A Fan’s Farewell and Retrospective to Longest-Running Venom Comic Book Series | Fanboys Anonymous

A Fan’s Farewell and Retrospective to Longest-Running Venom Comic Book Series

Posted by Orion Petitclerc Friday, October 25, 2013
It's not easy being a fan of anything—doubly so if you're a Venom fan. We Venomaniacs (as I like to call Venom and general symbiote fans) have been through more disappointments and heartbreaks than we're credited for. Those who are general symbiote fans—people who follow anything and everything Marvel symbiotes (those living puddles of goo, like from Spider-Man 3)—suffer from becoming lost in the ever-expanding and changing cast of symbiote characters. Let's not forget about those poor Eddie Brock fans (among whom I count myself) and his continuity's constant manhandling by the myriad writers for the past 25 years. But we all carry on loving our Venom and symbiotes (even when Marvel goes and makes the Superior Carnage, *shiver*).

Expectations, excitement, and anxiety soared upon the announcement of a new ongoing Venom comic book series by Rick Remender (w) and Tony Moore (a), promising a new kind of Venom and a new host after 6 years under the torment of fan-hated host MacDonald Gargan—formerly and once again Spider-Man's long-time nemesis, the Scorpion. I, for one, didn't mind Mac-Venom during his run—I embrace each and every symbiote host, good, bad, or ugly—but even I longed for the good ol' Venom: Lethal Protector days when Eddie still wore the suit. What came in 2011 either blew away expectations or shattered childhoods, according to who you talk to.

Read Venom #27 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
In the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #654 a back-up story by Dan Slott (w), Paulo Siqueria (a), and Ronan Cliquet (a) titled "Rebirth" debuted Eugene "Flash" Thompson—Peter Parker's once high school bully turned best friend and avid Spider-Fan—as who would become one of the most popular symbiote hosts: Agent Venom. Fan reaction was grim and mistrusting in Agent Venom's early days, and many—including myself, to some degree—pined about the militaristic approach to our favorite character. Many to this day still refuse to accept Flash as Venom, but the character has grown to become almost as big of a cult favorite character as the original Venom. It's easy to measure Agent Venom's ever-increasing popularity: he received his own Marvel Select action figure just months before Eddie (not counting the Ultimate version), will receive his own Marvel Legends figure before Eddie, and will make his debut in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man television series before Eddie (Venom debuted in season one, but bonded to Harry Osborn). Additionally, many speculate Flash's iteration of the character would be an ideal and probable candidate for the promised Venom spinoff film.

Agent Venom enjoyed a moderately and relatively successful career: in addition to his main title, Flash joined the Secret Avengers for a short stint resulting in one of the hottest romantic pairings with the Valkyrie of Asgard (which was later revisited in the also-cancelled Fearless Defenders series); threw down with Carnage (the Venom symbiote's spawn, bonded to psychopathic Cletus Kasady) twice in both Carnage U.S.A. and the Minimum Carnage crossover; and was recruited into the Red Hulk's Thunderbolts—the latter of which is probably not the best example of success measured by fans, however (but still…).

Like all good things, though—and all things Venom—Agent Venom's adventures in his main title came to a sad end. Marvel's November 2013 solicitations, which were released in August, omitted any sign of a new Venom title. Not but a week after, Marvel and final Venom writer Cullen Bunn officially announced the series' cancellation after its 42nd issue. The news hit us all pretty hard, but it's not like we didn't see it coming: Venom's sales had always been in a constant state of decline and had enjoyed only a handful of increases during crossovers before returning to freefall.

Despite the sad news, many Venomaniacs—including myself and the series' writers—take pride in the longevity of the little series that could. Agent Venom's series is the longest-running Venom title in the character's history (47 issues total!), with Daniel Way's 2003–2004 Venom 18-issue miniseries coming far behind in second place. To commemorate the success of Agent Venom, please join me in a retrospective of Venom from 2011–2013.

