VENOM (2011-PRESENT) #14 REVIEW


The Circle of Four closes as our heroes combine their powers (literally) to banish the forces of hell once and for all. Read the full review and leave a comment for vengeance!

VENOM #14
“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

PLOT:

Oh boy. This is going to be goofy.

 

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.

This brings new meaning to the phrase, "burning rubber," geddit?

 

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.

THOUGHTS:
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.

Having legs and being a badass have zero correlation.

 

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.

Real people getting torn up by monsters beats monsters tearing up monsters any day.

 

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.

RATING:
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!

 

 

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(17) Comments

  1. Brian Bradley

    Nice job with the reviews! I enjoyed this series, although they could have handled it better instead of making them .1, .2, .3 issues. But I guess if they tried to sell it as separate one shots or something people wouldn't have felt as inclined to buy it. I wonder how the transition between the two Venom comics go if you don't read the in between stuff.

  2. crazychris

    13 Roxas, no way in hell im buying an issue of Alejandra Ghost Rider. I don't care what happens to her but if I hear second hand that she's not ghost rider any more it will please me.

  3. Phantom Roxas

    Ghost Rider #9 is out this month, so maybe you'll want to check that out to see what happens with Alejandra? Vrulk Rider (It's much easier to say that) looks kind of awesome, but it works best as a one-time thing.

  4. CrazyChris

    @ 3 Iron Patriot - Me too! @ 4 Sthenurus - Maybe the hate comes from Venom having to share his own book with three other characters that are not exactly uber-popular, and it being such a radical change from this book's normal focus. @5 reader - And with Alejandra acting so unjustifiable in this issue, I was half expecting her to as some kind of justice for being an idiot. Oh well. Here's hoping she dies in whatever follow-up story is coming based on their deal with Mephisto. In the first issue, preferably. @6 Freddy - Yeah, I wondered how X-23 got her claws back. Maybe what happens in Hell stays in Hell. @7 spideytothemax - Thanks for your comment! Glad I'm not alone in my opinion. @8 Andrew - I'm also glad we have a representative of the people who disliked this story here, too. I really didn't care that much about the numbering. It doesn't affect the content of the story. Other than that, what didn't you like about this story? @9 Mike - Thanks! That means a lot to me! @10 Enigma -Yeah, that character pretty much sucks. @11 Peter - Hell yes Tony Moore is awesome!

  5. Peter

    Tony Moore is GOD. The two issues who drew were fantastic, and that's no coincidence. He really made me believe in Hell coming to Las Vegas, in every single panel. The man's amazing

  6. Enigma_2099

    So the only thing Alejandra has going for her is that she's the first Ghost Rider with tits. That's not enough, lady.

  7. Andrew

    Thank God, this is over. Another clumsily executed event shoehorned into an otherwise fantastic series. Plus call me an obsessive perfectionist, but I hate this kewl numbering crap they use. This .1 and .2 stuff. Just number it normally!

  8. spideytothemax

    Great reviews, Chris. Overall I found the Circle of Four to be a lot of fun. I even liked the Red Hulk Venom Ghost Rider.

  9. Nightmare Freddy

    Your review was once again great and this comic was too. I particularily found the expression of hellstorm hilarious when he saw the pentagrams on the chest of the Fatal four event it might implie that it might have a continuity with alejandra... I kinda wondered about the claws of X-23 since they turned to dust, but exept for that the combats were Fabulous to the point that I would have loved to see a ongoin comic with Rulk, Flash and X-23 with a fourth member like Scarlet spider.

  10. reader

    My only disappointment with "circle of four" is that Alejandra did not die. I was hoping the spirit of vengeance would choose a different host, or at least go back to Blaze. This is probably the only time I wished marvel rebooted a character due to a new movie coming out.

  11. sthenurus

    Since Rhulk vouches for Flash and Cap vouched for Rhulk, does that mean that cap indirectly vouches for the guy that kicked his ass? I would be pissed and have a stick up my ass too :p On a more serious note, I don't get the hate for Circle of four. Sure it wasn't as awesome as some of what we got so far, but it was far from bad. In Fact, even during Circle of Four, Venom was way better than most other books. I'd take this over Avengers any day!

  12. Iron Patriot

    @2:Chris- Now I'm wondering what other weird directions Remender can take this series.

  13. CrazyChris - Post author

    I have one nitpick to mention that I forgot to mention in my review. All of the issues in Circle of Four besides part 1 were 20 pages instead of the standard 22 pages. Part 1 had 30 pages but it also cost extra. I don't mind it too much because the issues came out so fast so I never felt like I was getting less Venom than I needed, but when this returns to a monthly format I am hoping for more pages. @1 - Iron Patriot: I noticed that this arc was not so well received elsewhere, too. I can respect that because it is a massive departure from the previous stories in the series. In my opinion this comic needed to do something different. One more issue centering on Jack O' Lantern would have made that storyline wear out its welcome, don't you think?

  14. Iron Patriot

    Good review. Glad you liked it,Chris. From what I see on other boards, a lot of people thought this was the lowest point of the series yet.

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