reflection

Carnage Forever spins a spooky little tale and hints at where Carnage goes next. All a day in the life for a man made of blood.
Writing
Art
Coloring
Lettering

Review: A Symbiote on Its Own in CARNAGE FOREVER #1

Carnage turns 30 this year. There’s even a little logo to remind you on the cover, the killer proudly jumping in front of the number 30. Back in 1992, when Carnage debuted, the Green Goblin had been around for only 28 years. Weird to think about. For a villain many fans associate with trying to usurp classic villains using a more in-your-face attitude, the character’s lasted for a solid half of Spider-Man’s existence. But then you open Carnage Forever and by the second paragraph, the intro’s already dropping terms like “extrembiote.” Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like it’s been thirty years. Carnage is forever, and the 90’s never truly left.

WRITING

Formatted as an anthology, Carnage Forever #1 features one main story, an eight-page teaser for his upcoming solo series, and a fun one-page newspaper strip gag. The lengthiest story, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, positions Carnage as a malicious influence on a creepy little girl named Elsie. Her habit of hanging around the burned remains of Cletus Kasady’s old orphanage brings her into contact with the monster, while a local vagrant named Jerry starts to notice her odd behavior.

And yes, monster is the best word for Carnage at the moment, since the symbiote is currently wandering around without a human host. So this isn’t Carnage (the combination of Cletus Kasady and the Carnage symbiote), nor is it Carnage (Cletus Kasady acting through the Grendel Symbiote), this is an issue about Carnage (the Carnage Symbiote acting independent of Cletus Kasady). Got it? Okay.

Though honestly, committing fully to being a goopy blood monster isn’t a bad development for the character. The niche that Carnage has found over the years revolves around riffing on a number of different horror movies and tropes. He was introduced during the post-Silence of the Lambs serial killer fiction boom, after all. Since then, he’s taken over a small rural town, called upon a Lovecraftian god, orchestrated a body-snatching political conspiracy, and in this story, played the role of an Exorcist style dark influence. He’s not a character you come to expecting a complex inner life. And making him a full shapeshifting monster adds to his flexibility. He’s a character whose raison d’��tre is chaos, so it pays to play him a bit fast and loose.

Which is a long way of saying that the main story is a simple, fun horror story, but one that sticks to what the character’s good at. Meanwhile, Ram V’s writing on the teaser offers a short look at where the character’s headed. Not to give too much away, but the symbiote’s on a journey to find out the limits of its own power. Which may involve other people’s powers. Guess the Venom symbiote somehow copying Spider-Man’s powers all those years ago might be getting a payoff.

ART

Edgar Salazar’s work on the Elsie story stands out for all its filthy concrete, peeling wallpaper, and puddles of rainwater. The streets are empty, the sun is harsh, and the centerpiece of the story is a burned orphanage. Which Elsie only hangs around because it smells better than her normal house. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors add to the washed-out, bleak feeling, turning vibrant during the attack of the titular blood monster near the end.

As for Salvador Larroca’s work on the teaser story, the biggest strengths lie in how he draws Carnage and the guest-starring Hydro-man. He draws Carnage as a creature made entirely of veins and muscle-fiber, who can form himself whole after dropping from a sprinkler. So when he fights a man made of water, it turns into two human-shaped piles smashing against each other. Rain Beredo’s colors start with blues and greys, but the story becomes more and more soaked in moody red over 8 short pages. VC’s Joe Sabino keeps his lettering clear and precise in contrast to the characters whose mouths they come from, unstable inside and out.

Ty Templeton’s one-pager has a fun riff on Family Circus, Dennis the Menace, and the daily Jumble puzzle. His art is bouncy and fun, and closes the issue on a pleasant note. No one said killer aliens had to be all doom-and-gloom.

VERDICT

Carnage Forever is a fairly fun time, though a bit slight. It acts more as an appetizer, a way to show fans both old and new where the character’s headed. Though it’s certainly a promising direction. Fingers crossed that Ram V and Francesco Manna can keep up the momentum, come March.

Hank Essman
Hank Essman
Hailing from Southwest Missouri, Hank has co-hosted a local radio show on comics, written a thesis on graphic literature, penned a few articles on comic books, attended several comic conventions, and played a little tennis.
Review: A Symbiote on Its Own in CARNAGE FOREVER #1Carnage Forever spins a spooky little tale and hints at where Carnage goes next. All a day in the life for a man made of blood.