Agent Venom & Mania arrive at a dilapidated casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with the intention of making a deal with the devil. Flash pops a coin anointed with the blood of a mad prophet into the only working slot machine, which summons Mephisto (how dare you show your face in a Spider-Man related comic you devil!). Mania puts the deal forth to Mephisto, requesting that he remove the devils mark in exchange for them not kicking his ass, but he just laughs in her face until he realises their both serious.
Flash explains to the devil that Mania is somehow now marked instead of him. Mephisto reveals that Mania is actually wearing a clone of the Venom symbiote that it absorbed a while ago and has now used as a host for the mark. Flash attempts to ask more questions, but the conversation is conveniently interrupted by Crossbones, his thugs and Master Mayhem. Andi handles the goons whilst Flash takes on Crossbones one on one. While this happens, he narrates about how he never wanted to be a parent for fear of ending up like his own abusive father, recalling how Andi told him he should stop pretending to be hers. While she may not be his child however, he affirms that she is his responsibility and anyone who tries to mess with her will have to come through him, demonstrated when he stabs Crossbones in the hand with a tendril.
As the battle rages on, Master Mayhem comes face to face with Mephisto, who punishes him for mucking around with his plans by forcing Mayhem to summon the Monsters of Evil (that's a kind of redundant title isn't it?), all of whom are under Andi's control. She orders them to slaughter Crossbones thugs, leaving him and Master Mayhem to retreat, though he warns that the people he works for won't ever be done until they get what they want.
With the battle over, Mephisto reappears to Venom & Mania, saying he sent the Monsters of Evil away, along with the remainder of the thugs as snacks for the trip (gross!). Flash demands that Mephisto remove the mark from Andi. Mephisto asks what happens if he refuses. Flash's response...
This is possibly the most difficult Venom review I've had to write, not just because the series is ending, but because while this issue is pretty good, it doesn't feel very much like a finale to the book since it sets a new status quo up for Venom and Mania while leaving a number of questions, as well as the subplots involving Katy Kiernan & Toxin, unresolved. It's a shame that Marvel couldn't give Cullen Bunn some more leeway to end the series with a bigger sense of finality, but I can't judge since it's likely due to the schedule of Superior Spider-Man and when the chips are down, the needs of the main book outweigh that of the spin-off (still pretty annoying though).
Anyway, review what you've got, not what could have been. Bunn certainly caps this story arc off with a mostly satisfying conclusion. Flash Thompson has a great narration in this issue and it's the characterisation of Venom that I'm going to miss the most about this book. Flash has been consistently likable throughout the course of this series and considering this is the guy who used to bully Spider-Man, that's definitely an accomplishment. It's also quite funny that there's now "Thompson luck" as well as "Parker luck". Venom & Mania's partnership turns something of a corner by the end, which is yet another reason that the series needed another story arc since these two haven't worked together for very long.
The appearance of Mephisto certainly makes this issue eventful and he's more at home in this title than Crossbones, who doesn't get much to do other than providing the action, which is once again a flaw of this being the ending storyline for the series. Bunn clearly had a lot of fun writing the former and Flash shooting him in the face was both a laugh out loud & badass moment.
While I've been unimpressed with Jorge Coelho's art when compared to Declan Shalvey or even Kim Jacinto, this issue features his best work on the title. This is due to the more exaggerated features of Mephisto and the Monsters of Evil, which look great alongside Venom & Mania when they're in full symbiote mode. There are still a few disproportionate shots, some other parts are a little rushed and Flash still looks like he had his face run over by a steamroller, but these are small complaints in an otherwise good looking issue.
Before I finish up on this review I'd like to thank Bryan Lim for letting me review this book. It's been a fun ride for thirteen issues and it's sad to see this series end when there was so much more that Cullen Bunn wanted to do with it. Having said that, I'm grateful that we got forty two issues of this book. I hope you all enjoyed this book as much as I have and hopefully what's done with Venom in Superior Spider-Man will take the character in an exciting new direction. Let's just hope (and I can't believe I'm saying this) that it's "Spider-Man's" Darkest Hour rather than Venom's...