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Marvel's Free Comic Book Day special reveals what's next with Ultimate Invasion, Spider-Man, and more

Unpacking all the teases and revelations from FCBD: Spider-Man/Venom

FCBD Spider-Man and Venom cover cropped
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Did everyone enjoy Free Comic Book Day? It truly is one of the greatest holidays in nerdom. On the first Saturday of May, comic book publishers and local comic shops celebrate the industry with special sales, exciting new releases, and of course, free comic books. For Marvel, it’s also a great way to build hype for their upcoming storylines. Every year, Marvel Comics releases free one-shots which tease their upcoming events, and this year is no exception.

Free Comic Book Day: Spider-Man/Venom #1 (2023) had plenty of exciting teases and startling revelations to chew on. For example, two of Spider-Man’s greatest enemies are plotting something sinister. We also learned that one of Marvel’s Golden Age characters has been a symbiote the entire time. And Miles Morales got a shocking invitation, which has the potential to rock the entire Marvel Universe.

If you didn’t make it to your LCS for Free Comic Book Day, we’re here to bring you up to speed. Here’s everything that went down in 2023's Free Comic Book Day: Spider-Man/Venom #1.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Free Comic Book Day: Spider-Man/Venom #1 (2023)!

Spider-Man monkeys around

Doctor Octopus plots something sinister
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The one-shot begins a Spider-Man story written by Zeb Wells and penciled by Patrick Gleason. When a drugged-up gorilla terrorizes the streets of New York, it’s up to Spidey to subdue him. Spider-Man takes down the gorilla thanks to some help from Bug, a gadget gifted by Norman Osborn. If you’ve been away from the Spider-Man titles for a while, Norman Osborn was mystically cleansed of his sins and has been trying to turn over a new leaf. To atone for his past crimes, Osborn has been trying to help Spider-Man become a better crimefighter.

This is where Bug comes in. Bug is a backpack that can transform into a spider-glider (similar to Norman’s Goblin Glider). It also has its own spider-bombs, which are similar to Norman’s pumpkin bombs. (Is anybody else starting to get the sense that Norman doesn’t have many original ideas?) After Spider-Man takes down the gorilla, Kraven the Hunter is seen watching from the shadows.

Kraven retrieves one of the spider-bombs, and takes it to his new partner – Doctor Octopus. We learn that it was Kraven who had set the gorilla loose, and the whole thing had been a diversion so he could retrieve the spider-bomb. What are Kraven and Otto planning? During the Spider-Man and Venom panel at C2E2, Zeb Wells teased a Doctor Octopus storylne, noting that it’s the 10th anniversary of Superior Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus will be featured in Amazing Spider-Man #27-28, and we’ll find out what he’s cooking then.

Flexo, the killer robot symbiote

Flexo is Venomized
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The next story is written by Al Ewing and penciled by CAFU. It features Flexo, one of Marvel’s oldest characters. Before we get into the story, let’s give you some context on who Flexo is. Debuting in Mystic Comics #1 (1940), Flexo was a robot created by two brothers named Joel and Josh Williams. Flexo was operated by a remote control, which the Williams brothers would use to summon him whenever they got into a scrap.

Flexo was known for his malleability, which allowed the robot to stretch like Mr. Fantastic. The original explanation stated that the Williams brothers had experimented with “live rubber.” Flexo appeared in the first four issues of Mystic Comics before fading into obscurity. He was later seen in the 2012 limited series Marvel Zombies Destroy.

This brings us to this story, which has some shocking revelations about Flexo’s origin. We learn that the “live rubber” was actually an alien symbiote, similar to the ones that became Venom and Carnage. The Williams brothers had found it buried in a meteorite and used it to build Flexo. This explains the robot’s malleable nature. This also means that Mystic Comics #1 can technically be considered the first appearance of a symbiote in a Marvel title.

The Williams brothers share Flexo’s story with a comic book publisher, which is basically a retelling of the events in Mystic Comics #1. When the publisher asks how Flexo defeated the villain, the Williams brothers tell him that the robot used knockout gas. This matches the events seen in the original Golden Age comic, but a flashback reveals that the Williams brothers weren’t entirely truthful.

In the flashback, we see Flexo grow sharp-teeth, bright glowing eyes, and a long tongue. He terrorizes the villain, who begs for mercy. We don’t know what happened next, but the implication is that the villain did not survive the encounter. After the Williams brothers finish their tale, we briefly see a flashforward of Flexo battling Venom in the present day.

During the aforementioned C2E2 Spider-Man and Venom panel, Marvel editor Devin Lewis teased Flexo’s involvement in Ewing’s Venom run, which will include Venom and Flexo time-traveling to World War II. “Al [Ewing] has picked him up and has done some really incredible things with him. They’re not only going to blow your mind, but they’re going to bend your mind a little bit. He’s taken this character to some awesome and scary places,” Lewis said.

Miles gets the ultimate invitation

The Maker invites Miles back to the Ultimate Universe
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The final story of the issue is a preview for the upcoming event Ultimate Invasion, written by Jonathan Hickman and penciled by Bryan Hitch. The story features a brief scene between Miles Morales and the Maker. In case you need a refresher, the Maker is an evil version of Reed Richards who originated in the Ultimate Universe. Reed and Miles are two of the only survivors from the Ultimate Universe, which was seemingly destroyed during the 2015 storyline Secret Wars.

The story begins with the Maker surprising Miles in his bedroom one night. Reed and Miles briefly discuss their shared Ultimate heritage, and then the villain lays out the reason for his visit. He has found a way back to the Ultimate Universe, and he is inviting Miles to come with him. We don’t see Miles’ reaction, and the next page features a time-jump to seven hours later. The Maker is standing atop a building with a strange machine, and he’s surrounded by various Marvel heroes.

Ultimate Invasion is Marvel’s next big event. The storyline will find the Maker seeking to restore the Ultimate Universe. According to a blurb at the end of this preview, the four issue limited series is set to “reinvent the Marvel Universe.” Whatever that means remains to be seen, but you can bet that no matter what happens, Popverse will be here to cover it.

DC also revealed a big of its big plans for summer 2023 on Free Comic Book Day Read our spoiler-filled rundown of FCBD 2023's Knight Terrors book here.