Comics : Venom (Vol. 2) #14

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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...

Blackheart has spread Hell across Earth. Ghost Rider, Venom, Red Hulk, and X-23 must stop it. Red Hulk is now bonded to the Spirit of Vengeance and Venom symbiote. When the arc began, Red Hulk went after Venom once he went AWOL.

In Detail...

"Circle of Four Part 6"
Venom (Vol. 2) #14
May 2012 : SM Spin-Off
Summary: Heroes save the world.
Arc: Part 6 of "Circle of Four"
Writer:  Rick Remender
Artist:  Tony Moore
Cover Art:  Frank Martin Jr, Stefano Caselli
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Val Staples
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alomso
Senior Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Editor:  Jeanine Schaefer
Associate Editor:  Tom Brennan
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Review

The story begins with a group of demons chasing civilians in the streets of Las Vegas. A terrified Vegas girl runs down an alley, followed by a demon goat. In the alley, lays Flash Thompson, without his Venom symbiote. (Remember that he lost his legs in Iraq, so he's crippled without the symbiote.) He shoots the goat with his pistol and the lady runs away from him in fear. Time slows down while she is torn apart in front of him by demons. Time speeds up while hundreds of them gather around him. He only has two clips left. Flash thinks, "Giving Hulk the symbiote was a bad idea."

Cut to our favorite Hulk/symbiote/Spirit of Vengeance, riding his motorcycle to kill Blackheart. "Wwe AmM SmMAShH FfOR VeNGEAnNCE!" he cries as he smashes into Blackheart's fortress. (Yep. Hulk is definitely not in control.) Alejandra runs away as he confronts Blackheart. "So you've combined, but what do you hope to accomplish?" he says. "Hell's hatred fuels me--GAKK!" The Spirit of Vulk (my new nickname for the symbiotic monster) shuts him up with a clump of fiery webbing. "Wwe DeSIRE OnE THinNG,"' he yells "VENGEANCE." He brutally rams his motorcycle into Blackheart, severely injuring his neck.

Back at Blackheart's trap, the centrifuge, X-23 instructs for Blaze to turn in the other direction when she says. "You are going to suck Hell back down and then I am going to blow this doorway apart," she explains. "C-can't k-keep this up--much longer, girl!" he replies. She sets up the explosive but is halted by Gari Oyle. X-23 slashes her claws at Gari, but she easily dodges them. "You know, we gargoyles are versed in black magic," she exclaims. "Alchemy, for example. Most metals turn to copper dust silly easy." X-23 watches as her claws evaporate before her eyes. "Now," Gari giggles. "How about a taste of your own medicine?"

Back at the strip, Flash is still stuck with six rounds left in his pistol, fifty demons surrounding him. As he accepts his fate, a surprising voice comes from the car behind him. "C'mon, Stumpy--You're gonna help me get the Spirit of Vengeance back," says Alejandra. She is pissed that she wasn't told about the Spirit of Vulk part of the plan. Flash tells her that the mixed monster is "the best hope we have." She tells him that she just wants her precious Spirit of Vengeance. "Fine, but now we have to get too the centrifuge to make sure it's destroyed," Flash insists. "I'm not going to help you!" she disagrees. Flash points his pistol at her head. "Bet you will."

At Blackheart's lair, Spirit of Vulk swings in for a rebound at Blackheart. He hits him in the stomach and lands on top of him. "SUfFErR NnOW--OUrR PpENAnCE STaRE!" he roars. Blackheart grows purple and begins to grow. "Fool," he scolds. "The penance stare makes a mind relive all misdeeds at once. Misdeed is what I draw my power from!"

While in an hand-to-hand combat with Gari Oyle, X-23 plants a bomb on her back. She is about to explode it when Gari hits her to the ground. The remote in just out of X-23's reach but Gari savagely bites her in the neck. Flash and Alejandra drive by just in the nick of time. Flash shoots Gari with his gun, ding little damage. Alejandra catches him off guard and pushes him out of the car. Flash, crippled on the ground, is stabbed by Gari Oyle's claws. Alejandra drives away.

Spirit of Vulk is now being chased by Blackheart. Blackheart picks him up and throws him into the side of a building. Krawtooooom! (Geez, Rulk's plans are so well thought out.)

"Want another round blondie?" Gari Oyle taunts Flash. "You got any fight left for old mama Oyle? Your finger twitching...that a yes?" As she walks away to kill Blaze, Flash lifts his gun up. He shoots the explosive on her back, and she blows up. "Nice teamwork," X-23 says.

