Marvel’s really stepping up their comic book espionage game. Two of their major talents are writing two of their largest mainstream titles as “mission-of-the-month” type stuff, but fortunately these two guys know exactly how to write more than just a plot — they tell stories. Incidentally, both titles feature minor characters with major powers finding their own voices. Nicely done, House of Ideas.
While Nick Spencer’s Iron Man 2.0 features Jim Rhodes finding his way out of the shadow of his own suit, Rick Remender’s Venom explores Eugene “Flash” Thompson regaining physicality with his. The symbiote that time and again has tangled with his favorite hero is now the source of his powers — that’s gotta be a lifetime subscription of psychological problems to deal with. This month’s issue finds Venom attempting to destroy an Antarctic vibranium station located in the Savage Land, but being chased by the previously long-dead and currently inexplicably alive Kraven the Hunter (a favorite of yours truly).
The issue continues the feel of the first one by being kinetic and action-packed, due in no small part to Tony Moore’s excellent and expressive artwork. The majority of this installment is a violent chase, with Kraven and Venom goring each other with spears and whatever else they can find — just brutaly chunking each other but good. Crimelab!’s colors really augment the art, making the thick, leafy Savage Land appear as unwelcoming and cruel as it’s supposed to be. For fans of violence, fear not: Kraven and Venom bang it out pretty grossily, with lots of green blood and symbiote spillage, and a pyrrhic victory for Flash in a cave full of bats is full of the schadenfreude we’ve come to expect from Remender and Moore’s awesomely mean-spirited work.
Above all, Remender has always demonstrated a talent for emotional resonance, and in this issue he nails it with one deceptively simple scene — Peter Parker and Betty Brant having dinner, which is cross-cut with Kraven eating a giant spider for power. The visual suggestions are exciting and intellectually sound themselves, but the dialogue really drives it home: both don’t know what Flash does when he’s not around: Peter thinks he’s traveling for fundraising and Betty is afraid he might be drinking again. In many ways, what he actually does is worse.
After they discuss Peter’s poor cooking skills, they talk of Flash’s high and low points, all while we see Kraven growing stronger and more determined to destroy his prey. There’s also a fascinating parallel between Hunter and Hunted: Thompson draws power from the “skin” of his hero’s greatest foe, much in the way that Kraven (and other primal hunters) believed that the hides of their conquest gave them power. Messrs. Remender and Moore, I salute you — for what appeared to be a strictly awesome opposition turned out much, much more revelatory of the characters than I previously anticipated.
On first read, Venom #2 appeared to be a solid, if surface-level action comic. However, Remender and Moore have once again proven that any project with their names on it deserves your money and your attention. With this issue, I wholly anticipate that Venom will be one of the most outstanding and satiating mainstream comics on the market. If you’re in doubt, remember — I was also right about Iron Man 2.0.