by Rick Remender (writer), Tom Fowler (artist), John Rauch (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story: Trying to stick it out to halt the shipment of Antarctic vibranium, Flash starts losing control of the symbiote.

The Review: I had a really strong sense of foreboding when I saw that Tony Moore didn’t draw this book.  He was such an integral part of the book and, while I know the man isn’t the fastest artist, seeing him gone after two issues is really disheartening.

That said, Marvel could do a lot worse than Tom Fowler, that’s for sure.  Fowler tries his best to stay consistent with the style Moore had established for the book and, by and large, he succeeds.  The tone and look that have worked so well are pretty much intact.  This is thanks in no small part to colorist John Rauch staying on, as he continues on with his smudged, Euro pulpy style.  Fowler also does a great job in showing the symbiote’s gradual gain of control, as Flash’s suit grows increasingly inhuman, spiky, and weird looking.

Unfortunately, Fowler seems to struggle with the high-octane fight scenes.  There are several panels here where it’s a real struggle to figure out what exactly is going on.  At some points, it looks like a chaotic mess of black stuff.  It took away quite a bit from the comic overall, given how much action there was this much.

Which is a damned shame, because while it’s not quite the masterpiece of last month, Remender turns in solid work here.  I really liked his reveal of Jack O’ Lantern’s boss, which is another semi-obscure, old school, cheesy villain.  Between this guy and Jack O’ Lantern, I love the goofy, retro rogues’ gallery Remender is fashioning here.

Remender’s writing is fairly strong, with Flash’s desperation and dogged determination all shine through.  The clash between Flash’s dual commitments to mission and Betty is also well-portrayed.  I also quite enjoyed Remender’s writing of Flash’s gradual loss of control over the symbiote, from the anxiety and fracturing of his narration, to the contrast between the narration and his/Venom’s dialogue.

That being said, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the ending.  Make no mistake, it does leave me excited for the next issue, but I wonder if Remender isn’t pulling the trigger on things a bit too soon.  I’m sure some readers will appreciate this, seeing it as a far cry from the decompressed six issue arcs we often get, but this is a major move on Remender’s part, an ace up his sleeve, really.  Seeing him use it three issues in is a bit unnerving and I really hope it doesn’t result in lost potential for the rest of the series.

Conclusion: Gotta be honest – it’s a bit of a letdown compared to the last two issues.  Still a really strong book, however, and not one that I’d stop recommending.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans

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