WARNING: Major spoilers afoot! Read at your own risk!

AMAZING BEGINNINGS

Flash's journey as Agent Venom began, as I mentioned before, in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #654, in which we were introduced to his first supporting cast of characters: girlfriend Betty Brant (of Daily Bugle fame) and the operators of Project Rebirth 2.0—a secret U.S. military agency structured after the first Project Rebirth, which created Captain America back in World War II. Flash enlisted in Project Rebirth 2.0 to become America's next super soldier by bonding with the Venom alien symbiote, which was forcibly acquired from its previous host (Gargan).

Read Amazing Spider-Man #654 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Being a wounded veteran of the war in Iraq, Flash saw this as a second chance to serve his country, and the symbiote provided him not only the means to do so but also the legs he lost in his line of duty. The initial Agent Venom design by Moore (though drawn by Siqueria and Cliquet in this issue) featured a black ops design while retaining some of the signature Venom parts, including the white spider emblem on the chest and back, white-rimmed goggles, and white patches on the backs of his gloves. The story also set up a time limit of 20 missions to Agent Venom's career to avoid permanent bonding between Flash and the symbiote. Project Rebirth 2.0 would attach and detach the symbiote to Flash's body utilizing a sonic purge device for each mission and reserved the use of a potentially fatal failsafe explosive implant in the symbiote in the case that Flash lost control of it.

Read Amazing Spider-Man #654 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
I really do miss the multi-gun...
There were a couple cool features introduced in this issue that were later forgotten about completely or left unaddressed. First, Flash was equipped with a cool piece of tech weaponry that I believe really fit Agent Venom's character: the multi-gun. Essentially, it's an all-purpose projectile weapon that adapted to the ammunition type it was fed, sort of in the way the symbiote adapts to its environment. So really, Agent Venom needed only one weapon throughout his career; but it seems that, somewhere along the line, Remender had forgotten about the multi-gun. Additionally, Slott had hinted at a Venom host between Gargan and Flash by the name of Cal Henriksen, against whom Project Rebirth was forced to use the failsafe device and then learned that it had the potential to kill the host. This is a plot thread I believe will probably never be revisited beyond Venom.

Agent Venom's second appearance followed in the "Flashpoint" feature story in Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 by Slott and Humberto Ramos (a), in which he conducted his first real mission (second when counting the training/synchronization testing in the previous issue). This issue set up a particularly interesting and different espionage angle to the character, giving the story a James Bond feel to it (Remender liked to call Agent Venom, "00Venom"). This angle, however, was almost never used again in the Venom series—at least, to me, Agent Venom's adventures didn't have that feeling.

Read Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!

Agent Venom's design was also slightly altered from his initial one: in Amazing Spider-Man #654, his costume featured a lot of white trimming around certain pads and armor pieces. In this issue, we got a darker design, leaving only the essential white details to distinguish the character as Venom (the aforementioned features); also, Agent Venom's armor carried a significant amount of weight to it compared with the previous issue, giving him more of a militaristic feel. This issue set up two key themes that would resonate later on in the Venom series as well. First, we got to see early on how Flash and Peter Parker's secrets clashed, creating an underlying rivalry that is essential to Venom's character and would later result in the best friends clashing in their superheroic alter egos (albeit they don't know each other's secrets).

Read Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Did Flash not pass the psyche evaluation?
Hoo-boy...
Additionally, #654.1 introduced the conflict between Flash and the symbiote that would last until the final issue of Venom. When, during his mission, Flash's symbiote prosthetic legs were blown off, he lost complete control of his emotions, allowing the symbiote to take control and revert to the neo-classic Venom monster form. Flash was able to bring the symbiote under control after massacring the bad guys and was lucky enough to avoid Project Rebirth 2.0 from using the failsafe device due to communication failures.

