We learn about the Descent in this issue; in more ways then one unfortunately.
Writer: Cullen Bun
Artist: Jorge Coelho
Color Art: Lee Loughridge
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Spoilers follow after the break—
The Plot: Hellstrom tells Flash what the Descent is: one of the major hell-lord demons is going to become the Devil, at which point someone who has a pentagram mark on them will have chance to take over that hell-lord’s current position. Also when Hellstrom learned about this some months back, he created a bunch of mystic clones so they could live in the world and help him decide if he wants the job when the time comes; and now he’s no longer sure if he’s the original or not.
Meanwhile in Philly, Mania invades Lord Ogre’s home. He reveals that green goop we saw on his chest last issue is actually a chemical weapon and if he dies it explodes. Mania decides she’s immune so screw it she’ll kill him anyway even if the rest of the Philly dies too. Fortunately Flash arrives in time to stop her.
As they talk Flash suspects she has his missing demon mark, and just then Crossbones arrives along with Master Mayhem and an identified group of I guess Nazi cultists serving as generic thugs. Master Mayhem summons a bunch of demons via a portal in his chest, and in general seems awfully similar to the old West Coast Avengers villain Master Pandemonium, except he’s later denigrated by Crossbones an inept so if this is him under a new name that’s a shame cause Pandemonium was a damn good villain in his heyday; but since Bunn gives us not a whit of explanation or back-story on who any of these villains are (including Crossbones, whom I know from years of Captain America stories but if this was your first time seeing him you’d have no clue about him—and even as a longtime reader of the character I have no idea what his motivations are in this story) your guess is as good as mine as to what his story is.
Anyway the demons kill Lord Ogre so Flash shoves the chemical weapon into Mayhem’s body portal. The symbiotes are surrounded by the demon army when Mania learns she can control them and sics the demons on the villains. It seems the villains easily defeat the demons with machine guns; and the symbiotes retreat as Flash yet again seems to be the worst hero ever.
Finally in his apartment Flash uses a crystal ball he happens to have from some prior mission to talk to the symbiote. It explains why it sent the demon to Andi. Flash then decides “We need to make a deal with Devil.”
Critical Thoughts: And things had been going so well the last few issues.
There is some good here, but not a lot. The fight scene at Lord Ogre’s house plays out very well on pure action level, though it would be nice to know something about the other villains in this story. Also the Andi-Mania storyline is still interesting; particularly as we see her getting more and more reckless as the chemical weapon scene shows. Plus she has another nice moment with Flash as we see a glimpse of her rage at losing her father.
The problem with this issue is I don’t care about this Descent thing at all. When Hellstrom describes what it is my first thought is ‘I have no desire to see how this plays out.’ And I could probably pick some nits about continuity but I don’t care enough about the dark-side of mystic Marvel to bother. When I read Hellstrom’s speech it reminds me why I’ve never read Hellstrom’s solo titles; or Ghost Rider, or Man-Thing, or the Midnight Sons, or even Dr. Strange unless he was crossing over with something else I was reading. I just don’t care about the magic horror corner of the Marvel Universe; and I don’t particularly want to see it in a Spider-man related comic. And yes, you can argue that the original Venom mini-series from the 90s often stuck him against mystic horror-themed foes, and I will accept that argument as true; but I will also counter-argue those mini-series were rarely any good so it’s not a direction I feel we need to pick up on.
Indeed in some ways the comic book is bookended by the Worst Hits Collection of Spider-man Stories Past. It opens with Hellstrom saying ‘I created a bunch of clones and I don’t know if I’m the original anymore.’ No. Go Away. And then it ends with “Let’s make a deal with Devil.” Really? Because that was so well-received the last time it was in a Spider-man story. Seriously, they managed to harken back to the two worst Spider-man stories ever published in the same issue. All they needed was for Flash to take off his mask and have Katy scream to put it back on they could of hit the trifecta.
Grade: C-. I didn’t completely hate it but it certainly was a “Descent” in quality from the past few issues. I’m wondering if this is because Bunn is rushing now to wrap things up before the series ends.