Happy Halloween one and all!
Samhain (the most likely predecessor of Halloween) is traditionally thought to be the time when the lines between worlds are blurred, when the horrors of ghouls and demons and other supernatural creatures roam the Earth. In the Marvel Universe however, horrors also take the form of monstrous alien symbiotes, like Venom.
In his new series, critically acclaimed writer Rick Remender has made great strides in developing Venom as a sympathetic character, not least by saddling him with some of the most manipulative and malicious opponents imaginable. However, earlier this year, Remender brought a new dimension to Venom’s story, in the form of unexpected allies and devilish enemies.
Recently released in trade paperback format, there’s no better time than Halloween to review Venom: Circle of Four, a mini-event that’s literally Hell on Earth.
The ever-popular Venom, arguably Spider-Man’s most recognisable frenemy, has been given a new lease of life thanks to an idea from the brilliant mind of Amazing Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott and fleshed out by the feverish mental machinations of Remender. While Venom, an alien symbiote, has bonded with the vengeful and envious Eddie Brock and the hardened criminal Mac Gargan in the past, for the past two years, its alter ego is one that’s only too familiar to Spidey fans – Peter Parker’s high school nemesis Flash Thompson.
As a government-sanctioned secret agent, Thompson utilises the Venom symbiote to conduct black-ops missions. However, blackmailed by the controlling Crime-Master, who knows his secret identity, the anti-hero is forced to go A.W.O.L. and deliver a particularly potent toxin to Las Vegas, resulting in Captain America sending Red Hulk in hot pursuit. This sets up Venom and Red Hulk on a collision course with the femme fatales X-23 and Ghost Rider, who have been drawn to Las Vegas for their own agendas.
While it is no secret that this team-up is inspired by the “New Fantastic Four” dream team by Walt Simonson and Art Adams in the early 90s, consisting of Spider-Man, Grey Hulk, Wolverine and Ghost Rider, Remender wisely steers clear of any further comparisons by throwing them into a supernatural blockbuster involving opening a portal to hell and unleashing all sorts of demons on Earth. It is a problem that is simply too big for any one of the four heroes to handle, forcing them to work together – despite their drastic difference.
The mini-event allowed Remender to team up with fellow writers – Hulk’s Jeff Parker and Ghost Rider’s Rob Williams, but it was agreed between them that this was ultimately a Venom story and took place over 5 issues between #13 and #14, with the unique numbering of #13.1 to #13.4 in between. It also featured a host of different artists, including co-creator of The Walking Dead Tony Moore, and my personal favourite Sana Takeda, whose work can be found in the recently cancelled X-23, all of whom set out to showcase their individual styles to great effect.
If you’re a fan of the supernatural side of the Marvel Universe, or a fan of great character development for Venom, Flash Thompson or any of these anti-heroes, then Circle of Four is an epic event that will definitely satiate you. Happy Halloween!
Venom: Circle of Four collects two story arcs from the pages of Venom – “Road Trip” (#10 to #12) which sets up the events in “Circle of Four” (#13, #13.1 to #13.4 and #14). The trade paperback version was released last month on September 19th.