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“Monster’s of Evil Part 3″
WRITER: Cullen Bunn
PENCILS: Thony Silas
INKS: Decastro, Wong & Ketcham
COLORS: Sotomayor w/ Mossa
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ARTISTS: Patch Zircher & Marte Gracia
Daimon Hellstrom has forged an army by possessing ancient and powerful monsters with demons under his command. Hellstrom wants the symbiote in his collection. Venom resists, channeling negative emotions to fight harder. Venom recalls that earlier he successfully commanded a demon to flee and that he successfully subdued the demon currently possessing him. Realizing he can control demons, Venom orders the monsters to turn on Hellstrom, which they do. He then instructs the monsters to disperse without hurting anyone again.
At super-jail, Venom asks Hellstrom why he can control demons. Hellstrom explains that an event called “The Descent” is coming, at which point a current Hell Lord will become “the true Devil.” Each Hell Lord has marked candidates as replacements in case that Hell Lord descends. Mephisto has marked Venom and his Circle of Four teammates to succeed him, and a Hell Lord has also marked Hellstrom. In other words, if Mephisto gets “promoted,” then Venom or another of Mephisto’s marked candidates will inherit Mephisto’s realm. Plus, demons obey the marked. Hellstrom explains he betrayed the heroes to gain allies useful to his bid for a Hell throne. Hellstrom would rather rule in Hell than see someone worse gaining the status.
Venom, still inhabited by a tamed demon, visits reporter Katy Kiernan. They agree to exchange information. Flash then leaves Betty a voicemail, but a call to duty from the Secret Avengers interrupts him
When I set my mind to enjoying something, I can forgive much. For instance, last issue I wondered how the villains prevented Venom from summoning the Secret Avengers. This issue, Hellstrom illuminates that plot point thusly: “There’s no SECRET I can’t twist to my own ends.” That is nonsense. But I’m not fussed.
It does bother me, however, when a comic presents fundamentally disagreeable characterization. I’ll elaborate. In the fight’s midst, Flash suddenly decides he needs to “think happy thoughts.” Why? Look at this panel (which lacks no helpful context, I promise) and tell me if you see a reason.
Flash proceeds to list and dismiss provisional happy thoughts: “Mom? Ugh . . . no. Betty? Swing and a miss. Uh . . . high school? God, no.” Then Flash surrenders, thinking “Do I have any happy thoughts?!”
I’m sitting there, reading this, and my mind keeps interjecting “Spider-Man.” “Spider-Man.” “Damn you, comic, his ‘happy thought’ is Spider-Man.”
Flash ultimately concludes that to win this fight he must channel the fear and hatred instilled by his abusive father.
For the first time since this Venom series began, I reread the contemporary Flash Thompson saga’s REAL first issue, Amazing Spider-Man 574, which depicts Flash’s crippling Iraq war experience. Looking back, ASM 574’s focused less on Flash’s loss of limb and more on what drove him to stay strong through adversity. Flash Thompson’s inspiration is the ideal of heroism represented by Spider-Man, and Flash’s emotional scars from abuse are one thing Spider-Man’s example spurred him to endure.
Flash’s drawing strength from “fear” and “hate,” rather than the spirit of doing the right thing no matter how hard it gets, turns the character upside down. I can appreciate that sometimes people’s perspectives change, and that complex characters often have multiple, even conflicting motivations. However, not even mentioning Spider-Man in a scene where Flash tries to think of something that makes him feel positive is practically a criminal omission. It relates to a core character quality. Imagine a comic where Batman can’t come up with something that makes him feel vengeful, so he ends up going with “The Mask of Zorro sucked.”
Moving on, in this issue we learn that Flash Thompson can control demons and is a candidate for succeeding Mephisto as a Hell Lord. Writing that sentence makes me smile because the concept is so far out. Great. Let’s do this. Why not? This series has continued long enough, and has made the more grounded themes of addiction and family familiar enough, that it has earned an off-the-wall excursion.
Beyond that, all I can really say about Venom #25 is that it has a lot of action and some cool monsters with fun little backstories. The art has finally wooed me, with enjoyable creature designs and a more discriminating use of blank backgrounds. So despite irksome characterization, Venom #25 earns visual approval. That said, the creators might expand their battle choreography repertoire next time.
2 happy thoughts out of 5 (Unfulfilling).
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