Longbox Diving – Amazing Spider-Man #574

By | January 11th, 2012
Posted in Columns | % Comments

One of my favorite ongoing comics right now that only seems to get better and better each month is Rick Remender’s Venom. Starring long time Spider-Man bully/super fan/friend Flash Thompson as the newest host of one of Spider-Man’s greatest foes, The Venom Symbiote. While for more than a decade, Venom has skirted the line between anti-hero and villain depending on who the host of the symbiote happens to be/the level of control they have over it. However this is the first time when Venom has been legitimately intended for heroic uses as Flash Thompson is easily one of the most heroic people in the entire Marvel Universe and he proved it in one fateful issue of the Brand New Day-era Amazing Spider-Man a few years back. Unlike some other issue’s we’ve unearthed for this column, Amazing Spider-Man #574 is still stunningly relevant not only for the aforementioned Venom book but in the growing history of a character that has existed just as long as Peter Parker.

Click on down as I explore this monumental character turning point.

In a lot of ways this issue, written by Marc Guggenhiem and illustrated by Barry Kitson, is a lot like a State of the Union for Flash after slipping into and out of the spotlight over the years prior. There is also a bit of “Flash Thompson: Year One” thrown in there as a lot of the major storybeats of his life are recalled during a debriefing with his commanding officer during his then current tour of duty in the U.S. Army. The fact that he is going it from a hospital bed is an indicator of what is to come from right off the bat, but we’ll get to that later. As Flash recalls his most recent mission to his CO, the story juts out in a few different directions while still staying grounded within the tale of the mission itself.

We see Flash grow through boyhood with his abusive father into his teenage years filled with sexual inferiority and his compensating for that all the way through his reenlistment to the army after a lengthy absence following his service in Vietnam. While some may see this as simple exposition to bring the reader up to date on Flash, I see these scenes as a way to build the story to the eventual outcome that we get by issue’s end. Everything we see from page one to the end of the issue is a building block towards the home run of an ending, especially the parts that illustrate Flash’s deeply engrained vulnerabilities.

Another crucial aspect of the issue is the juxtaposition of Flash’s actions during the mission with classic still-frames from some of Spider-Man’s most fearsome match-ups. It’s no secret that Flash has been one of Spider-Man’s biggest fans since almost the beginning of Spidey’s career (despite also being the bane of Peter Parker’s existence for quite some time). However, for Flash to say that Spider-Man inspires him and to directly liken and adapt his actions to Spider-Man’s as a way to literally illustrate what is going through Flash’s head as he risks his life to protect his fellow soldiers is just inspired storytelling. It’s so simple and yet utterly profound at the same time.

Sorry, did I say “risked his life?” I mean life AND limb. As many Spidey-fans know, Flash did not make it out of this mission with his legs, and only because he tried TOO hard and did TOO much. Abandoning every bit of his once selfish nature, Flash proved himself the hero that we now know his entire life had bred him to be the exact opposite of. Given his past, it is not only easy but even likely that Flash Thompson could have ended up just as grim and ruthless as any number of Spider-Man’s rogues. But he didn’t, he took all he was and rose above it, proving himself to be a much better man than anyone expected him to be.

If it weren’t for this issue then Flash Thompson would still be a largely glossed over member of Peter Parker’s life. If it weren’t for this issue, Venom would not be nearly as good of a comic as it is. If it weren’t for this issue, we wouldn’t know just what characters in the Marvel Universe, no matter their history, are capable of when put in the hands of the right creator. And for all that, it deserves to be remembered.

//TAGS | Longbox Diving

Joshua Mocle

Joshua Mocle is an educator, writer, audio spelunker and general enthusiast of things loud and fast. He is also a devout Canadian. He can often be found thinking about comics too much, pretending to know things about baseball and trying to convince the masses that pop-punk is still a legitimate genre. Stalk him out on twitter and thought grenade.


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