by J.D. Cook
Venom Issues: 32, 33, 34, and 35
Story Arc: Toxic Lifestyle
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Declan Shalvey
If you’re reading with no prior knowledge; Venom is a symbiotic alien suit currently paired with former Peter Parker bully turned War Hero Flash Thompson. It’s a great comic series and it’s ending soon thus my reason for this countdown of it’s top 7 Story Arcs . Beware Spoilers if you’d like to read these or haven’t read them yet! So without further delay Number 5 on the countdown.
Toxic Lifestyle really starts in Venom issues 30 and 31 when Toxin reappears and Venom moves to Philadelphia. The story proper starts in issue 32 when Toxin arrives in Philadelphia at the same time as the Über creepy Symbiote Slayer. I’m not sure what the creature’s actual name is which is kind of spooky in its own right. This might be Bunn’s best standalone Venom arc in his twenty-two issue run although it isn’t finished yet and the last arc has put a ‘Mania’ in me! Score one for my pun! Score two for my rhyme! Shalvey’s art is amazing throughout. I especially love the way he draws Flash out of costume because it’s exactly like I picture him. Not to mention his great work with both of this arcs villains. Issues 33 is one of my favorite Venom covers so kudos to Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire for their work on it as well.
Alright down to business on the story. Flash has just moved to Philly and is trying to start a new life as a Gym Teacher by day and Hero by night. In comes a really creepy techno-organic creature that seems to only desire to feed. It’s a really great foil for Venom because unlike Venom which lives in symbiosis with its host and covers them in itself the techno-organic creature enters its hosts and quickly takes them over. Their inability to control their hunger can also be seen as an opposite to Flash trying to control his alcoholism. It’s a shady reflection of the monster Flash could become if he stops fighting against his dependent nature. Enter Toxin hosted by Eddie Brock! He’s yet another foil for Venom. The primary difference between them is that Eddie Brock and Toxin have bonded completely whereas Flash fights to stay somewhat separate from Venom. It’s interesting because even Flash notes how much more powerful Toxin and Eddie are because of their bond whereas Flash is essentially using a doped up Symbiote. Re-reading this arc I was even more blown away by it then the first time I read it. There were so many levels to it I missed on my first read through. I also found myself rooting for Flash to just accept the Symbiote because really the Venom entity has been being drugged and used by Flash for a few years now. Although submitting to bonding with Venom would probably set Flash on a course to ruin which I don’t want to see. Still I can’t help wondering what would happen if Flash actually reformed the Symbiote and they worked in a crazy duel personality tandem to take down evil. A man can dream…
Returning to the other bad guys in this issue the techno-organic creatures, which eventually are dubbed the Symbiote Slayers, are reallyyy spooky! I mean I know I am just re-iterating but they are like a cross between John Carpenter’s the Thing and the skeleton Terminator. There is even a dog eating scene which is directly reminiscent of the scene from John Carpenter’s the Thing; although I don’t know if that’s intentional. The worst part about them is that you can’t help feeling bad for them as the human hosts are slaves to the creatures that have taken them over; with little to no control over what they do. Oh and at least one of the creatures escapes on the final panel to infect more Pennsylvanians and as a Pennsylvanian that freaks me out!
So to put the bow on number five in this countdown I have to say if this countdown didn’t include Venom crossovers this would be the 3rd best Venom story arc and not the 5th because it’s really fantastic! The cherry on the top is that after Brock and Flash team up to stop the Symbiote Slayers at the end they don’t really become pals. They make a death pact where Brock promises to kill Flash if he ever fails to fight Venom’s evil nature. I love me some bitter sweet endings and it’s perfect for the horror heavy story arc.