Comics : Venom (Vol. 2) #13.3

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This story is part of an Arc: "Circle of Four"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This review was first published on: Jan 2013.

Background...

Currently, Blackheart has spread Hell throughout Las Vegas. It is up to Ghost Rider, X-23, Rulk, and Venom to stop him. Currently, each of the heroes were killed and the only thing that has been keeping Hell from engulfing Earth was broken.

In Detail...

"Circle of Four Part 4"
Venom (Vol. 2) #13.3
Apr 2012 : SM Guest
Summary: Dream Image Spider-Man Appears
Arc: Part 4 of "Circle of Four"
Writer:  Jeff Parker
Artist:  Julian Tedesco
Cover Art:  Frank Martin, Stefano Caselli
Lettering:  Chris Eliopoulos
Colorist:  Dommo Sanchez Amara
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Consulting Editor:  Jeanine Schaefer
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alomso
Editor:  Marck Paniccia
Assistant Editor:  Jake Thomas
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Review

Our story starts where we left off, with Ghost Rider. In a flurry of fire, the Ghost Rider part of Alejandra is crumbling off her face. She goes over how she let Hell spread to undo her sins. She asks herself how she is still alive and Blackheart appears out of the flaming sky. He tells her that she wasn't supposed to choose sacrifice and destruction and melts away. In his place, Adam, whom I assume was Alejandra's trainer, tells her that he didn't raise her for this.

Then, he burns to a skeleton, and her "mamachita" appears out of a cloud of smoke. The Hellish background is replaced by waterfalls and trees. They have a quick reunion and her mom asks, "Will you come back for us? You can be the protector that Mexico needs." She agrees and they ride off on her motorcycle.

In a hospital room, Flash wakes up to find himself surrounded by The Avengers. When he lifts up his arm, he finds that it is a combination of symbiote and human skin. Doctor Strange explains, "In Blackheart's final attack, the alien symbiote was fused psychically to your body as well as physically. But only one life force could stay, and in the past few days, your body was asserting control." Flash is happy to find that his legs are now permanently on his body, and The Avengers tell him that he is a hero. Flash says that he would join as long as he isn't Venom.

In an interesting revelation, Spider-Man tells him that he no longer wants to be a superhero. He takes off his mask and questions Flash if he wants to be the next Spider-Man. Next thing you know, Flash is in a Spider-Man costume, kicking Doc Ock in the face. Betty Brant and him start making out once he has been defeated.

Next thing we know, the story switches dramatically back to the battle scene, where Rulk and Venom have beaten the antithesises. Captain America and Doctor Strange walk up to them and tell them that Blackheart has been defeated. He publicly announces on TV that Rulk has saved the day and welcomes him back into "the service of our nation."

A few years later, General Thaddeus Ross (Rulk's normal form) is heading an attack on A.I.M. His soldiers, all different Hulks, are all battling A.I.M. agents and Ross transforms into Rulk to join the battle.

Back at Blackheart's lair, X-23 is falling into the pit of lava. She is about to die when Wolverine rescues her and pulls her out of the pit. She jumps up and kills Blackheart. Wolverine tells her that he really came here to destroy a Weapon X laboratory. (Oh no, Hell is no big problem to Wolverine. He only takes on big threats, like a peaceful lab full of clones.) X-23 tells Wolverine that she finally knows that she has a soul now and he tells her that he could have told her that.

Cue Mephisto, who has been behind all of the good things happening to the heroes. "I bet if I put my mind to it, I could run this place like this as such all the time. The ultimate destination stop. Naaahhh," he mutters.

Soon, everything goes wrong at once. Alejandra runs after her mom, who has entered the place where Adam trained her. She finds her mom is decaying and she tells her that she should have never lived. Flash, still acting as Spider-Man, is battling The Green Goblin when he finds that Betty's been killed. On Rulk's end, M.O.D.O.K. confronts the Hulk Busters, and he transforms them into normal people. He shoots them all down and is specifically happy with himself. While tearing down the lab, Wolverine accidentally stabs a vat of a specific pheromone. X-23 attacks and kills him against her will because of her programming.

All of the heroes, after being in their own worlds of torment, are brought together in Hell. (Not Hell on Earth, actual Hell. The place bad people go once they die. Not...I'm confused.) It takes them a while to figure it out but they all start understanding where they are.

For the next few pages, they have a pointless conversation with Mephisto and he pretty much says that he wants to stop his son from succeeding. He tells them that he can technically bring them back to life, but nothing from Hell comes free. They must come back together and do a favor for him whenever he needs it. They all accept the deal and are ready to be sent back to stop Blackheart.

In General...

Literally nothing happens this issue. All that happens is set-up for Circle of Four: The Return. What a scary thought. The dream sequences are all trash and easily identified that they aren't real from the moment they happen. At this point, I just want this arc to be over soon. The only justifiable good thing about this issue is that Ghost Rider isn't as much of an irritation as the last issues.

Flash's dream sequence is nothing new, and kind of puts a downer on Flash's slow development of a dark shadow of Spider-Man. Jeff Parker just flat-out told every one that Flash is just like Spider-Man and doesn't let any new reader figure it out for themselves. He might as well just tell us that the new Ghost Rider is too cocky and unlikable to actually last for another year and that Rulk is a really good guy on the inside of his rock-hard demeanor.

I find the fact that they thought that the illusions were real is really weak storytelling. How do you still believe that everything is normal when Hell is suddenly changed to waterfalls and happiness? And since Spidey took off his mask in front of Flash in the illusion mean that he knows his identity?

As for the art, well... It really isn't my style. The least I can say is that it tells the story as well as it can. It could have been worse.

Overall Rating...

I am just waiting for this arc to be over with.