Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Lan Medina [pencils], Nelson Decastro [inks] and Marte Gracia [colors]
Early on in this series, Jack O’Lantern was established as the arch enemy of the Flash Thompson incarnation of Venom. That rivalry was put on hold during the recent “Spider Island” event, but it picks back up in Venom #10 in a big way.
As far as I can remember from ’80s issues of Amazing Spider-Man to now, Jack O’Lantern has never been much more than a D-lister in the pantheon of Marvel villains — little more than a Goblin wannabe, at best — no matter who was under the pumpkin mask. In this issue of Venom, however, Remender builds on what he’s been doing with the character all year and pushes him to the next level.
The book opens with the funeral of Flash’s father, whose death was a focal point of the last few issues. Lurking in the background at the funeral is the current Jack O’Lantern, sans-costume. If you remember, Lantern discovered that Flash is Venom several issues ago, which obviously makes him a much more dangerous foe. Not only is he creeping at the funeral, Lantern (who was badly burned and disfigured at the hands of Venom) actually approaches Flash and his girlfriend Betty Brant after the service is over, introducing himself to Brant as a veteran that Flash saved during the war.
This is a fantastic, ominous plot point that I haven’t seen done to such great effect since J.M. DeMatteis’ classic Spectacular Spider-Man #200 where Harry Osborn had reverted back to being the Green Goblin and was stalking Pete around the city (FYI, that’s also the must-read issue where Harry originally “died” before being revealed as having never died at all a few years ago).
Anyways, Betty leaves to console Flash’s mother and sister and the Lantern takes Flash to see his boss, who says he has a job for Venom to do…and if he doesnt’ do it, of course, he’ll kill Betty, Flash’s family, and everyone Flash knows. Typical villainous stuff, right?
This of course, means Flash has to get his hands on the Venom symbiote, so he goes to the Project: Rebirth facility…only to find out that Captain America, now in the know about Venom’s use as a government weapon, has shown up to shut the facility down and take the symbiote into custody.
I think you can see where this going…Venom vs. Captain America!
Who isn’t fighting Captain America this month?!
Overall, this is a compelling beginning to this arc. Remender making Jack O’Lantern interesting is good enough alone, but the overall story throws in just enough classic plot devices to make it hard to put down and disappointing that it ends until next month. The artwork is breathtaking, as well, with some of the best panels being close-ups of Jack O’Lantern’s charred, twisted, toothless face.
Until Remender came along with this series, I was fairly sick of symbiotes and Venom. It’s safe to say now that I’m once again really into the Venom character.