Spider-Dan reviews Carnage #1


When I first heard that a new Carnage ongoing would be springing out of the muddy remains of Secret Wars I was thrilled. Having only gotten into comic books at the start of last year’s Amazing Spider-Man volume 3 I hadn’t experienced any of the iconic Spidey villain’s blood-soaked miniseries that had catapulted him to his current level of popularity. Of course there was the Axis: Carnage miniseries that whilst fun, didn’t show the character in his full maniacal psychopathic best, so I naturally don’t count that as a proper Carnage comic book.

And Toxin?

“Split off from Carnage. Making Toxin Venom’s grandkid. And making me kinda my own Granddad”

When It was also announced that Spider-Man legend Garry Conway was writing I was even more on board, especially following the excellent work he did with his recent self-contained miniseries ‘Amazing Spider-Man: Spiral’ which felt like a breath of fresh air for that particularly series. However, a few pages in, it became increasingly obvious that this wasn’t a typical Carnage comic.

I instantly got the vibe that this was a monster flick, if you substitute Cletus Kasady’s shape shifting symbiotic serial killer with the shape-shifting monster from ‘The Thing’ then Conway’s first issue has all of the narrative beats of a classis retro monster horror movie. Mike Perkins’ art plays on this beautifully with several sequences of panels that are straight out of a horror movie, such as the guards being picked off one by one, and soldiers chasing the deadly monster into a tunnel.

Carnage #1 1
Carnage #1 1 /

Perkins’ hard-lined, over-shadowed art work really works with the overall tone of the book and his character work on the role-call of familiar faces hunting down Carnage is excellent. But, dare I say it in a Carnage comic review; Perkins’ best artistic decision might be the toning down of the gratuitous blood and gore that have previously been one and the same with Cletus Kasady. Don’t misunderstand me; Carnage still slaughters a lot of people in this book, but scenes like his mass murder in the diner, and the picking off of soldiers one by one are strengthened by the lack of over-the-top blood and gore, and campy hand-axe transformations. Instead Carnage is all tendrils, once again being reminiscent of a horror movie monster.

The premise of the comic is interesting with Conway bringing Eddie Brock, toting the Toxin symbiote, John Jameson and Manuel Calderon, the sole survivor of Cletus’ first killing spree as the people trying to trap Carnage once and for all. Brock is the wise-cracking know-it-all who reminded me of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park (hey, if Conway can make a Jurassic Park reference in the comic, then I can make one in the review). Jameson is the straight-faced ‘I’m here to do a job’ kind of guy and Manuel is the bait, rounding out the small but intriguing cast.

Conway’s writing of Eddie Brock was a particular stand-out as he stood in the background criticising everyone’s hubris and inevitably poor decision making like he was a genre-savvy member of the audience watching a horror film in a cinema, lending a slight humorous tone to the issue. I also enjoyed the witty explanation that he is his own grandfather in a weird kind of way.

Carnage #2 2
Carnage #2 2 /

Naturally the groups attempt to capture Carnage with sonic cannons above a disused mine-shaft goes awry and they’re left chasing the dangerous killer underground which is where the issue finishes, setting up a quite sinister game of cat and mouse, and an underground bust-up between Toxin and Carnage, what’s not to like?

But ultimately the decision to take the action into a dark, claustrophobic underground mineshaft is brilliant as it once again recalls the genre conventions of a monster horror movie, but it plays into the strengths that such a genre relies on. That being that quite often it’s what you don’t see that is more terrifying than what you do see.

Together Conway and Perkins have come up with a Carnage comic that builds suspense and tension beautifully by keeping Carnage off-panel as much as possible and leaving things to the imagination rather than gleefully showing the, excuse the pun, carnage, as we’re usually accustomed to. Something that a game of hide-and-seek in a mineshaft will make all the more tense and suspenseful!

It’s a slight change of gear for Carnage, and it’s certainly not the blood-soaked extravaganza I had prepared myself for (and wanted) when the title was first announced. However the decision to change Carnage from hunter to hunted and skew audience expectations has made Carnage #1 much, much better than I thought it could be.

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