Venom: Space Knight is a fine comic, though it finds itself mired in Venom’s complicated history. Venom was complicated enough in the 1990s (when unnecessarily complicated storylines were the norm for Marvel) before the symbiote moved over to Flash Thompson (and even before it was on Mac Gargan, former Scorpion). When combined with Flash’s storied history and their tenure together as an agent for the government, then Secret Avenger, and most recently Guardian of the Galaxy, the bar for entry to this series is pretty high.
Luckily for us intrepid readers, Robbie Thompson’s approach focuses on Flash’s character and allows readers to jump in without much prior knowledge of the character. The story, however, is not especially engaging as Robbie Thompson takes far to much time to explain Flash’s character and situation, enough that it distracts from the overall narrative. Maybe it’s a bit too new-reader friendly?
The issue of Venom: Space Knight is structured around Flash Thompson’s statements at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. Flash’s alcoholism has been an integral part of the character, and Flash has faced his alcoholism alongside other villains at several points in his own series, and likely in Bendis’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Flash’s narrative frame is interspersed with further introduction to Venom’s new role as an “Agent of the Cosmos,” while building on some of the settings from the prior issue, and introducing new elements that will likely take a much stronger place as Venom grows into his role (namely two other “Agents,” also wearing symbiotes—er, “Klyntar.”) In any case, Flash’s continual dueling with the suit is removed from the conflict of this comic, and I think that affords more opportunities for growth, but I think the removal of that element seriously undermines the appeal of the Venom character.
While I appreciate the framing device, I don’t think that it connects with the story in an especially meaningful way. Last issue allowed Thompson to reference and acknowledge Flash’s history with sports and the military, and he continues the character building here. This is an opportunity for the character that has been sorely missed for quite a while now, and even an attempt that doesn’t work shows promise for the future of this series. The concept of an interstellar support group for addictions of all races of aliens is exciting, clever, and touching at once, but it boils down to exactly what I called it earlier: a framing device.
Ariel Olivetti’s art is probably the most divisive aspect of this book. And honestly I’m divided in my own opinion of it. On one hand, his alien designs are great and they continue to look like they’re straight out of the pages of Heavy Metal. On the other, his background are extremely bland and more noticeable in this issue than the one preceding. There’s also a scene with Venom and the Guardians in action that works very well as a spread, or even a poster, but the general stiffness of motion is hard to overlook. I’m not sure if that’s due to some technological limitations from Olivetti’s style or just part of it. In any case, it was particularly noticeable during Venom’s confrontation with a fellow Klyntar in this issue.
Venom: Space Knight is a discordant comic, though I am not prepared to write it off. Olivetti’s art, despite its weaknesses, still resonates with me and my love for interesting space aliens, and any comic that deals with Flash Thompson (yes, even Spider-Island) is enough to keep me reading for at least an arc or two.
Venom: Space Knight #2 continues to deliver solid character work, though divisive artwork and middling narration choices hamper Thompson's efforts.