“Circle of Four” Part 5
SCRIPT: Rick Remender
PENCILS: Lan Medina
INKS: Nelson DeCastro w/ Terry Pallot
COLORS: Marte Gracia & Antonio Fabela
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER: Stefano Caselli & Frank Martin
Due to Alejandra’s temporary death, the Spirit of Vengeance flies to rejoin Johnny Blaze. Sadly, Blackheart’s concubine Gari Oyle intercepts the spirit and delivers it to Blackheart. At the borders of Las Vegas, Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom use their magic to prevent Hell from spreading. Blackheart speaks in Hellstrom’s mind and tempts him to give into his demonic heritage. Hellstrom loses his resolve and stops resisting, allowing Blackheart to imprison him and Doctor Strange.
Meanwhile, the four heroes return from the dead per their deal with Mephisto and devise a plan to defeat Blackheart. X-23 embarks to destroy the centrifuge powering the hellgate while Red Hulk, Venom, and powerless Alejandra attempt to steal the Ghost Rider spirit from Blackheart. Blackheart kicks their butts and Alejandra apparently snitches their plan to Blackheart. However, that might have been part of the plan along because the next thing that happens is Blackheart getting blindsided by Red Hulk, who has bonded with both the symbiote and the Spirit of Vengeance!
I am glad this story arc ships weekly because I needed the taste of last week’s issue washed away fast and this chapter brought back the fun! I knew I missed Remender, but I had no idea how much I missed Medina until now. To put it bluntly, Medina and his collaborators blow every artist on this arc besides Tony Moore out of the water. Don’t get me wrong–I liked those artists–but after several issues boasting looser styles, these crisp, glossy, detailed pages feel like a dessert for my eyes. To me, this is what a comic book in 2012 is supposed to look like.
In keeping with this arc as a whole, the story provides more mindless action and bizarre imagery. Remender’s primary goal seems to be to maneuver the characters in place for the final showdown, and it accomplishes that with some fun battles along the way. I have little to say about Venom Ghost Rider Hulk other than it made me crack a grin and it reminds me of something the 90s would have produced. This whole story arc has a 90s vibe, and I mean that in a good way. It favors style over substance, but with the right state of mind going in it that can be damn fun. The story won’t win any literature prizes and it contains occasional lapses in logic, but it knows what it is and does not pretend to be anything else. Fans constantly clamor for escapist comics, and this should scratch that itch.
The only people I hesitate to recommend this to are Daimon Hellstrom fans. I admit that I have limited familiarity with him, but this can’t be his finest moment. On the bright side, both the heroes and villains have seemingly wised up to Alejandra’s uselessness. Most of the characters spend the issue ridiculing her, which I don’t mind at all. If Marvel won’t write this character out entirely, at least make her the butt of some jokes.
3.5 defenestrations out of 5 (good). I eagerly await the conclusion.
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