While I am a big fan of the Spider-Man franchise the one character I’ve never been that interested in is Venom. While I enjoyed the first few storylines involving Venom the characters transformation into an anti-hero has never grabbed my attention. Just something about the way Venom has been portrayed has failed to connect with me. That said I’ve always been intrigued by Carnage because he is a villain that has been mishandled for such a long time that there is a lot of untapped potential for him. Now that potential is hopefully something that will be tapped into with the Absolute Carnage event. This event can seriously elevate Carnage to become one of Marvel’s biggest villains. Can that happen? Let’s find out with Absolute Carnage #1
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Eddie Brock goes over the history of the symbiotes with his son Dylan Brock (who thinks Eddie is his big brother). Eddie says that a God named Knull created the symbiotes to wage war across the universe until the symbiotes rebelled against him and created a prison with their own bodies that was so large that it became known as Planet of the Symbiotes. Billions of years later Eddie became one of the symbiote hosts and turned into Venom. He recently lost his connection with the Venom symbiote.
Though the connection has been lost the Venom symbiote it has left what is called a “Codex” imprint on all its former hosts that include Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America and other heroes and villains. From there Venom symbiote also had offsprings like Carnage but because of that it caused the symbiote to lose its connection to the hive mind. Now Carnage is looking to merge all the Codex pieces together in order to communicate with Knull.
After the story Dylan nervously asks about Carnage. Eddie says a cult that worshiped Knull resurrected Cletus Kasady and Carnage. Eddie says because of this he is going to place Dylan somewhere safe.
When they reach Time Square news reports appear on screen that show Eddie to be a highly wanted man. Eddie grabs Dylan and says they have to run as a police officer spots them.
When they reach a subway station Cletus appears from the shadows to push Eddie and Dylan on the the tracks as a subway speeds in. Right as the subway is about to kill them the Venom symbiote appears out of nowhere and merges back with Eddie in order to stop the subway.
The Venom symbiote reveals that thanks to some dark magic that it and Eddie can be bonded again. Eddie isn’t sure he can help the Venom symbiote but it says he must. Several cops appear and hold Venom and Dylan at gunpoint. Eddie tries to calm the situation but is unable to do so.
An explosion suddenly occurs and Carnage appears from the flames. The Venom symbiote tells Eddie that Kletus has merged with the Grendel symbiote to become Carnage again. Carnage easily takes Venom down.
As he struggles against Carnage, Eddie notices the cops arresting Dylan. Out of desperation Eddie grabs one of the train’s rails and causes a massive electric shock to knock out Cletus.
Thanks to the Venom symbiote Eddie is able to stay conscious. Dylan immediately goes to Eddie and with Venom’s help gets them out of the subway station.
At an alleyway the Venom symbiote tells Dylan it has taken over since Eddie has been knocked into a coma for a while in order to repair his body.
Once they get to their destination the symbiote wakes Eddie back up. Eddie goes inside an apartment complex. He knocks on apartment 616. Randy Robertson answers the door and immediately recognizes Eddie so he calls out to Peter Parker.
Peter hears this in his room as he was just changing out of his Spider-Man costume.
Sometime later at a diner Spider-Man gets a headache over everything Eddie has told him about the symbiote crisis. When Spider-Man questions how all the Knull stuff started Eddie gets frustrated and leaves but the Venom symbiote stops him. The Venom symbiote says they need Spider-Man and they can’t afford to let Eddie’s jealousy get in the way of things. Spider-Man promises not to joke around so Eddie doesn’t get jealous of him anymore.
Spider-Man then asks Dylan if he is hungry but Dylan just calls him a menace, making Eddie very proud. Eddie tells Dylan to go read at the counter while he talks to Spider-Man.
Once they are alone Spider-Man questions Eddie about Dylan. Eddie reveals Dylan is his son but due to not wanting Dylan stuck with him hasn’t said that to the kid yet. Spider-Man tells Eddie he should tell Dylan the truth.
Before saying anything more a news report comes on one of the diner’s TVs where it is revealed that the police have found a nest of bodies buried in Northern New Jersey that included Angelo Fortunato, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross and several people from the Life Foundation.
The diner employee changes the channel much to Eddie’s annoyance. Spider-Man stops Eddie from causing a big scene. Eddie tells Spider-Man that the grave site that was just found was filled with bodies of people who have previously worn a symbiote. He goes on to say this is a message from Cletus Kasady to him that he is his target. Eddie realizes this means that Anne Weying (his ex-wife and Dylan’s mother) is one of the bodies buried in that grave site.
Some thugs suddenly attempt to steal from the diner. Spider-Man quickly stops them and webs them up.
Spider-Man then asks about the Codex. Eddie says Carnage is currently in possession of a large portion of the Codex and they can’t waste anymore time finding everyone that has ever worn the Venom symbiote or its offspring. Spider-Man thinks they could go to see Reed Richards but Reed would need time to figure things out. This reminds Eddie of who they could seek out.
