Last issue, Venom defeated the U-Foes but their dangerous technology is still on the streets of Philadelphia. Flash decided to move to Philly for a change of scenery from NYC and protect the City of Brotherly Love!
In Philadelphia, PA, a group of workers finish carrying Flash’s boxes into his new apartment. A worker asks Flash if he has anybody helping him unpack, he replies, “Nope, I’m on my own. But don’t worry. I’ll put everything in easy-to-reach cabinets.” He tells him that he’s messing with him and they leave.
When Flash begins to feel lonely, he hears a neighbor irritably ranting about how he cannot get any sleep outside. Flash greets the guy and apologizes for the racket, but the neighbor yells, “Don’t think that @#$%#@% chair is gonna earn you any slack from me.” He slams the door in Flash’s face and a retro-gothic (or whatever you call her style) Asian girl informs Flash that Mr. Fricks is always yelling about something. Flash greets her and explains that he’s been hired into the P.E. department at West Philly High. She leaves, saying she has places to be.
Before in NYC, Flash walked away from the theater with Peter Parker (before ASM 700). Flash said that the action movie they had just seen was his favorite because the good guy won. Peter notified Flash that nobody would be angry at him if he chose not to move, but his mind was already made up. They shook hands for a last time and Peter tod Flash to stay out of trouble.
At night in Philly, Venom is doing the exact opposite of what Peter said, looking for trouble by patrolling. Flash decides that he hates watching because it’s boring and he feels like a “peeping tom creeper.” He reveals that you get to see the worst of people, but he finds the bad nights to be fun. Venom subdues a thug who was preparing to assault a lady. When the lady walks by a wall that bears a missing poster for Walter White, she finds Venom with the man captured in his tendrils. He orders her to hurry home and swings off with the man.
Soon, at another part of town, Venom throws the thug to the floor and grabs him by the neck. Flash decides that he needs to keep Venom’s existence in Philly secretive in case somebody puts two and two together. The thug begs to not be killed and Venom threatens to eat his brains if he doesn’t turn himself in. When the gangster flees for the police, Flash thinks about how he could have broken every bone in his body, but didn’t because he has a new heroic philosophy to be better.
Before his move in the Rose Manor Wellness Center, Flash asked his mom if she felt better, but she revealed that the nightmares and anxiety was worse than ever. She couldn’t go to sleep without seeing the symbiote. (Actually, the demon takes control of Flash’s body at night and terrorizes her.) Flash explained that he wasn’t abandoning her; he promised to visit her frequently. He reminded his mom that the monsters couldn’t hurt her anymore.
In Philly, a gang of thugs discuss how there are stories of people disappearing off the streets. A kid doesn’t want to join their gang because of it and a thug holds him down. When the Crime Lord smacks a kid, a figure approaches them from the shadows. It clobbers them with chain whips and says, “I have claimed these streets as my domain! And you trespass the realm of Hail Mary! The Mother Superior of Judgment!” The figure is revealed to be wearing red robes and chains. The goons are frightened and bolt away.
Once they’re gone, Hail Mary begins to laugh and transform, revealing that it is really Venom in disguise. Flash is obviously entertained and marks his first night of patrol as a win. Back in his apartment, Flash decides not to take his meds from the Avengers because he has the symbiote “on a tight leash.” He figures that he needs to make a schedule to manage his job and crime-fighting.
Before his move, Flash was sitting at a coffeehouse and revealed that he had set a date with Betty but she didn’t show up. So, he left her a message saying goodbye.
Back in Philly, Flash is woken from his sleep by a knock at his door. Surprised, he finds that all of his boxes are unpacked. When Flash answers the door, two police ask him if he heard any disturbances while he was asleep. They inform him that his grumpy neighbor, Robert Hicks, had a home invasion and has been hospitalized. Flash tells him that he knows nothing about it, but he knows that the symbiote must have done it while he was sleeping.
In NYC, a hooded figure knocks at Flash’s apartment door. An old woman appears from a nearby apartment and informs the man that he moved to Philly. The man removes his hood and reveals himself to be Eddie Brock. Brock says, “I just hate that he skipped town like that…without so much as a goodbye for his ol’ pal Eddie.”
Venom #31 is a depressing, dull issue that doesn’t exactly feel like the new status quo story that it is. The story starts out very sad with Flash alone and being yelled at by his neighbors. Then, in a series of low flashbacks, Flash reflects on his goodbyes to his mother, Peter, and Betty. Betty’s goodbye is the melancholiest, followed by his mom’s morally antagonizing goodbye. The large panels with lots of empty space add to the melancholy mood. The only part where the depressing tone ceases is the joke with Hail Mary, which I must admit was pretty funny.
Now that Flash has moved to Philly, it calls for a new status quo change! This should be exciting! But…that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Unless the status quo is depression, which would make sense in this case. Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I’ve always believed that status quo changes should be interesting and amusing. These types of issues really have to be treated like a #1 issue, like the Marvel NOW! line. Not only that, but Philly is represented and explored poorly. Other than a few Philly references, (I didn’t really quote them in the review, but there was Breaking Bad, Always Sunny and a cop show) you wouldn’t really know where Flash had moved. Of course, this is nothing new.
Otherwise, not much happens. While not much happened during this issue, it was still entertaining in ways. Flash’s narration is pretty good but there is a part where he refuses to take his meds. This goes against his entire internal conflict against the symbiote by practically submitting to it. It wasn't completely out-of-character; just a minor glitch.Though, I do like the subplot of the symbiote/demon running loose when Flash is asleep. It’s nice to see the supporting cast show up again, which hasn’t occurred in three months. Bunn navigates through the present and past well; the past always leading into the present. The action itself is probably the highlight of the issue even though it’s simple gang-busting.
As I explained in my review of Venom (Vol. 2) #22), Declan Shalvey is an artist who needs to be accurately used for his art to look good. Remender pulled it off in his finale and Shalvey’s work was beautiful. Sadly, Bunn does the opposite here. He gave Shalvey a script that called for an uninteresting panel layout, which forced him to do many wide panels that spread across the page for simple head-shots. Therefore, much of the art looks empty and gloomy. There is also some very odd shading in the wrong places, which adds EVEN MORE to the depressing tone. While the drama is drawn dully, Shalvey’s art looks good during the action.
I give it 3 webs. When I originally read it, I was going to give it four, but the depressing tone and misrepresentation of Philly drops it a web. It's still a somewhat interesting issue with good narration by Flash. (There is a small character glitch, though.) Shalvey's art wasn't used right, but the action looks good.