On the heels of being the unsung hero of Spider-Island, things haven't been so hot for Flash Thompson. One his heroes, Captain America came calling to shut down the U.S. Military's Venom project, forcing Flash to fight Cap and go rogue so that the Crime-Master won't kill his girlfriend, Betty Bryant.
In Venom #11, writer Rick Remender piles it on ever further as Crime-Master blackmails Flash into retrieving something from Las Vegas alongside his current nemesis, Jack o' Lantern. Meanwhile, Captain America sends one of his most powerful Avengers after Flash as Eddie Brock, the original Venom also joins the hunt for reasons of his own.
Venom has headlined his own comic before, but Remender has created a contrast between Flash and Eddie that reminds us why Flash makes for a stronger protagonist. Aside from being one of Spider-Man's original cast members, Flash has an overpowering urge to be a hero while shouldering the burden of his secrets. He's literally the dark Spider-Man because the Venom symbiote is constantly trying to take control. It's somewhat subdued in this issue, but when Flash thinks about his options to get out from under Crime-Master's blackmail, his thoughts always come back to "kill them all." That has to be the symbiote bleeding into his mind without Flash realizing it.
As for Eddie, in his brief appearance here, Remender sets him back to his crazier Anti-Venom agenda by using the Punisher's M.O.: breakout a s***load of guns. It's actually kind of silly that Eddie is supposedly broke and homeless after his Spider-Island heroics, but he somehow has access to an armory that would make Frank Castle proud.
The best part of this issue is Jack o' Lantern; a villain whom Remender gives one of the creepiest origin stories in a long time. It's basically every parent's worst nightmare brought to life, as Jack suffers a traumatic fate as a young boy before growing up to become completely sick and depraved. Jack also proves to be a chatterbox and some of his rants are pretty darkly hilarious. Jack's spiel about being a hero was particularly funny immediately after he undercuts one of Flash's more heroic rescues.
I've been a fan of artist Lan Medina for years and he doesn't disappoint in this issue. The scarred visage of Jack is horrifying and humorous at the same time, while Medina's human characters are well drawn and distinctive. Medina also aptly handles Jack's calling card for his victims; which is a play on his name. Strangely, Medina doesn't seem to go for gore at the obvious moments, including a headshot and a very unsettling fate for a family and their cat. But there's also a semi-splash page near the end that brilliantly conveys what happened despite being covered in shadows.
Venom #11 is a very strong issue of a series that I haven't been paying enough attention to. That's going to change going forward. I wouldn't have guessed that Flash Thompson could ever hold down his own book under any circumstances. But Remender is proving me wrong.
Crave Online Rating: 8/10