Heart of Darkness
So we find ourselves in the "home stretch" with Venom, so to speak, as Flash is finding his title cancelled come November. Writer Cullen Bunn seems to want to wrap up the loose ends before then, and he delves back into Flash's demonic descent and his Hell-Mark. As I've said in previous reviews, I was not overjoyed with this angle when it first debuted with the "Monsters of Evil" arc, which is Venom's low point if I do say so. Also, Mania is still prevalent, even though the end of last issue almost made it feel like she was being moved to the side for Flash's final stretch. Two things I'm not overjoyed with, but Bunn actually makes them work and makes me enjoy them.
The issue opens with Flash having nightmares, scary demon nightmares, when Mania wakes him up and demands they go after Lord Ogre. She's a little irked it's taken them so long to go after Ogre, and you know what? I agree with her. Bunn has proven himself to be fantastic at writing Venom, but good god does he drag things out. All the Toxin teasers, and now how long Venom has been dealing with Ogre. A man with no super-powers, who as far as we know (still) is no more than a drug-peddling kingpin. Certainly, he has access to hire super-powered thugs, but I still feel like Flash could have laid the smackdown on this guy an issue or two ago and we could have moved on from him into a more dramatic finale. Introduce a new big bad for Flash, and have him fight against someone who outclasses him and really show off what venom is made of. Let him go out with a bang, instead of still dealing with Lord Ogre. Anyways, I digress.
Flash gets a call from Katy to go to Texas, where apparently Daimon Hellstrom is dead. In the interest of keeping this review spoiler free, I'll refrain from telling the rest in detail. But it does deal with Andi, and given her current personality after bonding with the symbiote it makes sense. Speaking of Mania, Andi is tearing a swathe through Lord Ogre's goons. Sure, they're regular street thugs, but she's doing it ruthlessly. She resembles a female, teenage Carnage more than Venom. It's pretty cool to watch, and it's worth getting the issue to see her in action. It still begs the question: how is she so good, so soon, with the symbiote? Hopefully, since Mania will be tied into at the very least the next issue, that will be answered.
We have a new artist on board with issue 40, one Jorge Coelho. It's similar to Declan Shalvey or Kim Jacinto in how he draws symbiotes, but not quite on their level. His normal human faces are still a bit off, but I find them an improvement over Jacinto's. His backgrounds are quite detailed, even though a few panels they are missing. Some I feel are done on purpose to show the speed at which the characters are moving, but there's a small amount that they just seem to be gone. Overall, he definitely fits the mood of the book.
This book does have it's shortfalls. Like I said, I feel Lord Ogre should have been handled, and I'm not jumping for joy that the demon aspect is once again introduced. It's done better this time, in my opinion, but still. I like stories with celestial/divine aspects, but when it mixes with aliens it just feels like there is just too much craziness. The art shortfalls I already discussed above.
This is a solid issue, furthering the story and really showcasing Mania. Like I said before, I would prefer a greater focus on Flash with him now only having two issues left; and I would love for it to have been against a new, A-List Venom enemy where Flash can really cut loose and show us what he's made off. That's just my opinion, though, and the current angle is still good and entertaining. I kind of hope Mania sticks around in some form or fashion, as I think she is quite interesting. Not exactly my sort of preference, but still she is an intriguing character.