(Panini Books �10.99)

WITHOUT question one of the stand-out Marvel titles of 2011.

In direct contrast to Carnage (see separate review), this book is a perfect example of how you can take a character with a somewhat complicated past, strip him back to basics and then reinvigorate him with a new direction and agenda.

After long-term Spider-Man supporting character Eugene “Flash” Thompson lost his legs in the Iraq War, he volunteered for a covert US military programme codenamed Project: Rebirth 2 (after the original WWII experiment which gave Captain America his powers).

He becomes the latest host for the “Venom” alien symbiote suit, a powerful creature discovered by Spider-Man during the midst of the extraterrestrial Secret Wars, which is able to provide him with temporary legs and powers identical to those of the web-slinger. But Flash is only authorised to remain linked to the suit for 48 hours, as after this time the symbiote gains permanent control over its host, and allows the dark and violent side of its nature to the fore.

With a powerful explosive device embedded in the suit, Flash is sent on black ops missions as the United States’ latest super-soldier, using his new abilities to rescue hostages, destroy terrorist cells and recover weapons of mass destruction. But each time he dons the suit, he finds it harder to let go…

With Flash’s identity obscured within the black-costumed guise of the former mass-murdering symbiote, he is torn between doing his duty for his country and succumbing to the temptations of power.

The beauty of writer Rick Remender’s new version of Venom lies in its simplicity, as it’s the sort of concept you can imagine translating well to the big screen, with The Walking Dead co-creator Tony Moore’s visuals perfect for the octane-fuelled blockbuster action sequences the narrative requires.

Throwing Spider-Man into the mix for the later stories in this collection was inevitable given the wall-crawler’s history with both Flash and Venom, but it never feels forced and the characterisation of the protagonists is given due prominence amidst the explosions and slug-fests.

Miss this book at your peril, as it is likely to become one of the most talked-about comics for a long time.