Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Venom: Cirlce of Four - Final Thoughts

I really don't want to cover this again, but I did promise I would.

So let's just get to the down and dirty of it. There are several problems within the story that may need to be covered in the future. Essentially these are plot holes big enough for the spidey-mobile to drive through, but there were some fantastic highlights from this event too.

So let's get this out of the way already.

1. They all died.
Did they really? I mean they were in hell already, so what's the difference between being in hell and being in Mephisto's hell? How does that exactly work? For that matter, not all of them did die. X-23 in particular was plummeting into hell below when her nightmare began and it's only left to assumptions that her body went splat in Mephisto's realm off panel. Which again means her body was already in hell before she died. So did she really die? Or is this just a trick by Mephisto to make them all agree to a deal they didn't need? What was the explanation for Alejandre's death? How did the Venom symbiote die?

2. What happened to Ichor and the X-23/Toxin clones?
He just kind of slinked off his host body and disappeared. Never was completely defeated but was also never mentioned again. The same can be said for the X-23 clones that were merged with samples of the Toxin symbiote. They had some brief snippets but then were thrown to the background and never heard from again. No resolution given for either of these elements, nor any real exposition on the hyper aging process used on these clones. They're just gone. Leaves me personally hoping we might see Ichor in the future hopefully with taking one of them over, but we're left with no foreshadowing on any of it.

3. X-23's Claws.
Why didn't she notice the lack of healing factor in hell when she popped her claws? They do cut her skin every time they are used, yet this detail went by unnoticed and unmentioned, nor did her hands bleed any time she used them.

4. The Anti-thesis mirror doesn't effect symbiotes?
Flash Thompson got his reflection, as did Zarathos per se, but Alejandre and the Venom symbiote were seemingly skipped even though they were looking into the mirror too. Okay, maybe we can let Alejandre slide as she's seemingly merged with Zarathos and their souls interwoven, but Venom still seems somewhat odd. Especially considering the final battle and how it was used by Red Hulk.

Now for the highlights.

1. X-666's Demise
This character annoyed me to no end. Not because of her dialogue but because just how lame the concept in general was. That's what made her final moments all the more satisfying though with how she was dispatched. It was simple, comedic, and just all around quite fitting to have her be crushed under Red Hulk's heel. Made a great throwback to the end of the Hulk vs Wolverine animated movie too. That final scene with Deadpool near the credits.

2. Ghost rider Red Hulk Venom
What can I say? I'm a sucker for combined heroes and epic costumes. "Smash for Vengence" just made it all the more delicious. It almost makes the entire run worth it, but I wish we had more of it to really enjoy. It was a nice tease of potential future events if there is a follow up to circle of four.

3. Venom pulling a Deadpool/Spider-man impression.
Okay this was pretty sweet. Venom taking on 2 of the anti-thesis by himself and using them to defeat themselves in what was borderline a pure Deadpool or Spider-man moment of trash talking and quick thinking. Excellent usage of the Evangelist's 'good book' to cut down the Brain and also prove Flash can handle himself and his addictions if albeit briefly. It was one of two great shining moments for Flash Thompson in this story.

4. Coming Full Circle with the Anti-thesis mirror.
In what was a slightly unexpected move though really shouldn't have been, the story comes full circle with how it began. Using the mirror to defeat Blackheart was both fitting and predictable if not for the fact the story throws so much at you in every direction with massive amounts of confusion. Normally you would see something like this coming. Since it uses so much misdirection throughout the story this comes back around and becomes a pleasant and satisfying surprise. It makes this entire story come full circle to a close.

So here's a 4x4 response to what worked and what was just outright weird about Circle of Four. It's worth checking out in trade form, but the single issues might be something worth skipping unless in the future they expand on elements that fell to the wayside forgotten. There are many questionable characterization spots too, but a lot of that can be forgiven for how hurriedly this may have been thrown together and the kind of disarray that can happen when three writers are thrust into doing different chunks of a story without working entirely hand in hand to keep the details fluid and organic. It has elements that are ripe for usage later to expand on, but overall the first two thirds of the story are mostly yawn inducing while the last third attempts to salvage it all into one united story with classic comic throwbacks.

