The Superior Spider-Man #25 "Darkest Hours," Part 4 Review | Fanboys Anonymous

The Superior Spider-Man #25 "Darkest Hours," Part 4 Review

Posted by Orion Petitclerc Friday, January 17, 2014
I'm only gonna warn you guys once: there will be MAJOR spoilers revealed in this review. Avert your eyes if you haven't read the book yet and want to be surprised. Last chance: look away!

Read the Superior Spider-Man on the Marvel Comics app

Follow Spider-Man's first encounter with the symbiote in Spider-Man: The Birth of Venom trade paperback collectionAt the end of The Superior Spider-Man #24, SpOck (Spider-Ock) embraced the power of the symbiote as the Superior Venom. When Mary Jane realized he was under the symbiote's influence once more, she put in a call to the Avengers to warn them of the danger. As this issue opens, Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Humberto Ramos throw us right into the start of what readers have been waiting for since the beginning of the series: SpOck's throw-down with his fellow Avengers as the Superior Venom. It's clear that SpOck is tired of playing goody two-shoes with the Avengers and having them meddling in his battles. Lucky for him, the Avengers take his degrading banter in stride, believing him to have lost complete control of himself due to the symbiote. What a nice way of letting the wolf in sheep's clothing deliver his roast with the promise of a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Meanwhile, Roderick Kingsley—the Hobgoblin—is attempting to salvage his criminal operation from the utter shambles it has become under the Green Goblin. As he decides to take advantage of SpOck's distraction with the Avengers, the Superior Venom takes the battle to the next level by deploying his army of minions and Arachnauts to his location and declaring war against the Avengers. Oh yay, another war involving the Avengers! [He says, sarcastically.] Unknown to SpOck or his minions is the Goblin Knight (Phil Urich, formerly another Hobgoblin), who's taken to spying on Spider-Island's operations for the Goblin Nation.

Witness the Green Goblin's ultimate victory over Spider-Man in the Death of the Stacys

We're then moved over to the Goblin Nation side of the story, where the Green Goblin and Menace introduce the captured-then-turned Carlie Cooper as their newest goblin to the ranks, Monster. The Green Goblin tries to get Monster to spill the beans on Spidey's identity, but Carlie is as smart as Slott lead us all on to believe, and she refuses to reveal that secret without the Green Goblin revealing his secret identity to her in exchange. Whoever this Green Goblin is, he isn't stupid, either, and has Menace take Monster out on a mission as a test to see where Carlie's loyalties lie. I have to admit, I do like the cat-and-cat game that's developing between the Green Goblin and Carlie. I'm putting my money on Carlie still being in control of her faculties despite her new form as Monster, so now it's a matter of who will blink first.

Follow Agent Venom's adventures with the Secret Avengers in Secret Avengers by Rick Remender, available in trade paperback on Amazon
Now, here comes the part I really liked. Back at ground zero for the Avengers vs. Superior Venom war, Captain America realizes that SpOck and his forces are just too much for his current team of Avengers to take on, so he puts out a call for help to other Avengers in the area. Iron Man responds, but Cap reroutes him onto another important issue: finding Flash Thompson. He reveals Flash's Avenger status (he once was a part of Cap's Secret Avengers black ops team) and secret identity (Agent Venom) to Tony, and figures maybe Flash could reveal how he was separated from the symbiote, which would turn the tide of the battle. I just love that Slott and Gage remembers Agent Venom as a Secret Avenger, and that Cap and Flash share a history. It's like they really do care about those of us, Venomaniacs, who care about cross-title continuity concerning Venom.

Read Iron Man: The Rings of the Mandarin coming soon in 2014

Follow Carlie Cooper's descent into madness in Superior Spider-Man: Darkest Hours
How exactly does she see through that hood?
Iron Man tracks Flash (who's still dying) to Parker Industries where he and Dr. Wirtham (a.k.a. Cardiac) are receiving medical attention from Sajani (see the last review). When he arrives, he manages to patch up Dr. Wirtham from the damage to his mesh-skin-thingy he received in his tussle with the Superior Venom. Poor Flash gets another taste of the Parker luck when he realizes his secret identity had been revealed to Iron Man, too, and resigns himself to his fate with an "oh well" of sorts. I guess this means the "secret" part of Agent Venom's entire mythos is pretty much a moot point by now.

Meanwhile, SpOck's reputation with the citizens of New York City is circling the drain as they realize how corrupt their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has become. Finally, people are starting to react to SpOck's reign of terror! Just as many of us who've been following The Superior Spider-Man since issue #1 have been saying alongside Slott, SpOck's kingdom is at last crumbling around him. There's a fat chance he could possibly make it up to everyone after everything.

Read up on the history of the hosts of Venom at the Marvel Database WikiWe jump again to Menace and Monster's exploits, through which the Goblin Knight reveals his new flag colors to Roderick, his old employer. Then we're taken back to the big battle, in which the Superior Venom continues to vent his mental superiority and picks off the Avengers one by one. Flash lands a successful surprise blow in Iron Man's armor as Tony distracts SpOck (yet another suit for Flash to joy ride? Ugh), but when Flash tries to entice the symbiote to return to him, it rejects him and takes complete control of SpOck. Apparently, the symbiote still has some hard feelings for Flash's use of chemical drugs to control it. Again, it's as though Slott and Gage did their homework with the Venom series because they really care for the fans! [Aw, stop making me blush!]

SpOck realizesthat the symbiote had been playing coy all along and attempts to fight it. Just as he begins to lose against its influence [ready for the big BANG?], in steps Peter Parker (in astral form) to lend a helping hand! Marvel's prodigal son returns from the land of the dead! Now, this would've been an even bigger deal if Marvel hadn't previously revealed that an All-New Amazing Spider-Man series featuring good ol' Peter Parker was coming soon, but then I remembered: Marvel loves to spoil surprises days or weeks in advance. Oh well, cat's out of the bag.

