We all saw this coming as soon as Flash Thompson put on the Venom symbiote – he was gonna lose control and the slobbering goo-monster was going to go apeshit. That's what happens in Venom #3, and it couldn't come at a worse possible time.
It seems Flash's girlfriend (if she is that, since she shut the door on him because she was convinced he hit the bottle again) Betty Brant has been abducted by Jack O'Lantern at the behest of someone called The Crime-Master – complete with an army of henchmen called, well, The Henchmen (masked to look like Jack Skellingtons) – and they're blackmailing Flash into being their delivery boy for a contraband shipment. Pushing emotional buttons is never good for controlling the nutty alien blob, and it's even worse when the host is ragged after slogging through a fight with Kraven for days and has pushed the limits of safe Venom use. Get Spider-Man involved and all bets are off on trying to get the monster to behave.
Rick Remender seems to like to deal with the darker crazies, judging by his trudging through the dark underbelly of superherodom in Uncanny X-Force and his zest for making Venom go berserk and turning Jack O'Lantern into a particularly scary villain. And check out that cover image up there, will you? Tom Fowler's doing a fantastic job on the art chores here. Jack looks positively sinister in the best way, and his kinetic work with Venom losing his mind and all coherency while beating the snot out of things really brings home the insanity of what's going on. There's a panel that's almost a throwaway, where Venom is swinging desperately to find Betty, but to a kid clutching a teddy bear watching him zip by, he's a hulking freaky-looking thing, the monster under his bed given form. A brief nod to the kinds of nightmares kids in the Marvel universe probably have.
Sure, people might bag on this new series because Flash's version of Venom looks a lot like Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe, but he's hardly got a patent on covert op soldiers dressing in black. Still looks cool, and Flash Thompson has always been something of an emulator anyway. The Crime-Master is a pretty awful name, but a suit and a fedora will go a long way towards making amends for it. His affable and pleasant style of bastardry makes for an entertaining read as he wrenches around Flash's emotions, betting he won't report to his superiors that someone knows his identity because he'd risk losing the job, the suit and the ability to walk. Thus, Venom's in his pocket.
But as predictable as Venom's antipathy towards Spider-Man is, the thing's still a nutjob, and that ain't predictable at all. I've never been a huge fan of Venom in general, but Remender's take on the concept is solid and intense so far, and it's likely going to get darker before there's any light for Ol' Flash.