There's a handful of books from Marvel which get me legitimately excited before turning to the first page and VENOM is absolutely one of them. I wasn't the biggest fan of the whole mystical side of things the series previously went through, but this latest story seems like writer Cullen Bunn read my mind and is delivering exactly what I want. Venom against an army of hired goons? It's not exactly the most original concept, but it sounds gloriously fun to me, and thankfully, it's fairly awesome thus far.
In this issue, Bunn decides to shine the spotlight mostly on Andi. Prior to this, she felt really one-dimensional. She was your cliche goth with nothing special about her. This chapter focuses on her relationship with her corny yet caring father and makes some big changes to her life. If you've read the solicits, then you know there's some massive developments being made and it certainly makes a nice addition to Flash's current mindset. Speaking of his current mentality, this issue also jumps into Katy Kiernan's involvement. As of right now, it's simply hooking Venom up with more contacts and not adding a whole lot to the story, but it seems safe to say she'll play a bigger role down the road when it comes to his identity and whether or not it'll remain a secret.
The decision to reintroduce Jack O'Lantern had me down the middle. On one hand, we've already seen plenty from the character and he's had more than enough time dedicated to him in this series. This story should open the door to bringing brand new villains into Venom's life instead of a "been there, seen that" villain. But on the other hand, they do indeed have a strong history and this could make for a more emotional rematch, and that's precisely what Bunn delivers. I won't lie, Jack's an amusingly twisted character, especially with the bloodthirsty little dolls by his side ("We wuv when they bweed!") and despite my initial concerns, his reappearance was quite enjoyable and absolutely the biggest selling point of this issue.
Kim Jacinto's art is mind-blowingly good when it comes to Flash being in the symbiote and engaging enemies. It's really rough around the edges and grittier, but it totally works for the book's tone and the combat looks stellar. Whether Venom is just standing around or flipping and shooting through a plethora of ninjas, the costumed panels rock. And when the symbiote begins to take over? Man, it's magnificent. Additionally, Jack and all of his diabolical weapons appear every bit as freaky as they should. Jacinto simply kills it when it comes to the symbiote and Jack. Throw 'em together in a fight and the result is a slew of fantastic panels. I have no idea how long this illustrator plans to be on the book, but I can tell you right now, I'll never get tired of looking at Jacinto's take on Venom and his enemies.
As you can tell from "The Good," I really dig the artwork when it comes to Flash being in the symbiote and the battles. But when there isn't a symbiote or costumed villain around, close ups on human faces are really, really rough. The shading and lines used to convey detail almost make it look like Andi's father has stitches on his face -- it's just a tad overboard for me. Also, the opening establishing shot looks like a movie set and not an actual city. There's no real depth to the environment and the building just seems like a cardboard wall. Yes, this complaint only applies to one panel, but it's the very first one you'll set your eyes on.
The death of Andi's dad felt a bit forced to me. I get Venom was slightly injured, but that totally pales in comparison to the other stuff he's endured over the series. Sure, it's still emotional and the captions are good, but I feel like Venom COULD have saved him. I mean, he had time to yell "Leave them alone! This is between you and me!" So, why couldn't he lunge at the villain? Or focus the symbiote to pull on his legs? It just seems like Venom was downplayed in that moment just so we can have a scene that'll likely serve as a motivator for Andi.
Minor gripe: How'd Venom not see Jack on the rooftop? It seems like he's heading in roughly the same direction and considering there's a price on his head, I imagine he'd be observant while out.
VENOM #38 pretty much delivers what I wanted: more of Venom facing a sea of villains, deliciously gritty artwork whenever he's in the costume, and Andi is finally fleshed out and some major developments are made with the character. Seeing only glimpses of Venom fighting Lord Deathstrike and Constrictor feels like an abrupt tease, but what comes later makes it totally understandable why Bunn needed to limit the panels for those fights and it's well worth it. This may not be the best issue yet and I do have my complaints, but it's still a great dose of fun and something you should absolutely purchase.