[Warning: contains SPOILERS for Venom #3.]
After decades of playing the villain, Klyntar symbiote Venom finally got his chance to be the hero after the U.S. Government set up Spider-Man’s high school chum Flash Thompson as Agent Venom. After adventures across the cosmos, including stints in the Secret Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Venom returned to Earth and finds himself battling his fellow heroes in Civil War II. Not long thereafter, Flash and the symbiote were separated, leaving it desperately seeking a new host to survive.
Discovering former soldier, Lee Price, in danger during a deal-gone-bad, Venom’s instincts kick into high gear, and it bonds with the down-on-his-luck mercenary. The symbiote quickly learns, however, that Lee is no Flash Thompson. Throughout the last two chapters, man and Klyntar fought a pitched battle for dominance and identity, and in Venom #3, both Price and the symbiote will be forced to make some difficult decisions.
The Feds Come A-Calling
In Venom #2, the symbiote tries to fight back against its new host’s criminal intents – especially after Lee agrees to work with Black Cat and its former host, Mac Gargan. Although Price’s Army Ranger training gives him the ability to exert control over the alien, the Klyntar discovers its ability to manipulate involuntary functions – in this case, forcing Price to throw up while meeting with the crime boss and her lackeys.
Returning to Lee’s apartment, they’re confronted by an emissary from Tombstone, the second iteration of fourth-stringer villain Firebug, who enacts revenge on Venom for his gangland killings by torching the bonded pair. Anyone following along at home may recall that symbiotes aren’t particularly fond of fire. Acting on instinct, Venom spazzes out, nearly killing Firebug before they’re interrupted by a pair of FBI agents – who’ve been following Price due to his ties to organized crime.
The Noose Tightens
During the battle, Venom manages to dispatch Firebug, but the existence of the FBI agents provides the symbiote with a potential out. Fleeing Lee’s body, it surrounds the younger of the two G-men, seeking to bond with him and escape Price’s control and iniquitous activities. During the scuffle, Price is shot, and the Klyntar returns to save his life – suggesting that the symbiote’s roots do run to the heroic side. Heading to the apartment of Lee’s childhood friend Tony, the same one Price murdered to conceal his superpowers, they hole up while the mercenary recuperates.
Meanwhile, Mac Gargan has a few suspicions of his own about Black Cat’s new associate (perhaps once bonded, always bonded?). Between Price’s odd behavior and the crime scene stills donated by an NYPD collaborator, he now wonders whether Price is harboring some superhuman powers of his own. He digs out his classic Scorpion suit and prepares to track down the syndicate’s new henchman. Gargan's instincts are dead-on, but the Feds are one step ahead of him.
Catching Price as he recovers, the FBI agents hold Venom at bay with threats of an incendiary weapon – at least long enough to make Lee an offer he probably can’t refuse. If Venom works hand-in-hand with the FBI, their secret association is safe. If not, there’s a good chance Lee's unique pairing will be exposed to not only Black Cat but the superhero community at large. For the symbiote, working with the ‘good guys’ is music to its ears. But the Marvel Universe, much like life, sometimes operates in shades of gray.
A Symbiote History Lesson
Continuing Mark Costa’s intriguing examination of the symbiote way of life, Venom #3 brings up yet another interesting point. After rescuing Price from the gunshot wound, Venom’s latest host suggests that it, and perhaps symbiotes in general, require dominant hosts to thrive. This is something Costa also explores during the book’s opening sequence, Venom gives a brief history lesson about the Klyntar people, exploring their culture. Apparently, it lacks any significant artistic and scientific accomplishments of its own, instead defining itself through their hosts and their combined achievements.
Going by biological definition alone, symbiotic organisms exist in a relationship that’s mutually beneficially to both creatures. In this case, Klyntars seems to benefit from the structure, culture, and achievements of others, while endowing their hosts with incredible strength, agility, and adaptability. This seems to play up another angle about the symbiotes, as in past hosts, and even during Spider-Man's time conjoined, Venom savagery seemed to the dominant, nearly parasitic entity, feeding off of Mac Gargan and Eddie Brock, and even, at times, Flash Thompson’s worst behavior.
However, the third issue reveals that Venom’s encounters has warped the symbiote, and it's desire for heroism actually indicates a return to the values people celebrate – which made it an outcast from Klyntar. Naturally, a species that strives for de facto greatness seeks out extraordinary beings with high-minded goals. Costa’s exploration of the Venom mythos and the symbiote's very personality (set properly with Gerardo Sandoval’s stylish art) – in concert with the ever-unfolding crime drama narrative – gives fans a winding yet multifaceted story, to sink their teeth into.
Venom #3 is currently available online and in print.