Review: Venom #1 (AKA – The other guys did it better!)

Written by: Rick Remender

Pencils by: Tony Moore

Most of what Marvel and DC are putting out these days doesn’t interest me. I have gotten on DC a lot in the past few months, but that doesn’t mean I like much of what Marvel is doing. I heaped praise on the debut issue of Spider-Girl a few months back and I’m all ready finished with it. The direction after the first issue was bizarre and uninteresting. There was a different art team in each of the issues. The last straw was the fourth issue with art that rivaled Captain America: Hail Hydra #2 as perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen in a “major” comic book.

I run out of patience extremely fast with comic books. Some of you may be running out of patience with this review, but I’m going to take my time. So skip ahead if you don’t want a little editorializing. At three or four bucks a piece if you give me just one lousy comic I may not come back. My comic reading has become sheer enjoyment of the smallest group of titles and grasping at straws to uncover something else worthy! I’m finding less really is more satisfying. I’m not going to stay around waiting for a book to get good, so what I read better make me want the next issue. The world won’t end if I miss a comic, and my reading pleasure will be heightened if there’s one less mediocre book in the pile.

Amazing Spider-Man #252 (introduction of the black costume) was my first Spidey comic. Over the ensuing years I’ve read Spidey on and off with varying degrees of joy. I haven’t been a regular reader of ASM since I got sick of Straczynski’s run about ¾ of the way through. Having heard about the idiotic break up of MJ and Pete I don’t think you’ll see me come back soon. Especially considering the title’s coming out 3 times a month!

I did try #654.1 a few weeks back since the new take on Venom seemed compelling. Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos put together an outstanding comic. The set up of Flash Thompson in a military operation with the Venom symbiote was refreshing. The premise of Flash being able to link to the symbiote for 48 hours at a time, mixed with the conceit that he could only get “in costume” a total of 20 times lends a neat countdown aspect. Flash is an old school Spidey character but he’s also someone that deserves extra exposure. Thus, I decided to give the series launch a shot.

The original black costume era of Spider-Man are by far my favorite Spidey stories. That out of the way, I’ve never really cared for Venom all that much, especially as a leading character. This is the first time Venom has ever caught my eye. Rick Remender continues the storyline set up in Amazing. Slott and Ramos had a little more fun, Bondian approach than Remender does, though. Remender goes with a downright gritty “war” approach. The story takes place in an Eastern European nation facing ethnic cleansing. Flash drops in, literally, to help UN Peacekeepers (in Iron Man-esque armor) sort out the situation. Remender throws in the Jack O’ Lantern as a sinister first opponent for Flash’s Venom. I give extra credit for tying up the story in one issue but establishing threads for the future.

Humberto Ramos is not my favorite artist, but his work on Impulse fit the series perfectly. At lot of his other work has left me flat, because the story didn’t fit his odd visual style. Ramos’s art for Amazing Spider-Man 654.1 really made the issue pop. Tony Moore’s work as regular artist continues the major tonal shift from the 654.1. I liked Moore’s work on the early issues of The Walking Dead and Fear Agent, so this should have been a selling point. The action is very well rendered. Moore’s Venom and Jack O’ Lantern are out of sight, but some of the “mundane” character work didn’t do it for me. I found the book cramped and some panels lacked detail. The action sequences were well executed, so the art is teetering on edge of good/mediocre.

All told, I did prefer the slightly lighter tone offered by Slott’s script. It’s odd that the premise was established for the “New” Venom with the .1 issue, but the creative team switch means a very different tone and artistic style. In the end, this is a pretty good comic, meaning I will give the second issue a chance. The clock’s not just ticking for Flash; the entire creative team better up their game fast!

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