The Comic Equivalent of a Batter Stepping Up to Home Plate...
Since hearing of the planned run-in between the ("superior") Spider-Man and the (truly superior) Agent Venom, I have been nothing but pumped. Especially after hearing of Venom's ongoing getting cancelled. My hopes could not be higher. By all accounts, Flash Thompson should know something is up, right? He even talks about feeling something is up with Peter (in his solo title) since he never answers Flash's phone calls or returns them. Certainly it would make sense for him to go into NYC and check on his best friend, only to run into SpOck, right?
No, apparently not.
Before I get into the bad, I'll give it this: the issue is good at setting up tension for the rest of this arc. We get to see Parker Industries get off the ground, and we see more development in Otto's an Anna Marie's relationship. We get a mild glimpse of turmoil in the whole Carlie Cooper investigation subplot, and Flash Thompson is portrayed mostly as he should be.
The artwork in this issue didn't work for me. Venom felt too big and boxy, as opposed to the smooth tactical look he should have. I usually like Ramos' work for Spider-Man, but it almost felt like colored sketches here rather than complete refined penciling.
Ok, the bad. First of all, Venom's reason for being in New York makes little to no sense. He gets a call from an ex (who we haven't seen interact with Flash in over, what, 20 issues?) about Crime Master. To be fair, the Crime Master tie-in works with previous Spider-Man events. That isn't the problem, though. The problem is Thompson should have a much more personal reason for being in New York. As I said earlier, it's been hinted at in Venom's pages. It almost feels as though Dan Slott completely ignored the second half of Venom's run by Cullen Bunn.
Not to mention, this issue teases straight away a confrontation between Spider-Man and Venom. You could say we get it, I say it was disappointing. The only justification for how it goes down is based on the events of Superior Carnage, but that's a whole different issue. Flash's responses to Spider-Man make sense, but he still feels like he's being downplayed here.
It may seem like this is a TERRIBLE issue by my descriptions, but in reality it isn't. I had such high expectations going into this that it was far below them. Plus there's my personal love for Agent Venom, who was grievously mishandled here. This is only issue one, and it is, purely and simply, a set-up issue. It feels like one the whole way through. I knew it would be about half-way through it. Perhaps that's what left me more disappointed than anything. It's a solid, decent issue, but as something advertised to be the battle between the new Spider-Man and new Venom, it failed to meet that mark. Still, I am anxiously awaiting the rest of this arc in hopes it will get better.