TOUGHING IT OUT

With the debut of Venom #1 in 2011 also debuted new iterations of two classic Spider-Man foes: Jack O'Lantern and Crime-Master (whose villainous identity wasn't revealed until issue #3). Both would go on to become Flash's greatest foes. In issues #3–4, Agent Venom and Spider-Man faced off for the first time as both sought to save Betty from a grim fate at the hands of Jack and Crime-Master—except Spider-Man mistook Agent Venom, who, at the time, lost control and reverted to his monstrous form, for kidnapping Betty. Also, the failsafe device had been surgically removed in issue #4, thus removing the threat of instant death at the flip of a switch.

Read Venom #4 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
It's just a misunderstanding, I swear!
Issue #5 set up two of the most prominent overarching themes in the series that affected Flash up until the last issue: his struggle with alcoholism and the scars from his relationship with his abusive, alcoholic father—who was at the same time revealed to be dying from kidney failure. Both Remender and Bunn played heavily within these two themes and Flash's desire to emulate his hero—Spider-Man—and made Flash one of the most relatable characters in comics by setting him apart from Parker's supporting cast.

Read Venom #7 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
This was perhaps even more anticipated than Agent Venom vs. Spider-Man.
Issues #6–8 threw Agent Venom and Project Rebirth 2.0 into the chaos of the cross-title event, Spider-Island, during which the citizens—normal and super—suffered a lethal, transformative virus that endowed them with powers akin to Spider-Man's. Issue #7 introduced Agent Venom's third archnemesis in the form of Eddie—who, at the time, was playing the Right Hand of God and became the ultimate hero of Spider-Island as Anti-Venom. Eddie presented himself as every symbiote's greatest antagonist by devoting his life to their annihilation, automatically making the Venom symbiote and whoever played host to it his primary target. Agent Venom just barely won his first encounter with Eddie (almost losing the symbiote when it tried to bond with Eddie again), but it forever intertwined their fates. Issue #7 also saw the death of Flash's father, which would haunt him for many issues to come.

TO HELL AND BACK

After the events of Spider-Island, issue #10 disassembled Project Rebirth 2.0 at the hands of Captain America when he learned of its and Agent Venom's existence. This set up Agent Venom for his solo career for the rest of the series. Issue #11 showed us Eddie after sacrificing his Anti-Venom antibodies to save Manhattan from the aforementioned virus. Though depowered, he still intended to wage his holy war against symbiotes. Remender also revealed Jack's relationship to Crime-Master and a bit of his history in this issue, making one of the most vile and demented villains to ever spawn in comics.

Read Venom: Circle of Four now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Issue #12 reintroduced the Toxin symbiote—the spawn of Carnage—which was later revealed to have been forcibly removed from its original host, Patrick Mulligan, by the demonic Blackheart of Ghost Rider fame. This led Agent Venom to Las Vegas and an evil plot that came to partial fruition in the title's first big event, "Circle of Four," through issues #13, 13.1–4 (that's four books between 13 and 14!), and 14. This event assembled a powerful team-up of some of Marvel's hottest antiheroes to save Las Vegas and the world from becoming the new Hell: Agent Venom, Red Hulk, X-23 (the teenage, female Wolverine clone), and the new Ghost Rider (Alejandra Blaze). It also planted the seeds for the storyline that would eventually end the book, called "The Descent." At the end of "Circle of Four," Agent Venom was invited to join the Secret Avengers for his heroism in Las Vegas and Spider-Island, which spun off into the team's own title series.

Read Venom #15 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Seriously, where did the webbing come from?!
We then revisited Eddie in issue #15 to find him hunting down and killing symbiotes Hybrid and Scream, making his way down his hit list to Agent Venom. A particular panel in this issue also set up a mindboggling mystery fans have been trying to figure out, but was never noted in the comics again: Eddie had somehow created webbing (off panel) to open a furnace and retrieve a heated knife (Note: Eddie no longer possessed a symbiote to create webbing). The issue also saw Betty break up with Flash after an abusive relationship.

