One of the major promises in Marvel Comics' current crossover event Absolute Carnage is that no single person that has ever bonded to an extraterrestrial symbiote in the Marvel Universe is safe from the genocidal villain's wrath. That promise is fulfilled to bloody, tragic effect in the latest tie-in one-shot issue Absolute Carnage: Symbiote Spider-Man #1 by Peter David and Francesco Mobili. The creative team have crafted a tale that, while not evidently crucial to the overall event, provides a sad side story that shows how even seemingly ordinary people have their lives destroyed in the horror-heavy crossover.
Directly referencing the events of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #99-100 by Al Milgrom and Herb Trimpe, the special follows Leonard Elkhart, the previously unnamed tourist who appeared in those 1985 issues. In those brief appearances, the Venom symbiote temporarily bonded to Leonard after it escaped from the Baxter Building, leaving the Midwestern judge passed out in a back alley before reuniting with Peter Parker as part of its renewed bid to take over Spider-Man's body permanently.
David and Mobili's story picks up immediately upon Leonard's return home, providing a warm, welcoming look at the dynamic with his son before a longtime Marvel villain interrupts Leonard's domestic bliss leading to tragedy and murder on the homefront. And, with Leonard having bonded to a symbiote if only for for a short-lived amount of time, it is only inevitable that the unfortunate tourist's visit to New York City will tie directly into the crossover event and resurgent Carnage.
David is a seasoned professional at crafting heartbreaking stories set within the heart of the Marvel Universe, and he does that once again here. The playful banter and back-and-forth between Leonard and his son that makes up a significant portion of the issue is enough to get readers to care about the two characters without derailing the pacing and flow of the one-shot as a whole. David offers just enough of a ray of light into the story to make audiences feel the cascading despair that makes up much of the second half of the issue. And when the horror elements of the story inevitably rear their ugly heads, David presents it as a bloody inevitability to cap off the tie-in's tragedy.
Francesco Mobili is a relative newcomer to mainstream American superhero comics, having previously made his Marvel debut with Old Man Hawkeye but feels like a veteran artist in his own right here. Joined by color artists Java Tartaglia and Rain Beredo, the art team balances light and dark to reflect Leonard's downward spiral across the issue. The joy and wonder of the superhero-filled New York is matched by musty courtrooms and darkened jail cells as the story unfolds. And when the one-shot's most heartbreaking moments do occur, Mobili delivers the wrenching emotion as tragedy continues to mount relentlessly.
In relation to the main Absolute Carnage crossover event as a whole, Absolute Carnage: Symbiote Spider-Man #1 is largely self-contained and will likely lack significant impact on the crossover's overall story. However, it's evident that this was never really Peter David and Francesco Mobili's goal, with the creative team instead more interested in delivering a story showing the horrifying consequences of anyone bonding to a symbiote in the Marvel Universe, even if only briefly. One of the most heartbreaking comics Marvel has put out in some time, Symbiote Spider-Man brings the tragedy amidst the horror-tinged spectacle by keeping on an eye on the literal man on the street.