WARNING: This article contains spoilers for a story from Spider-Man/Venom Free Comic Book Day Special 2019, by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin and Clayton Cowles, available now.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article presented the perpetrator of the violent events in this book as Eddie Brock, when in reality it was Cletus Kasady disguised as Eddie. That has been corrected in the below.
The Marvel Universe is about to descend into Absolute Carnage. In this summer's hotly-anticipated crossover, Carnage, the lethal combination of serial killer Cletus Kasady and an alien symbiote, will set his sights on every hero and villain who's ever bonded with a symbiote. In addition to his usual sparring partners like Spider-Man and Venom, Carnage will be targeting dozens of Avengers, X-Men and other familiar faces in his efforts to summon Knull, the creator and god of the symbiotes.
Although Eddie Brock and his Venom symbiote were able to trap Knull in Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman's Venom, a group of the god's followers tried to free their dark master by reviving Kasady. To unleash Knull from his cosmic prison, the newly-empowered Carnage is hunting down anyone who's ever bonded with a symbiote to absorb their codexes, trace amounts of symbiotes that remain in their bodies.
In the Free Comic Book Day Special, Kasady, disguised as Eddie Brock, apparently tries to start warning the rest of the Marvel Universe about Carnage's imminent rampage as he sits in police custody. Once the seemingly powerless "Brock" is dismissed and imprisoned at Ryker's Island, he encounters Lee Price, a mobster who was briefly Venom, and is still bonded to the Mania symbiote.
Under the control of Carnage, Kasady kills Price by ripping out the Mania symbiote and absorbing it before going on a murderous rampage and escaping.
While the symbiotes have always had some degree of shape-shifting abilities, Kasady's newly-empowered Carnage symbiote made him completely indistinguishable from Brock to any kind of electronic surveillance or the human eye.
Once his rampage begins, Carnage goes out of his way to make sure that the security cameras get a clear look at Brock's face, which makes "Brock's" early warnings about Carnage seem much less credible.
Price's brief tenure as Venom was also marked by the antihero's return to his villainous roots. Lee Price debuted as an enforcer in Black Cat's criminal gang in 2017's Venom #1, by Mike Costa and Gerardo Sandoval. During a firefight, Price bonded with the Venom symbiote and overpowered its more noble impulses.
After Spider-Man and Eddie Brock separate Price and the Venom symbiote, Price bonds with the Mania symbiote to become Maniac. In the 2017 crossover Venom Inc., he unsuccessfully tries to use his powers to take over the criminal underworld. Even though his plan failed, he turned villains like Black Cat, Scorpion and Hammerhead into his symbiote Inklings, which probably makes them targets on Carnage's list.
While Price's death in this story is essentially a prelude to the larger Absolute Carnage crossover, he's hardly the first casualty in Carnage's deadly new mission.
As soon as Kasady was revived by Knull's followers, he killed his old flame Tanis Nieves and absorbed her Scorn symbiote in Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1, by Cates and Danilo Beyruth. Shortly after that, Carnage also killed the entire population of the Davenport, a small Colorado town that he briefly took over in Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain's 2011 miniseries Carnage USA.
Since Absolute Carnage still hasn't really started in earnest, that body count it seems inevitable that it will grow significantly in the coming months. As if Carnage's deadly new mission didn't make him threatening enough, he's already taken one of his most serious opponents off the field by turning Brock into a public enemy. With his increasing powers, Carnage is already well on his way to reminding the Marvel Universe why he's Spider-Man's most lethal foe.
Absolute Carnage, by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, will continue in Aug.