SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Web of Venom: Carnage #1, by Donny Cates, Danilo S. Beyruth, Cris Peter and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Even in a world filled with lizard monsters and obsessed hunters, Carnage has the impressive distinction of being Spider-Man's scariest villain.
While Marvel's second most famous symbiote probably would have been successful if he was just a red, slightly angrier version of Venom, Carnage has always been something more than that. Thanks to the perfect bond between an alien symbiote and the crazed serial killer Cletus Kasady, Carnage has a truly disturbing appetite for destruction and violence that can only be matched by someone like the Joker.
And yet, somehow, Carnage just got even scarier, thanks to some hellish new revelations about Kasady's origin from Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1.
Long before he bonded with the Carnage symbiote, Cletus Kasady was a monster. As a child, he tried to kill several family members, murdered other children and even burned an orphanage down. When he first appeared in David Michelinie and Erik Larsen's Amazing Spider-Man #344, Kasady was already in prison, serving 11 consecutive life sentences for murder.
As its title suggests, Carnage Born offers some new clues about what turned Cletus into such a vicious killer. The issue reveals that Kasady was born at the Ravencroft Institute, which is essentially Marvel's answer to DC's Arkham Asylum. Since his newborn screams went unheard in the chaotic cacophony of Ravencroft, he choked on his own umbilical cord and seemingly died 19 minutes and 38 seconds after he was born. After an unmentioned amount of time, the young Kasady was apparently revived through unspecified means.
In his testimony to a court-appointed psychologist, Cletus claimed that he remembered dying and going to a "hell," where he found himself trapped in a cage in an "endless black abyss." This experience had a profound effect on the young Cletus and led him to believe that he was freeing his victims from the "cages" of humanity later on in life.
While this gives Carnage an aggressively dark new origin, Kasady's claims should probably be taken with a grain of salt, due to his extensive criminal past and overall instability. Also, it's not totally clear whether Carnage was talking about a literal "hell" or speaking more metaphorically. Either way, it wouldn't be his first encounter with dark supernatural forces. In Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins' Carnage series, Carnage received a few enchantments that protected him from the symbiote's traditional weaknesses in 2016.
With Ravencroft established as his birthplace, Kasady's origin takes on an almost mythic quality that makes him seem like the kind of doomed figure who was always destined to be an outlaw. His traumatic experiences as an infant still don't justify his lifetime of killing, but this issue helps establish the unusual psychosis that makes him see the world in "red and black."
As this issue points out, Carnage's life has been filled with several deaths and rebirths like the one he apparently experienced as an infant.
After the Venomized crossover left Carnage drifting in space earlier this year, this issue reveals that Kasady's symbiote steered him back to Earth. He was recovered by a group that worships Knull, the symbiotes' creator who's been popping up in Venom recently.
As soon as he's reawakened, Carnage immediately begins spreading some carnage in this issue before setting his sights on a long list of potential new victims. With a violent new history adding more fuel to the fire that keep his violent actions going, Carnage's latest lease on life looks like it might be his most lethal rebirth yet.