The Superior Spider-Man #23 "Darkest Hours," Part 2 Review | Fanboys Anonymous

The Superior Spider-Man #23 "Darkest Hours," Part 2 Review

Posted by Orion Petitclerc Friday, December 6, 2013
Hello again, Spider-Philes and Venomaniacs alike, and welcome to the second of a four-part review series for The Superior Spider-Man: "Darkest Hours"! Today's focus will be on the recently published issue #23, the second part of the venomous story arc. (See what I did there?) Let's get to it, shall we?

Read Superior Spider-Man on Comixology or the Marvel Comics app

Dan Slott and Christos Gage (who I forgot to credit as a cowriter in my previous review) waste little time in tossing us back into the action from the cliffhanger of the last issue. We find the stakes for Flash Thompson, a.k.a. Agent Venom, have been raised alarmingly high as a result of Doc Ock's mind-wipe of Peter Parker's memories when he became the Superior Spider-Man (SpOck, as I shall refer to him). The greatest Spider-Fanboy's expectations are severely dashed by his hero's new, ruthless attitude. Slott and Gage attempt to reveal SpOck's good intentions for handling the potential threat of the alien symbiote attached to Flash, but the megalomaniac in Doc Ock highlights his villainous nature and unintentionally paints Agent Venom in a better light.

Shop for groceries at the comfort of your home, online at your local grocery chain market's websiteNot long after the initial tussle, we're returned to the other major plots that have been brewing since the series' first issue. We get a brief dialogue between SpOck and his newest girlfriend, Anna Maria, which I continue to adore after Flash and Valkyrie's power-relationship from the likes of Secret Avengers (pre-Marvel NOW!), Venom (defunct since October), and a single issue in Fearless Defenders (also recently defunct). If there's at least one feature in the pages of The Superior Spider-Man worth touting, it's SpOck's relationship with Anna Maria—and not just because her character is one of Marvel's better representations of a minority group, in my opinion! Slott has done a great job making Anna Maria feel like a real person despite critics' complaints about his work with the new Spider-Man.

The Green Goblin and his lieutenants of the Goblin Nation make a one-page cameo that really doesn't move the Goblin Nation story arc in any particular direction. However, this doesn't mean it wasn't entirely unnecessary: Slott and Gage use this page to reference the controversial "One More Day" story arc from The Amazing Spider-Man, the result of which plays a big role in both the Green Goblin and the Venom symbiote's parts.

Slott and Gage also do a great job of establishing an amicable relationship between Flash and the symbiote through their solo adventure in the issue. As great as it is to see Flash treating the symbiote with more respect as opposed to his abuse of the alien suit in the pages of Venom, this begs the question: when did Flash suddenly become so nice and concerned for the symbiote? Sure, the pair finally had a revealing heart-to-heart near the end of Venom, but Cullen Bunn never showed a real improvement in their relationship before the series was cancelled. Additionally, I liked that Slott and Gage remembered that, before "Darkest Hours," Agent Venom lived and was based in Philadelphia, and made mention of that in the issue. However, I'm still disappointed that they didn't mention any of Agent Venom's other life-altering situations alongside the new venue, including his new sidekick, Mania, with the demonically marked symbiote, and his behind-the-scenes stalker, Eddie Brock (currently Toxin). I was expecting him to worry about leaving Andi back in Philly, or to wonder if Toxin was still stalking him. Okay, that last one would be stretching it, but still.

Is Mary Jane Watson better for Peter Parker than Gwen Stacy
Nope, hate the hair.
Mary Jane Watson also makes her periodic check-in with the series in this issue, crossing paths with Yuri Watanabe. Oh yeah, you know she's finally gonna get dragged into Yuri and Carlie Cooper's "Doc Ock/Spider-Man connection" conspiracy club. It was a long time coming. Unfortunately, as opposed to her appearances in previous issues, MJ seems to have suffered a bad hair day in the way of her styles in the '80s and '90s. Volume-wise, that is. I may not be the biggest MJ fan, but at least I have my preferences in her hair style.

You know, now that I think about it, this issue is just chock-full of side plots. Seriously, for a huge Agent Venom vs. SpOck/rise of Superior Venom story arc, these first two issues have busied themselves in outside affairs. Additionally to the aforementioned overarching plots, Slott and Gage touch upon Dr. Wirtham's (also known as former Spidey rogue, Cardiac) association with Parker Industries, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson's vendetta against SpOck and his connection to the late Spider-Slayer, Alchemax, and Spider-Man 2099. As nice as it is to advance the overall stories of The Superior Spider-Man, Agent Venom really should be the prominent guest star in "Darkest Hours." That means more face time for Flash than the Green Goblin, Carlie, MJ, Yuri, Dr. Wirtham…you get the point.

Despite these flaws, however, Slott and Gage did a good job in the final pages with a tantalizing bait-and-switch between Flash and SpOck. Finally, the identity of the Superior Venom is revealed on the final page, and it is who I expected! I can't wait to see the kind of relationship that spawns between the symbiote and its new (albeit, likely temporary) host! What will Flash's newfound freedom from the symbiote mean for Agent Venom?

Find out who the Superior Venom is in Superior Spider-Man #23, available on Comixology and the Marvel Comics appAs far as continuing SpOck's misadventures, The Superior Spider-Man #23 does a bang-up job of keeping me reading to the next issue. With regard to being an Agent Venom-centric book, this issue falls short. It almost feels like watching an episode of the anime Bleach: you move only a couple of inches of the mile run in each installation in regards to story, which makes the experience frustrating; however, you just can't stop watching! (I did stop watching Bleach after years of abuse, I'll have you know.) On the flip side, Humberto Ramos and company deliver some beautifully colorful, fast-paced action between Agent Venom and SpOck worthy of the Wall Crawler and Lethal Protector's rich history. Only a few other artists of their caliber could possibly pull off the epicness this showdown embodies.

Follow Agent Venom's adventures in outer space this May in the Free Comic Book Day issue of Guardians of the Galaxy
It's so classic Eddie/Peter!
Also, Venomaniacs get a real treat reminiscent of a scene involving Eddie visiting Peter at Aunt May's when he was still Venom back in the good ol' days (Amazing Spider-Man #317, to be precise). Although the situation in this issue is greatly altered, I still get that sweet Brock/Venom vibe from the encounter. I love the little nods to Flash and Venom's histories and the general relationship between Agent Venom and SpOck as of right now, but the extraneous fillers between the beginning and ending Agent Venom scenes dock a point from my rating again, and I give this issue 4 out of 5 stars.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Tell us what you think in the comments section below, and I'll see you again in two weeks!

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