What are your final thoughts on this event?


  1. Laura has a part in it. Reason enough to get them.
    And there is the promise of a future reunion of the CoF. Which means more Laura. Personally I think Mephisto tricked Laura into thinking she died to get her to agree to his deal. And the others too. According to Marvel Mephisto is not able to force sentient beings to do anything without a pact. So he has to use deceit. I hope we will find out in the not to far future.

  2. The best issues were easily the ones that Rick Remender wrote. I'm sure the clones were supposed to be dealt with betweeb 13.1 and 13.3, but they were never seen again.

    About X-23 not being able to heal in hell, that's inconsistent with plenty of stories in the past. Most recently, Wolverine's hell storyline. He still had his healing factor, it was just slower in hell.

    I thought the lowest point was issue 13.3 in general. 12 pages of paradise that could have been written in 8 with tighter writing? X-23 calling the trigger scent a pheromone when it's a specifically created scent that only affects her (most pheromones directly alter brain chemistry.) I find it very difficult to believe that any of those four characters would have made a deal with Mephisto without at least questioning him first. That's not to mention that Mephisto is a touchy subject with Spider-Man fans because of One More Day.

    Ignoring Venom 13.3 I still enjoyed the event, but it probably would have been better if either Rick Remender wrote the whole thing, or if Marjorie Liu had more involvement than a single conference call.

    1. I think they might have been a bit pressed for time, with Blackheart bringing hell to earth and all, to give Mephisto the 4th degree.

    2. Pretty much nailed it on the head Healed1337. It especially seems weird with X-23 in tow. All around it feels like it lowered her intelligence for her role. Less situational awareness and mostly blind rage.

      I was a little miffed at the dream/nightmare personal hells too. They could have done so much more with that if they used Laura being reunited with Megan and Debbie but then Kimura killing them or something on that order. It would have really added more horror to the life she lives and punctuate why she can never actively seek them out or really even think about them. I can see why that idea might be skipped though too since Laura is pretty guarded about those memories thanks to the stunt Emma Frost pulled way back in Academy X.

    3. It would have been nice if Megan and Debbie could be seen again, but considering how poorly X-23 was written in that issue I'm almost glad they weren't there.

      Pressed for time? I find that hard to believe since Parker only wrote 13.3 while the best three issues were all written by Remender, not to mention he's also writing Uncanny X-Force and he just started Secret Avengers (not to mention his independent comics and his career outside of comics.) I'd sooner suggest that Parker simply doesn't understand X-23. That said, Jeph Loeb was worse in Hulk vs. X-Force.

    4. Some of it works in its favor though with rationalizations. Like in a way you could say X-23 outsmarted hell with how guarded she is with her past. I do agree it's a mild blessing with how bad the first 2/3rds were, but sometimes you have to find the silver lining and rationalize when dealing with Marvel. Sometimes you have to hope future writers pick up on the nuances left behind and fix it or expand on it. Like the deal with Mephisto. I hope a future writer on X-23 uses it to point she agreed to the terms knowing the deal was void from the start. Mystical arts may be outside her expertise but now that she's bound by it, you'd think she would learn up on it to combine with her chess like maneuvers to outwit Mephisto. She's a character that you would think would hate being bound to anyone to do something she doesn't want to do. It's not much better than the facility jobs she's already done. So some follow up to that story would have to be something extremely thorough in that regard.

    5. And that's what I'm doing. Trying to find te silver lining. Just the fact that Laura was in a book again that doesn't feature gay, time travelling dinosaurs is great. And since were all Laura fans here, I suppose, we naturally would like a more correct representation of her character. But, this story wasn't just about her, unfortunatly. And yeah. The writer(s) probably didn't realy study her the way we would have liked them to. They may have just read her wikipedia profile. But she was in another title again. More exposure for L. Hopefully more exposure once Mephisto comes to collect on her deal. Silver lining.