Rating: 4.5/5 – A Spooky Subterranean Symbiote Smorgasbord!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Dallas Fitzgerald
Symbiotes are often a matter of contention amongst the Marvel faithful, often seen as a shameful relic of “The Dark Age of Comic Books”, the early ’90s. Recently, various writers have had their take on these veteran alien lifeforms, giving them more character and depth than they’d had in decades with a handful of smartly written plots. Here now is veteran writer Gerry Conway’s chance to spin a similar yarn about notorious mass-murderer Kletus Cassidy and his alien pal, Carnage.
I’m almost certain the name on the cover alone turned some readers off, and that’s really a shame because the book is far from the gory shockfest usually associated with the character. Likewise, the book isn’t the symbiote vs. symbiote fanservice some might immediately dread upon seeing a certain Mr. Brock’s involvement. No, this book is taking Carnage in a new, yet familiar, direction. One that this reader is very happy with! Starting the series one of my biggest worries was that the pacing seemed off. It felt like I was reading a limited series instead of an ongoing and that left me with a sense of foreboding. It was as if Conway himself was subconsciously acknowledging that this book was at risk. Issue 3 replaced that sense of foreboding with genuine excitement for where this book is going. The feeling of the story (and vicariously, the reader) being more and more boxed in as the narrative progresses is actually a very important thematic element, and this is definitely a case where a later issue makes me appreciate what came prior even more.
Carnage is, first and foremost, a horror tale akin to the Marvel classics from the ’70s. Conway manages to capture the terror and desperation of chasing a crazed, superpowered killer through dark mineshafts in the snippets of dialogue passed between the task force in pursuit of the villain. Definitely a case of “less is more”, from awkward jokes intended to break tension to exclamations of sudden surprise, no dialogue bubble feels wasted in regards to building atmosphere. Carnage’s dialogue, in particular, is handled amazingly well here. Conway has taken a character that most write as “random and crazy” and made him seem sinister, calculating, and yes, even funny, in true Cletus Kassady fashion.
Artist Mike Perkins is really knocking it out of the park with this book, even the best-written horror comic won’t stand on it’s own two feet without some killer art to back it up. Deliberate use of shadow and muted colors to enhance the reader’s sense of claustrophobia is used to its full effect. The Carnage symbiote seems very fluid, a fluidity that I think is often missed when it comes to symbiotes in general, not to mention the chaotic Carnage himself. The mine itself seems to be treated as a character, with as much attention to detail given to small background details as they are to the characters passing through. Add to that some amazing pages of a fight between the titular Carnage and an oft underrepresented fuzzy Marvel anti-hero, and you’ve got a visual tour-de-force that is sure to please.
Carnage is a book I think many will overlook and that’s really unfortunate. It’s a smartly written, beautiful book that seems to be really picking up steam with issue 3. If a dose of horror and a subversion of almost any Carnage trope that comes to mind sounds up your alley, I highly recommend giving this series a try. My biggest concern with Carnage is that it will be cancelled, and for a book I was hopeful yet cautious about, that’s the highest praise I can give.
Reviewed by: Dallas Fitzgerald
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