Venom is crossing over with Red Hulk, X-23 and Ghost Rider to deliver a mini-event within a bunch of decimal point issues of the “Venom” title. It’s a bold move from Marvel and one that is hopefully going to deliver the sort of strange action these sideline B-listers deserve. There are a few hints of this sort of weird reverence, but mostly this issue is packed full of the expositional movement of the players around the board to get to the fun stuff. You feel it might have been more fun to simply start in media res and have the reader slowly figure out how and why our heroes are battling the very cool villains introduced on the final page.
Rick Remender does an admirable job of capturing the voices of four very disparate characters here. They come with their own motivations and methods of working toward success. There’s enough meat on all these bones to have new readers quickly familiarized with these characters and ready to forge forward with them. It is this need to catch people up that ultimately hinders the drive of the narrative and makes this issue plod through the necessary before getting to the superbly unnecessary and exciting.
One major success of this issue is that we don’t need to know a single thing of what has come before to enjoy ourselves on this romp of a tale. The characters explain themselves easily, their motives are clear, and the team-up makes sense in the context of the narrative. It’s all standard and fun and the sort of broad quest a variety of readers could get behind. There is no sublime subtext like Remender managed behind his ‘Dark Angel Saga’ over on “Uncanny X-Force”; this is a different book and story, indeed.
Getting so many pages of Tony Moore’s art is a treat. He is given room to unleash here on vast plains for Red Hulk to leap and fiery pits from which monsters and heroes alike can be tested. Every character comes out great from Moore but the stand outs are Mephisto and Red Hulk. Moore makes these guys his own while still obviously playing in the big sandbox. He toes that fine line with nearly all his projects and this is no exception.
Val Staples is working with a wide palette and continues to show his plethora of skills no matter what the subject matter. He brings the art to vibrant life and makes sure you don’t miss any aspect of craziness that Moore brings to the page.
The ‘Circle of Four’ event is shaping up to be something fun. Hopefully now with the business part dropped, the rest can step up to meet the creative conclusion this issue holds. These four characters meeting in Las Vegas and fighting a hellish battle against evil is going to be a bombastic caper, but don’t expect any subtext or meta-anything to analyze. This is an excuse for superheroes with alien suits, rage powers, arm blades, and flaming skulls to do what they do best -- entertain you in silly and awesome ways. Enjoy, if that’s what you are after.