So how does new series writer Cullen Bunn fair on his first story arc?
The Story - Venom #23
Venom meets up with reporter-on-all-things-supernatural Katy Kiernan for information on the Department of Occult Armaments (D.O.A.), an organization the Secret Avengers have ordered him to investigate. Kiernan gives Venom the location of their Neverwake Factory and warns him not to go in with guns a blazing.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what Venom does; taking out cult members until he stumbles upon the D.O.A.'s possession engines. He frees a cultist from one of the engines only to find that the cultist has already been possessed. After initially attacking, the possessed cultist bows before Venom, having noticed that Venom has been marked by Mephisto (which happened back in Circle of Four). Venom is then attacked by Daimon Hellstrom, who appears to be one of the D.O.A.'s new leaders. Hellstrom explains that he is using the possession engines to create a demonic army for himself. Hellstrom is then able to bind a demon to Venom, causing Flash Thompson to lose control of the symbiote.
Despite being temporarily overcome by the demon, Flash is able to fight back and regain control of the symbiote before making a retreat. Unable to contact the Avengers, he heads to Kiernan's apartment and explains to her what happened. Kiernan takes Venom to an exorcist who is able to communicate with the demon inside Flash. The demon states that it wants to leave Flash but is unable to. The exorcist recommends that Flash go see the person who bonded the demon to him in the first place.
Venom attacks Hellstrom at the Bronx Zoo, but Hellstrom quickly gains the upper hand. He then attacks Venom with his Monsters of Evil and indicates that he wants Venom to be the group's newest member!
Venom attempts to hold his own against Hellstrom's monsters but has a hard time. After retreating and regrouping Venom attacks the monsters again, and finds that due to having Mephisto's mark, he is able to control them. He then sends them to attack Hellstrom, who is easily defeated.
Later, Venom has a discussion with Hellstrom in his cell on why he is able to control demons. Hellstrom tells Venom about the Descent, the day when one of the Hell-Lords will fall farther than the rest and become the true Devil. Hellstrom states that everything he's done has been in anticipation for this day, and that Mephisto's mark on Venom means that he has been chosen as one of Mephisto's potential heirs.
At Kiernan's apartment, Flash thanks her for helping him and asks if the two of them can work together in the future should Flash ever face another supernatural threat, to which she agrees. Flash then tries to call Betty Brant, but is interrupted by the Avengers who order him to investigate a prison break in Colorado...
With "Monsters of Evil," Cullen Bunn's Venom run is off to a decent start. Bunn clearly has a handle on Flash's voice and has kept the tone of Rick Remender's original run intact. I like how Bunn is following up on the developments of "Circle of Four" and the ending of "Monsters of Evil" certainly implies that there are big things coming down the pipe for Flash Thompson. Thony Silas does a great job on art duties, echoing Ron Garney in terms of style.
I did have some issues with "Monsters of Evil." So far I'm not a fan of Katy Kiernan, Flash's new reporter friend. Bunn just doesn't do enough to separate Katy from the rest of the sassy reporter characters that are abound in superhero comics. I also found the ending to be a little anti climatic. So Venom all of a sudden is able to just start telling the Monsters of Evil what to do? Too easy.
While "Monsters of Evil" didn't knock my socks off, it does do a good job of setting up the next run of stories by new series writer Cullen Bunn.