Absolute Carnage has been a happy surprise thus far. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have shown a strong focus on the main players of this conflict, Venom and Carnage. These are the two main driving forces of this event. With that focus the Cates and Stegman have been able to create a story with Absolute Carnage that feels like a big event. Everything Venom and Carnage have been involved in has been developed as having larger ramifications to the Marvel Universe. Now with the last issue showing Miles Morales falling to Carnage’s control which other heroes and villains will meet a similar fate? And if they do can Venom and Spider-Man stop Carnage’s universal takeover? Let’s find out with Absolute Carnage #3.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Unable to fight of Carnage’s control Miles Morales becomes part of the villainous symbiote army. The Venom symbiote tells Eddie Brock that they need to kill the Carnage Miles before he goes on a rampage. Eddie says he will not kill the kid even as Scorpion begs for help nearby.
Carnage-Norman Osborn appears and attempts to kill Venom. Eddie pleads with Carnage-Norman that they are trying to protect his grandson. Hearing about Normie causes Norman to freeze. In that moment the Venom Symbiote regains control and quickly takes out Carnage-Norman.
Hearing Scorpion still screaming for help Eddie tells the Venom Symbiote that they have to help him. The Venom Symbiote wants to kill Norman and take his Symbiote Codex. Eddie is able to convince the Venom Symbiote they have to save Scorpion. Venom grabs Scorpion and swing away with him, leaving a terrified Norman behind.
Venom arrives at his headquarters in Rex Strickland’s Safe House with Scorpion. When he goes inside Eddie is stunned to find Spider-Man with Captain America, Wolverine and The Thing. Venom asks about the Maker. The Thing reveals that the Maker ran off when they got to the safe house.
Bruce Banner shows up and states that while he hates the use of children as test subjects the machine that the Maker created was successful in extracting the Symbiote Codex from Normie Osborn. He goes on to reveal that due to the side effects of the machine once the Symbiote Codex is removed from everyone they will be knocked out for several hours.
Eddie introduces himself to Bruce and is shocked to learn that he is the Hulk.
Dylan Brock appears and gives Eddie a hug. Dylan reveals that Spider-Man saved him from the Carnage Symbiote army. He then shows Eddie the cat he has. Eddie is shocked that the cat is actually the Sleeper.
Before Eddie can talk to the Sleeper, Spider-Man says that the machine is now ready to remove the Codex from everyone. Eddie says he will hold down the fort while Spider-Man, Captain America, The Thing and Wolverine go through the process. Spider-Man reveals he is not going in the machine yet because he feels responsible for what has happened with the Symbiotes and wants to make sure the others are safe first.
The Venom Symbiote urges Eddie to tell Spider-Man the truth about the Symbiotes origins. Eddie holds off and agrees to have Spider-Man go through the Symbiote Codex removal last.
Hours later Eddie watches as Bruce puts Captain America through the process of the Symbiote Codex removal. Spider-Man enters the room and asks Eddie if he is okay. Eddie says he is.
Spider-Man then asks Eddie if he is afraid of going up against this new version of Carnage (who he calls “Dark Carnage”). Eddie says they will be okay. Spider-Man then asks Eddie when he is going to tell Dylan he is his father. Eddie oddly smiles when Spider-Man asks this question.
Suddenly the real Eddie appears and tells Peter Parker to get away from the fake. The Fake Eddie Brock reveals himself to be Cletus Kasady. While transforming into Dark Carnage, Kletus talks about his backstory, revealing that his mom went through shock therapy while she was pregnant with him. Kletus goes on to talk about how all his therapist tried to say he is the way he is because of abuse, video games, sex and violence on TV and acts of wickedness in the world. Cletus finishes his transformation into Dark Carnage after saying that he is made and represents all those things that his therapist said.
