Venom (Vol. 2) #42

Background

When Venom attempted to protect Andi with his symbiote, a part of it bonded to her...becoming Mania! The new superhero has been hung up on killing Lord Ogre, the crime boss responsible for her father's slaying. Last issue, she defeated him, but was confronted by Crossbones and a fleet of Department of Occult Armaments agents, who have been killing everybody with the devil's brand. Flash had been marked by Mephisto, but it was passed to Mania with the symbiote. To remove the mark, Flash decided that they must make a deal with the devil.

Story Details

  Venom (Vol. 2) #42
Arc: Part 3 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

In Atlantic City, New Jersey, Venom and Mania enter an abandoned casino. “A ruined casino…The two of us taking a change just by walking through the door,” Mania jokes, but Flash isn’t in a laughing mood. Venom explains that the casino was deserted after a mob killing and takes out a coin “anointed in the blood of a mad prophet” that he gained from an informant. He enters it in a slot machine and receives three pictures of devils when he spins.

Suddenly, Mephisto appears behind Venom, ranting, “Your tragic little life keeps dragging you back to sleaze-pits like this. You’re my kind of loser!” Flash points two pistols at the devil, but he convinces him to put them away so they can “chat like civilized folk.” Mania tells Mephisto, “Remove this…brand…you’ve put on my soul…and me and my gym teacher here won’t stomp a mud hole in your sorry carcass.”

After a moment of silence, Mephisto begins laughing, but then discovers Mania is serious, asking, “Just who do you think you’re dealing with, little girl?” Venom explains that he was marked in Circle of Four, but Andi is now. “It would seem that your otherworldly symbiote has some unexpected tricks up its sleeve. Or should I say…in its flesh,” Mephisto clarifies. “Some time ago, it absorbed something…its clone. And it would seem that it was able to spit it back out…with the devils mark.” (For those of you who haven’t figured it out, the whole clone-absorption happened in Daniel Way’s Venom.)

After hearing Mephisto’s elucidation, Mania is disappointed that she’s a copy. Flash inquires where the demon that possessed him went and queries how Mephisto knows so much about the symbiote. Suddenly, two demons appear and attempt to burn the heroes. They duck for cover as Crossbones, a bunch of tanks, and a bunch of D.O.A. agents burst into the casino. Mephisto seems to disappear. Mania is frightened by the chaos and bullets, but Venom coolly describes that the symbiote will protect her from the small arms fire.

When Venom begins shooting the villains, Mania attacks the D.O.A. goons by sending two giant, symbiotic claws to assault them from the floor. Venom tackles Crossbones to the floor and begins intimidating him with his giant, symbiotic teeth. Sadly, the assassin isn’t frightened and slashes Venom’s face.

While he stabs Crossbones’ hand, Flash thinks about how he’s never wanted to become a father, because he never wanted to risk becoming like his own dad. “Andi told me I should stop trying to act like her father. And she’s right. Her father died because of me…on the same night she became Mania…also because of me.” He decides that it’s his responsibility to protect Mania. Flash used to retreat to drinking when he was disappointed, but now that he has Andi to protect, he will fight until his “knuckles are raw” and he can only taste is his own sweat and blood.

As the battle continues, Venom smashes Crossbones while Andi fights two demons. Crossbones yells to Master Mayhem, “Yer supposed to be our magical backup! I don’t hear some abracadabras coming outta yer pie hole--and I mean this @#$%%$# second--I’m gonna feed you to those things!” Mayhem is still stunned that his demons turned on him during last issue. Suddenly, Mephisto appears behind him and says, “It is so disappointing to see you mucking around with my plans. Trying to harvest devil’s marks from my chosen,” as he subdues Mayhem.

Mephisto still has uses for Mayhem’s body: out of the portal in his chest, the devil summons…the Monsters of Evil! Upon seeing the creatures, Venom says that he warned them never to show themselves. Mephisto explains that he no longer has his power to influence the beasts; they’re now under Mania’s control. Excitedly, Andi orders the Monster of Evil to tear apart the villains and they do.

Together, Venom and Mania ask Crossbones and Mayhem if they want to surrender. The villains, instead, teleport away, saying there will be a next time! With all the villains gone, Mephisto returns to our heroes and explains that he ordered the Monsters of Evil to leave and the criminals are a snack for them.

