When ‘Venom’ #12 closed, Flash Thompson was still on the run from the military after absconding with the Venom symbiote in an attempt to save his family and friends from the Crime-Master. The Crime-Master had threatened to kill Flash’s loved ones unless he used the symbiote to steal something from a Las Vegas casino. Things took a turn for the worse when Flash lost control of the symbiote in the middle of the job, which led to an explosive battle in the middle of Vegas. The news reports from the confrontation drew the attention of the Red Hulk who has been dispatched by the Avengers to bring back Flash for a court martial and to contain the Venom symbiote.

This issue begins the six-part ‘Circle of Four’ storyline that will see a team-up between Venom, the Red Hulk, Ghost Rider, and X-23. As the story opens, the owner of the Devil’s Den Casino is making a deal with a failed gambler. In exchange for removing the fellow’s debt, the casino asks him to sign over his soul!

While all of this is happening, several other storylines are converging into Las Vegas. Johnny Blaze is outside of Vegas training Alejandra in her role as the new Ghost Rider. X-23 is inside the Devil’s Den tracking down a vial of her blood that was taken from her. The Red Hulk is still looking for Flash who, in turn, is laying low and trying to sever ties with his loved ones so that criminals can’t take advantage of them like the Crime-Master did.

As the issue progresses, the plot behind the Devil’s Den Casino is revealed to have connections with both X-23 and Venom. It isn’t long before all Hell breaks loose in Vegas (literally) and the four heroes must band together to stop the world from suffering the same fate.

Writer Rick Remender delivers a story that is so insane and over-the-top that I can’t help but be reminded of the Midnight Sons comics of the early 90s. The whole demons invading the Earth, the team-up of a bunch of anti-heroes to stop them, the name-dropping of Dr. Strange and Daimon Hellstrom… it’s just a bit dated. But despite the rather passé concept at the core, Remender manages to make the opening chapter of ‘Circle of Four’ a fun read nonetheless. The banter between Johnny Blaze and Alejandra is great and made me want to check out the regular ‘Ghost Rider’ series. The begrudging team-up between Red Hulk and Venom gave me a few laughs (even if I did just see some similar dialogue over in ‘Avenging Spider-Man’).

The artwork from Tony Moore is actually quite a good fit for this kind of stuff. Until this point in the seires, Moore’s pencils kept me thinking about retro comics from the 70s, but this issue the linework seems more kinetic and not as thick and crunchy as before. It’s as if Moore has switched his internal gears for a retro 90s style artwork with the switch in Remender’s story.

It’s a fantastic start to the new story arc and one that I’m excited to see through to the end. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit out of the norm for today’s comics or if you enjoyed those supernatural action comics of the 90s, don’t miss Venom’s ‘Circle of Four’!

Verdict: Buy