‘Venom’ #22 marked the end of Rick Remender’s run on this wonderful title. Now Cullen Bunn, who’s been co-writing the book with Remender for several months, steps up to the full-time scripter. So can Bunn’s solo stuff work as well as what Remender’s been able to do with the character? Sadly, not if this issue is any indication. But, it’s the first part of a new arc, so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.
The new arc, titled awkwardly “Monsters of Evil”, spins out of the huge Venom event “Circle of Four” in which Venom teamed up with Red Hulk, Ghost Rider, and X-23 to take down demons who were invading Las Vegas. At the end of that arc, the Circle got a hand from the Son of Satan himself… Daimon Hellstrom. All in all, “Circle of Four” was a fun nod to the over-the-top paranormal books of the mid-90s and it worked as a one off deal. However, at the finale, I predicted that some of that would return… I just didn’t expect it so soon.
This issue opens with a retelling of Agent Venom’s origins up to this point and ends with his new gig as a Secret Avenger. After the recap, we jump to Venom on a mission to run surveillance on a group known as the Department of Occult Armaments (DoA.. get it?). The DoA are some sort of demon-worshiping cult who’ve been getting more and more active lately and Venom has been sent to find out what they’re up to.
To make the story short, things do as they’ve tended to do for Venom up to this point and they go dreadfully wrong. Before the dust settles, there are lots of dead people, some demon-possessed folks, the Son of Satan makes his appearance (as a bad-guy for some reason this time around), and the Venom symbiote struggles for control.
It’s not a bad story by any means but, like “Circle of Four”, it is utterly dripping in that 90s supernatural vibe. While that’s fun on the occasional basis, I don’t like seeing it too often in this book. Venom works best when he’s doing his government work or when he’s struggling with his personal life. To his defense, Bunn did attempt to incorporate some of that stuff into this issue’s tale but it still came out smelling of “Midnight Sons” again.
That said, I did end up enjoying “Circle of Four” quite a bit so I’m hoping that Bunn can do something unique with this story arc and not just fall back into more of the same. If he can do that, I’ll be happy. But as it is, this story just felt “okay” to me.
Aside from the story, the artwork from Thony Silas was perfect for this book. It’s dark, thick, and very reminiscent of Tony Moore’s work that has come before. There’s one scene in particular during the flashback sequence that I think worked brilliantly as a spread. If not for Silas’ work, I would’ve given this book a solid middle-of-the-road score of 3 atoms, but the art brought it up just enough to earn…
Story by Cullen Bunn
Art by Thony Silas
Cover by Patrick Zircher & Humberto Ramos