Written by Rick Remender, Rob Williams, & Jeff Parker
Art by Lan Medina, Tony Moore, Lee Garbet, Sana Takeda, Julian Tedesco, Nelson Decastro, & Terry Pallot
Published by Marvel Comics
Continuing from his first story arc as well as being tied up in the “Spider-Island” event, Flash Thompson a.k.a. Agent Venom returns in the highly enjoyable “Circle of Four”.
“Circle of Four” is itself a bit of a strange beast as it’s actually two separate storylines combined together. The first arc is “Road Trip”. While coping with the death of his father, Flash is blackmailed by the sinister Crime Master to head to Las Vegas and retrieve something for him. To make matters worse, Captain America arrives intending to shut down Project Rebirth 2.0 and take the symbiote suit away from Flash. With no options, Flash must steal the Venom costume to save his friends and family from the hands of Crime Master. On his trip, Flash is joined by the ever entertaining Jack O’Lantern, and Flash learns just what kind of criminals he’s dealing with and what horrid things shaped Jack into the “man” he is.
Naturally, the real meat of this trade is in the follow up act: “Circle of Four”. Following up from the events of “Road Trip”, Flash Thompson has hit an all-time low. He’s barricaded up in a cheap Vegas motel room and just about ready to give up on the world and drink himself to death. Of course, he’s not so lucky as the Red Hulk is hunting him on behalf of Captain America, the female clone of Wolverine, X-23, is in town looking for a shady casino manager in ownership of her blood, and Alejandra Blaze, the then-current Ghost Rider, rides into Vegas with all sorts of black magic senses going off in her head. All four end up walking in on Blackheart, the son of the Devil, who’s planning to create Hell on Earth. Cut off from any outside help, Agent Venom, Red Hulk, X-23, and Ghost Rider must unite to defeat Blackheart, the forces of Hell, and their own personal demonic Antitheses specifically created to kill them.
Regrettably the story does end up dragging its feet at times. There’s one issue where Mephisto teases the heroes with visions of their greatest desires which does offer a lot of insight to these characters but feels like covering old ground and is strange right in the middle of the arc. None of the artwork is in anyway bad though similar to Lan Medina, Lee Garbett and Sana Takeda have an all too clean style, especially when compared to Tony Moore’s excellent grit, grime, blood, guts, and Hellscapes. The writing of Parker and Williams feels slow compared to Remender’s fun and hectic pace, dragging the middle part down. Not to mention, some characterization comes off as inconsistent, specifically Alejandra as Ghost Rider. She seems to change alignments three times in this story. All the same, “Circle of Four” is a must read for fans of Agent Venom whether enjoying him for face value or as a great subversion of 90’s comic book stereotypes.