Absolute Carnage has been a fun surprises thus far. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have made Absolute Carnage one of Marvel’s best events in a long time. Every issue has built on top of each other. That building has helped to elevate Venom as a superhero and Carnage as the ultimate villain. With the last issue setting everything into place for Venom and Carnage to have their final showdown there is no telling how things will end in this symbiote-led event. Let’s not waste anymore time and get to seeing how things end in Absolute Carnage #5.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Inkers: JP Mayer and Jay Leisten
Colorist: Frank Martin
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Years ago Eddie Brock is placed in his cell at Ryker’s Island Penitentiary. There he is “welcomed” by Cletus Kasady, who asks Eddie if he knows how he will die and then about his pregnant wife. The cops tell Cletus to shut up and then leaves Eddie and Cletus alone in their cells.
Eddie tells Cletus that he is getting the bottom bunk so he can keep an eye on Cletus. Cletus calls Eddie smart for this. Cletus then talks about Eddie being Venom and how they are alike. He ends the conversation by saying they will have a lot of fun together.
In the present, Venom catches up to Dark Carnage and slams him against a wall. The two trade blows until Dark Carnage gains the upper hand. Dark Carnage mocks Venom that because of all the symbiotes he has merged with he can hear everyone including Eddie. Dark Carnage goes on to state that Captain America, the two Spider-Man, Wolverine and The Thing are struggling to survive against his overwhelming horde of symbiote dopplegangers.
Dark Carnage tells Venom to just hand over the codex he has to him. Venom finally gets back up and states he does not care about what Dark Carnage wants. Venom says he will be putting Dark Carnage back into his grave. Venom then says that he should pay attention to how the situation with the Avengers is going.
Back in the warehouse Cloak and Dagger lead a team made up of Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Morbius, Iron Fist, Scream, Firestar and Deathlok to help out Captain America and the others against Dark Carnage’s horde.
Dark Carnage suddenly loses control. This gives Venom the opportunity to recover and charge at Dark Carnage.
Back in the weapon bunker Spider-Man is finally able to defeat Red Goblin by knocking Norman Osborn out. After making sure Dylan Brock and Normie Osborn are okay Spider-Man collapses from all his injuries.
Back at the fight outside, Dark Carnage tells Venom that he will be losing his boy soon.
Back in the weapon bunker the Carnage symbiote Norman was using attempts to attack Dylan and Normie. Dylan suddenly goes into a rage and uses his hidden symbiote-based psychic powers to destroy Norman’s Carnage symbiote. Dylan then passes out from over exerting himself.
As Normie holds Dylan both Venom and Dark Carnage crash through the ceiling. Dark Carnage crawls over to Dylan, seeing him as the last piece he needs. Eddie tries to stop Dark Carnage but Dark Carnage says he will kill Dylan and have enough of the symbiote codex to awaken Knull and wake up their God.
As Dark Carnage holds Dylan over his head Cletus mocks Eddie that to save his son he needs to kill him. Cletus goes on to state that if Eddie kills him he will complete the circle and reconnect with the hive himself, either way Cletus wins and Eddie loses.
Eddie says that is fine. He then uses part of his Venom symbiote to form a sword. Eddie says “Fuck the world” and uses the Venom sword to cut Dark Carnage in half. Doing this causes Cletus to die again and the Dark Carnage symbiote to merge with Eddie and the Venom symbiote.
Having united all the symbiote codexes Eddie can hear Knull and sees a vision of the symbiote planet. In his vision Eddie sees Knull riding a symbiote dragon getting ready for something.
Eddie wakes up to Spider-Man asking him if they won. Eddie says they won. Spider-Man then wonders what happened to Norman, who has disappeared. Eddie says that is Spider-Man’s job to find out. Spider-Man agrees with Eddie.
Spider-Man then asks Eddie if they are good. Eddie says “Yeah. We’re good Pete” and hugs him while thanking Spider-Man. Spider-Man then takes Normie to go back to his parents. As he walks out Spider-Man tells Eddie to take care of Dylan. Eddie says he’ll do his best.
Eddie sits next to Dylan, who is in a state of shock. After an awkward silence Dylan asks Eddie if he is his son, much to Eddie’s shock. End of issue.
The Good: As much as the Avengers and Spider-Man got involved with Absolute Carnage this was never an event where they are supposed to be the big heroes. The conflict between Venom and Carnage has always been the core of this event. Absolute Carnage was going to live or die with how they were handled. To Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s credit they nail the portrayal of both characters throughout Absolute Carnage #5, even if some may be disappointed by the open-ended nature of this conclusion.
Having the story of Absolute Carnage #5 be completely focused on the perspectives of Venom and Carnage was a great choice. These are the characters that fans bought Absolute Carnage to see duke it out. Framing the entire ending of Absolute Carnage around them and how they viewed the war they were leading made this a fun read.
Throughout their fight Cates was able to get over how Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady click as individuals. For Eddie, there is a darkness that he will never be able to escape from. It is a core part of his character. At the same time, it does not mean that it is what will define him. Over the years we’ve seen how he has evolved as a character to be someone that actually cares for others.
