By: Rick Remender (writer), Declan Shalvey (art), Lee Loughridge (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: What better way for series mastermind Rick Remender to say farewell than one final fight between Venom and Jack O’ Lantern and on Father’s Day, no less?

The Review: This issue is a true swansong for Rick Remender’s fantastic run on Venom; it showcases so much of what Remender has managed to accomplish over the course of these 22 issues.

As such, it’s a character-driven issue and one that’s incredibly  heavy as a result.  It focuses on the humanity that Remender imbued Flash Thompson with and the lasting scars of his abuse as a child.  In this sense, the issue is as much a polemic against child abuse as it is an introverted character study of Flash.  It’s an extremely sincere issues, when that punches you in the gut, making it impossible not to empathize with Flash.  Again, that this issue has so much weight is a testament to and a reminder of how much Remender has accomplished in this series; we’ve grown so invested in Flash over the course of the series that all of these painful flashbacks feel truly, well, painful.  Despite this being the last issue of his run, Remender is still letting us enter deep into the mind of Flash Thompson, showing what makes the character tick, and it’s still excellent.

Remender is unflinching in his depictions of Flash’s abuse as a child and is really blunt about its effects.  He shows the torment to be as psychological as it is physical, while also showing Flash’s mother’s appalling facilitation of the abuse.  Moreover, Remender makes things nuanced by having things mirror what is so often the case when abusers are parents – Flash ends up simultaneously hating his parents and, though they don’t deserve it, loving them too.

But that’s not all Remender does this issue, as we also get the final showdown between Flash and Jack.  Again, this is a showcase of what Remender has accomplished in his run – he’s given Flash a real archnemesis and extended rogue’s gallery.  While the fight itself plays second fiddle to the monologue, flashbacks, and emotional turmoil, this is still the Jack we’ve come to know and love.  The major trick he pulls on Flash here is utterly appalling and deviously perfect for the character.  I also loved the way this fight ended – it was a perfect manifestation of what makes Flash a hero, as he overcomes the grief and hatred to become something greater.  Meanwhile, Jack faces an ignominious end that is insulting to Jack in the perfect way, given how long he spent in this series establishing himself as a major villain and arch-nemesis.

Readers intent on sticking around after Remender leaves also have a lot to be happy here, as incoming artist Declan Shalvey and colorist Lee Loughridge give us their first issue here, and it is really, really good.  In fact, I’d say that it may be some of the best art we’ve got on the series that didn’t come courtesy of Tony Moore.  Shalvey’s art is brimming with character and energy, yet despite his more cartoonish style, he still hits the more emotionally grave sequences perfectly, with Loughridge’s colours serving as a perfect match.  As has been the case over on Thunderbolts, Shalvey just has a naturally likable style with that bouncy, comic book-y edge to it.

Conclusion: A perfect ending to what’s been an amazing run, giving us a little bit of almost everything that made this series a keeper.

Grade: A

– Alex Evans

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