As the weekly ‘Circle of Four’ story left off in ‘Venom’ #13.2, our four heroes Venom, Red Hulk, and X-23 were all seemingly killed at the hands of the Antitheses. (The Antitheses being a group of four demonic beings that were created by Blackheart as the opposites to the heroes.) Meanwhile, Blackheart was tempting a nearly dead Alejandra, the new Ghost Rider, with redemption in exchange for removing the amulet that was keeping Hell-on-Earth contained to Las Vegas.

As the story opens this issue, the heroes have died and are seeing their greatest hopes and dreams. Ghost Rider finally gets her redemption, Venom/Flash gets back his lost legs and life, and so on. Of course, in Hell nothing is as it seems and the happiness of these visions is quickly wiped away in a blast of horror as the heroes find themselves at the mercy of Mephisto, the ruler of Hell and estranged father to Blackheart. Mephisto is not happy that his wayward son has machinations of his own and wants to put a stop to it. To that end, he offers to return all four heroes to life, stating that they were killed in Hell and no one really dies there. But, as is often the case where Mephisto is concerned, everything comes with a price. Now it’s up to the heroes to make a decision that may save the world now only to make things much worse down the road.

Jeff Parker steps in as writer for this episode and he does a good job with the struggling heroes and the arrogant menace of Mephisto. The juxtaposition of the scenes with the heroes’ fulfilled dreams and their worst nightmares makes for an eerily compelling tale.

Art duties this chapter handled by Julian Tedesco. Tedesco’s pencils are a little more harsh and less cartoony than Sana Takeda’s work last issue. His work, especially in the happy dream sequences, is reminiscent of John Romita, Jr. but he’s able to take it gritter and darker once Mephisto makes his appearance.

‘Circle of Four’ is exactly what I like in a cross-over book. Even if it’s switched to a weekly format, precipitating buying more issues, the story is all contained to one title. There’s no need to collect tie-ins and spin-offs. ‘Circle of Four’ is just a good solid story featuring four of Marvel’s darker heroes banding together. It’s a fun read and one that’s well worth checking out.

Verdict: Buy

VENOM #13.3
Written by JEFF PARKER