One of the greatest achievements of this book, and one of the best mini events in recent history, was “The Circle of Four.” This story arc was written by one of my favorite writers at Marvel, Rick Remender. Under his writing, Remender made this title excel in every way, especially with the mystery and intrigue that surrounded the war within Hell and Venom becoming a possible successor to Mephisto.
However, since the book was picked up by Cullen Bunn, the “Demon Venom” story arc has been pushed aside in favor of setting him up as the hero of Philadelphia. This issue, however, seems to get back on track and ties in the Hell story arc nicely with the book’s new direction, along with a new addition to the symbiote family.
Over the past few issues, Venom has been quite busy. Between defending Philadelphia from a crime lord named Lord Ogre, and fighting the likes of the new TOXIN, he also has to deal with everyday life as a high school gym teacher. Sadly, this proves an even greater challenge, as one of his students, a teenage punk rocker girl named Andi, sees him use the Venom symbiote during class.
As she is about to confront Flash about it, she is assaulted by one of Venom’s worst enemies, JACK-O-LANTERN, who proceeds to attack her and her father until Venom comes to the rescue. Sadly, he is too late, as Jack has already killed Andi’s father and has his sights set on her. Without thinking, Flash sends out a fraction of his symbiote to protect Andi from any attack but is shocked to find out that the fraction he sent to her, instead of protecting her, has instead BONDED with her as an independent symbiote.
With a new symbiotic hero on the loose, Venom has more to deal with than just Lord Ogre. How did Venom spawn a new symbiote so unexpectedly? Is it even a spawn? Or is it something more? Thankfully, for once, this week’s issue gives us a straight answer.
Grieving over her father’s murder, Andi goes on a rampage through Philly against Flash’s wishes in order to find Lord Ogre, the crime boss who sent Jack-O-Lantern after Flash. As she rampages, donning the monicker of MANIA, Flash is called away by one of his contacts to investigate a dead body in Texas. All the while he wonders how the suit could have bonded with Andi so quickly. When he arrives in Texas, he meets with his contact who reveals the dead body of another of Venom’s arch enemies, Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan!
Venom sees this as impossible, as he knows he left Daimon behind bars in a max security prison, which is exactly where he finds him when he goes to check on him. He asks Daimon what his doppleganger is, to which Hellstrom replies that it has to do with the War in Hell. A seat of power is up for grabs, and someone is going about eliminating those similar to Hellstrom, who is marked with the pentagram of Hell, a mark that imbues its wearer with the chance at inheriting a throne of Hell.
Flash knows he wears that same symbol, which puts him on the chopping block. However, Hellstrom advises him that he no longer bears the mark of the beast. Being a denizen of Hell, Hellstrom can see the mark on any being, and Flash’s mark has disappeared. Knowing that this could mean only one thing, Flash races back to Philly to rescue his now DEMONIC side kick.
This issue brings back the story I was loving from Remender’s run of the series. Remender knows how to make a story epic, and returning to his ideas are a significant improvement over the recent shenanigans in Philly that Bunn has been writing about. Mania is also an interesting twist to add to this story, and I was pleasantly surprised with how she was portrayed.
Many a comic nerd believed she would amount to no more than a Robin-esque sidekick knockoff; thankfully this isn’t the case. She is a motivated crime fighter and wants to fight to avenge her father. While you can say her origins are very ROBIN-esque, she handles it very differently, being much more ferocious and less obedient than The Boy Wonder.
My main issue with this book, which has been an ongoing problem for some time now, has been the artwork, and this issue does not help. The art style seems very thin and lifeless, giving characters very minimal detail to their facial expressions. This, along with an overbearing use of shading and dark hues, does not make for a pretty comic book.
-A comfortable return to the old, with an interesting twist on the story that was somewhat unexpected
-A brand new character that is shaping up to play a major role in upcoming books
-The fact the we had to wait this long to return to the “Demonic Venom” storyline
-Dull and lifeless artwork