Art by Mike McKone
This one is probably going to be a little controversial. Yes, Eddie Brock was the original Venom. Yes, I did like Eddie Brock as the villain/antihero Venom. I just like Flash Thompson as Venom the hero more.
After losing his legs while serving in Afghanistan, Eugene “Flash” Thompson, wanting to still serve his country, signed up for Project Rebirth 2.0. This involved bonding Flash to the Venom symbiote, but only after chemically lobotomizing it. The U.S government was currently in possession of the symbiote due to the recent arrest of the second Venom, Mac Gargan, formerly the Scorpion. With the symbiote giving him new legs, Flash Thompson took action once more as Agent Venom!
However, he was still in service to the U.S. government, and his first mission as Venom was to track down and capture a weapons technician specializing in Vibranium (the metal that makes up Captain America’s shield). There, he ran into the new Jack O’Lantern. He was a vicious mercenary instructed with retrieving the same technician. The battle ended with the technician dead, and Venom and Jack O’Lantern developed a hatred for one another.
Further investigation into the Vibranium trade led Agent Venom to the Savage Lands, where he discovered that the Crime Master was behind Jack O’Lantern’s attack. Crime Master was attempting to export more Vibranium of his own out of the Savage Lands. Venom encountered and came to blows with Kraven the Hunter while there.
Flash was separated from the symbiote in the fight, and this allowed the Crime Master to discover his identity. Crime Master used this information and kidnapped Flash’s girlfriend, Betty Brant.
Upon returning to New York, Venom learned of the kidnapping and went after Betty. He encountered Spider-Man there. This was the first time Flash met his longtime hero Spider-Man as Venom. Not knowing of Venom’s heroic intentions, Flash had to battle his hero. The two came to an understanding, though, and managed to save Betty. Shortly after this adventure, Flash learned his abusive and alcoholic father had developed cirrhosis of the liver, and that he was going to die soon. This worsened Flash’s own struggle with alcoholism.
During the Spider Island incident, where many New Yorkers were transformed into hideous spider-people, Agent Venom encountered Eddie Brock, then Anti-Venom. This led to a fight as well, but Flash discovered that the Anti-Venom symbiote was able to cure people of the spider mutation. He took Brock to Horizon Labs where they were able to use the symbiote to this end. Venom also did battle with the Spider Queen herself alongside Steve Rogers, another personal hero of Flash Thompson’s.
During this carnage, Flash did find an opportunity to visit his father one last time before he passed. After the Spider Island event, Agent Venom encountered the villain Hijacker, whom had just committed a heist that resulted in the deaths of many innocents. Venom, furious with the crook’s lack of regard for human life, killed him.
Venom went AWOL from Project Rebirth after being approached by Jack O’Lantern at the funeral for his father. Jack blackmailed Flash to do a job for Crime Master, lest Betty Brant be killed. Before being able to leave Project Rebirth, he was stopped by Steve Rogers. The two fought, and Agent Venom escaped.
Jack O’Lantern’s mission took Flash to a casino in Las Vegas being run by Blackheart, Son of Mephisto. He was joined by X-23, Red Hulk, and Ghost Rider (then Alejandra Jones) in this battle. They managed to defeat the demon, but all four had to make a pact with Mephisto in order to accomplish this victory. This resulted in them receiving a Hell Mark, forcing them to make good on their pact one day.
After this, he was invited to join the Hawkeye-led Secret Avengers by Steve Rogers. He participated in quashing a mechanical uprising led by a being calling himself “Father” while on the team. However, his tenure as an Avenger was soured by Hawkeye’s distrust and hostility. However, he was able to enter a romantic relationship with teammate Valkyrie.
He later came into conflict with Carnage twice. In the second of these two encounters, Flash was joined by Kaine the Scarlet Spider, another with whom he had a hostile relationship.
