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!
Certain comic book characters lend themselves well to specific genres of fiction. Batman naturally works well in the realm of hard-boiled detective fiction (it’s right in the title of Detective Comics); Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking antics are perfect for self-referential action comedies; and Swamp Thing excels in whatever genre you get when Alan Moore partakes in some herbal remedies and wanders around the English countryside until he attributes personalities to the local foliage. However, some characters work wonderfully in more niche genres. For instance, Spider-Man foils Venom and Carnage function great in superhero stories, but both really take flight when their terror is laser-focused on body horror and science fiction horror tropes. After all, the symbiotes that have bonded with Eddie Brock and Cletus Kasady are monstrous alien parasites.
In Donny Cates and Danilo S. Beyuth's Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1 ,the titular symbiote’s host has dipped his toe into a new facet of horror: Lovecraft. The themes and components of what makes Lovcraftian tales of nightmare scenarios are pretty straight forward: Cults, ancient gods, cosmic horrors existing at the periphery of reality, and characters falling into a vortex of madness because of them. As the sub-genre's namesake would indicate, author H.P. Lovecraft focused on these elements in the vast majority of his work, and for nearly thea better part of a century after the writer's death, these themes have become common in a lot of horror fiction. (Thankfully, the anti-semitic and racist themes that tarnished Lovecraft's work did not follow suit.)
Carnage has always been a rather grotesque character. The symbiote's host is a serial killer, and bonding with the alien being only gave his devilish psychosis a broader taste for, well, carnage (bu dum- tss). In Carnage Born, we get a deep look into a cult who have taken it upon themselves to worship the titular villain as a god. This group of fanatics hold underground sermons about embracing some sort of never ending void of destruction while they wear dark robes and reference arcane cave drawings and effigies of Carnage. And once their twisted savior is reborn, they immediately regret having a hand in Cletus' return (if they actually did in the first place).
The fact that Carnage (the symbiote) is from an alien world only further amplifies the series' Lovecraftian tones. Creatures from other worlds and realities pop up constantly in Lovecraft's work, as well as other authors' stories that have helped shape the genre. While many people fear what we do not understand, there is something enticing about welcoming things beyond our comprehension with open arms instead of running from it. Carnage Born plays with this notion, taking it to a bloody extreme.
Falling into a sort of dark romance with an entity one has no way of controlling is a reoccurring theme in Lovecraftian horror, one explored here. The cult in this comic is searching for some reward in giving themselves over to a horrific being's power, a move that echoes the Esoteric Order of Dagon in the Lovecraft novella The Shadow over Innsmouth. Of course, the character being somewhat of a cosmic entity taps into the Cthulhu Mythos, which is featured in almost all of the author's work (and happens to be its own shared universe).
Seeing a character with such mainstream appeal finding his voice in a genre of horror that, while extremely influential, is rather nuanced is quite captivating. Cletus Casady has always been a frightening character whose madness is palpable. But this might be the first occurrence where what makes Carnage tick exists beyond any rationality takes the character to another level. Because, again, when it comes to things we cannot wrap our heads around, many of us fear it. Sure, the other avenue would be to ignore its existence or deny it, but when it's munching on the head of the person who summoned it, it's impossible not to face the nightmare with unflinching resolve.
Fate plays a huge part in all of this, both in Carnage Born and Lovecraft's stories. Cletus Kasady should have been dead, but the cosmos had other plans. Perhaps the cult was able to bring the twisted killer back to Earth, or maybe, just maybe, it was simply destined to be. The end result has caused the character of Carnage to break free of his excessively '90s origins and aesthetics, making a guy Senty ripped in twain over a decade ago actually scary again.