I should really be doing more modern comics stories in this series.
I mean, the people deserve to know if comics that came out recently are worth their time! And I, the hero that I am, will be here to show them the truth, so that they know what to do with their comics buying dollars.
ALSO, I am reading a lot of new comics again like a schmuck, and this saves me from having to read more than I have time for.
So it’s a win for me and a win for you!
TITLE: Absolute Carnage
Writer and Artist: Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman
Protagonists: Venom, Spider-Man, The Avengers
Antagonists: Carnage, Norman Osborn, the threat of Knull
Absolute Carnage was the recent Spider-Adjacent storyline that ran as a five-issue mini-series in its own title, but also had about a dozen offshoot books to expand on the Absolute Carnage Universe. Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales, Absolute Carnage: Weapon Plus, Absolute Carnage vs Deadpool, Absolute Carnage Goes To Cleveland With Howard The Duck. Okay, that last one didn’t happen (that I am aware of), but would it surprise you? It’s the modern comic book industry, and we aren’t creating NEW readers, so we have to milk every last penny out of the existing ones!
The crux of Absolute Carnage is that a dead an decaying Cletus Kassiday is back, reunited and revived with the symbiote spawn of Venom, and further empowered to complete a quest to awaken Knull. Knull being the god if the Symbiotes who is going to destroy the universe or whatever. Because everything has to be BIG now. I just want a five issue Paste-Pot Pete storyarc.
To accomplish this end, Carnage is seeking out everyone who has ever been bonded to a symbiote and ripping out their spines to absorb the codex that has been imprinted on them. When enough codices are reunited, Knull will… feel it? And then its wakey-wakey eggs and universal deathy.
Along the way, we find out that Eddie has a son, Dylan, who has some kind of inborn power and is possibly the key to everything… one way or another. We also get a Venomized Immortal Hulk and a Carnage-ized Miles Morales.
Ultimately, Eddie saves/fails the day when he kills the newly ultimately powerful Carnage by… stabbing him. Anyway, this awakens Knull because Cletus tricked him into absorbing enough codices that Knull would wake up either way.
So this is a story that happened.
I know the whole of idea of Venom, Carnage, and symbiotes got stale for a lot of people years ago, but I personally still enjoyed the idea of it all. Venom has been overused for a long time—like when it was decided its origin HAD to be tied in to Deadpool—but some writers like Rick Remender still found ways to make him feel fresh by doing stuff like bonding the alien to Flash Thompson and making it entirely altruistic. And whereas Dan Scott was seldom anywhere near what I would consider my favorite Spidey writer, I thought the Red Goblin was both a neat concept and visually striking.
What has seriously killed the entire concept for me, though, has been Donny Cates’ tying the symbiotes into a galaxy-destroying evil god as old as time. I mean, what? these are mid-level alien threats that are a challenge for guys like Spider-Man. Now they are a universal peril? Come on.
I didn’t care for Knull in Silver Surfer: Black, and I didn’t care for him here. He just seems like a generic baddie in the vein of Galactus or Annihilus, but much more boringly designed. He just looks like a dark elf, and his apparent and bland “destroy everything because I’m eeeeevil” machinations don’t do it for me. There’s nothing new or appealing here.
This story also feels like it’s nothing but set up for a video game. There are hordes of minion-level symbiotes running about that are barely a nuisance before the heroes encounter “boss” villains like a re-Carnage-ized Norman Osborn or a possessed Miles Morales. Whether it was Cates himself or a higher-up at Marvel, someone had their eyes to past game hits Maximum Carnage and Spider-Man: Web of Shadows when this arc was being story-boarded.
I sound down on this, and it wasn’t terrible; it just felt like… why did this need to exist? Knull is not engaging. Is Dylan going to be relevant going forward? Is Carnage’s pretty effortless dispatching of VenomHulk going to matter going forward in Immortal Hulk? If this story is going to have legs, they aren’t any legs I care about.
Ryan Stegman’s art is okay. It’s certainly not bad by any stretch, but there’s something about the way he occasionally draws Eddie’s face. With Brock now being beaten down, older, weary, bloated, and bearded… he occasionally looked like Santa Claus. It struck me a couple of times, and I had to chuckle.
Aside from that, though, he drew some fantastic symbiotes, and his Knull-powered Carnage was terrifying. It’s oddly not uncommon in the modern age for artists to be fantastic at drawing creatures and super-beings, but struggling somewhat with basic faces. I’ve had the same issue with Jock and Tradd Moore recently. Not saying any of them are bad artists, but… it’s something that is suddenly dawning on me.
Talking Point: Did you read AC yet? Did you like it more or less than Maximum Carnage?
I’m going to go ahead and grade this out as “average”, a 5/10. It’s not like it’s poorly written or constructed, and the art is striking on the monsters involved. I just didn’t care about anything happening, and nothing in the book made me want to. It felt unnecessary. And, frankly, if I never see the words “codex” or “codices” in a book again, it will be too soon.