There haven’t been many people as consistently good on Venom as Rick Remender, and it’s surprising that not everything was collected in book form before this bulky collection. Despite the same cover illustration it’s not the same as Venom by Rick Remender Vol. 1, which is slimmer, although everything in it by Remender and Tony Moore is also here. Thier opening story arc concentrates on former soldier Flash Thompson as the human wearing the alien symbiote instead of emphasising the symbiote’s unnatural appetites. Plot rather than shock is the order of the day as Remender treats Venom as a different type of horror series than was previously the case.

Follow the link for a longer review of the first arc, after which there are three chapters of Venom’s involvement in a Spider-Man crossover in which people are randomly acquiring spider-related powers. Remender keeps his contributions self-contained, and continues to keep the focus on Thompson’s sad private life. Without the Venom symbiote he’s confined to a wheelchair, but is unable to reveal to girlfriend Betty Brant, or indeed anyone else, that he’s carrying out military missions as Venom. The third chapter of the crossover is largely a standard supervillain battle, but it’s elevated by the clever use of narrative captions from a letter Thompson is handed just before he heads out. Very welcome is Marvel not letting us dangle once the crossover chapters are done, providing a brief text paragraph explaining how the story ended.

The crossover is followed by a goofy interlude featuring a guy with an indestructible tank. It’s not Remender’s finest moment, and there’s little room for anything other than action. That’s drawn by Stefano Caselli, who delivers what he’s given. The sample is art from Tom Fowler and Lan Medina, both supplying efficient and exciting pages in different styles, Medina opting for the wilder Venom.

When normal service is resumed Jack O’Lantern is back. He was introduced in the earlier chapters, is now horribly disfigured from his injuries, and is able to hold over Thompson that he’s aware he’s Venom. “He hates fun in all incarnations. It’s why God took his legs away”, announces Jack O’Lantern to Betty in a sinister scene. What starts as an edgy game of cat and mouse develops into an unpredictable road trip thriller punctuated by some heroic interludes and the involvement of Captain America and the Red Hulk. The downright sadism of some aspects seems out of place in a Marvel comic, but the tension never lets up. The unfortunate aspect is that we’re left with a cliffhanger continued in Volume Two. Or in Circle of Four, which is where Remender’s Venom picks up again in the original slimmer paperbacks.

There’s room for a What If? scenario featuring a Venomised Deadpool. For much of the time it’s only funny if you remember who the Beyonder is (see the original Secret Wars), as it skips through the decades from the 1980s. Shawn Moll draws everything nicely, but this is an inconsequential inclusion. The book ends with covers and variants to all the featured issues.

As noted at the start, this is a quality Venom run, most of which still reads very well.