by Dan Slott, Christos Gage (Writers), Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba (Artists), Edgar Delgado (Colorist)

The Story: It’s the Avengers against the Superior Venom as chaos erupts in the city.

The Review: There’s always something rather nice in longer issues. While the normal 20 pages structures can be generally used well by most writers, there’s something satisfying in knowing that publishers aren’t against the idea to print larger book in order to tell bigger stories. They come as a bit more costly most of the time, but they are worth it more often than not.

However, I cannot say that the higher page count was used in the most efficient of ways in the big conclusion to Darkest Hour, the Venom story which pitted Otto as infected by the symbiote. There is plenty of nice ideas and a general sense of action that is rather entertaining, yet there are several problems that makes this large issue not the best it could very well be.

The most obvious problem is the number of plots and subplots the book tries to handle at the same time. The war against the Goblin King and Hobgoblin, the transformation of Carlie Cooper, the fate of Flash Thompson, how citizens reacts and many more such events are thrown at the readers, with not all of them receiving the buildup or enough space to have the impact it should have. It does get exciting at times, but most of these scenes ends way too soon for them to be satisfying.

While the message they are trying to get across is usually clear, it is often brought multiple time over without really trying to be interesting. The scenes with Carlie and the Goblin King, while a staple of the series ever since its inception, does not bring much to the fight between the Avengers and the symbiote-infected Venom. There’s a certain disconnection that makes most of these scenes somewhat appear rushed, like the one in which citizens rebel against Spider-Ock and his use of Spider-bots to observe criminal activity.

Scenes like these create a certain jump in terms of logic which does not serve the story very well. The fact that the spiderlings rush in to fight the Avengers or the way the citizens quickly forget some of the good actions of Spider-Ock tend to stretch the suspension of disbelief a bit too far at times, which is never a good thing to do in a series that already play a lot with the willingness of readers to let things go their own way most of the time.

The action, which could have been rather great, is almost left as an after-thought in this story as it is always cut off by other scenes, which results in it being rather sketchy most of times. While the general threat of Otto in full possession of the symbiote suit does seem like a genuine problem, his general demeanour and the way he battles the Avengers is never fully developed or shown to allow the fight to be actually exciting or actually that relevant to the story at hand.

Still, despite all of these problems, there are some good elements to this comic as well. There are several elements put in place that are genuinely interesting for the future of the book, with some that are sincerely surprising in the best of ways. With the upcoming Goblin Nation arc coming and the inevitable return of Peter Parker, it seems that Slott has a lot of twists and turns for those enthusiastic about this series.

The characterization of the Avengers is also a huge bonus, with their teamwork and their general plan is something that is rather great to read. Slott and Gage writes a particularly fun Tony Stark, as previous elements of the Superior Spider-Man saga are put in with a new perspective, which translates in the above paragraph about surprises. The endgame is near and pieces are put in place.

An aspect that is weirdly both a blessing and a curse here is the art, with Humberto Ramos and Victor Olazaba being great in some places and rather messy at times. While the cartoonish and generally dynamic poses and pages are usually a great strength, here it becomes a crutch as most panels are unfortunately filled with too much details. Most pages are too crowded wih characters or visual effects, which does not equate to explicit action scenes or comprehensive reactions to the multiples actions laid out for the readers. Still, his usual hyperbole of emotions does convey well some of the general themes and tones of the scenes, which makes some of the more personal moments like the Carlie Cooper scenes rather easy to understand as they make their point well. Another nicer aspect is the panel layout, which is energetic and does make the fluidity of the tale rather well-handled, despite some of the more confusing aspects of the script. Ramos and Olazaba have been stronger, but it does not make this issue terrible visually, just disappointing.

The colors of Edgar Delgado are also a bit affected by the general chaos of this story, which makes the rather talented colorist a bit less effective in this issue. With an even heavier emphasis on lighting effects in most pages, there is a certain repetition that makes the contrasts a bit less striking than they should be, which is not helped by the shading used in most backgrounds. While some of the contrasts are crystal clear, they do not help set in the tone or strengthen them as much as they did in previous issues of the series, which makes this somewhat weak in a general sense. There are some key moments when the colors are strong and focused, but those aren’t the norm for the issue.

The Conclusion: There are several nice ideas and a great deal of neat twists and turns in this story, yet the constant jumping around, messy and crowded art combined with some questionable elements to the script makes this issue rather disappointing as a whole.

Grade: C+

-Hugo Robberts Larivière