VENOM (2011) #13 REVIEW


Caselli & Martin cover

Crain variant cover

Simonson & Martin variant cover

Simonson variant cover

 

Venom’s six-part weekly event, an homage to Walt Simonson and Art Adams’s Fantastic Four line-up from the early 1990s, kicks off here. You’re going to want to read this review!

Leave a comment, too!

VENOM #13
“Circle of Four” Part 1
WRITER: Rick Remender
ART: Tony Moore
COLOR: Val Staples
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna

PLOT:

So Flash wallows in his Las Vegas hotel, sipping his booze and petting his symbiote, when suddenly the Kool-Aid Man attacks!

OH YEAH!

 

The new Ghost Rider, named Alejandra, and her mentor Johnny Blaze are drawn to Vegas by an aura of crying souls. X-23 also enters Vegas. A casino proprietor named Mr. Degli has procured her blood sample and has grown X-23 clones with symbiotes attached!

Okay, now things are getting silly.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Degli and his girlfriend, Ms. Oyle, create a hell gate in Vegas. They trick Ghost Rider into activating it by zooming her bike around a big, wheel-shaped centrifuge. If she stops driving, then the portal will reverse and pull Earth into hell.

Hell spills into Vegas, transforming it into a fiery cesspool of sin and decay. Well, more of one, anyway. Johnny Blaze places a medallion to keep Hell from spreading beyond Vegas. Johnny also sends a message to Daimon Hellstrom via payphone. Finally, Johnny takes over riding around the centrifuge so Ghost Rider can fight the villains.

Mr. Degli and Ms. Oyle reveal their true demonic forms. In fact, Degli is none other than Blackheart! Blackheart brags to his father, Mephisto, via crystal ball, and promises to claim all the souls of Earth and Hell.

What an adoring couple!

 

The four superheroes convene in Blackheart’s tower at the hellscape’s center and team up. Blackheart has one more trick, however. Using a magic mirror, he summons four villains that represent the antitheses of the four heroes: Ichor, X-666, The Evangelist, and Encephalon.

THOUGHTS:
Venom #13 is distilled insanity, occasionally verging on nightmarish psychedelia. Devils, symbiotic female Wolverine clones, a demonic cheerleader, a giant walking brain, a hellscape strewn with giant baby heads surging with maggots and Lovecraftian monsters composed of human fingers . . . if anyone predicted that this is where the new Venom series starring Flash Thompson would end up inside of its first publishing year, then congratulations. I for one love how this series continually evolves and changes course. Remender’s Venom never gets boring or repeats itself.

Oh no! Not the POM-PONS OF HELL! Sweet Lord, show us mercy!

 

Certain writer and artist pairs have a “symbiotic” relationship in which their visions merge into a single expressive personality on the page. Rick Remender and Tony Moore are one of those teams. Every gruesome detail, every hilarious facial expression, and every explosion of action channels and amplifies Remender’s twisted high concepts and subtle eccentricities. No other artist but Moore can so thoroughly, so robustly, interpret Remender’s bizarre imagination.

A Bosch-esque two-page spread depicting Vegas after it has merged with Hell stands out as the artistic highlight. I find some new and horrifying imagery tucked into it every time I look at it. To convey the art’s density and striking level of detail, here is A SMALL CORNOR OF THE BACKGROUND.

Seriously, this is only about an eighth of the full image. There's enough nightmare fuel in this thing to last a good long time.

 

The story itself provides unadulterated brain-candy. When it comes to supernatural Marvel yarns, the sillier they are, the better they are. The angst and heady themes from earlier issues take a back seat to the action and fun horror elements in Remender’s writing. One could compare Remender and Moore’s creations to a good haunted house–macabre and depraved, but you walk out the door grinning. Furthermore, even with an extended length, this issue accomplishes tremendous plot progression. Under modern storytelling conventions, assembling a team, establishing an interdimensional conflict, introducing a cataclysmic event, and bringing the heroes face to face with their enemies in one issue is rare.

Sadly, I must mention this book’s negative points. As much as I love the villains, the setting, and Flash Thompson himself, I cannot get behind Venom’s teammates. For one, Lady Ghost Rider has all the personality of a wooden plank. I guess her character trait is supposed to be “rebellious” in that she recklessly disregards Johnny Blaze’s tutelage, but there does not seem to be much else to define her other than emotionless dialogue. Moreover, X-23’s internal monologue contains some weird existential navel-gazing that comes across as pretentious. Finally, Red Hulk is a character I have never liked, though admittedly Remender and Moore humanize him somewhat–he actually appears frightened of Blackheart in one panel. On the whole, though, this team has no apparent chemistry, nor does this story spark much insight on the individual characters. That prevents this very good comic from becomming great.

RATING:
3.5 demonic pom-pons out of 5 (Good).

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT! KEEPING UP WITH THESE ISSUES WILL BE CHALLENGING AND I NEED YOUR FEEDBACK IN ORDER TO STAY MOTIVATED! NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, NO MATTER WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY, PLEASE POST SOMETHING! 

