Comics : Venom (Vol. 2) #13.1

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This story is part of an Arc: "Circle of Four"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This review was first published on: Jan 2013.

Background...

In Part One of this arc, Blackheart, son of the devil, had spread Hell through Las Vegas. It was all made possible because of the new Ghost Rider's foolishness. Currently, Johnny Blaze, former Ghost Rider, is the only thing keeping Earth from being sucked into Hell. Red Hulk has been sent by the Military to capture Venom, who went AWOL in Venom #10. Venom has been camping out in Las Vegas, where he has broken up with Betty Brant and has started drinking again. X-23, a female clone of Wolverine, has been after Blackheart for stealing some of her blood. The new Ghost Rider, Alejandra, has killed many people in Nicaragua and is now the Spirit of Vengeance. All of them were brought together as the only heroes who can save the world.

In Detail...

"Circle of Four Part 2"
Venom (Vol. 2) #13.1
Apr 2012 : SM Spin-Off
Summary: Heroes are beaten by antithesises.
Arc: Part 2 of "Circle of Four"
Writer:  Rob Williams
Artist:  Lee Garbett
Cover Art:  Frank Martin, Stefano Caselli
Lettering:  VC's Clayton Cowles
Colorist:  Rob Schwager
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alomso
Senior Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Editor:  Sebastian Girner
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Articles: Harrison Thompson

A trucker is agitated because a force field is blocking his entrance into Las Vegas. He asks the police, "How's a working man supposed to make his living in this economy if invisible barriers spring outta nowhere, huh?" The cops report it in, and they find a mysterious amulet hanging in front of the blockade. Cue Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom, telling them that "it is currently all that is stopping the Planet Earth being entirely overrun by the nefarious denizens of Hell itself." The trucker asks,"How's a working man supposed to make his living in this economy if the Planet Earth is entirely overrun by the nefarious denizens of Hell itself?"

Meanwhile, Johnny Blaze is still riding on Blackheart's trap but he admits that he cannot do it much longer. Back in his castle, Blackheart explains to the four heroes that the four strange villains that were seen in last issue's cliffhanger are their antithesises. Both their greatest strength and weakness combined. He sends Gari Oyle, his annoying demon girlfriend, to destroy what is stopping his kingdom's expansion. Before he sends the antithesises after his enemies, he gives Ghost Rider an offer to be on his side. Then, they all crash out of the window in combat. Venom complains, "You come to Vegas for some perfectly respectable alcoholism, self-pity, and this is what do you get? It's depressing!"

Ghost Rider drives away, with her antithesis following. First, Venom confronts his antithesis, an old man with a bible. Flash finds himself bested quickly, his symbiote torn away from him by the pages of the priest's bible. He tells him that the weak always go looking for power from other things. Like a football, a gun, a symbiote... Soon, Flash is laying on the ground with no way to get up, and the priest scolds him again, saying that he will always need two crutches, his symbiote and alcohol. He explains that he is just like his father, who had beat him as a kid. He tells him that he knew what he was doing to him, he just didn't care.n"You were crippled long before the war took your legs," he grunts.

X-23, on the other hand, is puzzled about how she is alive in Hell without a soul. Her antithesis, an annoying cheerleader, sings a song about how X-23 was made to only be evil. X-23 pushes her out of the way to Blackheart's castle and tells her that she's an idiot. The cheerleader says that she (herself) is nuanced, good on the outside, bad on the inside, and throws a razor-sharp pom-pom at her. She tells X-23 that she's not nuanced, and that she is only a killer. X-23 runs away, and the cheerleader is proud of herself.

Meanwhile. Rulk is beating his antithesis, a fat brain/human hybrid and he says that X-23 is stupid to go after Blackheart alone. He wants everyone to work as a team under his order. He hits the brain a few yards away from him, Just as he jumps up in the air for a takedown, the brain halts him. Under his orders, Rulk is smashed into the ground and brought back up. Brain tells him to feel terror and cry for him mom, and he does. How ridiculous.

Back in his lair, Blackheart is enjoying the show, and tells Gari Oyle that he also wants the Spirit of Vengeance now. Gari Oyle tells him that Ghost Rider is beating them to the amulet. He offers Alejandra the deal, yet again. Her antithesis, an armored angel, is still following her and he knocks her off her motorcycle. The angel tells her the same thing as the first two but she tells him that she has no weakness because Alejandra is dead. Ghost Rider is all that's left. She runs him over with her motorcycle, and starts driving to the amulet. In the back of her mind, Blackheart, says, "So, how's about I give you the Nicaraguan souls and you do me a little favor in return." Back at the barrier, Doctor Strange says that he senses great weakness inside the barrier.

In General...

Does my review seem a little vague? Well, I have reread the comic many times, and I still don't entirely know how to summarize such a trashy issue. This is a very poor second part to The Circle of Four. The few panels with Venom are forgettable and Ghost Rider is the star, yet again. X-23, Rulk, and Venom's confrontations with their antithesis' are very stupid. The events in this issue could easily be translated into half of an average comic book.

The battles themselves are done poorly, and makes it feels like the main characters, who are supposed to be written as strong and independent individuals, are all weak and emotional. It also seems stupid that the heroes automatically went to their assigned antithesis'. When somebody tells you that they have your greatest weakness, you stay the heck away from them. Rulk and Venom's banter is enjoyable. Too bad Rulk didn't help him when he was freaking CRIPPLED ON THE GROUND! My main dislike of this issue is that Ghost Rider is still a jerk. Read her dialogue, and you will see what I mean. She's almost as unlikable as Gari Oyle!

On the plus side, Lee Garbett handles art duties well, and makes all of the panels that Williams gives him energetic and consistent. His characters just don't feel like they've been inked well. Most of the panels have thick, grainy lines, and it feels like it was just sketched.

Overall Rating...

The story is bad, but the art is good. It's seriously generous of me to give it two-and-a-half stars to begin with. I hope that the arc improves soon.