SAVAGERY AND EVIL

Issue #17 began the epic showdown amongst Agent Venom and his archnemeses in the five-part "Savage Six" event (mirroring Spider-Man's own history with the supervillain team, the Sinister Six), and bonded Eddie with the Toxin symbiote to become the group's sixth and one of its most deadly members. Crime-Master and Jack assembled a team of D-list villains and revealed Agent Venom's secret identity to mount an attack on Flash's personal life out of vengeance. Agent Venom had to fight to protect those he loved most—Betty and his mother—from the brutality and vicious bloodlust of the killers, eventually being forced to reveal his secret to Betty. Broxin (as Venomaniacs lovingly refer to Brock-Toxin) mentioned a mysterious plot thread called the "Spawning" as he attacked Agent Venom in issue #18 that is again hinted at later on in the series but never saw the light of day. (Bunn mentioned building up to a "war of the symbiotes" in an afterword in #42 that he had planned to publish in the book—perhaps this was the final form of the "Spawning".)

Read Venom #21 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
In issue #20, Crime-Master revealed his identity as Bennett Brant—Betty's deceased brother reborn into a legacy of crime bosses. Betty accepted that her brother had died many years before and killed Crime-Master to save her ex-boyfriend in issue #21. After a brief exchange with Flash, Betty permanently wrote herself out of the series by saying she never wanted to see him again. Issue #22—Remender's final Venom book—tied up the "Savage Six" story with a hunt for Jack, who escaped in the fray of the final battle, and featured an emotionally beautiful story called "Father's Day" in which Flash finally had time to cope with his father's death and his personal problems. It cemented Jack's hatred for Flash for killing his illegally adoptive father (Crime-Master, as revealed in #11) as well. The book's artist, Declan Shalvey (who would later return to illustrate the pages of the Minimum Carnage tie-in and the "Toxic" arc) also defined Agent Venom's design for the remainder of the series, bringing a rough edginess to Agent Venom 2.0.

Read Venom #25 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Well isn't this the most random bunch
of giant demonic monsters you've
ever seen?
Bunn took over as the title's last writer in issue #23, diving headfirst into "The Descent" with his "Monsters of Evil" story, in which he started to build Flash's new supporting cast with inquisitive reporter Katy Kiernan (who debuted in the Spider-Man: Season One graphic novel) and Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. During this story arc, Hellstrom revealed Agent Venom's part in a power struggle for the throne of Hell. The symbiote became possessed by a demon before Flash confronted Hellstrom's Monsters of Evil—an assembly of ancient, mythical, possessed creatures—and brought him to justice. Hellstrom then made a deal with Agent Venom that, while he was imprisoned, he would advise Flash on matters of the Descent.

Read Minimum Carnage now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Any self-respecting Venomaniac knows
the true worth of this epic variant cover.
After "Monsters of Evil," Agent Venom's book crossed over with Scarlet Spider's (Kaine Parker, Peter's violent clone) in the cross-title mini event Minimum Carnage (taking up issues #26–27 and an epilogue in 27.1). During this event, Carnage escaped prison with the assistance of villains from the Microverse to aid in a plot devised by the Marquis Radu to destroy the Microverse—in effect, destroying the Macroverse as well. In issue #26, Bunn revealed a new tidbit of symbiote nature, which was then followed by Christopher Yost's Microverse history lesson in Scarlet Spider #11: symbiotes had inhabited the Microverse thousands of years earlier, but their very existence corrupted and decomposed the fabric of the Microverse and its god. They had consumed everything and nearly killed the god of the Microverse before they were exiled to the Macroverse. Both Bunn and Yost essentially created a new back-story to the symbiote race to add to their canon. In issue #27, Bunn honored an old symbiote trick that hadn't been seen or used since the "Planet of the Symbiotes" story arc from 1996: the psychic scream, which Agent Venom used to kill his and Carnage's symbiote army.

