VENOM #23 REVIEW


”Second chances are only half as common as squandered second chances.”
– Flash Thompson, Logician

VENOM #23
“Monster’s of Evil Part 1″
WRITERS: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Thony Silas
INKS: Nelson Decastro
COLORS: Chris Sotomayor
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER: Patch Zircher
VARIANT COVER: Humberto Ramos

PLOT:

The Secret Avengers have assigned Venom to investigate the Department of Occult Armaments (DOA), a satanic Nazi sect. After gleaning information from reporter Katy Kiernan, Venom tracks DOA to a building where they have hooked human volunteers to mechanical “possession engines” that syphon demons into their souls. Stealth fails, so Venom guns down the cultists. A possessed human attacks Venom but relents, apparently because the demon senses Venom contracted with Mephisto in the “Circle of Four” story. Venom commands the demon to leave, but shortly after it departs Daimon Hellstrom appears and disintegrates the demon’s human host.

Hellstrom has sided with the DOA. He blasts Venom, but the Son of Satan’s powers barely affect our symbiotic hero due to Venom carrying Mephisto’s mark. Some ooze from the possession machines drenches Venom, causing the symbiote to become demonic, sporting horns and devil wings.

“Plaaaay the best soooong in the world, or we’ll eat your brains.”

 

THOUGHTS:
Cullen Bunn’s solo run on Venom may require a mindset adjustment. The gears have shifted firmly to “zany brain candy” mode, recapturing the feel of “Circle of Four” (especially the Symbiotic Ghost Rider Hulk sequence) or even a ‘90s Venom issue. We’re in the realm of demon-possessed symbiotes, people. Either you know why that’s totally radical, or you’re dead inside, or you’re old.

Thus, I won’t think too hard about things like how Venom, acting as a government-licensed Avenger, basically broke and entered into a private lawful assembly (unless the Marvel Universe has outlawed voluntary demon possession) and executed them all for their political and religious beliefs (Nazi satanists have rights, too). I wont think about how in his recap narration, Flash says he recently “put my friends and family in danger,” which seems like an understatement considering that his beloved brother in law DIED. I wont think about how Hellstrom burning the freed human host down to his skeleton makes no sense once we learn that they were on the same side.

No, Flash. It’s “beating up bad guys” when you use your fists. What you’re doing is called murdering them.

 

Not that I think readers should “turn off their brains.” Actually, I despise that phrase. Instead, you need to retune your brain to a different wavelength. You need to tap into the part of you that gets why Spawn pogs are way awesome.

Also, I won’t bother to ask what happened in whatever comic I didn’t read that transformed Hellstrom from an anti-hero to a cackling, drooling villain in league with a Nazi demon cult. Last time we saw him in Venom, Hellstrom had lost his resolve to resist Blackheart’s assault on Earth, but now he seems to have fully embraced evil.

The baby mama of Satan was a rabid hyena, I guess.

 

Bunn greatly deviates in focus from Rick Remender. For example, the comic barely mentions Flash’s family angst, his relationship with Betty Brant, or his addictive personality, all preoccupations of Remender. Instead, we get pure Venom fighting demons and demon worshipers. In his Crawl Space interview conducted by Bertone, Bunn explained he wanted to focus on Flash becoming a super hero as opposed to a soldier. I definitely see that in this story. Bunn writes action well and his script has wit. When Venom says his mission is not to engage the enemy, and the next panel immediately cuts to him mowing everyone down with guns, you can almost hear the “wah wah.”

I am less enthused by the new art team. I much preferred Lan Medina’s tighter, more detailed style, and of course no one working on Venom will ever rival Tony Moore. One thing I hope changes is that Silas drops the backgrounds during the fight scenes so much that one never gains a sense of the physical space in which the action plays out. Perhaps the artists poured their energy and skill into a few key images, such as gorgeous two-page spread recapping Remender’s run and the final reveal of demonic Venom, at the expense of consistency throughout the action.

RATING:
3 Venom horns out of 5 (Adequate). Apparently, we’re in store for more over-the-top devil madness a la “Circle of Four,” but those issues cannot be equaled without Tony Moore.

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(6) Comments

  1. CrazyChris

    IP - In all fairness, Remender had his share of action focused issues where the only characterization came from Flash's thought captions. It might be too early to tell whether Bunn can achieve the same mix. Mike - I think I read somewhere that the change in Hellstrom's characterization happened in Cullen Bunn's "Fear Itself: The Fearless" series. I really have no intention of reading that. In "Circle of Four," Hellstrom was helping Doctor Strange resist Blackheart's realm from spreading into Earth, but Blackheart persuaded Hellstrom to side with his demonic heritage and stop fighting. So the seeds for this were in Remender's Venom run, but comics outside of Venom apparently took him further down this path. That's the same story that implied that Toxin's host was killed by Blackheart off panel, so I guess Kevin's woes can be traced back to there. Kevin - You're too kind about my reviews. I'm sorry this book keeps screwing up your favorite characters. As I said in my Venom #13.4 review, I do not really have enough of a connection with that character to have strong feelings about what's being done with him in Venom, but I can tell that writing him as extremely weak-willed in that issue (Blackheart basically says don't fight me, you're a demon too, and Hellstrom just gives up), and writing him as a full-on villain here is not what his fans like to see. Brad - Hey, if I didn't get so far behind on these reviews, I wouldn't have to play catch up this week. I wasn't going to let myself get four issues behind.

  2. Kevin Cushing

    Wow, and here I thought the Toxin characterization was bad. That is some WICKED awful Hellstorm characterization. It's like this comic has a mission to crap on my favorite C-list characters :( Griping aside, I just caught up on all 4 new Venom reviews, and as ever, these reviews are more entertaining, well-written, and thoughtful than most actual comic books these days. Thanks for keeping up the good work, Chris!

  3. BD

    I haven't read the issue yet. However, I wanted to publicly thank you for putting out four reviews in one week. That is a lot of work that needs recognized. Thanks buddy!

  4. Mike 13

    Yeah... the art wasn't that great... but the story was pretty good... I wish there was some asterix to indicate what happened with HellStrom... or did that happen in the Circle of Four story? :(

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