WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Absolute Carnage #3 by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin and VC's Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
It's safe to say Absolute Carnage is turning Venom into a desperate symbiote. Of course, Eddie Brock understands what is at stake with Carnage's return, but it's his alien symbiote that is coming across as the most frantic in their pairing. Venom truly understands what is at stake if Carnage is able to gather all of the codices left inside host bodies. A successful Carnage means the return of Knull, the god of the symbiotes.
This means the Eddie Brock/Venom partnership is on thin ice. The Venom symbiote is starting to act in its best interest, which means disobeying Eddie's commands. Our first example of this comes in the early pages of Absolute Carnage #3, when Venom catches Norman Osborn -- who believes he's Cletus Kasady -- off-guard. Once Eddie mentions Norman's grandson Normie, it breaks his psychosis long enough for Venom to create a tendril to stab the villain through the heart. Alien and host then argue over killing Norman or rescuing Scorpion from a Carnage horde, with Venom relenting to follow Eddie's lead.
"But understand this," Venom mentally tells Eddie. "If you are not strong enough to end this, I will find someone who is." At the time this came across as a warning, but the conclusion of Absolute Carnage #3 reveals it's a warning that the alien fully intends to follow through with, even if it means ditching Eddie for a much stronger host.
But before we get to that, we should mention Venom did save Scorpion. Instead of taking him to a hospital, Venom opts for Rex Strickland's safehouse, now known as Venom headquarters. The Maker should be inside, and his high intellect should be enough to heal Scorpion's wounds. Unfortunately, the Absolute Carnage tie-in Venom #18 concludes with Maker bonded with four Life Foundation symbiotes. Since the terrifying hybrid is now gone, that leaves the safe house under the care of Spider-Man, Captain America, The Thing, Wolverine and Bruce Banner.
Spider-Man went to get reinforcements in Absolute Carnage #2, and he returned with some of the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Bruce is able to verify that The Maker's codex-stripping machine works, so they quickly devise a gameplan to extract the codices from the heavy-hitters. Captain America, Wolverine and Thing are all former symbiote hosts, so they are sent in first. Spider-Man humbly declines, stating they wouldn't be in this mess if he hadn't brought the Venom symbiote to Earth in the first place.
Of course, Venom has revealed how symbiotes have existed in the Marvel Universe since the Dark Ages, when the Grendel and Beowulf roamed wild. Spider-Man doesn't need to carry this burden of responsibility, but Eddie will need the backup in case Carnage decides to attack while the heroes are unconscious and recovering from the extraction process.
Somehow Carnage is able to sneak into the safe house during that time and impersonates Eddie, leading to a showdown with Venom, Spider-Man and Bruce Banner on one side, and a suped-up Carnage and his legion of soldiers on the other. Before our heroes can come up with a plan, the Venom symbiote decides it's tired of running. Venom then slithers off Eddie's body and keeps its promise of finding a stronger host, bonding with Bruce to become a heavy-hitting Hulk-Venom tag team.
When Eddie Brock and Bruce Banner are first introduced to each other in Absolute Carnage, Eddie doesn't realize they've actually met before. Of course, those encounters were when Bruce was the Hulk, so you can forgive Eddie for not realizing. Eddie then follows up by asking if Venom has ever infected the Hulk, to which Bruce replies, "Surprisingly, no."
We have to imagine Venom perked up after learning the Hulk is nearby. The Jade Giant is arguably the strongest hero there is, and one of the founding members of the Avengers. For Hulk to have gone this long without ever bonding with a symbiote is a miracle when you consider just how many characters have acted as hosts throughout the decades.
The pairing immediately pays dividends when Venom-Hulk slugs Carnage across the jaw. The blow is strong enough that even this new version of Carnage can feel it, meaning we should be in for one titanic showdown in the next issue.