Not to be sound biased, but Rick Remender is the greatest human being on the goddamn planet, due in part to Fear Agent. Remender and pencillers Tony Moore and Jerome Opeña have created a masterpiece in their own right, but their work for Marvel (Franken-Castle, Uncanny X-Force) has also been superlative, and the new Venom ongoing is no exception.
Initially a character I had zero interest in, thanks to the EXTREME RADNESS of the ’90s (and the fact that it seemed he was perpetually surrounded by a splash of foil), Remender and Moore have found a unique use for the symbiote suit I love to hate in their new ongoing, and it couldn’t be more on-point. For one, the host of the suit is now one Eugene “Flash” Thompson, decorated war hero, legless alcoholic, and Spider-Man enthusiast. Crossing one of Spidey’s most dangerous nemeses with one of his biggest supporters is the kind of idea that seems like it would have been done years ago, but Remender has showcased that flair for picking out genius in his other Marvel work.
The first issue features Thompson on an inaugural mission, attempting to find a mad scientist in the middle of a war zone, while a Shadowy Figure commands one-time Punisher victim Jack-O-Lantern to do the same. While Jack-O-Lantern takes the time to kill U.N. Peacekeepers and commit atrocities, Venom uses his powers for good, saving civilians while he tracks his target (multitasking!). Moore’s art is kinetic and expressive and, paired with Remender’s gift for conflict creativity, they provide some amusing scenarios that one might take for granted on first read, e.g, Venom firing machine guns with his symbiotic tendrils while he fires a pistol with his hands — it’s awesome, trust me. Their relationship as creators is clearly razor-sharp, and that strengthens the flow and aesthetic of the issue quite nicely. There is also the clever use of a live grenade and a delightfully cringe-worthy punchline from Thompson (with a hilarious acknowledgement, so it’s okay). And don’t worry — Venom deads Jack-O-Lantern.
As great as the action is, Remender and Moore really hit it out of the park in the last two pages. Out of the suit and freshly chewed out, Thompson goes to see Betty Brant, having forgotten a date they had because he was helping out at the VA center. Rebuffed and run down, Thompson goes out into the cold, wheeling down the street, reflecting on advice from his alcoholic father. As he passes a bar with a wheelchair ramp and an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the top of a flight of stairs, there is a glimpse of the perfect blend of morbid humor and earnest sentimentality that makes Remender’s work so fucking great. While not as mind-blowingly ambitious or mean as Fear Agent (which you should read now, again, and then a third time) Venom #1 is a promising start for what could be a fun series. Don’t be thrown by that cover, though — the ’90s have gone the way of Flash Thompson’s legs. What we have left is just good comics.