Recently, Flash saved Betty and his mom from the Savage Six. Upon finding his secret identity, Betty left Flash, hoping to never seeing him. Flash also had to explain his situation to the team he is on, the Secret Avengers.
In the Circle of Four, Flash saved NYC from spreading Hell, but had to make a deal with the devil doing so. Now, he is marked by Mephisto. Also, Daimon Hellstrom, who helped banish Hell, was acting weird after the Circle of Four...
Venom swings through New York City, reflecting on his life so far and how unglamorous being a superhero has been while he enters a parking complex. He thinks about how he used to be driven by fear of his abusive father to bully nerds and looked up to heroes like Spider-Man. He remembers how he lost his legs trying to be a hero and how he now has a second chance being Venom.
Behind him stands a lady in a vest, who says, “I’ve been standing here for a couple of minutes and you haven’t even noticed.” She introduces herself to be Katy Kiernan, a reporter Venom planned on meeting from the Daily Inquisitor. She shows that she has the information Venom has been looking for. Katy asks him why he has come to her and he reveals that his other contacts have come up with nothing. Venom, apparently, has been tracking the Department of Occult Armaments. Katy tells Venom that she has heard rumors about the D.O.A. and they’re not somebody he should “go after with guns blazing.” He tells her that this is a mission where he does not plan on engaging the enemies; just monitoring them. This is all a mission for the Secret Avengers.
Flash’s plan goes out the window later that night when he straightaway starts firing at his enemies once he enters their base. The villains he’s after happen to be a bunch of Nazi-demon worshippers with guns and swords. Venom shoots at them and falls into a room full of slimy people in pods. Once he deals with the rest of the hooded goons, he tears a guy out of a pod. Venom finds that the man’s heartbeat is strong and readies to save the other victims.
The man Flash saved, though, rises from the ground and strikes him, obviously possessed by a demon. Then, just as fast as he clawed our hero, the demon-possessed fellow falls to the ground and starts praising him. Venom tells him to “get the @#$% out of here” and the demon releases itself from the man’s body. Startled, Venom approaches the man and realizes that he just banished a demon. But before Flash can celebrate his victory, he is stuck be a lightning bolt that burns the man beside him.
Daimon Hellstrom rises before Venom and tells him, “Burn.” Apparently, Daimon is a leader of the D.O.A. and the actual son of the devil. Venom attempts at shooting Hellstrom, but he is, like seemingly every other villain he encounters, bulletproof. Venom and Hellstrom progress into an intense battle that drives Venom’s symbiote insane. Venom manages to pin Hellstrom to the floor and presses his gun to his head. Hellstrom reveals that the D.O.A. is building an army and all the people in the pods sacrificed themselves.
Daimon interrogations Venom, “You want to know why I sided with the D.O.A., don’t you?” Hellstrom explains how there isn’t “such an expansive gap between hero and monster.” Then, he elucidates that Venom and him are alike. “All the bluster and bravado in the world can’t hide the fact that you’re a killer. And you’re terrified that one misstep will awaken the monster again,” Hellstrom rants.
Quickly after saying this, Daimon catches Venom off guard and, using a fiery spear, overpowers him. He reveals to Venom that he has Mephisto’s brand upon his flesh and Venom experiences a painful transformation.
Once the transformation is finished, Venom has grown bigger with wings, horns and a longer tongue, making him a full-fledged demon!
I am not a fan of demons, magic, or any of that spiritual nonsense. Throughout many years of comic book reading, I have found that when a writer uses mystical baloney to explain something, it usually means that they couldn’t come up with a better description. In essence, magic has become the route of lazy writers. So, when I read and review this issue, I’m not very sure on where I stand on this issue.
While this was a solid first installment to a three-part story, it includes lots of magic and demon-possession. Particularly, Venom gets possessed by a demon at the end. Now, he has only been possessed for one page, but I still see that this could go two ways. On one path, the possession could prove to be a great theme that divulges into Venom’s internal clash. Or this could simply become a plot device that is used as a way to set up the rest of the story without much thought. Let’s see where this goes…
Otherwise, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Katy Kiernan as a new character in this issue. She seems like the generic, sassy reporter that seems to show up everywhere nowadays. Clearly, this is Bunn’s way to set up stories and put a bit of drama into the book now that Betty’s gone. Hopefully she doesn’t show up too much in the series. I’d take Betty over her any day.
After rereading the issue about fifty times, I have found Cullen Bunn’s voicing of Venom is pretty respectable. I mean, following up Remender’s terrific run with his terrific voicing of Flash is pretty tough. Bunn’s Venom seems to be less whiny than Remender’s, but he stays in character. I enjoyed the internal conflict that Hellstrom caused him in his little speech.
I think my main problem is the set-up of this story. First of all, this follows the events of the Circle of Four storyline and I’m sure we all wish that would be left in its own puddle of inconsistent waste. Second, it kind of makes no sense that the Secret Avengers would send Venom alone on a mission considering they’re a team and they gave him practically no mission plan or information. Last, how did Venom come in contact with Katy Kiernan and how does she have more information about the D.O.A. than S.H.I.E.L.D. and Secret Avengers.
Now, with my sprawling examination of the writing behind us, it’s time to get to the art. Thony Silas’ art isn’t very familiar to me other than that terrible tie-in to Spider-Man: Ends of the Earth. The art has its great portions and bad segments just the same. For instance, the two-pager where Venom is reflecting on his life looks amazing while parts of his battle look erratic in quality. Luckily, Decastro’s inking and Sotomayor’s colors do a good job at improving the art and trying to cover up the inconsistencies.
Let's see where this takes us...