Elegantly paced, adequately creepy, and, absorbingly illustrated, there was suspiciously lots to love about Carnage. Five issues in, the newly launched title has seen the curtain lower on its first story arc, and a little after the dust had settled, I wondered exactly why this was such a great read.
If you think about it, it seems like there was a lot going on for this comic. Writer Gerry Conway had the luxury of knowing that the story arc would last five issues, and he’s done well to give readers just the right bits of information at the right time. Consequently, these five issues exude a sense of being whole. Carnage was never meant to be one of Marvel’s best-selling comics, and you can argue that maybe Conway was given the green light to let his imagination run wild for this title. That itself – the freedom to let your imagination run wild- is quite an achievement in these times of Disney’s mass ownership of everything. One of the biggest freedoms in Carnage, is the evident lack of a main superhero antagonist, even though there is the inevitable reference to everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood arachnid. That isn’t to say, however, that other superpowered individuals don’t have their own part to play in this story.
Maybe one of the other main pros that Carnage has going for it is the fact that he cannot be defeated, i.e not in the traditional sense. Carnage wanders where he pleases, random and volatile, and every time he causes chaos, its only a matter of time before he is stopped, until he escapes, lays low, and then unleashes again. The ending basically writes itself, and Conway has kept true to this inevitable outcome, with a few entertaining surprises (for the casual comic book fan) before calling time. Conway’s story is easy to get behind, right from the start, and his elevated choice of words give us insight into his characters’ motives. The ensemble cast of characters are credible in their purpose, even though it seems fairly obvious that not every member of the Carnage-stop squad is going to make it through the book unharmed. Surprises abound for the characters and readers alike, as even towards the latter part of the arc, Cletus Kasady’s volatile sociopathic narcissism doesn’t warn him when it’s his turn to be the victim.
Carnage reads like an interpolated nether-dimension version of some of the best science-fiction/horror films from the 1980s, a la Ridley Scott’s Alien, while also sharing similar story elements from the Edward Norton Incredible Hulk. Conway’s concise and trim characterisation deserves praise, and immediate reactions are a direct result of it. We are immediately sympathetic to Manny, as the sole survivor of Carnage’s first mass murder years ago, just as we are immediately wary of the scumbag nature of Barry Gleason. However, I wasn’t so easily swayed by what Eddie Brock had to say to Manny, or why Agent Dixon keeps telling Brock to shut up.
If achieving a well-rounded comic book story wasn’t enough, Conway found time to throw in an easter egg in the shape of a reference to LOST, courtesy of Brock himself. This came as another great surprise, especially since up to that point, Brock hadn’t said anything really noteworthy. There was hardly anything wrong with the opening arc of the Carnage comic book, and hopefully the unexpected humour, the dark and unfunny story-telling and the mild flavours that are reminiscent of classic X-Factor storylines continue in upcoming issues.
P.S Andy Troy and Mike Perkins gave the five issues the best possible treatment, leaving out any ostentation or narcissism and leaving all the focus on their brilliant artwork contributions.
Writer – Gerry Conway
Artist – Mike Perkins
Colour Artist – Andy Troy