The Carnage Symbiote army then bust into the safe house to join Dark Carnage. Eddie is concerned about Dylan, who is in one of the Symbiote Codex removal machines. Sensing Eddie’s weakness the Venom Symbiote leaves Eddie as he is not a strong enough host anymore. The Venom Symbiote immediately takes Bruce on as a new host.
Seeing this Dark Carnage immediately stabs Bruce while he is going through the process of becoming the Venom Symbiote’s new host. Dark Carnage then goes for the killing blow by stabbing Bruce through the head.
Just as he thinks things are over Dark Carnage is stunned to find that not only did Bruce survive the killing blow but that the Venom Symbiote was fully able to take him on as a host and transform into the Hulk. Venom Hulk then says “WE ARE HULK!” End of issue.
The Good: Now that is how you escalate things to the next level. The laser focus on a core cast of characters works to the benefit of Absolute Carnage #3. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have a clear endgame in mind for this event and they never waver from heading towards that direction. Everything is built around making Absolute Carnage #3 a dark, tension-filled issue.
The most impressive thing about Absolute Carnage #3 is how Cates and Stegman are able to get this story over as a big event without big destruction. There is no destruction of an entire planet, city or neighborhood that is normal for big events. Instead the focus is on the stakes at hand. Venom, Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, The Thing and Hulk are all racing to beat Dark Carnage to completing the Symbiote Codex. The story does not need to be more complicated than that.
That said, the things that happen in Absolute Carnage #3 never come across as a small. There is a race against time that looms over everything our heroes are doing. Cates understands that setting a mood can elevate the story around our heroes. The mood never breaks from the horror-tone Absolute Carnage has taken. There always feels like we are a mere panel away from complete chaos breaking out.
From there Cates is able to explore the main characters of Absolute Carnage’s conflict. Venom and Dark Carnage are clearly the stars of this event. That is shown with how everything in Absolute Carnage #3 is driven by each character. Both from their connection to each other and who they are as individuals, everything is built around the actions that Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady take.
What’s most interesting about this is how Cates has been able to separate Eddie Brock and Venom Symbiote as two distinct characters. Both are showing to have different approaches when dealing with the threat of Dark Carnage. The dichotomy of Eddie trying to be more heroic while the Venom Symbiote wants to defeat Dark Carnage by any means necessary.
This is a great way to spotlight how Eddie has become more of a superhero rather than anti-hero as time goes by. He has been influenced enough by Peter Parker and other experience that he no longer goes down the route of by any means necessary. He sees how he must do everything he can to save people. Whether that is feeling guilt over letting Dark Carnage turn Miles Morales into one of his Symbiote Doppelgangers or saving Scorpion. Eddie feels the weight of helping other more now than he ever has.
Which makes the impact Dylan Brock has on Eddie even more important. Finding out he is a father has had an effect on Eddie’s way of thinking. Even as he has tried to keep a distance between himself and Dylan, Eddie can’t break the paternal bond he has to his son. That is best shown with the happiness Cates and Stegman portray on Eddie’s face when he sees Dylan is safe. Building Eddie and Dylan’s relationship will be good for the Venom franchise in the long term as this father-son dynamic can be explored more after Absolute Carnage.
Eddie’s portrayal makes the Venom Symbiote’s actions in Absolute Carnage #3 standout even more. It is clear that the Venom Symbiote has had enough of Eddie not following what it believes they should do. The more this happens the more we have seen the Venom Symbiote show signs of going rogue. All the build up thus far in Absolute Carnage was properly paid off by the moment that the Venom Symbiote takes the Hulk on as its new host. That was an effective way to not only conclude Absolute Carnage #3 but also show how Eddie and the Venom Symbiote are not united right now.
The dynamic between Eddie and the Venom Symbiote also works in complementing Cletus Kasady and the Carnage Symbiote. There is absolutely no difference between Cletus and the Carnage Symbiote. They are one character as Cletus is completely absorbed by the power of being Carnage, while the symbiote has been influenced by the chaotic person Cletus is. That’s made the evolution to Dark Carnage something that is a direction for the character that makes sense.