Flash Thompson’s rivalry with Crime Master had not yet ended. He was forced by him into fighting a group called the Savage Six to save Betty Brant. The team consisted of Jack O’Lantern, Human Fly, Megatak, Death Adder, Toxin (then Eddie Brock), and Crime Master himself. The conflict came to an end when Crime Master revealed himself to be Betty’s brother. Betty subsequently shot Crime Master to death. Jack O’Lantern was put away in the Raft after this battle.
Venom then ran into Damian Hellstrom whom took control of him to make him a part of his Monsters of Evil. This was subjugated by the Hell Mark, and Venom defeated him.
Having recently kicked his addiction to alcohol, Flash moved to Philadelphia on Peter Parker’s advice. He wanted to rediscover himself and became a P.E teacher in a school in the city. He continued his crime-fighting career, battling cyborg monstrosities and Toxin yet again. He also had to make amends with a fellow student from his high school days, whom Flash mocked for being gay.
A student named Andi Benton, who frequently tried to get out of P.E. became something of a friend to Flash. Later, Andi was attacked by a brainwashed acolyte of Jack O’Lantern, whom was masquerading as the real Jack. This Jack killed Andi’s father. Venom saved Andi, and a piece of the symbiote detached from Flash and took Andi as a new host. She then called herself Mania. The two were able to defeat this Jack O’Lantern, though Flash had to stop Andi from killing him.
Mania became something of a sidekick to Venom, and Flash became Andi’s caretaker. The two took down an arms-dealing cartel ran by a man calling himself Ogre.
Crossbones later came to Philadelphia with the D.O.A (Department of Occult Armaments). They were searching for the Hell-Mark that Venom possessed. He discovered that he no longer had it, and it was attached to Andi through Mania. The two defeated Crossbones and the D.O.A, with Flash promising Andi that he would remove the Hell Mark somehow.
Flash was later recruited by Red Hulk to join his own Thunderbolts team. He ran with them for some time, but he disagreed with the group’s ultraviolent methods. He left the team after a few missions.
Flash Thompson was almost killed in a fight with Superior Spider-Man (Spider-Man with Doctor Octopus’ mind in his body).
Venom then was asked to join the Guardians of the Galaxy by Tony Stark. He accepted excitedly.
The symbiote began behaving erratically after Flash joined the team, and it used Drax to bring the Guardians to the Homeworld of the Symbiotes, which are actually called Klyntars. They discovered that these creatures are naturally peaceful. The Venom symbiote was corrupted by the imperfect bonds it shared with its previous hosts and became vicious. They cleansed the Venom symbiote, and it and Flash began a peaceful and truly symbiotic bond.
Flash and his Klyntar have been travelling with the Guardians ever since, most recently liberating a Badoon prison planet with the team.
Venom has also had his own adventures as an Agent of the Cosmos. In his solo adventures, Flash has acquired a robot companion with a death wish named 803. He has fought an alien called Mercurio, and he aided an alien panda named Pik Rollo in a plan to save her daughter from Mercurio.
He later learned that his symbiote was being corrupted yet again, and it is because of the Hell Mark on Mania. He was returned to Earth to cleanse Andi Benton and Mania from the Hell Mark.
Flash Thompson is a very troubled man. He was an unapologetic bully in high school with an alcoholic father who only respected physical prowess instead of intelligence. This informed his adolescent cruelty, the guilt of which he carries with him to this day. He is still trying to make amends with his heroics. His connection to the Venom symbiote has brought him into the super hero community, but it has also left him feeling like an outsider to them. The Guardians of the Galaxy is the first team on which he felt like he belonged.
His recovery from alcoholism in addition to his heroic accomplishments show there is a strength within Flash Thompson that may not even be fully realized yet. It is being buried beneath his self-hatred and guilt. His relationship with the Venom symbiote has been a fascinating duality on par with that of Bruce Banner and the Hulk. It has at times represented Flash’s personal demons and, other times, his need to come to forgive himself.
Agent Venom is a fascinating and layered character, and he is also immensely likable and relatable. He has seen the lowest points of any hero, but he hasn’t stopped it from letting him be a hero. This is what puts him at Number 5 on my list.