Venom (Vol. 2) #40

Background

In the last Venom arc, the drug runner, Lord Ogre, sent Jack O' Lantern to kill Venom. Of course, he didn't manage to succeed, but he did kill the father of Flash's neighbor, Andi. To protect Andi from further attacks, Flash sent the symbiote to protect her. The symbiote split in two and Andi bonded with it, becoming Mania! Andi subdued Jack (who was revealed to be an imposter), and Flash convinced her to allow him to live. Under Flash's watch, Andi has moved to Jenkintown with her aunt, but she continues in crime fighting. Flash still has questions about the whole incident--and only his symbiote can answer them!

I should probably mention that Venom was also possessed by a demon by Daimon Hellstrom. In the Circle of Four, he was marked by the devil by Mephisto.

Story Details

  Venom (Vol. 2) #40
Arc: Part 1 of 'Mania' (1-2-3)
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Publisher: Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief: Axel Alonso
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor: Sana Amanat
Assistant Editor: Dan Lewis
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jorge Coelho
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire
Lettering: Joe Caramagna
Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Our story begins with Venom watching a man get beaten to death in an alleyway. Flash wonders if he wanted to die instead of facing “what the world might become.” Would he be thankful that he had been saved? If he wanted to live, would he have fought back? Venom decides that, either way, the world wouldn’t notice because it has bigger problems to worry about. Suddenly, the Earth is enveloped in Hell and Venom stands in the middle of it all.

Suddenly, Flash wakes up from his dream to find Mania at the foot of his couch-bed. She orders Flash to get up immediately so they can hunt down her father’s killer, but he’s a bit lethargic. She’s irate that they’ve barely progressed in the murder case in three weeks. “We’re superheroes for god’s sake!” Andi yells. Level-headedly, Flash explains that they aren’t superheroes, and she still needs to adjust to her symbiote. Inside, though, he knows Andi has adjusted very quickly--and aggressively.

When Andi vows to kill Lord Ogre, Flash says, “This hunger for revenge…this Mania…that seems less like the girl I think I know and more like the symbiote.” She decides that the symbiote knows her better than he does. Thankfully, Flash’s phone rings, and Katy Kiernan explains that Flash needs to get in a “Venom-Jet” (which we all know doesn’t exist) and travel to Austin, Texas. Flash informs Andi of the situation and asks her to “sit tight” until he gets back. Then, they can take down Lord Ogre together.

In Austin, Venom, disguised as a nerd, meets Katy Kiernan in a morgue. She asks her contact, Barry, to leave as they inspect something, assuring him she won’t “do anything to jeopardize our working relationship.” Obviously, she’s manipulating him with her looks. Continuing their mission, Katy shows Venom the dead body of Daimon Hellstrom, with his chest pentagram (a hell-mark) ripped off. Venom is astonished because he locked Hellstrom up in Venom (Vol. 2) #25, and she reveals that sightings of the satanic villain have been reported across the country. She asks where Venom’s sidekick, Mania, is, and he says she’s “laying low.”

In Philly, Mania is doing anything but lay low. In a club called the Freakshow, Mania beats up a horde of villains, querying where Lord Ogre is. They call her Venom, and she rants, “You vermin couldn’t he so lucky. The devil herself has come for you.” Ogre reveals himself and sends a group of freaks to attack Mania. Andi quickly slashes a man in a gas mask, but finds that she has been wounded herself. Hurriedly, Mania smashes the remaining two freaks into each other.

Upon his perch, Lord Ogre explains that he isn’t “frightened by a child in a monster mask” because he’s a monster himself. Mania yells, “You send henchmen to kill a girl’s father because you’re not man enough to strike at your real targets. And you might not be afraid of a girl in a mask…but it sure looks like you’re running for your life.” Ogre disappears.

At the Peak, Daimon Hellstrom, in his cell, is greeted by Venom, who’s disguised as a security guard named Collins after his outburst in Venom (Vol. 2) #27.1. “I certainly hope you haven’t eaten poor Collin’s brain,” Hellstrom jests. Flash gets to the point, describing how he found Hellstrom’s dead body, which was skinned of his brand.

Lately, hell-lords have been marking suitable replacements called the Descent. (Venom was marked by Mephisto during the Circle of Four, and Hellstrom has been marked because he’s the son of Mephisto.) Venom predicts that somebody has been eliminating his competition for the throne of Hell, and Hellstrom’s evil twin was just a victim. Hellstrom agrees that Venom’s theory is valid, and figures branded people like himself are in danger. Venom asks if he’s in risk, and Daimon informs him that he is no longer marked. Astonished, Flash wonders, if he isn’t marked, who is?

In Philly, Mania swings from building to building, unaware that she carries the mark of the devil. She’s watched by Crossbones, and a goon of his says, “Looks like a kid to me.” The assassin doesn’t see how age changes anything; he plans on hunting, killing, and skinning Andi of her hell-mark.

General Comments

So Bunn is trying his hand with the supernatural yet again! While I hated his Monsters of Evil arc and mystical stories tend to bore me, I was satisfied with this issue. The supernatural aspect of the story was successfully combined with the street-level tone Bunn’s been working with lately, making for a very interesting story. The plot for this story is very rich and begins what could be a very cool arc. It’s also nice to see that Bunn’s tying up his dangling plotlines with his last arc on Venom, because I hate it when writers abandon stories.

Once again, Bunn’s characterization of Andi is stop-on. I’ve grown from hating Andi’s stereotypical teenage character to enjoying her as a fresh superhero driven by her father’s death. In the scene where she’s talking to Flash, Bunn depicted her as defiant and rebellious, but not a bratty kid as many teenagers come off as in comics. Her desire to avenge her father by killing Lord Ogre adds depth to the story and makes the one-dimensional villain more interesting.

Speaking of villains, this issue is full of them. It was cool to see Daimon Hellstrom return in the chilling prison scene; his character seems to work better confined. The mystery of why he’s been spotted around the country is fascinating. As I mentioned above, Lord Ogre’s one-dimensional character has been advanced by Andi’s desire to avenge her father by killing him. I’m interested to see where Bunn goes with Crossbones; I haven’t read too much with him in it, but he’s always come off as a badass to me.

Jorge Coelho’s a new artist, and I think he shows some potential. His fine lines are excellent for subtly showing emotion in the quiet scenes. Sadly, the art lacks in the action, which many new artists tend to; it just looks a bit stale with awkward angles. Also, some scenes lack backgrounds, which is also a kink of new artists.

Overall Rating

The story is interesting with some captivating character work with Andi. Coelho carries potential as a new artist. Let's see where this goes.