Through the reveal that Cletus was able to trick Bruce Banner and Peter Parker by taking on Eddie’s identity Cates made a chilling scene even more terrifying. The way Cletus relished all the dark parts of his origin story put over how terrifying of a person he is. There is no sympathy that you can feel for him because of the way he talks about his backstory. Cates does a fantastic job nailing how Cletus is completely unredeemable through the way he talks about himself.
Even without the Carnage Symbiote he is someone you are afraid of. With the Carnage Symbiote he is on a completely different level. Seeing Cletus go from being Eddie Brock to his deformed look to Dark Carnage created a feeling of dread. There was no way to know how Venom and Spider-Man were able to take on Dark Carnage with where the villain is at right now.
Cates also does a great job with the supporting cast of Absolute Carnage #3. The further this story goes on the better Cates is getting at developing Spider-Man and Venom’s dynamic. At least between Peter Parker and Eddie Brock there is now a level of respect between them. That is shown with how Eddie ends up agreeing with Peter about letting him be the last one to get the Symbiote Codex extracted from. Eddie knows how guilty Peter feels about bringing the Symbiote to their world, even if it is not technically his fault as the Venom Symbiote tried to get Eddie to tell Peter.
This was a great way to keep the story focused on Spider-Man and Venom as the main heroes of this big event. They are the characters that have the most experience when it comes to the Symbiotes. It is only right that they are the last line of defense to dealing with Dark Carnage and his army. How the Venom Hulk throws a wrench in how they fight against Dark Carnage will be very interesting to see.
The involvement of Captain America, Wolverine, The Thing and Hulk all helped to elevate this to be a big event. These are all some of Marvel’s heaviest hitters. Cates appropriately uses their presence to show how serious things are if Dark Carnage accomplishes his goal. At the same time, their presence never overshadows Spider-Man, Venom or Dark Carnage as the main players in this event. With two issues left Cates placed these characters in play to make how they are used later on have a stronger connection to what has happened thus far.
Ryan Stegman’s artwork was once again stunning. He knocks it out of the park with his work on Absolute Carnage #3. Whether is the talking heavy scenes or chaotic actions scenes involving the Symbiotes, Stegman nails every aspect of Cates story. His best work comes from how he drew the transformation Cletus Kasady made into Dark Carnage when he was telling Spider-Man, Venom and Hulk his backstory. There was a chill in the air as he transformed into the monstrous look of Dark Carnage that matches his personality.
The Bad: Absolute Carnage #3 was not perfect. There were a few missteps in this issue. One of those missteps comes from the sudden disappearance of the Maker. Though Cates tries to explain it away by The Thing saying the Maker ran off scarred of the heroes that is not who the character has been set up as thus far. The Maker is someone that sees himself as above everyone and is not afraid to get on other people’s nerves. That is even how he was shown when interacting with Spider-Man and Venom in previous issues of Absolute Carnage.
This disappearance is made worse by how easy Cates replaces Maker with Bruce Banner. While Cates does a great job using Bruce’s character in Absolute Carnage #3 it does make Maker out to be less unique. He is not the only one that Spider-Man and Venom should’ve turned to for help earlier. And the way it was portrayed Maker’s presence was not missed whatsoever, which is not how he was built up to be in the first two issues of Absolute Carnage.
The involvement of the Sleeper symbiote was not well handled at all. As a minor character there is no explanation made to the Sleeper’s importance to Eddie or Venom. Sleeper is just in Absolute Carnage #3 to be there. Unless you are reading the Venom series Sleeper’s appearance will have zero weight in terms of impact.
Overall: Absolute Carnage #3 does a fantastic job moving things forward to the next level. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman continue to compliment each other well as they work together to make Absolute Carnage the biggest and best comic book event possible. They nail how terrifying of a villain Carnage is. In the process they are able to elevate both Venom and Spider-Man as they each approach the threat of Carnage in their own way.
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