Read the Death of Peter Parker in the Amazing Spider-Man #700 on Comixology
Yep, it looks like Peter's ghost survived SpOck's mindwipe and had been in hiding the entire time, gathering his strength for the right moment. Peter manages to avoid detection while helping SpOck fight the symbiote and win against it. Flash reunites himself with the symbiote, becoming Agent Venom once more, and all is well in the world again. Well, not quite, actually. To save face for everything he said and did as Agent Venom, SpOck plays coy with the Avengers, explaining his strange behavior in the past few months was a result of being under the influence of trace amounts of the symbiote infection from his and Agent Venom's last battle (in Venom #4, apparently).

Watch The Avengers on instant streaming with Netflix
I, too, call bullshit.
Then we skip over to the Goblin Nation, where the Green Goblin reveals his tinkering with Roderick's business to him and declares a War of the Goblins [yay, yet another war]. After that, we return to Mary Jane's story, in which Captain Yuri Watanabe (a.k.a. the Wraith) releases her from custody with a warning for MJ and Peter. MJ rushes home, where Peter (SpOck, not the real Peter) surprises her, sings the same tune he sang to the Avengers, and wins her trust back.

Follow Agent Venom's adventures in space this April in Guardians of the Galaxy
Finally, at the Avengers Tower, the Avengers plus Agent Venom collectively call bullshit on SpOck's cover story. Agent Venom tries to use his connection to the symbiote to find out any info it may have learned while bonded with SpOck, but after finding only an inexplicable static from its memories, he bids adieu and takes off for Philadelphia, where he says he has business to take care of. Hopefully he's referring to his sidekick Mania's situation, but I have a feeling we won't find out in the time between this issue and his debut in Guardians of the Galaxy in April. Just as well, too; this is the "Venom fan luck" at work. The issue ends with Iron Man checking up on the tests the Avengers had previously conducted on SpOck and finding nothing because the files had been erased by the hero in question, and with Cap issuing an arrest on Spider-Man.

Read about the Avengers' previous battle with the Superior Spider-Man in Superior Spider-Man Volume 1
Woof! What an intense final issue to "Darkest Hours," huh? So much has happened in this story arc that I'm still reeling. Flash learned that without the symbiote he would die, adding on a whole new layer to Agent Venom's story; the citizens of New York City and the Avengers are no longer accepting SpOck's bullshit; the Goblin Nation is on the verge of its big reveal; and Peter Parker's ghost/consciousness still lives. So many feels, but as I am a Venomaniac and the only reason I've reviewed this story arc out of all of the others in The Superior Spider-Man is for Agent Venom's involvement, I'll rate this book and the story arc as a Venom fan.

Slott and Gage earn a bunch of brownie points for their homework on Agent Venom—particularly for his mentioning his new home and exploits in Philly and Flash's understanding of his relationship with the symbiote. Their Flash Thompson really feels like the Flash Thompson I knew from Venom, which is remarkably good on their part considering the absolute manhandling of Agent Venom in his other team book, Thunderbolts. Thankfully I had a sense of security on Agent Venom's part due to his imminent membership with the Guardians of the Galaxy, but the additional angle of Flash's fragility without the symbiote kept me on my toes.

Follow Agent Venom's solo adventures in Venom by Rick Remender and Cullen Bunn
No it won't. Not for me, that is.
They lose points, however, with their further muddying of Agent Venom's continuity. First off, even if SpOck retained Peter's memories of his first encounter with Agent Venom in Venom #4, Spider-Man didn't know at that time that the hulked-out Venom he was fighting was Agent Venom and, by extension, Flash. As far as Spidey is concerned, their very first encounter was in Carnage U.S.A., and even then they didn't have a tussle by which Slott/Gage/SpOck could excuse himself for his bad behavior. Also, what's the symbiote's deal? Does it love Flash or still hate him for his abuse? I thought they had already had a heart-to-heart and come to an understanding near the end of Venom? What happened to Eddie Brock, a.k.a. Toxin, stalking Agent Venom and keeping an eye on him? Where was Broxin (as we Venomaniacs endear him) when the symbiote jumped onto Spidey and went on a rampage, huh? What about Mania; where is she during all of this? I thought Flash had promised her he would devote himself to helping her out with her demonic possession problem? Unfortunately, this story arc spawned (hah!) more mind-boggling continuity questions than we had at the end of Venom. What sucks the most is that these questions may never be answered, and poor Broxin and Mania will still linger in comic book limbo after this.

Did "Darkest Hours" satisfy my symbiotic needs? Yes, absolutely. I'm still miffed, though, with the way Agent Venom was handled in the end. As for the continuation of the main Superior Spider-Man plots, I can honestly say I'm satisfied. I'm disappointed Anna Maria, SpOck's new girlfriend and the best thing to happen to this series, didn't make an appearance in this issue, but I suspect she'll return with a vengeance in the next issue. Let's just hope SpOck doesn't go and ruin it by hanging around with MJ again. I want to savor this SpOck/Anna Maria thing as long as it will last (which is probably for another six issues before the series ends). I give The Superior Spider-Man #25 a whopping 5 out of 5 stars for an explosive ending (figuratively speaking), and I give "Darkest Hours" in its entirety gets 4.5 out of 5 stars for a mildly entertaining story with enough Agent Venom and Superior Venom to keep me turning the page.

Let's hear it, Fanboys and Fangirls! Do you think I rated "Darkest Hours" fairly? What were your hopes and fears for this story arc, and what are you looking forward to as we approach the end of an era? Leave a comment below, and I'll see ya' around! (If you missed out on the previous reviews, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by clicking on them.)
THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY A GUEST WRITER

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