At Rex Strickland’s Safe House Eddie brings Dylan to meet the Maker (the Ultimate Reed Richards). Maker has already created a machine to combat Carnage, which has worked on since he first met Venom when Flash Thompson wore the symbiote. Maker says he still needs a few hours to complete the device. Eddie is pissed about what Maker is planning.
Spider-Man interrupts the conversation so he can ask about who the Maker is. Maker reveals he is a younger version of Reed Richards from another dimension.
Spider-Man then brings in Normie Osborn (Harry Osborn and Liz Allen’s son and Peter Parker’s godson) since he was previously bonded with a part of the Carnage symbiote. Maker tries to get some blood from Normie but Spider-Man doesn’t trust him. Maker says his calculations are perfect and that Spider-Man and Venom need to get others that have part of the Codex in them. When Maker asks Spider-Man and Venom who Carnage’s next target is they both quickly realize who that will be.
Over at Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane Norman Osborn is taunting the attendants from his prison cell.
Elsewhere Spider-Man and Venom meet up with John Jameson, who helps the pair get into Ravencroft. John then takes Spider-Man and Venom to the maximum security cell that Norman is being held. Once they get there Venom thinks they should rip the door open but Spider-Man stops him from doing so they don’t atract to much attention.
Suddenly Spider-Man’s spidey-sense goes off. He then sees that something is wrong with John. John apologizes as the Carnage symbiote has taken him over and he attempts to let Norman loose. Spider-Man stops him. While pinned down John says “God is coming….” in a Carnage-like tone.
Nearby Cletus opens his body up and walks through all the prison cells so he can give the prisoners a part of the Carnage symbiote so they can be all under his control.
Meanwhile the Venom symbiote tells Spider-Man that Eddie is in pain due to all the noise from the speakers. Spider-Man is still busy tying up John. Eddie powers through and takes out the speakers with John’s gun. Spider-Man then finally knocks John out.
Just then Carnage and his army of symbiotes appear and immediately charge at Spider-Man and Venom. As that happens Norman mocks Spider-Man that he has to save him.
The Carnage army quickly overwhelm Spider-Man and Venom. As the numbers becomes to great Cletus’ Carnage grabs Spider-Man and throws him through Norman’s cell. Norman greets Spider-Man and immediately attacks him. Venom appears and quickly knocks Norman out before the Carnage symbiote transforms him into Red Goblin.
Venom then holds up a door to hold the Carnage army back to buy Spider-Man time to create an exit for them. Spider-Man webs up his hand to bust through a wall. Spider-Man does his best but Venom can’t hold back the Carnage army for long and they break through.
Carnage then grabs Norman. Much to Spider-Man and Venom’s horror Carnage transforms Norman into a member of his army. End of issue.
The Good: Absolute Carnage kicks off exactly how you would want any good big event to start. The high stakes are set as we understand how Carnage is looking to become a God and what that would mean for the Marvel Universe. Not everything about the set-up is perfect but Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman hit the mark on how to capture the reader’s interest right away.
Kicking off Absolute Carnage #1 by recapping the origin of the symbiotes was a smart move. For many readers of this event this will be their first exposure into the symbiotes and what they are all about. And since their creation we’ve seen the symbiotes expanded on great. Going into the creator of the symbiotes, Knull, framed the entire story of Absolute Carnage well.
Specifically, it gave a clear understanding of what the stakes are as Cletus Kasidy’s goal as Carnage is now to become a God. To do so he is hunting down every single person who has ever worn a part of the Venom symbiote. That goal immediately creates a lot of targets across the Marvel Universe since the Venom symbiote and its offspring have been passed around various heroes and villains like a hot potato. This set-up also helps establish why Absolute Carnage won’t just be an event around Spider-Man and Venom as the main heroes.
What this set-up in particularly helps tremendously is to highlight how dangerous Carnage is. While Carnage has been an excellent villain in the past he has not been able to reclaim the level of danger he once had back at his height during Maximum Carnage. That joke status, which Spider-Man references the New Avengers days, was something that quickly needed to be overcome.
Which is exactly what Cates does by going all in on the horror aspect of the character. This helped in emphasizing how much of a murdering psychopath that Cletus Kasady is. There are no limits to how evil Cletus can be since he absolutely has no care for others. Having the Carnage symbiote further amplifies that aspect of who Cletus is. The walk through the prison in particular put over how scary of a villain that Cletus is as Carnage.
Now with his goal being to become a God by reconnecting with the hive mind and gaining access to Knull he potentially can become the most dangerous being in the universe. Having that endgame in play creates an immediate sense of urgency once Venom and Spider-Man team-up. That urgency puts any differences they have aside as there is a greater enemy they have do defeat at all cost.
And one of the best moves that Donny Cates made for Absolute Carnage #1 is to keep the focus on a few characters. We know that Absolute Carnage is a massive event that will bring in the entire Marvel Universe into play relatively soon. But before event erupts there needed to be a solid foundation laid out for the story that is taking place. By focusing in on Venom, Spider-Man, Dylan Brock and Carnage that foundation was able to properly developed throughout Absolute Carnage #1.