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(29) Comments

  1. crazychris

    Sorry to hear about your friend pushing you away. I don't dislike JRJR but I think you're right about his most recent stuff being less good. I did lov.e his work with JMS but I liked his BND work much less

  2. Iron Patriot

    @24-Chris: Well,a few weeks ago, my best friend pushed me out of her life, saying that I knew too much for her to be comfortable staying friends. She said everything I did for her meant a lot, though, so I guess I did do some good. Anyway, this is not about me, this is about Venom #13! Don't worry, I'm with you on JRJR. He isn't in my top five favorite artists. Even what I think is his best work, during the JMS run with Scott Hanna inking, is still pretty flawed. I'm thinking who inks his pencils has a lot to do with it. Klaus Janson isn't really the best fit. Just my opinion. And yeah, it is sad that Moore hasn't been able to do much issues of Venom. Not that the other artists, Medina, Caselli, and Fowler, were bad, it's just that,like you said, Moore brings out the best in Remender and vice-versa.

  3. CrazyChris - Post author

    @21-Two Bit, It's good to hear that those writers do good work. I have not sampled them so I haven't known what to expect. I just look at their names and see "not Remender." @22-Iron Patriot, I hope your friend is feeling better now. I'm sure it meant a lot to her to have someone there to talk her down. I never thought to compare Moore to Romita Jr. but now that you mention it I can see it. This might be blasphemy on a Spidey board but I think Moore is even better. In fact, Moore might just be my favorite comic artist right now. The only problem is that, unlike JRJR, Moore can't seem to keep a steady pace on a book. I don't know if this is just happenstance but he always seems to be sporadic when he's on a book. He only did one arc of Walking Dead and now he does an issue of Venom here and there. @23-Enigma, I'm not really freaking out. Ghost Rider is a character that has a succession of hosts and that makes sense for the character's premise, so why not try one who's a female? And some females have breasts. I guess you could question why a character with no flesh would have breasts considering that there's no bone in breasts, but on the other hand Blaze is often drawn with muscles showing through his clothes so perhaps the Ghost Rider's costume magically assumes the body shape of its host for some reason.

  4. Enigma_2099

    You're all overlooking the most important thing here... GHOST RIDER HAS BOOBS!!!! AM I THE ONLY ONE FREAKING OUT OVER THIS?!?!?

  5. Iron Patriot

    @20-Chris: I know Remender didn't mean that to offend anybody, and if I recall correctly,X-23 cuts as well. That was just my instant reaction when I saw that image. I have a friend that cuts and was close to killing herself several times. I was basically talking her down from a ledge one of those times. Anybody else get a Romita Jr vibe from Moore's art?

  6. CrazyChris - Post author

    @18 Two-Bit, yeah, there are a total of five Venom issues in February. After Venom #13 comes Venom #13.1, 13.2, 13.3, and 13.4. Some of those issues are written by Jeff Parker and Rob Williams, the writers of Hulk and Ghost Rider. Oh, and thanks for that link. I'll study up and hopefully it'll help me review this arc better. @19 Iron Patriot, I actually like Crain's cover. It's cool how he makes the commando Venom suit actually look like it's still an alien life form. "Petting his symbiote" is something I just made up. The symbiote does hand him a liquor bottle, though, which is hilarious. On the topic of cutting. I've had friends who had that problem, and one of my good friends hospitalized herself because she cut too deep. So I can see why that image might be insensitive. It's hard for me to start criticizing this story on that level yet because we don't know much about this character.

  7. Iron Patriot

    Good review, Chris. Not really much to say, since I haven't read the issue yet, so I'll just comment on what I see. All of the covers are VERY VERY 90s. Not a bad thing, especially since this is an homage to a 90s FF story and they look pretty good(except for the Crain variant. His art's too close to the uncanny valley), but still, couldn't they get just one cover that doesn't involve them charging forward, doing their thing? "Petting his symbiote" sounds unspeakably dirty. Moore's art looks like JRJR's art, but good.(Sorry, I don't dig any of JRJR's art past, let's say, Wolverine:Enemy of the State.) Cheerleader with cuts all over her arms and legs. Didn't need to see that. I get upset when there's a reference to cutting, especially teenagers. I wonder how Moore packed that much detail into something that isn't a full page splash. That is some messed up stuff there.

  8. Two-Bit Specialist

    Chris, Venom is weekly in February? That's crazy. Good-bye, spending cash. :( I saw the Circle of Four ads but I never realized it was a reference to Walt Simonson's New Fantastic Four arc. For those of you who don't know, Fantastic Four #347-349 (December 1990-February 1991) featured Spider-Man, Grey Hulk, Wolverine, and Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider teaming up to rescue the FF from the Mole Man. It was rather goofy, apparently, but still good stuff. You can find a good article on it here: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/04/23/comics-you-should-own-fantastic-four-347-349/ The story was revisited in that excellent Christos Gage mini-series "Spider-Man/Fantastic Four" in issue #3. In the Carnage U.S.A. mini, they have a little mini-update on the current status of all symbiotes. Anti-Venom is inactive, Venom is AWOL (of course), Hybrid was split up back into its four symbiote components, which are now being used as bio-weapons, and Toxin was "missing." Finally, this is totally not what I thought the Road Trip arc would lead to. Remender likes to keep us guessing, doesn't he?

