*This review contains spoilers*
After months of teasing and one vicious brawl later, writer Cullen Bunn presents us with his conclusion to the feud between Flash Thompson and Eddie Brock... and I'm pretty pleased it didn't go a totally cliche route. Don't get me wrong, this issue doesn't really change the book's formula or anything along those lines. It's still mostly a big fight and it's not heavy on plot, but it does a great job getting right to the core of these two characters and definitely provides a fitting and somewhat unexpected conclusion to their violent conflict.
Bunn absolutely has a firm grip on the characters and makes this feud one that's definitely worth reading for any symbiote fan. Aside from one remark from Flash which felt a little too campy for my taste, I adore how the focus of this one is really on Eddie Brock. We're talking about a man who sincerely thinks he's a hero, but he's clearly been more of a villain the entire time. We get a few shining moments of that as Brock confronts Thompson while they're surrounded by innocents. At first, it's clear Brock's a good man and has no desire to fight him there, but when push comes to shove, it's transparent he's not above with letting his hate take the wheel and going full speed ahead. Despite moments like that, I've always believed there's plenty of good in Brock, too, and it's great to see Bunn agrees as the action packed events play out.
Declan Shalvey's art really blows me away and makes this book worth every single penny. His work is jagged around the edges and incredibly rough -- it essentially feels like a dark and twisted cartoon, and that's a great vibe for the title. Additionally, the man is king when it comes to drawing symbiotes. They're simply savage looking and seeing them in combat is always a twisted spectacle. There's more than a few panels here where I simply had to take a few moments to let it all soak in and appreciate the rough take on the symbiotes. Venom gnawing on a slayer's face? Brutal. As the terrible events happen in the school's hallway, there's a panel of a child cowering under a table as a symbiote slayer walks past his empty room. It's a striking image and really conveys just how terrifying the scenario truly is.
While I've been more than vocal about how much I love Shalvey's art, there a panel which really caught my eye. Venom's upperbody is massive, almost appearing bloated. Usually this isn't too big of a deal, but his legs seemed a bit too tiny and it makes for one awkward looking creature. There's so many fearsome panels of Venom in this issue, but that one made me feel like I was looking at some kind of odd animal with the symbiote on it.
It's also a bit disappointing how easily the enemies took down Toxin. I understand they had the numbers advantage, but I feel like Brock's extensive time with symbiotes and violent nature would grant him a better performance in a situation such as that one.
This is yet another issue where writer Cullen Bunn and artist Declan Shalvey show off they're a great team for VENOM. The plot remains a tad light, but the ridiculously good visuals, impressively fun action and firm understanding of the key characters makes this a great read each and every time. While this does seemingly wrap up Toxin's involvement (for now, at least), this school melee has apparently created a whole new plot point to the book: Andi seems to know Flash's secret. If so, I'm definitely curious to see if Bunn will have Thompson come clean or desperately try to hold onto his secret.