Blackheart's game of cat-and-mouse continues as he chases Spirit of Vulk around the flaming city. "Hell has spread--taken over the west coast. I can taste the suffering. Once I ingest your little spirit of Vengeance I will be strong enough to storm Hell," he boasts. The Spirit of Vulk jumps down the hill with the mirror that formed Blackheart's antithesises. "WwE FOUNdD YyOUrR MirROrR'" he growls. "No! I have no antithesis!" Blackheart cries as he covers his eyes. An blinding angel flies from the mirror. "But you do, my child. Let me heal your squalid soul," it offers.

"Blaze! Do it now! Go the other way!" Flash orders. "You got it amigo," Blaze exclaims. "Flush this muck back down the big drain."

"Please! I've come so far--" Blackheart pleads. "Sunk so low. Fear not, dear brother. Your soul may yet be redeemed...step into the light." Everything turns bright white.

Blaze, Flash, and X-23 drive off as the centrifuge blows up. Hell is sucked back to its rightful place. With the Devil. Everything is peachy.

Alejandra walks up to Spirit of Vulk and says, "Had your fun. Relinquish the spirit to its rightful owner." The spirit leaves Hulk and posses Alejandra. As she drives away, Blaze and the gang arrive. The symbiote leaves Rulk and returns to its rightful owner. Once it has settled itself on Flash, Captain America, Hank Pym, Beast, Daimon Hellstrom, and Doctor Strange confront him. Cap orders for the Avengers to take him, but Rulk objects. "You got the kid all wrong, Cap. He saved the day, showed real gravel. He's a hero," he convinces. "I saved New York, Las Vegas, and you," Venom says. "What'll it take to get a break?" Beast and Pym decide that they can come up with a way to keep the symbiote dormant. "I just want to serve my country," Flash interjects. Cap breaks and shakes his hand. Doctor Strange notices that something's wrong Daimon, and he tells him that it's "a problem for another day."

Back in Hell, Mephisto is pleased to see that Blackheart failed. His son and Gari bow down to him on his throne. "You want to give it another try?" he suggests. "Hmmm. Well, I was thinking of opening my own casino, one much less conspicuous, obviously. Want to run it?" Blackheart agrees and Gari and him are transported to a trashy family casino. "Your entire life, a loop, a personal Hell devised by someone who hates you very much. Such cruel, unending monotony," Mephisto says. Blackheart and Gari, in their human forms, are given mops by a old hick and are told to clean up the floor. "How long will it take the prince of Hell and his dolt bride to climb the ladder this time?" he ponders. "Eternity."

In General...

This arc was really a step down from the quality that has been shown in the past twelve issues. The ending in his issue is a bit sudden and seems too clean. What is the aftermath of this arc? Hell was spread across the world. You'd think that tons of people would die and such, but there is follow-up.

It feels like Remender forgot that Hell has left Las Vegas in this issue. The whole entire idea that was stressed the whole arc just vanished. Ghost Rider's betrayal, the defense of the amulet to keep Hell contained, the heroes deaths, all irrelevant in the end. The four middle issues were just a waste of time.

You may have also noticed that, since Hell was spread across Earth, the stakes are lowered. The Avengers and X-Men have a shot at stopping Blackheart. Before, they were trapped on the outside and it was all up to the four main antiheroes. So, even if Rulk's plan failed, the day would have been saved. The Avengers eat this type of crap for breakfast.

Of course, there is still Alejandra, everybody's favorite brat. She freaking pushed a cripple out of the window of her car and drove away. This is Flash's book, and I'm just angry that she did that and just drove away. I think that every Venom fan reading this was disappointed that they didn't get a Venom vs. Ghost Rider battle. I know I was.

On the plus side, the presentation of Hulk, Venom, and Ghost Rider's combination didn't anger me as much as I thought he would. Flash and X-23's battle with Gari Oyle was exciting and climatic. (Although, I do wonder how Flash survived a claw straight through the shoulder without his symbiote...) The pacing was good and the dialogue was enjoyable.

I know it's a bit odd for me to recognize this but, once the symbiote left Rulk, how is he still wearing shorts? Usually, the symbiote strips its host of their clothes when it possesses them because it sees no purpose for them. After all, it is able to act as clothes its host. Then again, a better question would be...how do Rulk's pants stay on him when he transforms form Ross? The world will never know...

Tony Moore's art is great. His backgrounds are terrifying and he makes the Spirit of Vulk look really cool. Every panel he illustrates is awesome and he really makes Flash look terrific. Somehow, he is able to combine a cartoony style with a really bloody and gory style. I wish that he will come back on this title soon.

Overall Rating...

I liked this issue more than I should have. The ending is a bit too clean but the art is good.

Footnote...

Tony Moore doesn't come back to Venom. His run had to end with this hellish arc. (I made a funny.)