Spider-Dan Reviews: Carnage #2


Gerry Conway proved that he is capable of putting together a tightly scripted and gripping comic book arc years ago when he killed Gwen Stacy and he did the same thing more recently with The Amazing Spider-Man: Spiral spin-off series which had a very clear and concise story arc from beginning to end and excellent logical characterisation.

With all of that said, I went into Carnage #2, having thoroughly enjoyed the first issue, pensively wondering whether this comic would be more than just ‘some folks try to catch Carnage.’ However it becomes abundantly clear throughout issue 2 that Conway is working away on another serialised tightly scripted affair and that actually there’s a lot going on in this monster chase. But more on that later.

First I want to touch on genre. With ‘Spiral’ Conway was working with a gangster power vacuum storyline straight out of a 70’s police movie and he pulled off the style and tone, as well as the specific, necessary genre beats perfectly. I touched on this in my review of Carnage #1 but Conway has absolutely nailed this book as a monster flick in comic book form, and with Carnage #2 he continues to show that he has a masterful touch at recreating any genre.

A perfect example of this is literally right at the very start of this issue where we see a cold open of a soldier trapped, injured and alone in the mine-shaft crying out for help. Obviously the reader is forced to assume that some time has passed since we last saw the floor come out from underneath Carnage and his would-be captors and that Carnage is now picking the soliders off one-by-one as they get lost or seperated from the main group.

Everybody says that. But in my experience, push comes to shove… It isn’t the alone part people want to avoid. It’s the dying

But the predator-turned-to-pray aspect of seeing the solider alone and vulnerable, followed by Carnage’s creepy off-screen dialogue as tendrils slowly appear around the poor solider, then concluded by a masterful double-page spread from Perkins showing off a truly horrifying looking Carnage in all his glory as he gleefully kills the man is a pitch-perfect scene straight out of a movie and it’s incredibly effective as an opening sequence. It’s such a small element of this issue as a whole but the pacing, scripting and art all come together as a perfect example of why I enjoyed this comic so much with issue #1, everyone involved really works well together and they know what they’re doing!

Another trope straight out of the monster movie genre is a team of people helplessly watching on as the monster thwarts their best efforts to stop it and we segway into that straight away as the frantic FBI trying to piece together what has happened and what to do next. It’s at this point that the character of Gleason, the man who owned the mine and didn’t forsee the floor caving in, gives off some indication that there might be more to him than we know. This is good because quite frankly he irritated me in the last issue.

Carnage #2 1
Carnage #2 1 /

We then find out that the FBI have a schematic of the mine and can pin-point where Jameson and his team are, as well as where Carnage is, plus they can see certain areas of the mine thanks to the presence of CCTV. Then almost like clockwork we get yet another genre trope as the people watching cameras helplessly look on as the monster destroys the cameras one by one and takes out the power as well, whilst also slowly moving towards the main group of unsuspecting soldiers also in the shaft. It’s a classic!

But outside of the obvious genre tropes Conway is also slipping in little, yet important, story details, planting the seeds for things to come later in the issue, because he’s not just giving you a monster story, he’s delivering a compelling comic book narrative. When Colonel Jameson stops in the shaft and whispers ‘Can’t be’ to himself it threw me off guard, as I had no idea what was going to happen in the closing moments of the issue, mainly because I wasn’t aware of the characters back-story, but given that this a monster mash I should’ve definitely seen it coming!

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But more imminent than the Jameson reveal is the revelation that Carnage isn’t responsible for shutting off the power, it was someone up on the surface sabotaging the mission! This is an excellent plot element because it once again raises the stakes, and it splits the narrative even more to really rachet the tension up. Brock and Calderon deliver the bad news and immediately the hapless Gleason has excused himself from proceedings, obviously it was him that orchestrated the floor caving in, and shut off of the power. But the big question was why?

We move onto a little bit of interaction between Calderon and Eddie Brock, who is waiting on the wings as the symbiote Toxin and the pair seem to bond. Once again it’s excellent that amongst all of the action and elements that have already been thrown into this issue Conway and find time to include a quiet moment when two characters can talk. Naturally it’s only a brief repreive as we’re immediately thrown into the classic ‘there’s a glitch on the map’, ‘that’s no glitch’ scenario, with Carnage now having closed in on Jameson’s troop. Seriously you could play monster horror movie bingo with this comic!

Yet another disaster happens as Jameson and his team’s sonic cannons set off another cave-in of sorts, forcing the remaining players above the ground like Dixon, Brock and Calderon to spur into action to lead a rescue mission. This is important for many reasons like more people for Carnage to kill, Toxin vs Carnage fight, Carnage and Calderon back together again but mainly because it sets up one of the two big twists at the end of the comic, made stronger by the fact that no-one will be up above ground to do anything about it.

Three FBI agents have gone to track down Gleason after he conveniently disappeared when the power went out. They find him in his office rummaging around a safe, but they are swiftly murdered by some poison gas that Gleason set off. He then pulls out a red book with a ‘D’ on it and rants about changing the world by opening the ‘forgotten door’ with the ‘one who was foreseen in the prophecies of Aelfric the Mad Monk’ to awaken ‘He Who Sleeps’. It’s a wonderful plot twist that broadens the narrative and introduces an overarching element of sinister cult attempting to reawaken a demon of some kind, and what’s not to like about that! Perkins’ art also does a wonderful job of capturing the deranged look on Gleason’s face. But just who ‘He Who Sleeps’ and why Gleason wants to awaken him remains a mystery, as well as why he needs Carnage to do so.

“I used to be a man named John Jameson. But like Manny Calderon, John Jameson isn’t here right now. You can call me Man-Wolf!”

The book then neatly transitions to the next big reveal, which is of course that Dixon specifically picked John Jameson because he isn’t an ordinary human being, he is of course Man-Wolf and the cave-in his sonic cannon caused, plus being cornered by Carnage has caused him to transform meaning that the next issue will bring us one hell of an almightly monster-smack-down. Sure, this doesn’t happen too often in a traditional moster movie but who cares, it’ll be awesome!

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