The series finale! But does it end with a whimper or a bang?
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: So Venom and Mania make their way to an abandoned casino in Atlantic City and use a magic slot machine to summon Mephisto. Mania tries threatening Mephisto into removing the demon mark from her and he laughs in her face. Mephisto explains how the Symbiote passed the mark to Andi—apparently it absorbed its own clone some time ago (I think that is the Daniel Way run, but I suppose could also be a reference to when Venom ate Carnage in the Howard Mackie run) thus Andi’s symbiote is the Venom Clone.
Their conversation is interrupted by an all out attack by Crossbones, Master Mayhem and their respective Nazi and demon generic thugs. We get a pretty viscous fight between Crossbones and Venom with both men taking wounds but ultimately Venom comes out on top since the Symbiote is more resilient than Crossbones (who has no superpowers).
Crossbones calls on Mayhem to help but Mephisto reappears and overrules that decision. We also learn Mayhem is a disciple of Master Pandemonium, so that’s one question answered. Mephisto uses Mayhem to summon the “Monsters of Evil” as we’re nearing Vemon-mobile territory of ludicrousness again, and then puts the Monster’s under Andi’s control. This leads to the lesser demons and Nazis becoming lunch while Crossbones and Mayhem teleport away.
Flash again tries to get answers from Mephisto—and amusingly shoots him in the face point blank—but Mephisto is not forthcoming and disappears leaving several unanswered questions as the series ends. Flash comforts Andi as best he can and accepts his role as her surrogate father.
Critical Thoughts: I’m of mixed thoughts on this. For one thing this doesn’t feel like a final issue at all. Mephisto creates more new questions than he answers, while Crossbones alludes to a mysterious master who “won’t ever be done” hunting Andi when he teleports away. I seriously doubt that whatever is going to happen with Venom in Superior Spider-man is going to resolve these plot threads; particularly since the letters page includes a farewell by Bunn in which he says “readers may never know what I had in mind for the Descent.” So on that front it is a weird way to end a title.
On the other hand Flash’s narration throughout the issue brings closure to his character arc in the series in a very good way. It is not perfect because in the middle of the book they force the word “responsibility” into several sentences and even use the phrase “Thompson luck” at one point which is trying way too hard to mirror Peter. But at its core the narration and the conclusion work with Flash discussing the things he wanted to be when he was young: a sports hero, a superhero and a soldier but never a father because of his own father’s abuse and alcoholism. And yet here he is forced to be a father figure to Andi and his embracing of that role on the final page after Mephisto gives her some pretty bad news is a great character moment—perhaps the best I’ve ever seen Flash have–so major kudos to Bunn on that one.
As for the issue as a whole there were parts I enjoyed. Flash shooting Mephisto in the face is pretty damn funny. The Crossbones fight is good. Andi/Mania remains a remarkable success for a character that in concept could easily have been pretty bad. On the other hand, I have never enjoyed Mephisto stories in general and specifically there are two things in my opinion that should never under any circumstances be in a Spider-man family comic again: the first being clones and the second being Mephisto/Deals with the Devil and we have both in this book. So a lot of this issue just isn’t my cup of tea whether it is done well or not, and it is arguable if it’s done well when you have Mephisto being summoned with a slot machine.
Overall I will be sad to see this book go. I’ve had a blast reviewing it. Not only is it the book that got me a gig here with the Crawlspace; but for the most part it was always fun to write about because it was rarely mediocre: it was either very good such as in the Eddie Brock-Toxin fight, the Jack O Lantern issue or the surprisingly good Mania stuff or when it was bad it was usually so ludicrously over the top in its badness that it was still fun to write about—Venom Mobile I’m looking at you. But more than that Bunn had really hit his stride the last six issues or so. In his farewell he says he had years of stories he was slow building too, and while I don’t particularly care how the Descent was going to play out he says he had more in mind for Andi/Mania, a return for Toxin/Brock and a new Anti-Venom and that all probably would have been excellent. (Also he was going to bring back the Crime Master.) Seeing as Bunn had found his groove and had ambitious plans perhaps Marvel should have given him until issue 50 to see if the combination of the crossover with Superior and a big anniversary issue (preferably with Brock returning) could have turned sales around.
At the end of the day the eulogy for this series is it turned it out better and lasted longer than anyone expected. I admit I was one of the naysayers who did not read this series when it was launched and expected it to be canceled in under a year. On paper the idea of Flash Thompson as Venom seemed absurd, and the initial plot seemed to be a total rip-off of the film Avatar: Wheelchair-bound soldier is given a chance to serve again in an artificial/enhanced body and the more he uses it the more likely he’ll become addicted to the artificial body over his real life. I came onboard with the Marvel Now Philly move jumping on point. In part because I was surprised to see the title had lasted so long, and also I live near Philly so the promotion around here was strong enough to pique my interest. If Bunn misstepped I think it was the first three Marvel Now issues were ridiculously slow moving. If you’re attracting new eyeballs to a series you need to show them more than Flash is depressed, random homeless zombie cyborg dude wanders the city and Eddie cackles he’s coming on the last page three months in a row. Eddie Brock vs. Flash was probably the biggest card this series had to play and that should have been played faster/better to coincide with the Marvel Now promotion.
Bunn also says he is not done writing symbiotes so perhaps we will get a Superior Venom and/or a new Eddie Brock series, which I would be totally onboard for. I mean Flash’s run with the symbiote turned out better than I expected but at the end of the day for me Venom will always be Eddie Brock and Eddie Brock will always be the coolest Spider-man villain ever and so that is the status quo I want to see returned to.
Grade: B-. Despite my two criticisms of leaving unanswered questions and choice of antagonist, the issue as a whole is fast-paced with an action-packed well drawn extended fight scene and ends Flash’s story on a very nice character beat.