  9. crazychris

    12, even if he went down fighting it would still be a betrayal of toxins fans to kill him off panel without mentioning him by name. I feel the same way about the other jack o lanterns who remender killed off panel with just a casual line of dialog. I dont really care about these characters but someone might.

  10. Brian Bradley

    @13 Sthenurus... Yeah, Beast sticks out there, especially since he left the 'militarized' X-Men that Cyclops was running.. but I would consider Hawkeye's run with Avengers and SHIELD (has he done that in 616?) as military-like... and Captain Britain is a Captain, that's gotta count for something :)

  11. Sthenurus

    @11 I took the whole killing comment also as a hint pat and his familly were killed for the symbiote - but he didnt go down without a fight! @12 I'm not sure about secret avengers. I mean hawkeye and beast never were in the military were they? I,m not sure about captain britain either.

  12. Brian Bradley

    @11 CrazyChris... Someone else would probably be able to fully explain the new Fantastic Four stuff. I believe Dr. Strange gathered them for some mission while the original Fantastic Four were indisposed. The issue I read was a real quick follow up where they had to hunt down the Human Torch after he set a school on fire or something.... The claws to the face is what I remember most. It's why Thing had to wear that bucket on his head for a while. I wonder if anyone has ever tackled that and if Thing has forgiven Wolverine, cause they're all buddy buddy now on the New Avengers. As far as the military team, doesn't it seem like that's what the Secret Avengers will turn into once Rick Remender takes over and brings in Venom? Like an official Black Ops Avengers team.

  13. CrazyChris - Post author

    Thanks for the comments so far. I would really like a whole lot to keep my morale up considering that this series is weekly in February. @2 Enigma - If you're into chicks without skin I can see why you would be aroused. @3 Bertone - I actually thought Remender did a nice job getting the cast together. I was never confused about who anyone was or what their motivations were. Yeah, this whole team up is pretty contrived but I thought Remender gave each character just the right amount of screen time and brought them into one place as convincingly as anyone could have. @4 Brian - I've never actually read that old Fantastic Four story. I wasn't even aware it existed until I read the news stories regarding this Venom arc. Maybe I'll go back and check it out. Does it hold up? Anyone else who has read it, tell me what you think, too. @5 Kassady - Yeah, the new Ghost Rider is the weakest link, here, and she features very prominently here. She's just . . . boring. She's not annoying, exactly. She's just blank-faced and dull. @7 Sthenurus - A team of military super heroes could be interesting. Has that really not been done before? @8 Sarcasmic - I can see the similarity between Rick and Johnny. Though, if you look at them side-by-side you can see some major differences. The biggest is that Rick has a longer, more narrow nose than Johnny. I actually think that there's more similarity in the way Moore draws Johnny and Flash than between either of those characters and Rick, which when you think about it might be a bigger problem. @9 spideytothemax - Yeah, it will be interesting to see what the next five issues are going to be like. It feels like they could easily wrap this up in one issue if they wanted to. Though, Blackheart is one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe so I don't know if even this team could beat him by simply fighting him, especially since he said he could draw power from hell while he's in Vegas. @10 Emanuel - That it did! Please keep the comments coming everyone!! BTW, how are you all interpreting Blackheart's comment that the Toxin symbiote was worth the killing it took to get? Did Patrick Mulligan get killed by demons off panel?

  14. spideytothemax

    Nice review. Sometimes you just gotta pet the symbiote. Another nice issue by Remender. Guy's probably my favorite comics writer at the moment. Still though, there's five more issues of this story? I'm curious to see where it goes. Seems like all the players are already on the board and the villains goals are close to being foiled already.

  15. Sarcasmic

    Only real fault I had was I could only see Rick Grimes when Johnny Blaze was on screen, he's pretty much identical to the way Moore drew Grimes in the opening trade of The Walking Dead. Other than that, badass issue. Ross/Thompson was great, as was Laura vs. the Symbiotic clones of her.

  16. Sthenurus

    The interaction between ross and venom were great. I wish they would make a team book with only military men. They could be much more effective than most other team without training and discipline.

  17. Brian Bradley

    Nice review, I thought this issue was great. Like you said the art, story and writing all work well together in this. I too could care less about Ghost Rider, but for the first time I actually found x-23 interesting, I've barely read anything else with her in it. I like how you pointed out the relation to the New Fantastic Four in the 90s. Out of the random comics I acquired as a kid one of my favorite ones was the Fantastic Four comic where they faced off against the New Fantastic Four and Wolverine (the douche) hacked up Things face. Overall I'm excited for this story, looking forward to the rest of it.

  18. Bertone

    I love the Red Hulk and Venon stuff. It was interesting how Ross reacted to Thompson as a deserter. Would have liked more of that. The X-23 and Ghost Rider stuff not so much. Too many characters had to be established and the whole thing was a mess.

  19. CrazyChris - Post author

    I want to give a shout out to Parabolee, who suggested some HTML code a while back that I referred to when formatting this review.

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