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Whether your walking into your  local comic book shop or perusing your favorite digital store front, sometimes it’s tough to know what books are safe for new eyes. That’s where we come in! Part review, part column, Start Reading Here is a feature on Talking Comics that let’s you know when you can jump onto a long running series. This week we say you should start reading:

Venom #13
Circle of Four Part 1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Tony Moore

Column by Bobby Shortle

What You Need To Know

Venom

  • Venom is the short hand name for an extra terrestrial symbiotic organism that was initially brought to earth when it bonded with Spider-Man. When the wall crawler realized the malicious nature of the creature he separated himself from it. This led to Venom’s most famous incarnation as Eddie Brock. The suit imbued Brock with powers similar to that of Spider-Man and set out to destroy him.
  • Since that time the character has gone through many villainous incarnations until recently when it was repurposed for government use and given to Flash Thompson.
  • Thompson was once a high school bully of Peter Parker, but more recently he entered the military and lost his legs in combat. He was then outfitted with the Venom symbiote and became a special operative for the Army. When Venom #13 begins he has just gone AWOL and is hiding out in Las Vegas.
  • Public service note: Contrary to its portrayal in Spider-Man 3 the Venom symbiote does not make you disco dance down the street.

Red Hulk 

  • You know Betty Ross’s father General Ross? He’s the guy in the movies who wants nothing more than to bring down Bruce Banner’s Hulk. Well guess what?!  Now he’s a Hulk himself!
  • Red Hulk has the same super strength as his green counterpart, but he and General Ross are not different personalities. Ross retains all of his higher thinking abilities and military allegiances. Marvel editor Mark Paniccia has described the Red Hulk as “absolutely uninhibited, tactically intelligent.”
  • He is who the army has sent to Las Vegas to track down Flash Thompson and secure the Venom symbiote

X-23

  •  She was cloned from damaged Wolverine DNA, has his powers and was trained by the Weapon X program to become the perfect killing machine.
  • After several personal tragedies she sought out the X-Men to try and turned her life around
  • She is in Las Vegas to track down a vile of blood that was stolen from her.  She fears this blood will be used to create others like her.

Ghost Rider

  • Johnny Blaze, in an effort to save his mentor, sells his soul to the demon Mephisto causing it to bond with the entity Zarathos. All of which results in the trademark flaming skull look that has become synonymous with the Ghost Rider.
  • Ghost Rider’s powers have changed over the years but he/she has the ability to discharge hellfire and has the use of a mystical chain that bends to the Rider’s will.
  • Blaze actually stopped being Ghost Rider in 1983 and didn’t return to the role until the mid 2000’s
  • In Circle of Four the mantle of Ghost Rider is now held by a woman named Alejandra. She and Johnny are in Las Vegas running down some wayward souls.

Plot

Venom: Circle of Four is a five part series that began in Venom #13, will run every week in February with issues 13.1, 13.2, 13.3, 13.4 and then will wrap up in Venom #14. It’s the story of a supernatural disaster occurring in Las Vegas, orchestrated by the demon Blackheart, which the unlikely team of Venom, Ghost Rider, X-23 and Red Hulk are trying to stop from spreading to the entire world.

Why Should You Read It?

Venom has always been an interesting character to try and realize. I honestly don’t believe he was ever meant to be anything more than a villain, but his immense popularity has continually forced Marvel to give him his own books.  I was never interested in reading those Venom comics because I don’t like villain books. So imagine my delight when I discovered that not only was Venom no longer a bad guy, but that the book was in fact written by Rick Remender.  This gave me the impotence I needed to pick up the book and after reading 13 and 13.1 I’m very glad I did.

Venom: Circle of Four is loud, brash, over the top and most importantly a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a book that takes all the things that happened in the 1990’s with comics, sifts out all the crap and leave this wonderful filtered mix of burning skulls, bulging muscles and character pathos. These are big time characters with big time personalities, and that comes through in both the writing and the art. For example:  If you like the idea of a story beat that features a motorcycle rider with a flaming skull fighting a homicidal angel then this is the book for you.

I had my doubts about this, and the Venom series in general, but now I’m a true believer. This isn’t going to make you look at the frailty of your humanity, but it isn’t meant to. Venom: Circle of Four exists to give you bad ass characters doing bad ass stuff and in that it succeeds fully. You should head out to your local comic shop and get caught up right now.

Venom 13 and 13.1 are on shelves and Venom 13.2 hits February 15, 2012.

 

 

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