First Impressions – VENOM #13: CIRCLE OF FOUR

Something that confused me when I first heard about it, and continues to confound me to this day, is Marvel’s “Point One” system. Under this system, issues can be put out in addition to the actual numbered issue of a series, by way of putting a point one at the end. And it counts as a completely different issue. Like the recent Amazing Spiderman #679.1. Pardon my egregious use of puns, but what’s the point?

This sort of esoteric issue numbering certainly isn’t new. We’ve had zero issues, half issues, negative issues, etc. But at least these made some kind of logical sense. An issue zero is usually meant to reiterate the series premise for those who came in late, and get people up to speed as quickly as possible. For the life of me, I can’t wrap my brain around what a “Point One” issue means. And you just know this kind of thing is bound to cause trouble well after the fact when people are collecting old issues, only to realize they’re missing a tenth of an issue. A tenth of an issue which is exactly the same length as a regular book.

In the case of VENOM #13, we have a six part storyline involving the titular Venom (Flash Thomson), X-23 (the female clone of Wolverine), Ghost Rider (I’ll get back to that in a minute), and Red Hulk (who I’m unsure if it’s the same as in Avengers: X-Sanction). The story will be told over the course of February, in issues number 13 and 14, as well as 13.1 through 13.4. I’m pretty sure they did this on issue 13 on account of the number’s significance and for no other reason.

Funny, I seem to recall the pre-Flashpoint Flash series marking their thirteenth issue with good old-fashioned cancellation. And yes, I’m still grumpy about that, because it led directly into one of the most underwhelming crossover events in DC history.

The plot of this storyline is that Blackheart of Ghost Rider fame has gathered the materials necessary to conduct a ritual that will bring hell to Earth. And who’s around to stop his scheme than our four main protagonists. And Johnny Blaze.

This brings us back to what I was going to say earlier. At some point in the past in the Ghost Rider comics, probably relatively recently, Johnny Blaze lost the powers of the Ghost Rider, and the role was subsumed by a woman named Alejandra. She’s headstrong, cocky, quick to charge in, and resistant to being lectured by a more experienced rider, i.e. Blaze.

Now, I’m not what you’d call a fan of Ghost Rider, though I did enjoy the first film with Nic Cage even though no one else seemed to. But I’m perfectly fine with this change all things considered. My only concern is that, since the mantle of the Ghost Rider passed to a different person, how confusing will this be to people who watch the new film and then try to start reading this? It’d be like having another Batman film where he meets Dick Grayson, only for people to start reading Batman and Robin, and find out not only is the Robin there not Dick Grayson, but that there have been four Robins in the comics, and the current one is Bruce Wayne’s illegitimate lovechild with Raz Al Gul’s daughter?

Comics are weird. Especially when films start coming out decades after the trend.

Now, I’m going to give this book some credit and say it’s actually pretty decent all things considered. It doesn’t really require the reader to have read anything else, because it explains all the backstory and character traits that one needs to know in order to understand who any of these people are. The problem I have is the formatting. Why does this need to be crammed all into one month? Okay, I can actually say that’s a pretty cool idea, instead of waiting a month to get each new installment. What irks me is mainly why this needed to be told through Point One issues. Couldn’t this just have been a weekly miniseries? I can’t see anything that particularly tied this issue to the rest of the Venom storyline, except maybe why he’s gone AWOL and hanging out in a motel.

And also, when does this occur in relation to Carnage USA? At least this thing tells us in the back of the issue which books are in this storyline beforehand.

Being fair to this book, I’d recommend it to anyone who really likes any of the four main characters. As for me, I’m going to pass on getting all these fractions of issues. While I’m at it, why does Amazing Spiderman have a Point One issue at #679? I’ve only read #677 and am maybe going to catch up to that point, but why was #679.1 something that needed to exist?

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