“Circle of Four Part 6″
SCRIPT: Rick Remender
ART: Tony Moore
COLOR ART: Val Staples
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER: Stefano Caselli & Frank Martin
Red Hulk has merged with the Spirit of Vengeance and the symbiote, providing him with the power to duel Blackheart. But the situation worsens when a misguided use of the penance stare ability makes Blackheart even stronger.
Meanwhile, X-23 and Johnny Blaze try to reverse and destroy the hell gate until Gari Oyle brutally injures X-23. Flash saves her by shooting his gun from a car driven by Alejandra. Bitter that the other heroes gave the Ghost Rider powers to Red Hulk without her permission, Alejandra pushes flash out of the car. Yes, she pushes a crippled man out of a moving vehicle, leaving him to Gari Oyle’s mercy. Barely alive, Flash shoots an explosive that X-23 left on Gari Oyle’s back, blasting the demon to pieces. The heroes reverse the portal and blow up the portal, removing Hell from Earth.
Red Hulk uses the magic mirror that created the Antitheses on Blackheart, sending forth an angelic being that dissolves Blackheart into light. Afterwords, the Ghost Rider spirit returns to Alejandra and the symbiote returns to Flash. Captain America and some Avengers walk up and threaten to arrest Flash for going AWOL, but Red Hulk vouches for him.
Blackheart and Gari Oyle return to life in Hell and beg for Mephisto’s mercy. Mephisto punishes them by sending them to Las Vegas in human form where they must scrub toilets as Casino janitors.
This suspenseful, violence-soaked, and explosive grand finale perfectly concluded the “Circle of Four” story line. In fact, I call this miniseries a success all around. Yes, it got silly at times and I had major problems with Jeff Parker’s issue, but “Circle of Four” made me excited to go to the comic store six Wednesdays in a row. And while it did swerve away from Venom’s usual ongoing plot, I say the change of pace came at precisely the right time. I needed a break from Jack O’ Lantern and Crime Master, honestly. If “Circle of Four” took six months to come out, I would have lost patience, but six issues in six weeks proved apt pacing for a story too epic for fewer issues but too off beat for which to devote half a year. More comics should experiment with this format.
Although I predict that folks will remember this tale for the Venom Hulk Ghost Rider combination, I found Flash and X-23’s showdown with Gari Oyle more intense. When characters gain omnipotent power levels, their fights become abstract in a way. One can’t connect emotionally with the stakes if one cannot conceptualize the physics of the battle. The smaller scale battle with Gari Oyle seemed more personal, more dangerous, and therefore more exciting. I could practically feel every gash, punch and gunshot. Masters of storytelling, Remender and Moore knew exactly when to switch between the two fights, giving a taste of Venom Hulk Ghost Rider for sheer silliness and scope here and a little of Flash and X-23 for a more visceral flavor there.
I declare, with no hesitation whatsoever, that Tony Moore is the best comic book artist working today. He packs in more detail than the human eye can absorb in one reading, yet maintains enough cartoony exaggeration to maximize expressiveness. I took time to flip through every page just to look more closely at Moore’s hilarious facial expressions. I never do that with any other artist.
I do have nitpicks, but I’d rather not give them too much weight so I’ll just list them quickly:
– An earlier issue established that X-23’s healing factor did not work in Hell Vegas. Yet, clearly it worked well enough for her to survive getting her throat ripped out of her neck.
– Alejandra did not deserve to retrieve the Ghost Rider powers. With her title canceled, she should have died in this arc. Everything that went wrong in this arc was her fault, the real heroes rightfully did not trust her by the end, and when she had the chance to redeem herself she pushed a legless man out of a car window. If her car careened off of a bridge right after that, then I would have applauded.
– Remender writes Captain America with a stick up his ass.
But ultimately, these points only midly irritate me compared to the fun this issue provided. If you end up disliking “Circle of Four,” I suspect the main reason will be that you wanted something with more emotional depth, more philosophical significance, and more relevance to the development of these characters. Tough luck. This is just explosions and demon killing, and for a six week vacation from Flash Thompson’s month-to-month angst it worked for me.
4 Ghost Rider tongues out of 5 (great).
I JUST REVIEWED SIX ISSUES IN SIX WEEKS! NOT LEAVING A COMMENT AFTER THAT MUCH EFFORT WOULD BE A SLAP IN THE FACE!