Venom commands Mephisto to erase Andi’s mark, but he refuses. Therefore, he unleashes fire bullets on the devil, which sadly causes no damage. “Such an insult…I should filet you where you stand,” Mephisto exclaims. “But it would seem that we have mutual enemies…and they have designs on dear Mania. She needs you…and so, too, do I.” Mania asks about the demon which once possessed Flash, but the devil explains that she’s not the only bleeding heart on his schedule. As he teleports away, Mephisto says, “My original bargain…the one that marked Venom…was not with Flash. It was with the symbiote.”

With everything quiet for once, Flash asks Andi if she’s okay, and she responds that she doesn’t know how she’s supposed to feel. Our hero explains that he won’t stop until the mark is removed from her. As they hug, Flash thinks about how you have to fight, but “sometimes, it’s just as important to let your guard down.” He continues, “All the things I dreamed of being. And [I’m] still surprised…even at the end…with how my life turned out.”

General Comments

I was a bit disappointed by Bunn with this final issue of Venom. I thought that, by bringing the supernatural up in this arc, Bunn planned on tying up old plotlines, but instead he seems to have reopened old wounds. Bunn obviously knew that the title was being canceled before this arc, so it feels now like he was bringing the Decsent and the D.O.A. back around as a bitter “this is what was coming for the title, but it was canceled so we can’t have good things.” Anyways, it’s not like any other writer plans on picking up a story that began in a failing Spider-Man spinoff. Andi will indefinitely go into character limbo, Bunn’s Descent story will never come up again, and it will be years before Toxin ever shows up.

If this wasn’t the last issue of this series and the events inside were planned on being followed up later in the series, this would have been excellent. The action of the issue is very well laid out and the dialogue is probably the strongest that Bunn’s written in this series. I know Mephisto is a bit sensitive for Spider-Fans after One More Day, but I enjoyed his role in this issue, even if it just left more questions than answers in the end. I do have to give Bunn credit from tying things up from Way’s run of Venom. Although that series was terrible, I still like the continuity, and now we never have to think about the loose plotline from it.

Once again, Bunn’s character work is great. Flash’s inner dialogue while he’s fighting Crossbones is very consistent with the character’s portrayal by Rick Remender. It’s very believable that he’s been afraid of becoming a father out of fear of becoming like his own. The fact that Andi has begun driving him as a hero is a great motivation for the character; Flash finally has some personal investment in his battles. Andi’s sarcastic, somewhat brash character continues to amuse me.

Of course, I have a few problems with this story. Firstly, it’s pretty weak how the D.O.A. was revealed to be behind the supernatural killings in the background section of this issue. As far as I know, the organization hadn’t even been mentioned in the arc until this issue. Second, why would Bunn introduce Daimon Hellstrom’s clones in the beginning of this arc to simply forget about them? Third, Master Mayhem is a very weak villain. The only purpose he has in this story is to be repeatedly beat up. Fourth, I wonder what happened to Lord Ogre. He had been the concentration of the past two arcs, but he has been totally forgotten about here. Was he killed by the demons last issue? If so, that’s pretty anticlimactic and doesn’t advance Andi’s character at all.

Lastly, Coelho’s art is pretty solid. He rarely gets any quiet moments, which he excels at, in this issue, but the action’s still good. The highlight of this issue visually is when the Monsters of Evil appear. When Thony Silas drew them in the Monsters of Evil arc, they looked like jokes, but Coelho successfully makes them look villainous and cool. Mephisto also looks pretty awesome as well.

Overall Rating

Too many loose plotlines and many minor problems hold me back from giving this issue more. The character, dialogue, and action are all excellent, but this just doesn't work well as a conclusion to the series.

I’m pretty depressed to see Venom has been cancelled, especially since Bunn’s story was just beginning to pick up. Of course, the beginning of his run was absolutely terrible and unforgivable. The average rating for Bunn’s Venom arc (not counting Savage Six, because that was obviously mostly Remender’s writing) is about 2.5 webs. I’d give Bunn’s beginning run up to Venom (Vol. 2) #36 2 webs, and everything beyond that 3 webs.

It’s pretty amazing that this series ran for 42 issues (not counting all the crazy .1s). For a while, I think it was the highest numbered series at Marvel! I will always consider Remender’s Venom run as the best thing for the character since his introduction, except for Circle of Four that is. I’ll miss reviewing this series, but you can bet that I’ll snatch up the Venom reboot when it inevitably comes out in a few years. (Heck, with a Storm and Deathlock series coming out, I’d imagine it’s right around the corner!)