The entire course of the fight between Venom and Dark Carnage showed just that. Even when he struggled against Dark Carnage, Eddie never thought that the Avengers and Spider-Man would be taken out. He had enough hope in them that he knew he could focus just on fighting Dark Carnage.
At the same time, Eddie is not someone who will run from making the dark choices. We see that when Dark Carnage mocks him about Eddie’s lose-lose scenario that Eddie just says “Fuck the world.” That moment summarized what kind of hero Eddie is as Venom. He will not back down from a choice where he has to kill someone if that is the only way he sees things can go. It was a defining character moment that also happened to look visually striking.
On the other end Cletus Kasady was the wickedly, irredeemable villain that he has always been until the very end. Cates does a fantastic job making Cletus’ Dark Carnage a villain that you love to hate. The way he just continues to poke at Eddie for not being as strong as him was just right for the character. There was a lack of care in the tone of everything that Cletus said to Eddie during their fight. In portraying Cletus in this way Cates makes him someone you want to see get what is coming to him.
Which was the fun part of seeing how quickly Cletus goes to freaking out when his plan doesn’t go as he envisioned once the other heroes appeared to help Captain America and the others. It shows how mentally weak Cletus as he turns into a child with his outburst when things don’t go his way. It was all a good way to give Venom a chance to turn things around without making Dark Carnage look weak, power-wise.
As a result in how Absolute Carnage #5 Cates is able to set-up Eddie and Dylan’s relationship to now be an actual father-son relationship. The way he executed that throughout this event made it a satisfying conclusion for Eddie and Dylan’s character arc. Dylan was used enough in Absolute Carnage to build interest in how his relationship with Eddie will be. And with how Dylan is established as having a connection to the symbiotes there is a unique wrinkle thrown in to give Eddie something else to worry about for his son.
Even though he did not play a huge role in Absolute Carnage #5 it was good to see Cates wrap up the arc between Eddie Brock and Peter Parker. These two have had such an uneasy alliance for a long time now it was about time they put that all in the past. Absolute Carnage #5 shows that to be the case with how Eddie and Peter thank each other for watching the others back throughout this event. That interaction opens things for future storylines to develop their relationship to evolve into an honest friendship.
The Avengers were also used in an appropriate fashion. They were never the leads in this story and they didn’t have to be. Cates used them to show the threat Dark Carnage’s horde had without making The Avengers look weak. As soon as Captain Marvel and the others joined the fight you could tell the tide was turned to our heroes favor.
Ryan Stegman’s artwork was once again a standout in Absolute Carnage #5. Stegman’s artwork got over how dark things got throughout Absolute Carnage and this final issue was no different. Even with the chaotic nature of this ending Stegman never made things look too cluttered. The artwork for the battle between Venom and Dark Carnage had the power you expect from a fight between two symbiote users.
The way Stegman drew Cletus both with and without the Carnage suit was also fantastic. He got over how irredeemably evil the character is. This help put over how much of a struggle it was for Eddie as he fought through all the pain. It made the final moment of this fight with Eddie driving a Venom sword through Dark Carnage an even more hype moment for Absolute Carnage #5.
The Bad: Where Absolute Carnage falters is in the fact that this only concludes the conflict with Cletus Kasady. Cates and Stegman did not wrap up the whole sub-plot involving Knull and the symbiote planet that Absolute Carnage opened up with. Instead, the Knull sub-plot came across as just beginning which can very well leave readers unsatisfied.
What made the execution of this sub-plot fall flat is the fact Knull was only shown in splash pages. We were told about how much of a big bad it is. And while the visuals involving Knull looked cool nothing about the character or the symbiote planet came across as a bigger threat than Thanos, Annihilus or other cosmic villains. More needed to be done, like give Knull actual dialogue, to get the character over as being more than just this much talked about God-like villain.
While Eddie defeating Dark Carnage with a Venom sword was cool it did come across as a rush to finish-type ending. Cletus was shown to be such a powerful character as Dark Carnage that we’ve come to expect that he can’t be simply cut to be defeated. But that is exactly what happens as he is turned back to skin and bones when Eddie uses the Venom sword.
It would’ve been much better if Eddie used his mastery of the Venom symbiote to absorb Cletus’ Dark Carnage symbiote. It would’ve been a payoff for how Cletus continued to overpower other symbiote users by absorbing their codexes. At the same time, it would’ve gotten over how Eddie is now much stronger with a complete Venom symbiote to control. But since we don’t get that we are left wondering if Eddie actually is stronger, especially with the threat of Knull looming over him and the Marvel Universe.
Overall: At the end of the day Absolute Carnage #5 was exactly what it needed to be. Eddie Brock was elevated to be an even better character through his actions against Carnage and interactions with Spider-Man and Dylan Brock. At the same time, Donny Cates was able to put over the sadistic nature of Carnage and Cletus Kasady. With how things ended Cates and Ryan Stegman set a bright, albeit bleak in tone, future for the Venom series.
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