Marvel Comics’ Spider-Man is a friendly and easy-going guy — but it’s not a quality associated with all the heroes who hope to emulate the wall-crawler. Eugene “Flash” Thompson, the current host of the Venom symbiote, seeks to be a hero and a good guy, but his temper and the unpredictable violent nature of his living costume don’t make that easy. By the same token, Kaine Parker, a temperamental and violent clone of Peter Parker, finds himself reluctantly protecting the people of Houston, Texas as the Scarlet Spider.
Venom and the Scarlet Spider don’t tend to play well with others due to their short fuses and often savage natures, but this fall, they’ll have to find a way to work together if they want to stop the symbiote-powered serial killer known as Carnage in the upcoming six-part “Minimum Carnage” crossover. Announced by Marvel today at its “Amazing Spider-Man” panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, “Minimum Carnage” begins with “Minimum Carnage Alpha” written by Cullen Bunn and Chris Yost with art by Lan Medina, then splits into “Venom” written by Cullen Bunn with art by Declan Shalvey, and “Scarlet Spider” written by Chris Yost with art by Khoi Pham.
CBR News spoke with Bunn and Yost about their collaborative work on “Minimum Carnage Alpha,” how the plot progresses in “Venom” and “Scarlet Spider” and finishing up with “Minimum Carnage Omega” in November.
CBR News: Chris and Cullen, “Minimum Carnage” begins in October with the release of “Minimum Carnage Alpha.” The story then continues throughout the month in “Scarlet Spider” #10 and “Venom” #26. Before we get to the crossover, what can you tell us about the stories that precede “Minimum Carnage?” How do they set the stage for it?
Cullen Bunn: As far as Venom goes, “Minimum Carnage” kicks off right after my first solo arc. For various reasons, Flash is more afraid than ever of the monster he might become. He’s seen a hero (Daimon Hellstrom) who has “gone bad,” and he’s filling the burden of a growing darkness in his own soul. An encounter with Carnage at this point isn’t just throwing salt on that wound. It’s like pouring on the acid. Flash has a lot of guilt over his mistakes anyway. Carnage isn’t Flash’s mistake, but he’s certainly a threat Flash feels responsible to deal with.
Chris Yost: Prior to “Minimum Carnage,” Kaine is coming off a storyline called “The Second Master,” the effects of which are that Kaine is even more unsure about this whole “super-hero” thing, probably leaning toward the side of “bad idea.” He’s dealt with Roxxon, seen all manner of evil, and had to deal with the Rangers, a team of super-heroes who patrol the American southwest — and that didn’t go over so well. So now isn’t the best time to run into Carnage or Venom.
One of the joys of doing crossover stories is the chance to play with another writer’s toys. What is it like branching out into one another’s characters? What do you find most interesting about each other’s protagonists?
Bunn: I absolutely love what Chris has been doing with Scarlet Spider. One of the big differences between the two that makes this story so much fun is that Flash really wants to do the right thing. He wants to be a hero. He just can’t seem to get it right. Kaine, on the other hand, doesn’t really want to be a hero, but he seems to be thrust into the role and he’s actually pretty good at it.
Yost: Likewise, I’ve been reading “Venom” right from the start, so it’s been fun to be able to write Flash. He’s such a great Marvel character with such a rich history. It’s his humanity, all his mistakes and weaknesses, and through it all to still come through it wanting to be a better hero — it’s great stuff to be able to play with.
The last time these two characters crossed paths was during “Spider-Island.” How would you describe the initial dynamic between them during their first encounter in “Minimum Carnage?” Will Kaine be wary of Venom’s Avengers connections? What will it be like for Flash Thompson to see the dark reflection of Spider-Man in action?
Bunn: In “Minimum Carnage,” Venom and Scarlet Spider meet at the worst possible moment for both of them. Tempers are flaring, and there’s something — else — that puts Flash on edge when it comes to Kaine. Suffice it to say, the initial meeting is — explosive. Once they get past that, they know they’ve got to work together if they’re going to stop Carnage. But it won’t be easy for them.
Yost: There’s going to be a lot of “What the hell is that? Who the hell are you?” going around. Neither man is someone you want to mess with. Put them both in a room together and things will get all kill-y. And like Cullen said, there’s an additional dynamic at work that’s not just Flash and Kaine here that’s going to make things a lot more complicated and a lot harder to survive.
