The entire dynamic of ‘Venom’ changed when Flash Thompson’s life was flipped on its head last issue. Flash is now a military fugitive headed to Las Vegas to complete a mission for the Crime Master. And his string of bad luck doesn’t end there when Flash picks up a new partner for his road trip in this issue.

[Warning: spoilers below]

This issue opens with a  foreshadowing aside featuring Eddie Brock. After losing his Anti-Venom symbiot during Spider-Island, Eddie still believes himself to be a holy warrior with the mission of eliminating Venom and the other symbiotes from Earth. Meanwhile Flash is just setting out on his drive to Vegas to pick up… something… for the Crime Master so that the villain doesn’t hurt Flash’s girlfriend or family. When Flash returns to his hotel room after a pained phone call to Betty, he find Jack O’Lantern. After barely keeping his anger under control, Flash learns that he needs Jack since the psychopath knows what it is that Crime Master needs from Vegas.

With Jack in tow, Flash continues his trip across America. When the unlikely duo make a pit stop to save some workers who have become trapped in a collapsed mineshaft, Flash begins to see the inner workings of Jack’s mind… and they aren’t pretty. When the pair stop for a bite to eat at a local greasy spoon, Jack avails himself of the downtime to empart his origin story on Flash and it’s a tale that is about as disturbing as you’d expect. When the pair continue on their way, we realize that Flash may be in for much more than he expected with this criminal assignment.

Meanwhile, the Avengers have been called in to track down Flash and retrieve the symbiote. First up on the attack… Red Hulk!

[End spoilers]

Rick Remender has taken advantage of being released from the constraints of being a backup story to ‘Spider-Island’ and is really going full throttle on ‘Venom’ now. His take on Jack O’Lantern is as creepy as any of Arkham Asylum’s inmates over in ‘Batman’. I actually shivered a bit when I flipped to that final image. With Jack in town and now with the Avengers involved, it looks like ‘Venom’ is on path to have the first real arc of this series.

The art is again by Lan Medina and Nelson Decastro so it’s much more realistic than the previous arc, but a perfect fit with the more mysterious and disturbing tale that Remender is delivering now. And those amazing 70s style covers from Tony Moore are just the icing on the cake.

Between the horror-tinged story and the remarkable artwork, ‘Venom’ has finally found its pace as its own title outside of the long shadow of Spider-Man.

Verdict: Buy