Specifically focusing the protagonist side on Venom, Spider-Man and Dylan helped frame the entire story around three distinct characters. Cates does a great job establishing Eddie Brock as an anti-hero. Especially without being Venom when we find him he wants to lay as low as possible. There is no sense of him trying to be a superhero. All he is doing is trying to get Dylan to safety while he figures out how he can stay away from Carnage’s hunt.
That made the rebonding with Venom come across as an important event. No matter how much Eddie tries to avoid it he is forever connected to whatever is going on with the symbiotes. Seeing him quickly realize this once he became Venom again was a strong character development to establish who Eddie is at the end of the day.
Having Dylan around also helped to give Eddie something to fight for. Especially with learning that his ex-wife, the one person he loved in the world other than Dylan, was killed by Venom elevated the stakes for his character. That eye opening discovery furthered the sense of urgency Eddie had to complete the Symbiote Codex before Carnage as he only has Dylan left in his life.
Also having Venom become fully sentient was a great device to give Absolute Carnage #1 a different type of inner monologue. The Venom symbiote provided a lot of the context for what was going on. In the process it allowed Eddie to just be given dialogue while we picture what he was thinking by his facial reactions when he wasn’t talking.
All this development for Eddie and the Venom symbiote nicely segwayed into Spider-Man’s involvement. The dynamic between Spider-Man and Venom comes across as completely natural. Eddie, in particular, inability to hold back his anger and jealousy over Peter Parker was played perfectly. Him being called out on this by Spider-Man and the Venom symbiote provide a good look into his greatest character flaw that has existed since he first appeared. All of the dialogue was nice and fluid whenever Cates gave both characters a chance to bounce off each other.
At the same time it was good to see that Spider-Man and Venom were able to put aside their past in order to take on the greater threat that Carnage possesses. That is shown especially well during the final fight scene involving Carnage’s symbiote army. Both Spider-Man and Venom were watching each others backs the entire time. And when the time came Venom was able to push Spider-Man to do something he didn’t think he could do. It shows growth for both characters and emphasized how big of a story this is that they can do this right now.
While the focus of Absolute Carnage #1 was on Venom, Spider-Man and Carnage it was great to see Cates bring Norman Osborn into this first chapter. The last time we saw Carnage in a major story was when Norman used it to become Red Goblin. That is something that should not be avoided given how much chaos Red Goblin caused to Spider-Man’s life and being responsible for killing previous Venom host, Flash Thompson. Norman’s actions here was a natural progression of where Spider-Man left him and gives Carnage a powerful ally to have as he spreads his madness through the Marvel Universe.
The Maker’s involvement was also well handled for what it was. It is understandable that someone on Maker’s level would be prepared for Absolute Carnage to break out. Cates played this well with Eddie getting pissed off about how prepared Maker was. This put into question if Maker has his own plans for the symbiotes and Knull.
With the dark horror turn that Absolute Carnage #1 takes Ryan Stegman does a phenomenal job delivering on that with his artwork. The entire look of this book was dark with colors popping when they needed to, such as when Carnage’s red took over a panel or page. The artwork Venom vs. Carnage and then later Spider-Man and Venom vs. the Carnage army delivered on what you expect big event action to look like. Also since there weren’t the traditional inner monologue in this issue Stegman did a great job in elevating scenes with characters reaction throughout the dialogue heavy scenes.
The Bad: Absolute Carnage #1 was not perfect. There were several problems with this issue that may turn some readers off. Because of all the confusing continuity with the symbiotes this was an exposition heavy issue. Cates throws a lot of information at the reader’s way. Not all the information is well told as it was easy to pass over certain important lines of dialogue.
In particular, Eddie’s freak out when he realized his ex-wife’s, Anne Weying, was killed didn’t get the best room to breathe. This is because Cates doesn’t inform the reader that Anne is his ex-wife and the mother of his son, Dylan. That was a major detail to leave out for readers that are unfamiliar with Eddie’s history. With how exposition heavy this issue was it wouldn’t have hurt if Eddie talked about Anne more than he did.
From those that were found dead at the hands of Carnage it was odd that General Thunderbolt Ross was among them. This stood out because it completely alters the current Captain America storyline where Steve Rogers was blamed for General Ross’ death. Now that it is out in the public that Carnage was responsible this takes the impact of the current “Captain America No More” storyline going on in that series and the reason Steve has taken up the Super Soldier identity again. Hopefully this is something that is explained because it would be a shame to have a major storyline in one of Marvel’s premiere titles ruined in an event where Captain America is likely only a supporting hero in.
The cover price of $7.99 is definitely something that could be a major factor in not picking up this issue. That is a high price to pay for a single comic book. It’s a cover price that could easily turn fans off from even touching this comic when looking through this week’s new releases. Especially with how there are so many quality reading experiences on the market right now this price is not competitive at all.
Overall: Absolute Carnage #1 gives Marvel’s latest big event a kick ass start. The chemistry between Spider-Man and Venom along with the haunting nature of Carnage’s character was on point throughout this issue. By the time this first chapter wrapped up Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman established a strong foundation for future issues of Absolute Carnage to build on top of.
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