked on the pages. I noticed that the panels are well laid out to lead your eyes down the pages quickly. I feel like Jacinto did his best presenting Mania’s costume, despite Declan Shalvey’s dull design. Henderson’s fill-in pages are solid and they avoid distracting the story with the art change.

Overall Rating

Terrific character work for Flash and Mania, but I was disappointed by where Andi's character is left and Jack's impostor. Jacinto's art is great.