Graphic Novel Review: Carnage

(Panini Books �10.99)

TO fully understand the history of Carnage requires an in-depth knowledge of the career of Spider-Man during the late 1980s and 1990s, but for the uninitiated, imagine a serial killer given a twisted version of the web-slinger’s powers, and then using these to wreak bloody hell across the Marvel Universe…

The full version of his origin is a lot more complicated.

After acquiring a new costume on an alien planet, Spidey eventually discovered the suit was a sentient symbiote which was close to taking complete control over his mind. After being abandoned by the wall-crawler, the suit finds a new host in the person of Eddie Brock, who becomes the brutal Venom and begins an ongoing battle with Spider-Man. With me so far? Good!

Eventually, the suit decides to spawn, and creates an offspring which takes control over sociopath Cletus Kassidy, who proceeded to butcher lots and lots of people in his new identity of Carnage. Until he was ripped in two and left in low Earth orbit by the late Avenger Sentry that is…

That’s a lot of backstory to get through before you can really appreciate what’s happening in this mini-series, which pits Spider-Man and Iron Man against a corporate plot to use the remnants of Carnage to create new prosthetic limbs and battle armour. So far, so altruistic, but naturally things go badly wrong…

Zeb Wells does the best he can with what are obviously strict editorial edicts to bring back Carnage as a viable threat to Spider-Man, but the burden of the character’s history means he’s also bogged down with peripheral players like Shriek and the Doppelganger, which only confuses things even more.

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To compound the story-telling problems, Clayton Crain’s painted artwork is often dark and confusing, meaning it’s sometimes difficult to determine what’s actually happening on the page.

It’s not really much of a spoiler to reveal that Carnage is back in some way or another by the end of this book, but the journey getting there is much more difficult than it ever needed to be, and this series suffers greatly as a result.