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Venom #13.3: Hell in a Handbasket

Flash Thompson, Thaddeus Ross, Laura Kinney and Alejandra the Ghost Rider do a very bad thing together.

Venom 13.3

Up until this point, the weekly event happening in Venom entitled "Circle of Four" has been decent, as a motley crew of super pseudo-heroes is stuck in Blackheart's demonic version of Las Vegas and scrambling to find a way to defeat the malevolent mystic – something way beyond the scope of their abilities. Regular Venom writer Rick Remender has been joined on this project by Ghost Rider writer Rob Williams and Red Hulk writer Jeff Parker to craft this story, and with Venom #13.3, Parker's on the scripting duties, and he really brings home the bacon.

Two soldiers – AWOL Agent Venom, aka Flash Thompson, and Red Hulk Thaddeus Ross – alongside a teenage Wolverine clone in Laura Kinney, aka X-23, don't have much in the way of experience dealing with metaphysical threats.  You'd think Ghost Rider could help, but considering it's really a brash rookie named Alejandra who was duped into causing this mess in the first place and manipulated into helping it spread beyond Vegas, all of this Circle of Four are out of their depth.

Which is why this issue opens with all four of them having the hell manipulated out of them.  Or into them, rather, since the manipulator is our favorite spider-marriage eraser named Mephisto. He's granting each of them their deepest desires, only to tear them away in horrible fashion in order to really get that heartfelt anguish going in each of them – really driving home the fact that they are in Hell.  Softening them up to make a deal with them so they can go back and save the world from Blackheart… for a price.

And it appears all four of them agree to it.  Now that is interesting. None of these heroes are exceptionally noble, and some have been downright villainous. It really sets each of these characters up to have a cool story in the offing, although chances are it'll be sooner rather than later, because it will require the four of them to meet up again. Still, it'll be cool to have something like this hanging over their heads.

Venom #13.3 crystallizes this arc and makes it finally feel like more than just a weird diversion. The art from Julian Tedesco and the colors from Dommo Sanchez Amara really work well together with really creepy demonic imagery and the fiery discomfort of the netherworld.  My only problem is Mephisto actually saying that something is "made of awesome and win."  I am not ready for that to be actual dialog from a metaphysical demon. Maybe in 20 years, it'll be the norm, but I can't accept that outside of internet memes yet.  Stop that.

CraveOnline Rating: 8/10