How does the Venom-Scarlet Spider dynamic come about in this story? Kaine and Venom operate differently and in different geographical locations. What can you tell us about the events that bring them together in “Minimum Carnage?”
Bunn: This might be a little dicey without giving too much away, but Carnage meets some new “friends” who need a favor. In exchange, they’ll break Carnage out of prison and take him to a locale where he can start a new life of slaughter and destruction, free of bothersome super heroes. Venom is tracking Carnage — and the trail takes him straight into the Scarlet Spider’s territory.
Yost: The aforementioned “friends” need something in Houston, Texas. So Carnage’s path of, well, carnage, will lead him right to Scarlet Spider’s doorstep. And Scarlet Spider has become very protective of the people of Houston. He doesn’t appreciate the presence of Carnage or Venom at all.
What do you find most interesting about the titular antagonist of “Minimum Carnage?” We understand that this Carnage will be a little different in that it’s not tied to Cletus Kasady. Is that correct?
Bunn: Cletus Kasady is still Carnage. But the initial murders that set this story in motion are not committed by Carnage at all. Carnage isn’t the only brutal killer in the Marvel Universe, but there are those who believe he is the absolute best (or is it worst) mass murderer in existence. And those same individuals just happen to be in need of someone with his credentials.
Yost: I like Carnage because he’s a force of nature and he’s totally insane. Unpredictability is incredibly fun to write, and good to throw into your characters lives to see how they respond. But in this case, Carnage actually shares a character trait with both Venom and Scarlet Spider. They’re all searching for something very similar: a second chance.
Interesting. What else can you tell us about the plot and themes of “Minimum Carnage?”
Bunn: Kaine and Flash see the absolute worst in Carnage. He’s sort of a dark reflection of the two of them. In Cletus, Kaine sees what he could become if he killed without remorse. In Carnage, Flash sees what could happen if he were to ever lose control of Venom.
I also think it’s interesting that there is a point in the story where Kaine and Flash could get rid of Carnage. They could, in effect, make the monster someone else’s problem. Each of them has their own reasons, but they just can’t leave Carnage alone. They have to go after him.
Yost: Second chances are a big part of this story, and a big part of both Venom and Scarlet Spider. These are both men who’ve been given a second chance and now have to decide what to do with it. This adventure will push them both to the edge of what it means to be a hero.
We know part of the action in “Minimum Carnage” takes place in Houston, Texas, but the title suggests that some of the story might take place in some small places and cramped locations, like perhaps the Microverse.
Bunn: The Microverse, huh? It’s interesting that you ask that.
Yost: [Laughs] What’s a Microverse? Is that where ROM lives?
[Laughs] Okay, moving on. We’ve talked a lot about the story. Let’s finish things up by talking a bit about art. Who are the artists working with you on the book-end issues and the middle chapters of “Minimum Carnage?” What do you feel they bring to these books as artists?
Bunn: Lan Medina is working on the “Alpha” and “Omega” issues of “Minimum Carnage.” Khoi Pham will be working on “Scarlet Spider.” Declan Shalvey will be working on “Venom.”
Can you hint or tease about the impact “Minimum Carnage” will have on “Venom” and “Scarlet Spider” moving forward?
Bunn: Coming out of “Minimum Carnage,” Flash will have a greater respect (and by “respect” I mean fear) of all symbiotes, including his own. He will have seen the absolute worst-case scenario when it comes to the symbiotes, and he will have learned some things about the creatures that frighten him to his very core. After this adventure, Flash will be more determined than ever to make some changes in his life, and he’ll be doing his best to live by a new warrior’s code, so to speak.
Yost: Coming out of “Minimum Carnage,” Kaine is going to make a life change that will almost immediately haunt him, if not flat out kill him.
Overall it sounds like “Minimum Carnage” will be an exciting tale that leaves both your characters with some physical and mental scars.
Bunn: I think this crossover’s going to be a lot of fun. There are elements to this story that I’ve wanted to write since before I ever wrote my first comic script. Despite the title, it’s a big story, building on the characters and on the history of some far corners of the Marvel Universe. And the ending — wow. When Venom and Scarlet Spider have their final showdown with Carnage, it’ll be something special, unlike anything you’ve seen with these characters.
Yost: What I like about this crossover is that it’s all about character, and having those characters fight. I also liked, I think, having another writer just completely school me in some Marvel Universe lore. It’s rare, but man it happened here. We also got to deal with lawyers a lot more than normal. [Laughs]
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