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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Carnage is back... again. Again.

This week in comics, I picked up the first issue of Marvel's five-part miniseries called Superior Carnage. The book is wrriten by Kevin Shinick and Stephen Segovia. This is the fourth in a chain of miniseries and events that star Cletus Kasaday, the homicidal killer possessed by the even more homicidal alien symbiote named Carnage. There isn't a strict continuity from one miniseries to the next other than that this guy cannot be gotten rid of so easily. In roughly the past decade, Carnage hasn't seen much action outside of the mentioned miniseries, so I'll give a brief overview of what he's been up to these past few years.

Back in around 2005, a little after the Civil War crossover event, there was a newly created character called The Sentry. He was a purposefully unambiguous Superman analog for Marvel whose main gimmick was that he has been around since the Golden Age, but nobody except he and his arch-nemesis, The Void, remembers it. He had many Superman-esque powers, and one of the big things Marvel did to establish his not-to-be-fucked-with status was to have him tackle the many villains escaping from the maximum security prison The Raft. The highlight of which was to effortlessly grab the murderous symbiote Carnage, fly him out to the vacuum of space, and tear him in half, leaving him to die. Up until then, Carnage was one of Spider-Man's deadliest enemies, and one of the crazier villains of the Marvel Universe. 

Fast forward to 2010. A rival technology company to Stark Industries releases the prototype for a new prosthetic limb. It is a merging of biological and computer technology that they used a "mysterious" substance that crashed to Earth to help create. Three guesses what this substance was. Using bits and pieces of Carnage's symbiote body to create new technology, they eventually gain sentience once again to seek out the preserved body of Kasaday who also returned to Earth. With Carnage back to full strength, it takes the combined efforts of Spider-Man and Iron Man to defeat him once again, in the miniseries Carnage - Family Feud. Later, in Carnage U.S.A., a regenerated Kasaday turns up in middle America, taking over an entire town with his symbiote. Fighting the main team of Avengers, he is, once again, eventually subdued. Most recently, Carnage was transported to the microverse to wreak havok among two rival factions of microverse dwellers. He is put down by Venom and the new Scarlet Spider, during the crossover event of their respective books called "Minimum Carnage". 

Carnage's fight with the Scarlet Spider left Kasaday near catatonic, as we are told in the early pages of Superior Carnage #1. He is being handled by a maximum security prison for supervillains, and we are told this by the narration of an inmate who doesn't really belong there (being only convicted of insider trading). But, of course, something goes wrong, and the alien inside Kasaday is allowed to once again take over the killer's body, slaughtering many inmates and guards. But it turns out, this was the doing of The Wizard, a super-genius nemesis of the Fantastic Four. His aim is to control the symbiote as the cornerstone of the new incarnation of his villainous super team, the Frightful Four. When Carnage predictably doesn't want to play by his rules, The Wizard reveals his contingency plan in the last panel of this issue, which I did not expect.
So, for this first issue I was kind of impressed. But only because of my expectations being rather low. The first two minis, Carnage - Family Feud, and Carnage U.S.A., were written by Zeb Wells and illustrated by Clayton Crain. Both of these were pretty good books that showed how Carnage has shaped up to be a force of chaos closer to home than the many cosmic villains that the contemporary Marvel heroes are tackling these days. The "Minimum Carnage" crossover, however, was a disappointment. Being a crossover, it was written by both Cullen Bunn (from Venom), and Chris Yost (from Scarlet Spider). It was kind of a mess to me, and I just never cared about the microverse. So the first issue of Superior Carnage is not bad. It is competently written by Kevin Shinick, whom I cannot recall reading anything of previously. So far, the only character we get any real characterization from is The Wizard, as well as the inmate from the early pages of the book, both done pretty well to establish things. Carnage himself has never really had much character besides being crazy and having daddy issues (being born from the Venom symbiote). The art by Stephen Segovia is pretty good at points, such as the splash page below, but otherwise your basic comic fare. Again, I compare this to the previous minis, the first two of which were done by Clayton Crain, who has become one of my favorite comic artists. His digital work is remarkable and does dark stories a lot of justice, having worked on Ghost Rider and the bloody X-Force book from the later '00's (although he is doing the cover art for this mini, as you can see on the cover image at the top of this page). The art for "Minimum Carnage" was fairly unremarkable, however. 

So this first issue seems promising to give us another five issue story about Carnage trying to be incorporated into a supervillain team instead of being the solitary killer he has been in the past. So we get a change up that could be an interesting read. It seems like this could be a story about how other villains deal with his insanity as opposed to another story about what kind of crazy thing Carnage will do next. So I hope this proves to be an interesting new take on the character, so we'll just have to wait and see.

I haven't read much else of note this week, but here are some blurbs:
 - The second part of DC's "Trinity War" arc was released in Justice League of America #6. The throw down between the JLA and the original Justice League that started in Part 1 was quickly ended. Many heroes on both sides start questioning things, with a focus on Superman and his confusion at having committed the act from Part 1 that I won't spoil yet, as well as Wonder Woman digging around to find out Pandora's secrets. We are given a bigger glimpse into The Question and his stake in all of this, but Geoff Johns doesn't seem to be writing him as anything more than a paint-by-numbers conspiracy theorist, albeit a mysterious possibly-immortal one. I hope this crossover does big things, but so far I haven't been impressed. But I trust Geoff Johns to make it good, at least.

 - Batman and Robin #22 by Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason continues the 5 Stages of Grief metaphor that Batman is going through after the death of his son Damian. He teams up with Catwoman in this issue to help her rescue a hostage from the Chinese Embassy. It doesn't quite communicate the "Despair" stage of grief it is titled after, but serves more to establish the New52 version of Carrie Kelly, the Robin from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. It just confuses me a little since in the other Batman books they have been toying with a brand new character to take over the Robin mantle named Harper Row. So who knows if they'll even use either character.

That's all I've got this week. But I'll be back next week with something, so watch for that.

Good night, all.

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