“I’m Venom and these be my guns.”
– Flash Thompson
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“Circle of Four” Part 3
SCRIPT: Rob Williams
LETTERS: VC’s Cory Petit
Alejandra, the new Ghost Rider, once removed the capacity to sin from a group of Nicaraguans. This also quashed their free will. Now, Blackheart offers to restore and protect those people if Alejandra destroys the magic amulet keeping Hell from spilling beyond Las Vegas. Alejandra refuses and threatens to kill Blackheart’s girlfriend, Gari Oyle. Blackheart orders the Antitheses to gang up on Ghost Rider.Red Hulk and Venom hold the line so Ghost Rider can secure the amulet. Ghost Rider leaves, but not before Encephalon seriously wounds her. Red Hulk smashes X-666 flat, but Evangelist blows a hole through Red Hulk’s chest, apparently killing him. Venom kills both Encephalon and Evangelist himself, but Gari Oyle snaps Flash’s neck after his symbiote has been forcibly removed.
Meanwhile, X-23 sneaks into Blackheart’s palace. Her injuries from fighting X-666 still bleed because . . . “healing factors don’t work in Hell.” Wait, why? Did Satan just pass a new ordinance or has that rule always existed. A no-prize to anyone in the comments section who can verify whether past Marvel comics have established or contradicted the functionality of healing factors in the nether regions.
Anyhow, X-23 reaches Blackheart and kills his symbiote clone body guards. X-23 has spent this whole arc wondering whether or not she, as a clone, has a soul. Blackheart provides an answer: “you can’t be in hell without a soul.” Wait, what? I am about 99% sure that Blackheart himself has no soul, but I may just be remembering that from the Ghost Rider movie. Comments section, I need your help again. Are these writers inventing amendments to the Hell constitution as they go along? What’s next, “what happens in Hell, stays in Hell”? Back to the story, Blackheart drops X-23 into a lava pit.
Outside, Ghost Rider reaches the amulet. However, Blackheart renews his offer and this time she seemingly accepts. Ghost Rider burns the amulet and slumps over, dead from Encephalon’s earlier attack.
This story arc earns points for unpredictability. I thought each decimal point issue would narrowly focus to the cover character as that person overcomes his or her personal baggage and defeats his or her own antithesis. Yet, as of this third chapter, all the Antitheses have apparently died, and so have the heroes. Encephalon and X-666 weren’t even defeated by their corresponding heroes. And while X-23, the cover character, does receive some attention, Red Hulk and Venom kick the most demonic ass. Once again, though, the award for “this character sucks and should not exist,” goes to Ghost Rider. Alejandra is so selfish and stupid that she makes amends for harming a handful of individuals by damning the entire population of Earth to Hell? I hope that her cliffhanger choice is a red herring, but given Alejandra’s idiotic tendencies so far, I would not put it past her.
Let us not dwell on the bad, because I substantially enjoyed Venom #13.2. Red Hulk and Venom fighting the Antitheses rocked. I like the chemistry between those two heroes, who relate to each other as military men but play off one another’s starkly different personalities like a comedic “buddy” team. “Circle of Four” has disproven my prior notion that the Red Hulk character has no worth. Red Hulk squishing X-666 came off hilariously and exhibited perfect comic timing by artist Sana Takeda. Flash Thompson also earned major credibility as formidable hero by taking on and defeating both Ecephalon and Evangelist, two villains who on paper should be out of Venom’s league.
I like Takeda’s art. I suspect many will frown at her anime-influenced style, a departure from how previous “Circle of Four” chapters look. However, Takeda’s digital painting technique makes every panel gorgeous, and she has a good sense for this story’s quirky ghoulishness.
I considered griping about the apparent deaths of the main characters, and how it puts this story on a track where it can only end with someone pushing the proverbial reset button so that these events never happened. However, it occurs to me that all four heroes have plausible means to recover from their injuries using their established power sets. At least, they would if not for the “healing factors don’t work in Hell” doctrine. I’ll reserve judgment until we find out what really happens. Maybe it’ll be an explanation like, “you can’t die if you’re already in Hell.” Why the Hell not?
3.5 demonic cheerleader pancakes out of 5 (Good). “Circle of Four” remains fun brain candy. But with brain candy comes a few logic cavities.
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