At 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.
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.
|How exactly does she see through that hood?|
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.
We 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.
|I, too, call bullshit.|
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.
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.
|No it won't. Not for me, that is.|
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.)