The Marvel Universe has seen all sorts of comic book crossover events in recent years, from the bombastically cosmic to gritty street-level events to epic fantasy adventure.
With Absolute Carnage, Marvel Comics' current crossover, the story is more grounded in unabashed horror and its latest tie-in miniseries, Lethal Protectors by Frank Tieri and Flaviano, brings that terror to the Marvel Universe's street-level superheroes. In doing so, the creative team crafts an opening issues that continues to dial up the scares as its focuses on less traditionally super-powered protagonists facing bloody, unrelenting evil.
Taking place during and immediately after the events of the opening issue of the main Absolute Carnage series, Lethal Protectors takes place in the infamous Ravencroft Institute where the climactic breakout occurred and Carnage made his full-fledged monstrous return.
With the inmates literally running the asylum, Carnage sets out to continue his increasingly bloody agenda with a certain, fan-favorite superhero trapped and alone on the premises, forced to fend for themselves and survive their captors.
Tieri is no stranger to penning tales starring street-level heroes and vigilantes from Marvel and DC Comics, having previously written several titles featuring the Punisher for Marvel and Batman for DC.
Here, he leans more into horror than his earlier mainstream superhero work, matching the tone and genre shift of the crossover's core series. Tieri takes the opportunity to unveil the setup for Absolute Carnage's intense action sequence while exploring its immediate fallout, largely from the perspective of the villains; the heroic characters exist initially on the periphery until the stakes for the miniseries' story are established.
Tieri also matches the pacing of the main Absolute Carnage and its various tie-ins. In addition to being more horror-tinged, the story has largely featured characters being hunted by the eponymous villain and his bloodthirsty followers. Tieri makes the action more intimate and claustrophobic than most of the others, really playing up the genre tropes; the dark and stormy night, the creeping hallways.
Tieri's approach is a little rougher around the edges in terms of dialogue, with his characters more brusque and serious than their appearances in the main series but they are still not out of character.
Visualizing the miniseries is Flaviano, joined with color artist Federico Blee. The art team renders the escalating horror of the issue from the opening, wherein Spider-Man and Venom are lured into Carnage's trap, to the relentless chase that takes up the issue's final act through the darkened halls of Ravencroft.
Some of the artwork comes off as murky but, on some level, that is to be expected given the setting and tone of the story. Flaviano's style is perhaps a bit more graphic than the main series here but not by much -- this is a horror comic after all -- but there is less restraint used than some of the other books spinning out of Absolute Carnage.
Above all, Frank Tieri and Flaviano embrace the gory, sinister possibilities of Marvel Comics' latest crossover in Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors. The tie-in miniseries is a nice companion piece to the main series, expanding moments and backstory from the core crossover and putting different characters into the spotlight as the ramifications of the opening issue are explored.
Tieri and Flaviano's storytelling sensibilities have a noticeably harder edge than the main series, both in terms of writing and artwork, but not off-puttingly so. And given how the issue ends -- together with advance solicit information for the remaining two issues -- the creative team are about to take the tie-in's stakes and scope even higher.