JOURNEY'S END

Flash coped with the experiences of Minimum Carnage in issue #27.1 and asked himself if he's fit to be a hero, reflecting on his past as a bully—again revisiting his struggles with his father. Realizing that he needed a change in his life, he decided he's going to leave New York City. In issue #28, Kiernan sent him to Philadelphia on a tip of paranormal activity, where Agent Venom went toe-to-toe with the U-Foes alongside his new romantic fling, Valkyrie. After foiling their plans and finding the city in need of a hero, Flash resolved to move to Philly for a new start.

Read Venom #29 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Lucky son of an inkblot...
As Flash settled in at his new apartment in Philly and met the last member of his supporting cast—a student of his high school coaching class and next door neighbor, Andrea "Andi" Benton—Broxin was revealed to have survived his grim fate at the end of "Savage Six" and hot on Agent Venom's tail in issues #30–31. As Flash secretly began his vigilante career in Philadelphia (as to avoid suspicion from Kiernan and anyone else who didn't know his secret) in issue #32, a new breed of monster—dubbed the "Symbiote Slayer" (another mirror to Spider-Man's mythos: Spider Slayers)—emerged from the remnants of the U-Foes' paranormal experiments. Misfortune struck the Symbiote Slayer—who also hunted Agent Venom—when it happened to cross paths with Broxin, and an epic battle ensued in the pages of issue #33 in which also debuted Broxin's design evolution from his Savage Six appearance. Shalvey noted in his interviews that when designing the new Broxin, he was influenced by artists like Mark Bagley and Eddie's physicality as Venom in Lethal Protector, which won widespread approval from Venomaniacs. Despite my reservations for Eddie's new direction, even I have to admit I absolutely LOVE Broxin's new design. Shalvey really knew how to tickle my fancy!

Read Venom #33 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
This was the day everything went RIGHT.
Agent Venom and Broxin finally came to blows in issue #34, proving Broxin to be the superior symbiote (hint-hint, Marvel) in both power and experience. Flash managed to barely escape by using the symbiote sedative for his symbiote (given to him by Secret Avenger teammate, Beast) against Broxin. When Broxin returned for round two at Flash's high school in the middle of the school day in issue #35, they were forced into a temporary alliance as a small group of formidable Symbiote Slayers invaded the campus. Flash managed to avoid revealing his secret in public and struck a deal with Broxin after proving himself a hero in battle, in which Broxin would allow Flash to continue playing hero until the day he loses control of the symbiote, at which point Broxin would kill them both.

The series' final arc began in the following issue. Agent Venom began his war against the mysterious crime boss Lord Ogre, from whom he found much resistance. To deal with Agent Venom, Lord Ogre hired Jack (later revealed to have been a hypnotized employee of the Raft, in which the original Jack still resides) to kill Flash. Jack paid Flash's apartment a visit in issue #38 only to find Andi there, looking to confront Flash about his secret (which he accidentally revealed to her during class in a previous issue). Jack settled to kill Andi, who ran to her apartment and her dad. Jack pursued her but was met with Agent Venom during his attack. Jack managed to kill Andi's father in the fray and was about to kill her with a poison gas pumpkin bomb when Flash extended part of his symbiote to save her. Instead, a new symbiote spawned and took Andi as its host, birthing Agent Venom's new sidekick and responsibility: Mania.

