Carnage is one of those characters who most people have a strong reaction to. Personally, I like the idea of a serial killer with a symbiote. Someone who is to Venom what Venom is to Spider-Man. But unless you’ve got a good story in mind, there aren’t many places you can take the idea before it reduces down to the same core idea: super-powered maniac kills a lot of people.
Following up on last year’s “Carnage”, an unexpected hit by the same creative team, the series sees Cletus Kasady back in control of the Carnage symbiote and ready to wreak havoc. When he holds a small town hostage, a group of Avengers — Wolverine, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Captain America and The Thing — assemble to take him down. And, of course, it doesn’t go smoothly at all.
There’s a fairly classic horror movie set-up to the story here, as a psychological threat turns an entire town into both the victims and the aggressors, and the authorities have to find a way to deal with that. Wells opts for a suitably over-the-top tone, although far from being unrelentingly grim, he also crafts a hilarious running joke that makes the tone something more akin to a Tarantino movie. Stylized, funny and violent.
Artist Clayton Crain has struggled with clarity in the past, and while his style has definitely taken a turn for the better, shedding the oppressive murkiness that characterized his work on “Ghost Rider” and “X-Force”, there are still some moments that leave you scratching your head. His version of Kasady is also a little off. The character normally has a fairly distinctive look, but here he’s occasionally unrecognizable except from context.
That said, his environments and designs on all of the other characters are great, particularly The Thing, who for the first time looks as monstrous as the public’s reaction to him often suggests he does. There’s a lot of open space to the scenes set in the town, giving it a creepy, otherworldly quality that creates tension. When the action finally starts, the composition switches to something more chaotic and suffocating.
This review began by stating that a Carnage appearance needs a good story in mind to work, and this one seems to have the ingredients for that. Carnage has a goal, however twisted, and he’s proven has the means to accomplish it. Despite that, it maybe feels as though the Avengers went down a little too quickly, but the final page promises that symbiote fans aren’t likely to feel too aggrieved by that, having seen what happens as a result. If you don’t already buy into the idea of Carnage, this comic isn’t going to convince you otherwise — but those sympathetic towards the character (i.e. if you grew up reading comics in the 90s) will find their tastes more than catered for.