In Absolute Carnage #5, (on sale November 20), writer Donny Cates bring Marvel’s horror-infused event of the year to a close. While he radically changes the status quo for Eddie Brock and sets up an even more terrifying sequel, the conclusion doesn’t live up to the expectations set by its predecessors.
Absolute Carnage #5
Writer: Donny Cates
Penciler: Ryan Stegman
Inkers: JP Mayer & Jay Leisten
Color Artist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Up to this point, Absolute Carnage has gotten better with each issue. Each one featured twists, turns and moments that stayed with readers long after they finished reading. So maybe it was inevitable that the conclusion was a letdown; the series couldn’t live up to itself. As promised by the end of the penultimate installment, we got the final clash between Venom and Carnage. But it didn’t quite deliver.
Absolute Carnage #4 ended with Venom, who just grew wings, flying after the similarly winged Carnage. So we knew we were in for a treat; in a series that’s featured symbiote dragons, a Venom-Hulk and a bunch of other crazy stuff, we couldn’t wait to see how it’d come to a head. While strong dialogue and stellar art continue to define this series, the final fight between Venom and Carnage is anticlimactic.
To be fair, the ultimate battle in any event doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring. This one actually lines up with Eddie’s arc throughout the event; he doesn’t have to be outmuscle Carnage because he can find other ways to win. But at the height of the plot, Eddie makes a questionably bold sacrifice that’s sure to send shockwaves throughout the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, the shocking moment takes away from the resolution of the current story when Cates briefly previews the ramifications of Brock’s decision. We’re left with a clear idea of where the sequel is going. But this knowledge comes at the expense of a sense of finality — rather than ending, Absolute Carnage just stops.
While the event has incorporated numerous aspects of the Marvel Universe, Cates changes course and narrows the scope so that it focuses on the two main rivals. Previously, he’s given the Avengers and other heroes important roles in the story. While they’re present here, the battle comes down to Venom and Carnage. This focus feels somewhat fitting, given the bitter conflict between the two. But the lack of narrative importance for the other heroes is also disappointing.
As always, the art team adds immeasurable depth to an already rich story. When Carnage taunts that Eddie, penciler Ryan Stegman conveys the villain’s shifting mood. At first, he’s arrogantly bragging that Eddie has already lost the battle. Then, the glee on Carnage’s face is sickening when he laughs and boasts, “You’re going to lose your little boy!” It’s impossible not to root against the horrifying antagonist. Time and again, dynamic facial expressions inject the story with tangible passion. After Carnage presents Eddie with an impossible choice between saving his son or the world, the look on Eddie’s face could say 1000 words. He knows he has to do something terrible and the resentful determination in his eyes is palpable. Stegman’s ability to add visual emotion to a script is unparalleled.
Our expectations for Absolute Carnage #5 were quite high because the series has been so outstanding. While there’s plenty to like about this conclusion, it doesn’t hit the mark because the ending focuses on setting up the sequel.
What did you think of Absolute Carnage #5? Are you excited for a potential sequel?