This week's Sunday comics choices are both written by Cullen Bunn and one sadly is on the soon to be gone list.
Venom which stars one time bully and long time Spiderman fan Flash Thompson as the symbiot host and darker edged hero trying to do the right thing, fighting his deep personal demons and the influence of Venom. The book goes from self seraching personal drama to frenetic action featuring webs, guns and bombs with repercussions for both the personal and superhero conflicts in Flash's life. The recent storyline has him setting up himself in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, where heroes are scarce and a villain named Lord Ogre has free reign. Starting a new life after his failures in the big apple Flash takes up residence and to the streets as a hero for the people who have no spandex wearing defender.
Flash was crippled in the war on terror and lives life in a wheel chair when not sharing his body with the alien symbiot, he's a coach for a local highschool and seems a man trying to make up for a past he regrets. He's the kind of character I particularly love, much like Jamie Lannister of Game of Thrones he is a man though we know has done bad things he has a code of morals when seen from his point of view as readers we can get. Like so many of the heroes in Marvel that I love he is not a first stringer, he is a character who's past informs his present and will shape his future; he is not Peter Parker who carries the weight of being an icon, Flash gets to be a person beyond the brand of being a brand like Spider-Man or X-men.
The the most recent run of issues have culminated in paranoia on Flash's part, superpowered mercenaries and assassins running roughshod over Phliiy looking for the bounty on Agent Venom's head and his contactes in Philly as Venom are seeking information on the new hero. In his many attempts to be the hero he idolizes Flash inadvertently has created another spawn of the Venom symbiot and gained a "sidekick" in the teen girl now called Mahem. The art by Declan Shalvey is unique, dynamic and characterful and may not be to everyone's tastes but I personally love the fresh approach to action. His strengths lie in the expressiveness of the characters faces and when the symbiots are out and in action its a whole new SFX ball game much like Cameron's The Thing for the eighties. Vemon is a book that has action adventure and drama in spades and I'm sad that it will be a memory come November... Both Rick Remender's and Cullen Bunn's runs on this unappreciated book are available to Marvel Ultimate subscribers but if you do check it out get it from a local friendly comic shop.
I've mentioned Fearless Defeneders before but since I want this all "life on the d list" marvel women title to survive the current cull that seems to be going on in the second stringer title family at the new excellent house of ideas. This is a superhero comic that is part Big Trouble in Little China with its crazy Hong Kong cinema approach to action and fast forward adventure and part Farscape with its modern media reference points and snappy sarcastic dialogue. Cullen pulls on the whole catalogue of Marvel heroines with this bringing back long sadly ignored characters like the onetime apprentice of Dr Strange Clea and the one time Nextwave monster hunter Elisa Bloodstone. Issue seven was a Valkerie centric episode that used a trip to the Viking afterlife to bring home the perils of the afterlife and reintroduce Clea who I forgot I totally missed and issue eight was a Big Trouble in Marvel little China with a Brood influenced twist.
Fearless defenders spotlights characters that need more so called screen time. Misty Knight has been knocking around the Marvel universe for so long as their version of the bionic woman its great to see her shining as well as seeing Danille Moonstar being more then just another mutant and Brunhild just as a female Thor replacement. These issues are at their best when Cullen is giving us their everyday non-fighting lives. With Journey into Mystery ending next month I need a title like this to get a bit more fan love.
I love these kinds of titles; the Hero's for Hire, the Defenders, the thrid stringers, the d listers; their stories usually involve change that remains with them. Marvel carries stories forward... I say this because of the so called new 52. DC has long been known to push the reset button on stories for the time of the end of the first Crisis in 1985. I loved Crisis and what came after bit as time has gone on their predilection to push the rest button has become a crutch for DC editorial see the recent posts about the new Lobo ideas. Marvel has committed lots of bad summer and yearly events and summer crossovers and the debacle of the clone saga... What I will commend Marvel for the their embracing the past stories and create lemon aid from lemons. I would love the opportunity to read stories I could not afford to own and these days with Marvel Unlimited I can read them... History matters to Marvel so far and this I respect. I know someday Cyclopse will be the golden boy of Xavier and Magneto will be the enemy but there will hopefully be someone who recalles when he was the bad guy... Checkout Venom and Fearless Defenders... They are in sore need of fans... And Marvel loves telling stories these days....