by J.D. Cook
Venom Issues: 13, 13.1,13.2,13.3, 13.4 and 14
Story Arc: Venom Circle of Four (Venom Goes to Hell)
Written By: Rick Remender, Jeff Parker and Rob Williams
Art By: Tony Moore, Lan Medina, Julian Tedesco, Sana Takeda and Lee Garbett
If you’re reading with no prior knowledge; Venom is a symbiotic alien suit currently paired with former Peter Parker bully turned War Hero Flash Thompson. It’s a great comic series and it’s ending soon thus my reason for this countdown of it’s top 7 Story Arcs . Beware Spoilers if you’d like to read these or haven’t read them yet! So without further delay Number 3 on the countdown.
Circle of Four was an awesome combination of some of the coolest Anti-Heroes Marvel has ever produced. Their Most Recent Red Hulk is sent to Las Vegas to capture A.W.O.L. soldier Flash Thompson who is on a binder in Vegas. At the same time X-23, Wolverine’s clone finds herself tracking someone who stole her blood to similarly clone her. The new Ghost Rider, Alejandra, being trained by Johnny Blaze finds herself drawn to an intense evil in Vegas and thus the ‘Circle of Four’ is complete as they find themselves standing between Blackheart’s plans to transform Earth into Hell starting with a casino he created in Sin City. This is definitely my favorite of the Venom tie-ins, crossovers or events.
What makes these issues great are the amount of surprises! I mean I’m finding it really hard writing about these issues simply because of the amount of twists and turns the story takes. I will say that one of my favorite moments in the story is when Blackheart uses the H’Elian’s Mirror Cauldron to create direct reflections of the heroes souls to oppose them. They range from funny, in the case of X-23, she gets a happy cheerleader with cuts on her as her opposite, to disturbing in the case of Red Hulk whose opposite is a giant brain. Ghost Rider’s is an Angel and Venom’s is a Preacher. They all make a lot of psychological sense. X-23 never had much of a childhood and was a born weapon so her anti-thesis is a classic suburban cheerleader. Red Hulk is all muscle physically and his actions usually involve brute force so a brain incarnate is a fitting enemy. Venom’s host Flash Thompson is an alcoholic who is constantly making mistakes so he gets a Preacher who is pure and abstains from all of the substances that Thompson yields to. Ghost Rider is a spirit of vengeance working for dark forces originally so she gets an angel of justice since that is the metaphysical opposite to vengeance.
Throughout the issues some interesting alliances develop. Although Red Hulk was sent to capture Venom the two quickly ally as they both have military backgrounds. X-23 spends most of her time on her own trying to go the assassin’s route and Ghost Rider’s new host Alejandra proves to be something of a hindrance to the team as she desires absolution for a past mistake more than saving the world. It’s also fun to note that the characters find themselves combined in strange ways. The clones of X-23 are bonded to Symbiote clones of Venom creating hybrid combinations of the characters. Probably the greatest moment of the entire story is when most of the heroes actually do combine. Red Hulk is given both the Symbiote and the Spirit of Vengeance creating one hell of a super hero. Sorry if I spoiled that for ya but I couldn’t discuss this story without touching on it. The other big moment of the story that I just have to discuss is that all of the heroes fail pretty spectacularly. I mean they literally go to hell they screw up so bad. Luckily for them the ruler of the Hell dimension Mephisto doesn’t want to see his son succeed where he has failed and a good old fashioned deal with the devil is struck. Sadly while the implications of this deal are touched on in Venom’s later issues; the implications of the deal don’t seem to have popped up much for Red Hulk, X-23 and Alejandra. If they were I didn’t hear anything about it but I would love if these characters came back together to touch on that.
I’m not usually the type that wants to see two characters start a relationship but I couldn’t help thinking X-23 would make an awesome pairing with Venom. I mean Flash Thompson’s humor combined with X-23’s dark brooding nature would be awesome! I know Thompson is currently dating the Asgardian Valkyrie but I will always put those two together in my mind. Venom and Red Hulk are actually still working together over in the Thunderbolts comic but I was disappointed with the first arc and haven’t read it much lately. I may return to it to see if it’s gotten more interesting. Complete side note but the twisted love between Blackheart and his creepy pig side kick with wings is awesome and the way the hell dimension is depicted is pretty wild.
On the subject of art all of the artists are phenomenal and the best part of the art for me was the fact that four of the covers actually connected to create a larger picture. I have all of the issues and I really want to have them framed in an office someday. I guess that about does it for this story arc. It’s an outstanding work of collaboration between everyone involved. It turned Venom into a real super hero as the events of these issues turned him into a Secret Avenger and earned him the trust of Captain America himself. I hope that one day down the line I see a sequel to this story hit stands with the same heroic team up. Except maybe good old Johnny Blaze as the Ghost Rider because to me he is the Ghost Rider and it’s hard to get into any other host for the Spirit of Vengeance…oh and I wouldn’t mind if Dr. Strange leads them into mystery because after all who doesn’t love the Sorcerer Supreme?
Don’t forget to check back on 10-2 and 10-4 for the final parts of the Top 7 Story Arcs of Venom Countdown!