Comics : Venom (Vol. 2) #13.4

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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...

Venom, Ghost Rider, Rulk, and X-23 has been united to stop Blackheart, son of the devil, from spreading Hell throughout the world. Each of our heroes were killed, but they have made a deal with the devil and are back for Round 2. Ghost Rider also destroyed the last thing keeping Hell contained and everybody is screwed.

In Detail...

"Circle of Four Part 5"
Venom (Vol. 2) #13.4
Apr 2012 : SM Spin-Off
Summary: Heroes work together to stop Blackheart
Arc: Part 5 of "Circle of Four"
Writer:  Rick Remender
Pencils:  Lan Medina
Inker:  Nelson DeCastro, Terry Pallot
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Antonio Fabela, Marte Gracia
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Consulting Editor:  Jeanine Schaefer
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alomso
Editor:  Tom Brennan
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Review

Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom are still at the spot where Ghost Rider pulled down the amulet. Currently, they are the only things keeping Hell to Las Vegas. "By gores of forgotten Gal'lna--Blackheart has defeated the Ghost Rider," Strange confirms. The Spirit of Vengeance then rises out of Alejandra's dead body looking for a new host. "Hoary hosts of Hoggototh!" he cries at the Spirit's approach to him." Return from whence you came! You may not take your vengeance in this matter! Now! Lest the sewer corrupt you further!" The Spirit recognizes corny dialogue when it sees it, and turns in the other direction.

Meanwhile, Gari Oyle is quite happy with herself with her success against the heroes and heads back to Blackheart. While she is rambling on to herself about how she will get "Gari Oyle appreciation time" when the Spirit of Vengeance soars past her. "Well, tickle my tail, guess appreciation time's getting pushed back," she mutters.

Poor old Johnny Blaze, still riding Blackheart's trap, recognizes that he can only put up with this for a little longer. He spots the Spirit of Vengeance flying by him, looking for a new host and knows that Alejandra is dead. Just as it is about to possess him, Gari Oyle flies by and sucks it into a soul fish. (Blackheart used it in Venom Vol. 2 #13.) Blaze is pissed and Gari Oyle swoops away.

Back at the lair, Blackheart is now trying to manipulate Daimon Hellstrom, also a son of the devil, into allowing Hell to spread. Gari arrives through the window, and shows him her catch. "By Belail's lie--it's the Spirit of Vengeance!" he says. "I should gut you--feed my evil into your heart--," he threatens for no apparent reason. Gari Oyle convinces him that he has better things to do. He is ecstatic, "With this vile fiend in my hands, nothing on Earth can stop Blackheart."

In the fiery streets of Las Vegas, a dragon\caterpillar hybrid surfs through the screams of tortured souls and burning buildings drowned in a sea of lava. The dragonpillar is explaining the history of the Vegas strip, "Though the new Las Vegas strip became a world-renowned vacation destination, many consider it soulless." The dragonpillar stretches out its tongue and the now-alive heroes walk to dry land. Venom asks if they are dead. (Jeez, wasn't this explained last issue?) Alejandra, now without the Spirit of Vengeance, snappily retorts, "What does it matter? The Spirit of Vengeance has left me. There is no hope for the likes of you." Rulk insists that they give it "the old college try." Alejandra scolds again, "We'll see how far your optimistic attitude gets you in Hell, fool. Here, your fears are real." (Right about there, I would push her in with the rest of the tormented souls.) "My biggest fear right now is being saddled with a loser who's already quit," Venom says. X-23 agrees.

Our favorite little brat senses that Blackheart has her beloved Spirit of Vengeance and tells the heroes that they will lose. (Notice how I am not referring to her as a hero. Just a bit of foreshadowing...) A fleet of bird-demons grow out of the ground. Venom starts shooting them while X-23 attacks individually. Dramatically, Rulk's fist slams down and he suggests that they work as a team this time. They all agree and Rulk offers the deal to Alejandra, who, in an act of poor characterization, agrees.

Later, Alejandra finishes her story, and Rulk reviews, "Solves that, we get the Spirit of Vengeance back to {Johnny} Blaze... Clearly it should never have left him." (Tell her how it is, Rulk.) She defends, "I'm not a frivolous girl swaying on whims--the Spirit of Vengeance chooses its hosts carefully." Venom masterfully replies, "Based on that story-- I would say it made a mistake." (Is Alejandra's negative attitude bringing the group together?)

As they climb a skeletal bridge, Venom asks, "Show of hands, right now, who's gonna make the show? In or out?" Nobody raises their hand. Rulk and X-23 are impressed.

Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom are still keeping Hell back at Vegas's entrance. Blackheart is talking in Daimon's head, trying to convince him to give up. "You struggle against the will of your home, source of your strength. This is our fate," he explains. Once he offers him rule of Hell, Daimon lowers his trident. Doctor Strange and him are tangled by the binds of the devil. Blackheart shows up and tells Doctor Strange, "You put your faith in the son of Satan to stop the tides of Hell. Your time truly has passed, old mage."

X-23 is already participating in what looks like one of what looks like Rulk's plans. She is supposed to tell Johnny Blaze to reverse the trap and she will blow it up before it sucks Earth into Hell. Once she handles the guards, she is disgusted to find that demons have slowly began to tear off Johnny's skin in the contraption. Johnny tells her that he can only do this for a little longer.

Blackheart, in his lair, is talking to himself about how he plans on being the first son of Satan to bond to the Spirit of Vengeance. Rulk crashes through his window and starts full-out beating him. Blackheart extends his claws through Rulk's chest and manages to defeat him, yet again. "There exists an entire dimension dedicated to feeding on the misdeeds performed in your very short lived lives," he exclaims. "Hell's proliferation is a byproduct of your sin!" He smashes him into his fish tank of soul fishes.

Lucky for Rulk, Venom comes smashing through the wall, obviously losing control of the symbiote. He topples Blackheart in battle while Alejandra rushes over to pick up the Spirit of Vengeance. Rulk was assigned that job. Venom's pissed and jumps to murder Alejandra for her betrayal. He barely dodges a blast from Blackheart and tells Alejandra to follow the plan. "#&!% the plan," she says. Venom grabs the veil with a webline as she's leaving to use it himself. (Note that Flash has 0% control right now. What's Alejandra's excuse?)

While Blackheart is distracted, Rulk hits him in the jaw. Blackheart's hand grows giant and he throws Rulk into Venom, both sent out the window. "Your friends don't want to see the Spirit of Vengeance returned to you," he tells Alejandra. "My offer still stands, Alejandra. All you desire. You can be my Ghost Rider. Just tell me their plans." Alejandra, being the team player she is, agrees and spills what X-23's part of the plan is. Blackheart orders Gari Oyle to go stop her and stands next to Alejandra at the window. "Ah, mortals. So many schemes. I truly love tormenting you," he exclaims. Blackheart pushes her out the window. "I am Blackheart! Emperor of the anguish! Look at me now, father Look at what I have become! Look at my-- Well, I'll be damned... they've actually surprised me."

Rulk, with the Venom symbiote and Spirit of Vengeance, rides a motorcycle headed for Blackheart's lair, holding Alejandra. How ridiculous.

In General...

And I thought that it couldn't get any worse after the last issue. The main errors of this storyline as a whole are really obvious in this issue. Five issues in and the plot has next to no complexity. Blackheart is two-dimensional. The character who has a new movie coming out is giving me reasons why I shouldn't see it. The heroes have literally been going in circles for the whole arc.

Alejandra, of course, is the poison of this issue. Even with Venom, Rulk, and X-23 telling her to shut up, she is still being a brat. How does Rick Remender not know what he's doing? Or, more importantly, how does she still have a monthly book?

Another glaring problem is Rulk's constant defeat. A hulk is supposed to be an unstoppable killing machine, a tank if you will, that has no weakness. He's been beaten multiple time during the span of this arc. I know the gimmick they're using. 'Have the villain beat the hero to make them look tough.' But there's a point where the villain stops looking tough and the hero starts looking weak. Rulk deserves better.

Surprising form Remender, the dialogue is terrible. Blackheart refers to himself in the third person and sounds way too much like Crime-Master, a villain who's been in earlier issues of Venom. Doctor Strange sounds really corny, too.(I chose all of the worst dialogue and put it in my review, by the way.) Worst of all, it feels like Remender is cramming each page with unnecessary words.

The cliff hanger is a whole different problem. It brings out the monster-truck-loving-5-year-old in all of us doesn't it? In the end though, it is seriously ridiculous. Is this the type of stupidity that comics have come to? Have we run out of ideas? I seriously thought Remender was above these idiotic gimmicks...

Overall, I liked Medina's art. Remender gave him an extremely chaotic script and he handles it well. He makes up what the past artists (except for Tony Moore) have been lacking, background. Every detail is vivid and the shadows are placed masterfully. The only problem is that DeCastro doesn't ink the whole issue. Pallot's inks don't mix with the art well, resulting in some ruined panels.

Overall Rating...

This issue is the worst I have read from Rick Remender's run on Venom. It is terrible.