Read Venom #40 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Holy bad-ass sidekick, Venom!
In the following issues, Mania proved herself shockingly more adept at controlling her symbiote than Flash was at his. When news of Hellstrom's death arrived to Agent Venom, he visited Hellstrom's holding cell to find him alive. Hellstrom explained that when Flash was marked for the Descent, he had created clones to send out into the world as a means of exploring every possible avenue of life, and that the Department of Occult Armaments had been hunting down the heirs to Hell's throne (including Hellstrom's clones) and collecting their marks in a usurpation of power. Hellstrom then revealed to Flash that he no longer bore the mark and sensed that it had somehow been transferred.
Read Venom #39 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
Flash guessed right when he returned to Philly just in time to save Mania from the DOA, led by Crossbones, who had interrupted her vengeful attack on Lord Ogre. Mania, Venom, and Lord Ogre confronted the DOA, Lord Ogre fell in battle, and Mania and Venom managed a win against the DOA long enough to travel to a run-down casino in Atlantic City. Flash successfully summoned Mephisto to strike a bargain to remove the mark and demon that had been transferred to Mania, but they came under attack by the DOA once more. Mephisto summoned the Monsters of Evil and gave Mania their reins (previously Flash could control them because of the symbiote's possession, but now Andi was bonded to the possessed symbiote spawn). They managed to defeat the DOA once more, but knew that the DOA would hound Mania as long as she was marked. Agent Venom returned to bargaining with Mephisto, but even after Andi tried to bargain with him, Mephisto declined and faded away, claiming that he still had plans for Mania and that it wasn't Flash who made a bargain for his life back during "Circle of Four" (the four antiheroes had died and were revived by Mephisto at one point): it was the symbiote. The series ended with Flash reassuring Andi that he would help her find a way to remove the mark no matter the cost—juxtaposing his previous unwillingness to become a father out of fear of being like his own against the idea that he would have to be Andi's guardian anyway.

FINAL WORDS

It's really difficult to see a series I'd invested so much time, money, and devotion into simply fade away because of a small detail like money. It really is a small detail, too; I'd figured this series would survive on popularity alone, but sales are sales, and there just weren't enough to keep the book afloat. Slott has his own plans for Agent Venom that will come into fruition soon enough in the pages of Superior Spider-Man, but I don't think we'll ever see Agent Venom as we'll remember him ever again. The future is grim for symbiote fans: the new Superior Carnage has yet to live up to the original Carnage's standards, and there's much dread around Slott's plan to place "Superior" in front of Venom's moniker. We're all hopeful (for those who actually care) that Bunn's teased involvement with future symbiote plans in comics includes Mania, who was originally planned to join his female-centric Fearless Defenders title before it, too, got the ax. Let's not get started on the other lost symbiotes suffering from obscurity (Scorn and the Mercury Team symbiotes, anyone?).

I'm going to take a hint from Bunn and the Venom creators, though, and turn this into a happy ending. Like I said before: this is the longest-running Venom title in the character's history. That's something you can shake a stick at. The series managed to reel back some hope in the Brock fans' hearts. The symbiote's canon had been expanded and improved upon, and Bunn even managed a satisfactory call-back to Way's Venom run in the final issue—and that's a feat all in itself! The writers managed to turn D-listers into A-list superstars. And did I mention the Venom-Mobile? (Nope, but it was fantastically campy!)

Read Venom #36 now on the Marvel Comics App or Comixology!
It eats Spider-Buggies for breakfast.
So it's not the end of the world. Let's hope that Slott will be respectful of Remender and Bunn's work on Agent Venom (let's not hold our breath, however) and that Mania and the other symbiotes will see the light of day in Bunn's upcoming symbiote plans. It was fun while it lasted and will definitely be a treasure in my collection.

If you read a single issue of Venom, or have followed it since issue #1, tell us what you thought of the series and Agent Venom as a character. Tell us what you think will happen next for Flash Thompson and the symbiote. Share your love for that little puddle of black ooze, and leave a comment below!
THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY A GUEST WRITER

If you would like to join the team as a contributor or are interested in sponsoring a post on this website, purchasing an ad, becoming an affiliate, or taking part in any kind of promotional opportunities of the sort, please use this contact form to send us an email and we will get in touch as soon as possible with more information.

0 comments:

 



Subscribe to FA via iTunes and Stitcher

SEARCH THIS SITE

FOLLOW AMT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Stand Up and Share With Us

Follow Fanboys by Email

SUPPORT FANBOYS ANONYMOUS