The conclusion to Circle of Four!
The Story - Venom #13.4
With the amulet destroyed, Doctor Strange and Daimon Hellstrom try desperately to prevent Hell from spreading across Earth. With its host body dead, the Spirit of Vengeance leaves Alejandra's body and seeks out its original host; Johnny Blaze. Sadly, Gari Oyle is able to capture the spirit before it can reach him. She then brings it to Blackheart.
Venom, Red Hulk, X-23 and Alejandra arrive back on Earth as per their deal with Mephisto. After a rallying speech by Venom, the four heroes agree to work together. Meanwhile, Blackheart is able to convince Hellstrom to stop helping Strange in preventing Hell's expansion.
The four heroes come up with a plan to stop Blackheart. X-23 travels to the Centrifuge to tell Blaze to start riding in the opposite direction, which will hopefully suck Hell back down to where it came from. She then plans to blow up the Centrifuge before it sucks Earth down with it. Meanwhile, Venom, Red Hulk and Alejandra attack Blackheart's tower just as he is about to bond with the Spirit of Vengeance. As the battle rages on, Venom gets his hands on the Spirit of Vengeance before Blackheart tosses him and Red Hulk from the tower. Thinking he's won, Blackheart is surprised to find a combination of the Spirit of Vengeance, the Venom symbiote and Red Hulk riding towards him!
As Flash struggles to fight off demons with just a gun, the combined Ghost Rider does a number on Blackheart. Back at the Centrifuge, X-23 is interrupted by Gari Oyle, who is able to turn her claws to copper dust.
Flash is saved from being torn apart by demons by Alejandra who picks him up in a car. Alejandra wants Flash to help her reclaim the Spirit of Vengeance (she was never told about the combined Ghost Rider plan). Flash however, wants to get to the Centrifuge, and forces the issue by pointing a gun at Alejandra's head.
The combined Ghost Rider makes the mistake of using his penance stare against Blackheart, which only makes him stronger. Meanwhile, X-23 is fairing badly against Gari Oyle; she manages to get a bomb on Gari Oyle's back but is unable to reach the detonator. Flash and Alejandra then arrive on the scene, with Alejandra kicking Flash out of the car as soon as he's distracted and driving off. Gari Oyle steps on Flash's back and then heads towards the Centrifuge to kill Blaze. Flash, still conscious, shoots the explosive on Gari Oyle's back, blowing her to bits.
With Blackheart gaining the upper hand against Ghost Rider, the Rider makes one last play and uses Blackheart's mirror cauldron against him, creating his own antithesis. Blackheart is unable to defeat his inversion and disappears. Meanwhile, the rest of the heroes succeed in sucking Hell back down and blowing up the Centrifuge.
With Blackheart gone, the Spirit of Vengeance returns to Alejandra and the Venom symbiote returns to Flash. Captain America, Beast and Giant Man then arrive and attempt to arrest Flash, but Red Hulk vouches for him; Flash having earned his respect. Beast suggests that he might be able to find a way to shut down the symbiote's consciousness, and with that Cap welcomes Flash to the Avengers. Hellstrom notices the taint of Hell on Venom, Red Hulk and X-23 but neglects to mention it.
In Hell, Mephisto offers Blackheart and Gari Oyle a chance to restart their operation and sends them to work as janitors at a family casino. Mephisto guesses that it will take his son an eternity to work his way back up.
All in all, Circle of Four was a very fun ride. You have to love a story that features a Venom/Hulk/Ghost Rider combo. It's the stuff fanboy dreams are made of. It's also good to see Flash finally get a clear victory for a change. The series was getting a little too grim for my liking, so I'm looking forward to the new direction this story promises. Circle of Four has been privileged with a plethora of artistic talent and the last two chapters are no exception. DeCastro Gracia handles art duties in #13.4 while Tony Moore returns to illustrate #14. Both do a great job of portraying the horrors of Hell on Earth and deliver some tense action scenes.
My major gripe with this story was the new Ghost Rider. She did nothing but complain and betray the others for the entire story, and the fact that the Spirit of Vengeance ended up back with her didn't feel right to me. Despite Rob Williams being a good writer, it's not hard to see why the new Ghost Rider series failed to strike a chord with fans. Bring back Johnny Blaze!